Le Quang Liem Wins Asian Continental Chess Championship
Le Quang Liem poses with his trophy and gold medal next to Hisham Al Taher, General Secretary of the Asian Chess Federation. | Photo: www.imsa.cn

Le Quang Liem Wins Asian Continental Chess Championship

Rakesh
IM Rakesh
|
17 | Chess Event Coverage

Former world blitz champion Le Quang Liem scored one of the biggest wins of his career by winning the Asian Continental Championship in Xingtai, China. The Vietnamese number one defeated overnight leader S.P. Sethuraman of India in the last round to clinch clear first and earn $11,000 (9,806 euro).

Liem was determined to win his first ever Asian Championship. | Photo: www.imsa.cn

Liem played in solid fashion and was unbeaten throughout. He started off slowly with three draws and a win in his first four games but finished strongly with four wins and a draw in his last five games.

The Asian Continental was held from June 6-15 (nine days of single rounds) in Xingtai, China. Overall 74 players played from over 14 federations including 34 grandmasters. The average rating of the open section was an impressive 2455 with the top 5 finishers securing a World Cup berth to be held in September 2019 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

The spacious and comfortable playing hall in Xingtai, China | Photo: www.imsa.cn

Second seed Liem scored 7/9 with a massive 2783 performance rating and gained nine elo points. Since Liem and Rinat Jumabayev had already qualified for the World Cup earlier, all the top seven finishers will represent Asia at the World Cup later this year: GMs Liem, Murali Karthikeyan, S.P. Sethuraman, S.L. Narayanan, Jumabayev, Alireza Firouzja and Abhijeet Gupta.

Coming back to the start, Vidit Gujrathi started off as the top seed and was the lone 2700+ entrant.  Interestingly, except Indian Sethuraman none of the participants had won this event previously.

Vidit was looking for his first senior Asian title. | Photo: www.imsa.cn

Defending champion GM Wei Yei of China skipped the event as he is playing an event in Russia. Several top Chinese GMs also didn't play as many of them are semi-retired while the top two Chinese players (GMs Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi) were playing in Norway.

The organizers provided excellent playing conditions and also came up the classic way of choosing colors like in the good old days.

Top seed Vidit Gujrathi (right) chooses between a white or black pawn hidden in Le Quang Liem's fists. | Photo: FIDE

Indian star Vidit picked white and was off to a flyer as he finished off his opponent in Puzzle Rush style in round one.

Round two saw two of Asia's biggest talents facing each other as Indian prodigy Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu faced Iranian phenom Alireza Firouzja. They probably knew the world was watching because they made sure it was a spectacle.

The game ended in a draw but one can't be disappointed. A wonderful battle, not without mistakes but with great fighting spirit from both sides.

16th seed Murali Karthikeyan had an exceptional event and qualified for the World Cup. | Photo: www.imsa.cn

After the halfway stage, former Indian champion GM Murali Karthikeyan stormed into an early lead with 5.5/6. He proved that his tremendous second place performance at the Gibraltar Masters in January this year was not a fluke.

En route to this early lead, he played a gem of a game, considered by many as a candidate for game of the year.

Former world junior champion GM Abhijeet Gupta from India then defeated Murali in round seven to share the lead with compatriot SP Sethuraman and Murali himself.

Then, in the penultimate round, on the top board Sethuraman playing the white pieces defeated Gupta in the latter's beloved Gruenfeld. White's impressive play in the 'Fischer endgame' rook and bishop vs rook and knight proved decisive as Black cracked under pressure.

Sethuraman was the overnight leader and had to make a draw with Black against the second seed Liem as Black to clinch the title. Liem, on his turn, had to win as White to have any shot at first place. This game promised to be a fight and in the end Liem was victorious.

The last round of the open and women's championships were underway at 9 a.m. in the morning. | Photo: www.imsa.cn

2019 Asian Contintental Championship | Final Standings (Top 11)

Rk  SNo Title Name Fed Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4 n w we w-we K rtg+/-
1 2 GM Le Quang Liem* 2694 7 2576 44.5 49 0 9 7 6.06 0.94 10 9.4
2 16 GM Karthikeyan Murali 2593 6.5 2610 44.5 48.5 0 9 6.5 4.55 1.95 10 19.5
3 9 GM Sethuraman S.P. 2613 6.5 2604 47 51 0 9 6.5 4.82 1.68 10 16.8
4 12 GM Narayanan.S.L 2603 6.5 2561 42.5 45.5 0 9 6.5 5.2 1.3 10 13
5 7 GM Jumabayev Rinat* 2625 6.5 2539 42.5 46.5 0 9 6.5 5.68 0.82 10 8.2
6 3 GM Firouzja Alireza 2682 6 2591 45 49 0 9 6 5.75 0.25 10 2.5
7 10 GM Gupta Abhijeet 2606 6 2565 44.5 47 0 9 6 5.25 0.75 10 7.5
8 1 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2707 6 2554 41 44.5 0 9 6 6.41 -0.41 10 -4.1
9 8 GM Lu Shanglei 2624 6 2536 42 46 0 9 6 5.72 0.28 10 2.8
10 19 GM Lalith Babu M R 2571 6 2534 43 47 0 9 6 5.12 0.88 10 8.8
11 11 GM Nihal Sarin 2606 6 2530 39.5 44 0 9 6 5.58 0.42 10 4.2

(Full standings here)

*Already qualified for the World Cup.


Alongside the open, The Asian Women's Continental Championship 2019 was also held concurrently. The women's section had 36 players from 12 countries including 31 titled players.

IM Dinara Saduakassova of Kazakhstan started as the top seed in the women's section. | Photo: www.imsa.cn

Unlike the topsy-turvy affair in the open, the women's section was dominated by Indian WGM Bhakti Kulkarni in the first half and then top seed IM Dinara Saduakassova from Kazakhstan took over from round six.

Third seeded Bhakti, not related to yours truly, became an international master as she crossed the rating threshold of 2400 on the live rating list after round four. (She already had more than the three required norms.) She fizzled out in the second half to finish seventh but will head back home happy with the International Master title.

WGM Bhakti Kulkarni became an International Master (IM) title after round four of the event. | Photo: www.imsa.cn

The champion's ascend to the top was smooth. After staying only half a point behind the early leader, Saduakassova switched a gear and won three games on the trot in the second half. She played all the top seeds and stayed unbeaten throughout.

She scored 7.5/9 to clinch clear first with a massive 2611 performance rating and earned 16 rating points and the only spot for the next women's World Cup. She received the champion's trophy, a gold medal and went back home richer by $7,000.

She was in top form throughout. Here's her clutch win in the second round where she outplays her opponent quickly from a seemingly simple position.

IM Dinara Saduakassova of Kazakhstan justified her top billing with a dominating display. | Photo: www.imsa.cn

2019 Asian Women's Continental Championship | Final Standings (Top 10)

Rk. SNo Title Name Fed Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4 n w we w-we K rtg+/-
1 1 IM Saduakassova Dinara 2458 7.5 2351 43 47 0 9 7.5 5.93 1.57 10 15.7
2 4 IM Sukandar Irine Kharisma 2378 7 2339 43.5 47 0 9 7 5.18 1.82 10 18.2
3 5 WFM Munkhzul Turmunkh 2371 6 2322 43 47 0 9 6 5.27 0.73 20 14.6
4 7 IM Pham Le Thao Nguyen 2370 6 2288 40.5 44.5 0 9 6 5.72 0.28 10 2.8
5 9 WGM Vaishali R 2338 6 2250 36 39 0 9 6 5.72 0.28 20 5.6
6 12 Li Xueyi 2305 5.5 2354 46 50 0 9 5.5 4.26 1.24 20 24.8
7 3 WGM Kulkarni Bhakti 2380 5.5 2341 47 51 0 9 5.5 5.11 0.39 20 7.8
8 15 WGM Kurbonboeva Sarvinoz 2259 5.5 2332 40 43.5 0 9 5.5 3.99 1.51 20 30.2
9 2 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2420 5.5 2281 42.5 46.5 0 9 5.5 6.27 -0.77 10 -7.7
10 13 WGM Hoang Thi Bao Tram 2293 5.5 2261 36 39 0 9 5.5 5.08 0.42 10 4.2

(Full final standings here)

Dinara told Chess.com: "I am really happy to become Asian Women's Champion and qualify to the World Cup. I was first at the starting list but it wasn't so easy to keep the position through the championship because Asian chess players' ratings are are often lower than their real level. I was happy to show good level and to get pleasure playing some games."


On the last day of the event, the organizers conducted the Asian Blitz Championship, immediately after the last round of the classical chess had ended. This event was dominated from start to finish by Nihal Sarin.

The 14-year-old Indian prodigy scored 8/9 and finished a full point ahead of Liem, the main event winner. His preparation for the blitz might have included playing in the Junior Speed Chess Championship on Chess.com earlier this month.

Nihal vs Firouzja in the last round of the Blitz (Nihal won, 1-0). | Photo: www.imsa.cn

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