Le and Tan star at Asian Indoor Games

by Irene Sukandar
10/5/2017 – The 2017 Asian Indoor Games recently wrapped up in the city of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. In the open section, Le Quang Liem was crowned champion with 5½/7 points. Lu Shanglei tied, but was behind on tiebreak score. China's Tan Zhongyi, the Women's World Champion, left with a final score of 6.0/7 points and was crowned champion of the women's section. | Photo: AIMAG on Facebook

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Le Quang Liem and Tan Zhongyi stand out

Many of Asia’s top chess players came together again for the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, from September 21st to 27th. Once part of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan is a country in Central Asia with a population of around 5.5 million people. I was not quite sure what to expect before visiting but I was definitely interested in crossing another country off my list!

The journey was quite long, and while I must admit that the capital city, Ashgabat, is not very well connected with international flights, it could be seen everywhere that they tried their best in organizing this event.

The journey from the airport to the Athlete’s Village at 2 AM was enough to mesmerise me with the city’s modern infrastructure and lighting, filling the city with colour even in the dead of night. The city was also incredibly clean, and you would be hard pressed to find even one cigarette butt on the streets. Unfortunately, due to the packed playing schedule I was not able to see much more of the city, which I heard is culturally rich and full of sights.

On to chess!

The Chinese team finished the chess section of the games as overall champion, bringing home five gold medals. The first one was clinched by the current Women’s World Champion, GM Tan Zhongyi, who displayed great sportsmanship in the process.

Tan Zhongyi

The World Champion showed her supremacy by winning all categories in which she played! | Photo: Dastan Kapaev

In round 4 of the Women’s Individual Classical category, Zhongyi was paired against her compatriot GM Lei Tingjie. In this category, a maximum of two players from each country are able to compete and round 4 was played in the afternoon of the second day, the second double-round day in a row. Given these circumstances, one may expect the game to end in a draw, allowing both players to remain in the lead and conserve some energy for the remaining rounds. However, the game was a real fight and the World Champion showed her ambitiousness and class in beating her compatriot.

Try to work out what Tan played to defeat her teammate:

 

Click or tap the hint if you are unsure, or the solution if you get stuck.

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Vietnam clinched three golds to finish in second place overall. This result was hugely thanks to GM Le Quang Liem, a Webster University graduate, who dominated the men’s section much like Tan Zhongyi did the women’s section.

Vietnamese team

The Vietnamese team | Photo: Dastan Kapaev

 

Liem was already winning here, but ensured the conversion of his advantage with 39.Kg1! with idea of Qxc6 and pushing d7.

Chess mascot

The mascot of chess or "küşt" in Turkmen | Photo: Dastan Kapaev

Playing hall

The playing hall was lovely, with good lighting and a comfortable temperature | Photo: Dastan Kapaev

Philippines team

The happy team from the Philippines was led by GM Eugenio Torre (at left), the first grandmaster from Asia | Photo: Dastan Kapaev.

Sri Lanka has been a great supporter for chess in Asia. They are almost never absent from events such as this and always send both their men’s and women’s teams. Pictured below is Rajeendra Kalugampitiya. Kalu, as he is called by many of his friends, caused an upset against GM John Paul Gomez (2500) from the Philippines in the first round of the Men’s Rapid Team event.

Rajeendra Kalugampitiya and Sri Lankan teammates

Rajeendra Kalugampitiya (left) with his teammates | Photo: Dastan Kapaev

 

IM Sarasadat Khademalsharieh from Iran literally clinched the last gold medal available in the Under-23 Women’s Blitz Team event after defeating WGM Wang Jue from China in a nerve-wrecking sudden-death game.

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh

IM Sarasadat Khademalsharieh | Photo: Dastan Kapaev

Together with GM Lu Shanglei, prodigy GM Wei Yi won another gold medal for the Chinese Team:

China-Iran

The final of the Under-23 Men’s Blitz team event: China vs Iran | Photo: Dastan Kapaev

The cute but deadly duo from Kazakhstan, IM Dinara Saduakassova and IM Zhansaya Abdumalik, won the gold medal in the Under-23 Women’s Rapid Team event.

Dinara Saduakassova and Zhansaya Abdumalik

IM Dinara Saduakassova and IM Zhansaya Abdumalik with their proud coach GM Rustam Khusnutdinov | Photo: Dastan Kapaev

Mehri GeldiyevaThe local hero, WGM Mehri Geldiyeva (right), led her teammate to a bronze medal in the Women’s Blitz Team event. [Photo: AIMAG Official Facebook]

As a player who was fortunate enough to compete in the event, I could not help but feel grateful that chess, among 20 other sports, was included in this event for the third time after Macau in 2007 and Incheon in 2013.

No less than 24 countries participated and with this big turn-out we hope chess can become a permanent tradition in the AIMAG and eventually in the Olympic Games!

Additional photos in the gallery at the top of this story feature GM Avetik Grigoryan from Armenia IM Kjetil Stokke from Norway, GM Avetik Grigoryan from Armenia and IM Kjetil Stokke from Norway. Photo by: Dastan Kapaev, Kazakhstan star IMs Dinara Saduakassova and Zhansaya Abdumalik, China's Wang Yue and many more.

Final team standings

Team table

Top 10 countries by overall medals (gold, silver, bronze) — Click or tap to expand

Closing Ceremony

The programme at the closing, dubbed “Wondrous Wind”, involved more than 4,500 performers, and was quite a spectacle. You can watch the performance by Lebanese pop star "Elissa" to get a flavor of the event.

All games — Open

All games — Women

Editor's note:

The live games and video from this event were not available online, due to brodcast licensing rights granted to select markets. This will have had the affect of drastically reducing the global audience and awareness of this tournament. For an event featuring such elite players and clearly presenting an interesting format and high production values, this was a very poor decision by the organisers in our view.

Note that this is not merely a complaint about live games being unavailable via PGN to third party sites like ChessBase — they were not online at all, even on the offical site! This was strictly a policy decision, not a technical limitation. We hope that future organisers elect not to repeat this practice. — Macauley Peterson

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Irene was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and became the country's first Woman Grandmaster and female International Master. Recently she graduated from Webster University, St. Louis, USA with a degree in Master of Arts in International Relations. In 2012 and 2014 she won the Asian Continental Championships which qualified her to play in the Women's World Championships in 2015 and 2017. With one Grandmaster norm in hand, she is currently pursuing her dream to complete the title in the near future.
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