Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hong Kong Chess Association Student Challengers Tournament

Richie played in the Hong Kong Student Challengers chess tournament which his held a couple of times a year by the Hong Kong Chess Association.  The Student Challenger tournaments are unique in Hong Kong as they are the only two-day events that combine all students into a single player pool (regardless of cage) over 8 rounds of G/30.   This has pro's and con's but for a strong younger player it's definitely a positive to have the opportunity to play against students in high school.  On the negative side, you can get some strange results because certain players will have to 'play-up' against older children more often.

Richie did very well and finished with 6.0/8.0 points with one of his losses coming from the tournament winner.  Here are the results.

This is the first tournament in awhile that Richie has kept his game scores for.  I picked one interesting game out that highlights his tendencies.  Richie was really happy with his game and came out of it explaining that he went for a "crazy attack."  It features a piece sacrifice followed by another piece sacrifice offer (which turns out to be unsound but dangerous looking enough that his opponent declined).

Richie is black.  Can you find the refutation?

Oh yeah.  One more unique thing about these tournaments:  they offer cash prizes.  Richie was quite pleased with his $300 prize.  It didn't seem to bother him at all that this was HKD (~45 USD).

Hong Kong Scholastic Blitz Championships

Richie participated in the Hong Kong Scholastic Blitz Championships held by the Hong Kong Chess Association in late May, 2012.  The event was a city (country?)-wide event that attracted around 100 players in total.  It was a G/10 event and the players were divided into different age categories (U8, U11, U18).  Richie managed to go wire-to-wire with a perfect 7.0/7.0 to win outright by a full point.   The skill level in HK varies a lot in every age category, so despite being in the younger end of the range for the U11 group, Richie was probably a favorite to be top 3 or so going into the event.    There isn't actually a rating system in HK, so it's pretty hard to know for sure, though.

This event was run a bit better, in my opinion, than the team championships which were conducted by the same organization earlier in the year.  That competition was marred by a the fact that they allowed parents into the playing hall throughout the event which led to a lot of noise and distraction for the players.

In contrast, this event was run much more "professionally" with rounds beginning on schedule.  My one criticism would be that it should have been run with each player playing twice, once as black and once as white, in each round.  This would be more fair and probably would give a more accurate picture of relative strength.

I couldn't observe Richie's play so I don't know how he did really but I do know that he was lucky to come away with a win against the 2nd place finisher as I was told that he was down considerably in the game but his opponent blundered in the endgame.

Nevertheless, it has been a long time since Richie went wire-to-wire and I think that in itself is a good show of mental fortitude.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Hong Kong Inter-School Team Championship

The Annual Hong Kong Inter-School Championship was recently held at the South Island School. This is one of only two major country-wide chess tournaments in HK and unlike it's sister event, the Inter-School championship is an Olympiad-style team event with four players per team. There were over 60 registered teams (many schools entered multiple teams), and Richie's team from Quarry Bay School won in convincing fashion. Richie competed on board 1 and scored 6.0/7.0 points. His team was perfect over the event, though, and emerged with a clear 1.5 point lead over second place.

When we first enrolled our children into QBS, we had very little expectations for any school-organized chess. Truth be told, the club is not exactly instructional and only ran for half the year. Nevertheless there's a small group of relatively enthusiastic players and parents and I think Richie's presence at the club may have helped raise the standard of play amongst his friends. Of course the real irony about the school team is that in all the time Richie played chess in the states, he was always a lone wolf and never had the opportunity to play as part of a school team.

Richie has been doing only maintenance level study for the better part of a year now and rarely plays online or otherwise, but I did have him continue with almost weekly lessons with Ian Harris (his last coach from the US) and he gathers several times a month with a few friends and a local teacher for a group lesson. It seems though, that with the level of chess seriousness as it is in HK, he still has quite an edge over the field.

Strangely, I can't actually gauge his strength. When I watch him play I still feel there are a lot of basic errors going on that I'm surprised to still see, and when he's asked questions in his lessons, I often come up with the answers quicker than he does. On the other hand, when we play (and he takes it seriously) he seems to beat me routinely. (Maybe I need to take it more seriously!).

Perhaps it should be obvious that his tactical strength is ahead of mine, but to make it concrete, we had a father-son challenge to be the first to reach 1800 on chess.com tactics and while I'm consistently stuck around 1600 he's gets very close to 1800 when he's focused. But more importantly, in actual games, he seems to be more consistent in spotting tactics throughout the game than I am.

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