Clinching Titles en passant

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By Ada Lim (17S03B)
Additional reporting by Timothy Wu (17S06B)

After several long afternoons of scouring for that elusive mate and endless discussions of mind-blowing strategies over 64 black and white squares, the Chess Club has finally made its move. Over the course of the past 5 weeks since the commencement of Term 2, its members have participated actively in 3 tournaments, making a bold statement with impressive and noteworthy results.

The 68th National Schools Individual Chess Championships 2016 (Secondary and JCs) took place on 23 and 24 March 2016 at the Pasir Ris Sports Hall. As the most prestigious national chess competition that recognizes the efforts and talent of Singapore’s very own young chess athletes, it comes as no surprise that the atmosphere was highly electrified and intense throughout both days, especially during the last few rounds that would ultimately decide who would make or break.

In A Division (Boys), RI’s Chess Club sent in 4 gallant players to fight for glory. While Edmund Yeo Jun Wei (17S05A) and Ayrton McCully (17S06D) both fought valiantly in the face of adversity, the competition proved too much for them to handle. But to be fair, the odds were not in their favour, for not only did they face experienced opponents who had long made a name for themselves within the Singapore chess scene, but they also, quite unfortunately, played each other in the first round of the competition, which puts them at a slight disadvantage. On the other hand, Chuah Yu Jie (16A01B) and Timothy Wu (17S06B) managed to beat out daunting opponents to achieve the fourteenth and seventh positions respectively – a respectable feat considering how tough this year’s competition was.

In A Division (Girls), both our representatives managed to rank highly, with Chess Club’s Chairperson Nicole Yow (16S03J) clinching second runners-up, and Neha Shankar (17S03J) being crowned champion of the division.

From third to the left, Nicole Yow (16S03J) and Neha Shankar (17S03J) sharing a proud moment at the National Schools Individual Chess Championships.
From third to the left, Nicole Yow (16S03J) and Neha Shankar (17S03J) sharing a proud moment at the National Schools Individual Chess Championships.

More recently, two teams of three participated in the Hwa Chong Junior College (HCJC) Cup on 16 April 2016. As its name suggests, the HCJC Cup is an annual chess tournament organized by Hwa Chong Institution. While the atmosphere for the day was certainly more light-hearted than during the National Individuals, there was still a certain tension hanging in the air. From the get-go, there had already been an obvious rivalry between the teams from Hwa Chong and Raffles Institution. Everyone desperately wanted to clinch the champion position and do their school proud, but it was proving to be a difficult challenge as the teams were quite evenly matched in terms of their skills. Furthermore, the stress was on our boys to win Hwa Chong Institution on their home turf.

The intensity of the games heightened significantly in the last three rounds of the day. After round 4 (out of 7 rounds), RI’s Team One was level with HCJC in terms of points and was about to go into an epic face-off with HCJC’s strongest team for round 5. At the same time, they also needed a perfect score in the last two games of the competition in order to secure the championship in the tertiary section. Despite the mounting pressure and rollercoaster ride of passions and fatal strategies, Team One proved to be the top dogs as they successfully combated Hwa Chong’s plans with decisive killer tactics. They had beat Hwa Chong Institution 2-1 in that critical game, and went on to obtain 6 points out of a maximum six in their last two games to emerge as overall champions.

Team One Team Two
Timothy Wu (17S06B)

Andrew Tan (16S06B)

William Guo (17S03N)

Sureendhar (17S06B)

Benjamin Ng (16S03A)

Eng Zhong Wang (16A01E)

Another competition that took place over the same weekend was the 5th Ang Mo Kio WEC – All Women’s and Invitational (Men/Boys) Chess Challenge 2016, which was held at the Ang Mo Kio Community Centre just last Sunday, 17 April 2016. Originally initiated by the Ang Mo Kio Community Centre Women’s Executive Council in collaboration with Chess Academy (Singapore) Pte Ltd in conjunction with International Women’s Day, the challenge has since evolved into a yearly affair to promote female trendsetters in the chess arena. Because the challenge is considered an international competition by FIDE (i.e. the global governing body for all matters related to International Chess), and there are no age limits to the various categories, it was a heartening change to witness faces old and new, experienced and fresh (rather than just the usual pimply faces of determined teenagers!), coming together to play in celebration of the achievements of female chess players in what is otherwise stereotypically seen as a masculine-dominated mind sport.

Neha Shankar (17S03J) and Ada Lim (17S03B) at the All Women's Chess Challenge 2016.
Neha Shankar (17S03J) and Ada Lim (17S03B) at the All Women’s Chess Challenge 2016.

RI’s Chess Club sent in two of its female players to play in the two different categories opened to women. In the Open Category, Neha Shankar (17S03J) faced challenging opponents that included a Woman FIDE Master (WFM) and Woman International Master (WIM). Despite the gruelling seven rounds of games, she remained stoically calm and collected to finish first runners-up, walking away with the prize money of S$200. Meanwhile, in the Challenger’s category, competition this year was significantly steeper than previous years, with 39 competitors fighting for the much-coveted top ten positions. Despite all odds and close shaves, Ada Lim (17S03B) pulled through to place seventh overall, bagging another trophy for RI.

Good job to Chess Club for its recent achievements, and all the best for their upcoming competitions!

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