GM Temur Kuybokarov Wins The Australian Open, 12 Year Old Leah Rice Gains 257 Rating Points
Temur won the event with an undefeated 9.5/11 score. Photo: Tatyana Igonina/Facebook.

GM Temur Kuybokarov Wins The Australian Open, 12 Year Old Leah Rice Gains 257 Rating Points

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Two years after netting his debut national title at the Australian Chess Championships, GM Temur Kuybokarov once again proved his mettle amongst the best in the country after winning the 2023 Australian Chess Open with a 9.5/11 score in Scarborough, Perth.

Playing in his home state at the glamorous Rendezvous Hotel, Kuybokarov finished ahead of 113 participants in the Premier event. The highest-rated of his opponents was GM Jingyao Tin of Singapore (with a FIDE rating of 2598), and the tournament also featured legendary GM Darryl Johansen and the dangerous IM James Morris.

Close to 200 players traveled to Perth to try their luck at the Open. Photo: Andrew Hardegen/Chess Association of Western Australia.

The first major upset of the tournament occurred in round two when the eighth seed and local hope FM Patrick Gong fell victim to some sharp play from 1798-rated Anna Rozuwiecka but other than that, no other major upsets took place in the early stages of the event.

Round four saw the top seeds begin folding inwards and the third and fourth seeds, Morris and Johansen, were both held to draws by Yihe Fu and WIM Hong Anh Nguyen. With three players left on 4/4, the mouthwatering matchup between the tournament's first and second seeds was inevitable. 

Johansen is known as Australia's second-ever GM (if GM Walter Browne is not counted). Photo: Andrew Hardegen/Chess Association of Western Australia.

Tin took the white pieces against Kuybokarov, who proved to be somewhat of a giant killer with the black pieces during the 2022 Olympiad in Chennai and is not one for taking easy draws with either colour. Although the match did eventually end in a draw, the players did have to navigate a difficult middlegame to secure their places at the top of the leaderboard.

2022 was a great year for Kuybokarov over the board. Photo: Gayrat Kuybokarov

The field opened up in dramatic fashion in the following round as Morris stunned the top seed Tin with brilliant attacking chess against the Singaporeans Caro-Kann. Kuybokarov meanwhile won against WGM Vo Thi Kim Phung (of Vietnam) in a game that took care to convert.

In what would later become the most important game of the tournament, the reigning Australian champion was able to score a win over Morris in the seventh round, employing a thematic knight sacrifice in the Sicilian Najdorf to take the sole lead at the halfway point of the event.

With Kuybokarov's highest-rated opponent behind him, the Uzbekistan-born Australian representative won two games with white and drew two with black (against FMs Yi Liu and Christopher Wallis) to close out the tournament. His 5-point rating gain seems to be a small gain for such a convincing result however every point counts for Kuybokarov as he draws closer to becoming the third Australian to reach the 2600-mark.

Kuybokarov's impressive scorecard. Image:

It must be mentioned that 12-year-old Leah Rice, rated 1403 before the tournament, found herself playing against Kuybokarov in the final round! Poised on an unbelievable 7/10 heading into the final round, Rice lost her only game with black against the second seed however will certainly take solace in the 257 FIDE rating points gained for her marvelous performance. Below is her only victory that took place on a live board.

For his efforts, Kuybokarov will also receive $3,000 AUD for first place as well as the coveted title of Australian Open champion. Tin finished strongly to pick up outright second on 8.5/11 and $2,000 AUD while a five-way tie for third including Vo, Morris, Johansen, Mars Qi, and Gong would have no doubt left the organisers with a headache figuring out how to split the remaining prize money. Morris also picked up $400 AUD and the title of Australian Blitz Chess Champion after decimating the field with an 11/11 score on the rest day.