HCM CITY — Chess would be developed into one of Viet Nam's major sports this decade, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Ho Xuan Son told the opening ceremony of the country's most important international mind game event that opened in HCM City yesterday.
The second annual HD Bank International Open Chess Tournament, the biggest chess event in Viet Nam, has attracted 45 players from 13 countries, including some strong ones like China, India, the UK, Georgia, Ukraine, and the Philippines, besides 48 local players.
But it is the host nation's Grandmaster Le Quang Liem, who has an Elo rating of 2698, and GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (2662) who start as favourites. In fact, only one other player, China's Ni Hua has an Elo rating of above 2,600.
Liem scores first win
After the opening ceremony, competitors played the first round. There are no surprises when favourites won.
Top seed Liem beat Rhobel Legaspi of the Philippines after only 36 moves while second seed Son also overcame Mikhail Vasilyev after 76 moves.
Pham Le Thao Nguyen, Nguyen Thi Mai Hung and China's Ni Hua also scored wins. — VNS
Ignatius Leong, general secretary of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), who is in the country for the event, told Viet Nam News: "I am very happy that Viet Nam considers chess as a major sport, but to develop the sport successfully, the country needs more planning, more structured organisation, more competitions and training."
"Viet Nam is now No 1 in Southeast Asia and No 3 in Asia, but its players are still very young and need to compete in more international tournaments both in Viet Nam and abroad."
Peter Frost (Elo 1897), an Australian player, told Viet Nam News: "I think there are several players who are strong enough to win. Anyone can win and it just comes down to who plays best on any given day.
"I have no chance of winning the tournament. This is … probably the strongest tournament in the region that I've played in."
Indonesian WGM Sukandar Irine Kharisma, who played last year but finished out of the medals bracket, was more confident.
"I have a fairly big chance but have to focus on each game. I think Pham Le Thao Nguyen is the toughest opponent for me," he said.
IWM Nguyen Thi Mai Hung, who won the women's crown last year, agreed with Frost that many players had a chance of winning the title.
The HB Bank International Open Chess Tournament, which will finish next Tuesday, offers a cash prize of US$10,000 to the winner. — VNS