SGChess Blog #7 – Thrills and spills from the Professor Lim Kok Ann International Open 2023

April 20, 2024

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The aforementioned event is by far the strongest chess tourney on the local chess calendar. With 34 titled players inclusive of 11 GMs, last year’s edition had 188 players contesting for the 25000 dollars prize fund.

The biggest upset came in Rd 1 when NTP trainee Leah Rice, spotting a 931 Elo deficit, outslugged Indonesian GM Novendra Priasmoro in the Scandinavian Defence after both sides traded tactical blows throughout. After netting the exchange, the 2023 Australian Open Ladies champion was able to keep whittling the pieces down until Novendra ran out of ways to complicate.

Everyone and his dog knows that there are plenty of underrated Indians playing tourneys all over the world. The 1500+ rated Mihir Shah is one perfect example. In the 2023 Indian National Rapid and Blitz event, he took out 1 GM and 3 IMs by overpowering them in complications. He definitely gave Aussie GM David Smerdon a very good workout before they agreed to a tough truce.

Rising Filipino talent NM/CM Ivan Travis Cu has an uncompromising attacking style which has brought him gold medals in regional age group events and of late, he amassed an astounding 203 Elo points increase from the Tashkent Open and Bangkok Open. He was nursing a typical Maroczy Bind spatial plus when he decided to go for broke with a piece sacrifice to open up the h-file against Russian IM Badmatsyrenov. The latter however was able to ward off the dangerous looking attack (with White’s heavies trebled on the h-file) and calmly returned some material to snuff out all counterplay.

The current Russian champion and former European Champion GM Vladislav Artemiev was heavily favoured to win the event. The former World no 10 was never in danger of losing throughout the event though he had to concede 3 draws (on his way to joint 1st placing). The most exciting one of them was this slugout with Oleg which illustrates a very good way of playing against a stronger opponent…all out attack!

However, the kitchen sink attack might not necessarily work as IM Andyka found out but to be fair, he did have a small window of opportunity to dent his illustrious opponent’s defence.

Singapore’s top finisher is National Veteran Champion IM Enrique Paciencia. He was seeded 19th but finished a very impressive 6th position, ahead of 7 GMs. Here, he capitalised on CM Tan Jun Hao’s mishandling of the central tension to utilize his mobile pawn mass with devastating effect.

GM David Smerdon, (and Assistant Professor at University of Queensland) whose day job is researching and teaching Economics, craftily deviates ever so slightly from the main line of the Staunton Gambit to confuse his opponent. It paid great dividends as Asian Junior Online champion Loo Pin Xie of Penang could not ward off David’s powerful initiative and it was over after 19 moves.

A streetbrawl between Indian GM Narayanan and Taiwanese FM Austin Yang occured in Round 6. Both sides were bent on hacking each other to bits, showing total lack of concern for their material. The former however, saw futher and managed to reel off the mating attack when the smoke cleared.

The following round, the Indian GM was on the receiving end as Australian GM Zhao Zongyuan went for his king in a style reminiscent of his table tennis play – total attack with topspin forehand and aggressive reverse penhold backhand lobs. In chess terms – Zhao utilised both kingside and queenside pressure to force his opponent into submission.

The most heartbreaking of all the tussles in this event happened in the final round. Singaporean IM Siddharth Jagadeesh was poised to conclude his superb performance to finish in a tie for 1st in the event. He had Indonesian IM Medina Aulia on the ropes after strong opening play and establishing inroads on the queenside powerfully. However, he likely missed Aulia’s stunning 25…Rxf2!! riposte which turned the whole game around. So, Aulia made the podium for a joint 1st placing (with Indian GM Diptayan Ghosh and Artemiev) instead of Siddharth. Chess is tough! All credit to the Indonesian of course for finding such a brilliant defensive concept!