Vietnamese chess players falter at home

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The Vietnamese squad failed expectations at the recently concluded international chess tournament HDBank Open Cup with the top and second seeded players ending up in fourth and fifth positions.

Le Quang Liem, ranked 79th in the world (Elo 2664), was top seed at the January 4-9 competition held at Ho Chi Minh City's Rex Hotel.

"With the highest Elo and as the top seed, I was under pressure in games against strong contestants from China and the Philippines.

"As a result, I started all the games with an idea of having to be the winner, so sometimes I was stressed and made some wrong moves, especially in the decisive game against Filipino Gomez John Paul, which made it impossible for me to fight for the championship."

Some observers said that Liem's approach of playing to win, and taking risks to do it, has both helped and harmed him.

It was this approach, they say, that stripped Liem of his chance of winning the gold medal at the Asian Games in China last November, having to settle for silver.

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With seven points after nine games, China's Yu Yangyi won the men's title at the HDBank Open Cup which concluded at Ho Chi Minh City's Rex Hotel on January 9. Yu's compatriot Wen Yang finished second. Wen also had seven points so they were each awarded a US$5,000 cash prize. In the women's event, Vietnamese player Nguyen Thi Mai Hung finished on top but four other players also had the same 4.5 points, so they were each given $600 in cash prizes.

The situation was repeated at the HDBank Open Cup, they say.

Liem said, "It may be my way. In any game against a stronger or weaker player, I always set the goal of winning the game.

"It doesn't mean I don't respect them. It is a matter of spirit. If you don't set the goal of winning a game, you are the loser before the game starts."

Coach Lam Minh Chau had this to say: "It is the same in every contest. The top seed is always under pressure to win all the games.

"Some people say Liem always wants to win. I think it has its own advantages and disadvantages."

Chau said a good player must have a special, even unusual, character. This is why Liem and Vietnam's second best player, Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, have several times recorded great wins against much stronger players.

He added however, that both Liem and Son need to change some of their ways, and aim at occasional draws in key games to be in a good position.

"I think Liem and Son will make their own changes in international competitions in the near future," Chau said.

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