2019 Asian Championship

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

Asian Continental Chess Championship
Xingtai, China
June 7-15, 2019

Final Top Standings

1. Grandmaster (GM) Le Quang Liem VIE 2694, 7.0/9

2-5. GM Murali Karthikeyan IND 2593, GM SP Sethuraman IND 2613, GM SL Narayanan IND 2603, GM Rinat Jumabayev KAZ 2625, 6.5/9

6-11. GM Alireza Firouzja IRI 2682, GM Abhijeet Gupta IND 2606, GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2707, GM Lu Shanglei CHN 2624, GM Lalith Babu MR IND 2571, GM Nihal Sarin IND 2606, 6.0/9

12-19. GM NR Vignesh IND 2459, GM Aravindh Chithambaram Vr IND 2598, GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong son VIE 2639, GM Arjun Ergasi IND 2526, GM Baskaran Adhiban IND 2676, GM Sandipan Chanda IND 2511, IM Dai Changren CHN 2480, GM Deep Sengupta IND 2559, 5.5/9

No. of Participants: 74

Time Control: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 30 minutes play-to-finish with 30 seconds added to your clock after every move from move 1.

Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem won the Asian Continental Championship by beating the leader S. P. Sethuraman of India in the last round to clinch first place in Xingtai, a city in the province of Hebei, Northern China (“bei” is Chinese for North. Beijing is “Northern Capital,” Hebei is “North of the River,” etcetera).

Liem put in his usual finishing kick with 4.5/5 and overcome a slow start. His overall score of 7/9 was an impressive performance rating of 2783. By the way, many of our readers have asked me what a performance rating is and how it is calculated. Well, it is a hypothetical rating that you have performed at for a single tournament, as opposed to your actual FIDE rating which takes into consideration your performance in other tournaments. A rough calculation is to get the average of your opponent’s ratings with an adjustment based on the score of the game. For each win, you add your opponent’s rating + 400, a draw is just your opponent’s rating, and a loss is your opponent’s rating — 400.

But I digress.

The top 5 players were to qualify for the Khanty-Mansiysk World Cup to hold in Sept. this year. Le Quang Liem though had previously qualified from the 2018 Asian Continental (c’mon, you should know this — it was held in Makati last December) and likewise GM Rinat Jumabayev also qualified earlier by winning the Zone 3.4 Championship (basically, the Muslim Republics of the former Soviet Union: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan), so all the top 7 finishers will represent Asia in the World Cup: This is the all-GM cast of Le Quang Liem, Murali Karthikeyan, SP Sethuraman, SL Narayanan, Rinat Jumabayev, Alireza Firouzja and Abhijeet Gupta. As you can see, with four qualifiers from the Asian Continental’s five slots, India dominated the competition. Strangely enough, their two top seeds GM Vidit Gujrathi (also the only 2700+ player in the event) and GM Baskaran Adhiban, both did not qualify.

Also strangely enough, although they were the host country, China did not send a strong contingent to the competition. The only one among their top players to participate was former World Junior Champion GM Lu Shanglei who finished in 9th place.

The Philippines did not do so well. We sent six players (GM Eugene Torre, GM John Paul Gomez, GM Darwin Laylo, IM Paulo Bersamina, IM Jan Emmanuel Garcia and IM Daniel Quizon) and the highest-placed was Darwin with 5/9, only good enough for 27th place. We will have more to say about this on Thursday.

Firouzja, Alireza (2682) — Karthikeyan, Murali (2593) [E90]
Asian Continental-ch Open 2019 XingTai (5.1), 11.06.2019

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.h3

The Makogonov Variation.

5…0–0 6.Be3 c5

More common is 6…e5 7.d5 Na6.



7.d5 leads to a Benoni type position 7…e6 8.Nf3 exd5 9.exd5 Re8 10.Bd3 and here GM Morozevich specializes in 10…Rxe3+!? 11.fxe3 Qe7 12.0–0 Nbd7 13.Qd2 b6 14.Rae1 Ba6 15.b3 Ne5 16.Nxe5 Qxe5 17.Nd1 Re8 18.Rf3 Qe7 19.Ref1 Rf8 20.Kh1 Nd7 21.Be2 Ne5 22.R3f2 Bc8 23.e4 h5 Black has full compensation for the exchange. Postny, E. (2615)-Morozevich, A. (2656) St. Petersburg 2018 1/2 49;

7.dxc5 Qa5 8.Bd3 (8.cxd6? Nxe4 9.dxe7 Bxc3+ 10.bxc3 Qxc3+ 11.Bd2 Nxd2 12.exf8Q+ Kxf8 13.Qc1 Qa5 14.Qxd2 Qe5+ 15.Be2 Qxa1+ Black has a big developmental edge) 8…dxc5 9.e5 Nfd7 10.f4 Rd8 this position is probably equal chances, but many players do not like the looseness of White’s position. 0–1 (84) Romero Holmes, A. (2514)-Guseinov, G. (2552) Mallorca 2004 0–1 84.

7…Qa5 8.Nd2

Alternatives are 8.Bd3 and 8.Qd2.

8…cxd4 9.Nb3 <D>


Now everybody gets a surprise.


Karthikeyan played this move after 20 minutes of thought so he might have come up with this idea over the board. Aside from the tactics of the move there is also the courage needed to sacrifice the queen in an important tournament like a Continental Championship, which is a qualifier for the next step in the world championship. I remember the huge misgivings I have to battle just to give up a piece in a weekend Executives tournament, and my opponent in that case would be a fellow executive and not an almost-2700 GM known for his tactical ability!

10.bxc3 dxe3 11.f3

The pawn on e3 turns out to be a thorn on White’s side. Maybe he should have played something like 11.Qc2.


Threatening …Ng3 and …Bxc3+

12.Qc1 Bh6 13.g4 Nf4 14.Kd1 Ne6

Black can try to cash in with 14…Nd3 15.Bxd3 e2+ 16.Kxe2 Bxc1 17.Rhxc1 Na6 with equal material and a slight edge, but obviously Black didn’t sacrifice his queen to get a “slight edge.”

15.Kc2 Nc6 16.h4 Bf4 17.Qd1

Black was threatening …d3–d2. LGM Firouzja could have also played 17.Be2 but he had a regrouping in mind. 17.Qd1 vacates c1 for his knight to relocate to either e2 or d3.

17…Ne5 18.Nc1 Bd7

If White now moves Nd3 or Ne2 Black will win the queen with …Ba4+

19.a4 Rac8 20.Ne2

White misses a tactical point here. Better would have been 20.Nd3 because then Black is forced to exchange a pair of knights. 20…Bh6? loses a piece to 21.Nxe5 the bishop on d7 is undefended.

20…Bh6 21.g5 Bg7 22.Bh3 Nxf3 23.Qd3 Ne5 24.Qxe3 Nxc4

Now the c-file is half-open and Black can put pressure on c3.


White doesn’t have time for 25.Qxa7 Bc6 26.Ng3 Ra8 27.Qf2 Bxa4+ 28.Kd3 Nc5+! either forces mate or wins a lot of material.

25…Rc5 26.Rhb1 Bc6 27.Bg2 f5

Black’s last piece gets into the action and it is now only a matter of time before he overwhelms White’s position.

28.gxf6 Bxf6 29.Rf1 Bxc3! 30.Qxc5

Firouzja decides to give up his queen to try to survive into the endgame.

30…Nxc5 31.Rxf8+ Kxf8 32.Kxc3 Ne5 33.a5 Nxe4+

Black already has four pawns for the exchange. Too much!

34.Bxe4 Bxe4 35.Nd4 Bd5 36.Nb5 a6 37.Nc7 Bc6 38.Rf1+ Kg7 39.Ne6+ Kh6 40.Rf8 Kh5 41.Rh8 h6 42.Rh7 Kxh4 43.Rxh6+ Kg4 44.Nd4 Kg5 45.Rh2 Bd5 46.Re2 Kf4 47.Rf2+ Nf3 48.Re2 e5 49.Nc2 Be4 50.Ne3 d5 51.Kb4 Nd4 52.Re1 Kf3 0–1

By the way, I should mention that Karthikeyan is a Tamil, and they have a different naming convention — Tamils have no concept of a “family” name. Murali Karthikeyan is one among many GMs who are Tamil, especially those from Chennai (formerly Madras) — among the most notable of whom are Viswanathan Anand, Krishnan Sasikiran, Sethuraman Panayappan (usually shortened to SP) Sethuraman and Baskaran Adhiban. First comes the father’s name and then comes the given name. We should therefore refer to them by their given names of Karthikeyan, Anand, Sasikiran, Sethuraman and Adhiban.

Frederic Friedel of “Chessbase” fame wrote a long article several years ago on chessplayers’ names. He clarified:

If you are a stranger and want to show respect call him Mr. Anand;

If you are a friend or in informal circumstances (in a gym or at a chess tournament) call him Anand;

Never call him Mr. Viswanathan. That would be simply silly — an unexpected mention of his father.

So, there.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant, he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.