First GM norm event in Singapore since last century

by Junior Tay
7/21/2018 – The QCD-Prof Lim Kok Ann Grandmasters Invitational can be regarded as a historic event for Singapore. JUNIOR TAY reports not only on the chess — won by Mongolian GM Batchuluun Tsegmed ahead of 2600 top-seeded Timur Gareyev — but also extensively on how this event came to pass, and all the people power that went along with it. | Photo: Cecilia Chong

Developing the initiative Developing the initiative

Dynamic play is what makes your chess effective and most importantly fun! Timur Gareyev shows severeal examples which aspects are important to remember when seizing for the initiative!


QCD-Prof Lim Kok Ann GM Invitational

During September of last year, IM Dr Hsu Li Yang decided that it was time to step forward and make a push to help develop more Singaporean chess grandmasters. In our little chat group (comprising mostly 'retired' chess players between 2200-2400+ level), we realized that there were advantages to organizing a closed GM norm event here and now:

  1. Guaranteed opponents for GM norm attempt
  2. Our generation of players (mid-40s) are mostly reasonably well placed in their corporate careers to sponsor chess events
  3. Less travelling, personal cost, stress, more moral and analytical  support   for our local masters
  4. Can stir up local interest in watching/following high-level chess
  5. A supportive chess federation to run the event

Seeing that I was still involved in chess (coaching/writing/editing), he approached me to see if we can create a GM norm event to benefit Singapore and ASEAN players. Dr Mark Liew, whose QCD Group has been sponsoring the National Age Group event and the QCD League (for adults with S$100,000 — about €62,800 euro — not a shabby sum indeed), was eager to jump into the equation with seed money to absorb the initial cost of funding, be involved in the venue search and federation negotiations of the event and to provide web support. His wife even did up the designs of the graphic banners for the tournament hall. We were also pleasantly surprised by a huge cash injection by the sons and daughters of the venerable late Professor Lim Kok Ann as well as their ‘adopted brother’ IM Tan Lian Ann who has been the top protégé of the late Professor. The family, as his daughter Lim Sing Yuen indicated were pleased to help continue Professor Lim’s chess legacy.

After months of research (we spoke to organizers of such events from England, USA, Australia and Malaysia), preparation and negotiations with players, the Singapore Chess Federation, the venue hotel (Metropolitan YMCA) and checking and rechecking our sums, we could finally announce the affirmation of the QCD-Prof Lim Kok Ann Grandmasters Invitational 2018 with the GM norm at 6½ / 9 and IM norm at 4½/9.

tournament logo

The QCD-Prof Lim Kok Ann GMs Invitational logo (designed by Mark's wife, Grape)

The date of the event was set for June 7th to 12th, which is into the second week of the June holidays. This helps our school-aged masters to be able to focus more on their game preparation without having to attend school during that time frame. The federation had also factored in running the SG City event occurring during the first week of the June holidays, so their International Organisers and International Arbiters for the event would be freed up to fully concentrate on our event.

Purpose, Presence and Players

The purpose of this event is to provide local and regional chess enthusiasts with an opportunity in Singapore to attain International Master and Grandmaster titles. Additionally, we would like to commemorate this event to the memory of the father of Singapore chess, National Master 'Prof' Dr Lim Kok Ann, 15 years after he passed away on March 3rd, 2003.

We didn’t just want to add another invitational norm event to the chess calendar. So a dedicated website — popped up and we really sunk in massive time and thought into how to make it user-friendly for chess supporters to browse and follow the proceedings. Apart from setting up our QCD-Prof Lim Kok Ann GMs Invitational website with live broadcast, daily reports and more, we also approached Chessbase, and Chessbomb to relay the event live on their platforms. IA Tan Tian Wah was instrumental in installing and implementing the DGT setup necessary to coordinate with the servers concerned to make it work. We were also pleased to see other live broadcast servers follow suit, such as Followchess and Chessdom. 

Another round of negotiations ensued as various strong masters from Asia had indicated their interest in participating and we finally settled on the following:

GM Timur Gareyev (USA), GM Tsegmed Batchuluun (Mongolia), GM Nguyen Anh Dung (Vietnam), IM Goh Wei Ming Kevin, IM Munkhgal Gombosuren (Mongolia), IM Irine Kharisma Sukandar (Indonesia), IM Tin Jingyao (Singapore), IM Liu Xiangyi (Singapore), FM Lee Qing Aun (Singapore) and WIM Gong Qianyun (Singapore). You can check out our website segment on some of their achievements up to date.


On Day 1 of the event, we held an opening ceremony with the added aim of connecting chess players from different generations together. Former champions and national players (from 9 to those in the 70s), convenors, chess officials were invited to grace the occasion and they (about 60+ people)  packed the Olive Room to the brim, to commemorate the memory of Professor Lim Kok Ann and to witness Singapore’s first GM norm invitational for the last 21 years. Subsequently, a few approached us, offering to help sponsor future editions of the event!

Mark Liew and old friends

(Left) Dr Mark Liew opened proceedings with a welcome speech
(Right) Old friends/chess rivals catching up: IM Chan Peng Kong, IM Tan Lian Ann, NM Choong Liong On, Watson Tay Theng Huat, FM Ignatius Leong | Photos: Cecilia Chong

Dexter Lee, Stella Kon

(Left) The narrator, Dexter Lee — a good friend of mine, even if he plays 1.b4 and 1...a6
(Right) Our Guest of Honour, Ms Stella Kon (Prof Lim's daughter) reminiscing about life with Prof from a daughter's perspective | Photos: Cecilia Chong

Leong vs Goh Zihan

Blitz between generations: FM Ignatius Leong vs CM Goh Zihan | Photo: Cecilia Chong

Qianyun, Sukandar, Wei Ming

Highly ranked audience: WIM (Sorry, should be WGM in good time) Gong Qianyun, IM Irine Sukandar and IM Goh Wei Ming | Photo: Cecilia Chong

Prizes and Programme

Again, we wanted to do things differently. Apart from the standard prizes for a norm event (1s t- $1000, 2nd - $500 and 3rd - $250), we included a  Brilliancy prize ($250) donated by Dr Winston Chow, a Best game prize ($200) — IM Terry Toh's doing and a ‘Tahan’ (resistance) prize ($200) sponsored by FM Mark Ong Chong Ghee.

To welcome our participants from abroad, we inserted welcome gift hampers into their hotel rooms so that they will not have to raid the fridge for goodies. We are glad to have received positive feedback...

Sukandar instagram

Rave reviews from our players...

Apart from the Opening ceremony and tournament proper, on the single round days, we also included a "Guess Timur’s move" competition where contestants can try to guess the maestro’s moves from the blindfold exhibition rapid match between a blindfolded GM Timur Gareyev and NM Olimpiu Urcan (Timur won 2-0, of course) as well as a Blitz Challenge event.

Gareyev blindfold

For the blindfold, Carleton Lim, a grandson of Prof Lim Kok Ann moved Timur's pieces on his behalf, while contestants tried to guess Timur's arcane moves | Photos: Junior Tay

Another novelty was that the contestants were picked by their accuracy in a Singapore Chess History quiz instead. For the record, FM Jarred Neubronner won the Guess Timur’s move competition and FM Timothy Chan was the Blitz Challenge champion. 

Timothy Chan, Timur Gareyev, Jarred Neubronner

(Left) FM Timothy Chan wins the event with a perfect 7/7!
(Right) GM Timur Gareyev with the winner of the Blindfold prediction challenge, FM Jarred Neubronner | Photos: Junior Tay

We also held the sponsors' challenge on a single round day and IM Hsu Li Yang was pitted against NM Olimpiu Urcan in two 15 min plus 10 seconds per move games. Urcan upset the form books by beating Li Yang 1½-½, with the decisive game coming from the White side of a QGD Exchange Variation.


Urcan and Yang

Olimpiu Urcan and Hsu Li Yang start a rapid game | Photo: Junior Tay

Chess masters can't be mugging theory all day and night, can they? Mark thus invited them for a cruise ride on the 2nd single round day.

Boat trip

Maybe this is a deep strategy to get them seasick before the next round... | Photo: Junior Tay


The top players of their countries, Mongolia’s GM Batchuluun and Singapore’s IM Goh dominated the proceedings from the start with 2.5/3 after 3 rounds. The Mongolian GM pipped ahead in Round 4 when Kevin repeated moves in a French Winawer Poisoned pawn game versus top seed GM Timur Gareyev. From then onwards, the affable Batchuluun kept half point ahead of the Singaporean right till the end of the event, not that Kevin minded at all since, with 6½ / 9 points, he made his 3rd and final GM norm and will require to top up his Elo rating by 6 more points to reach 2500. Singapore had double joy as WIM Gong Qianyun defeated IM Tin Jingyao with a prepped Two Knight’s Steinitz 9.Nh3 line (Kevin’s doing) and clinched her final WGM norm.

You can read the round-by-round reports of the event to get a feel of the tournament atmosphere. Let me show you the defining game of each round.


Click or tap on games in the list to switch

Round 1

The bottom seed, WIM Gong Qianyun stunned all pundits by drawing against top seed GM Timur Gareyev. She mentioned that a sage advice she got from a good friend was “not to give Timur the bishop pair” and she proceeded to sacrifice the exchange and got the two bishops (for the exchange) against him instead! Perhaps Timur was too quick to simplify the position by returning the exchange to remain a pawn up. Gong held on grimly and put herself as a candidate for our ‘Tahan’ prize as Timur could make no headway but to acquiesce to a truce, although Gong did have a small window of a chance to win towards the end…

Round 2

Timur Gareyev had miscalculated the timing of the round….thinking that it was an 11 am game start. Fortunately for him, he made his way back to the Palm room with enough time to press Jingyao and suffocate him bit by bit. The final pawn breakthrough was certainly classy. This game was one of the candidates for Best Game / Brilliancy Game Prize.

Round 3

An ill-timed knight exchange in the French Winawer Poisoned Pawn placed Xiangyi in a clearly inferior position. A further mistake at move 23 gave the Mongolian the opportunity to score with a pretty queen sacrifice. This game won Batchuluun the brilliancy prize for the exquisite finish.

Round 4

Qing Aun struggled after his Italian opening failed to trouble Batchuluun. I thought the choice of the 4.c3 and 5.d4 Giuoco Piano wasn’t quite appropriate as it does not test his GM opponent much. However, Batchuluun’s subsequent technique was really impressive!

Round 5

Blindfold King Timur was the only player to play a ‘double round’ — more like ‘triple round’ the day before as he was involved in a 2 game blindfold match against NM Olimpiu Urcan after Round 4. It seemed to have taken its toll on him as he overpressed against Nguyen Anh Dung. In a finely balanced position, Timur went for blood and traded rook, bishop and pawn for queen and the Vietnamese GM pounced on his opportunity to advance the strong passed pawn to craft a nice win. The game was voted the best game of the event by the panel.

Round 6

Qianyun essayed the exchange variation to take theory away from Xiangyi’s French Defence. But Xiangyi was not in the mood to exchange pleasantries as he revved up a pawn storm after castling long. Qianyun was left dangling with one finger on the precipice but she simply refused to drop off the cliff as her king skirted around the edge for the longest time. Then Xiangyi allowed a little check, sent his king the wrong way and he fell headlong into the crevice. Life is tough. Another day... another tahan game by Qianyun.

Round 7

Wei Ming continued to make progress towards his 3rd and final GM norm with a patchy win over Irine. The play was nervy and tentative as Irine slowly but surely began to annex more and more space and squares on the kingside. With a hazardous c-pawn sacrifice, Wei Ming changed the dynamics of the game, forcing Irine to play on the whole board. Perhaps dejected that her own GM norm aspirations have faded away, Irine made an impudent sacrifice and Wei Ming gladly collected the point.

Round 8

Gong Qianyun, handled Mungkhgal’s London well in the opening and made a decision she might regret — to isolate her d-pawn in search of active play. The problem was Mungkhgal pretty much sat on the position and after she missed a chance to liquidate her IQP, White’s bishops began to exert themselves and resistance was futile.

Round 9

Half an hour before the Gong Qianyun vs Tin Jingyao game, Wei Ming had gone through the Steinitz 9 Nh3 line in the Two Knight’s Defence with her. He sold her the line by declaring “One pawn up, the bishop pair typically and a g-file attack…sure win…” (although it was clear he was in motivational speaker mode). With the WGM title at stake, Qianyun rose to the occasion and defeated Jingyao convincingly!

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Batchuluun Tsegmed 7,0 0,0
2 Goh Wei Ming Kevin 6,5 0,0
3 Gareyev Timur 5,0 2,0
4 Tin Jingyao 5,0 1,0
5 Munkhgal Gombosuren 5,0 0,0
6 Sukandar Irine Kharisma 4,0 1,5
7 Nguyen Anh Dung 4,0 1,0
8 Gong Qianyun 4,0 0,5
9 Liu Xiangyi 3,5 0,0
10 Lee Qing Aun 1,0 0,0

Prize Winners

At the closing dinner hosted by Mark, the following players earned prizes for their excellent effort.

1st: GM Tsegmed Batchuluun (7/9) - $1000

2nd: IM Goh Wei Ming Kevin (6.5/9) - $500

Equal 3rd: GM Timur Gareyev, IM Tin Jingyao, IM Munkhgal Gobosuren (5/9) - $100 each

Best Game: GM Nguyen Anh Dung 

Brilliancy prize: GM Tsegmed Batchuluun

Tahan Prize: WIM Gong Qianyun

The prizes were awarded by organizing chair, Dr Mark Liew and he remarked that throughout the event, the strategic sense of GM Batchuluun was so acute that he did not allow any doubled pawns at all in the whole event. Mark also presented Kevin and Qianyun with their GM/WGM norm certs.

The participants also endorsed their signature on chessboards which will be presented to the sponsors and volunteers for this event. 

Press Coverage

We were glad that the local newspaper Straits Times decided to cover this event online as well as in the print newspapers. Thanks to Kevin making his 3rd and final GM norm, the press made their way to our little event, despite having most of their resources being devoted to covering the Trump-Kim summit (our final day is the actual day of the summit!)

Newspaper coverage

Straits Times Newspaper report on our event (13th June 2018) 

People behind the scenes

Let's not forget, a lot of background work went into this event. The planning started more than 8 months ago.

Nisban, Thomas and Tian Wah

The tournament IO and IAs (Nisban, Thomas, and Tian Wah) at work | Photo: Junior Tay

Behind the scenes staff

(Left) No...Magnus wasn't involved but Esther (on the left) helped in chaperoning and opening ceremony logistics and Michelle (on the right) helped us secure a great venue
(Right) Our Peck Seah who works behind the scenes has an eye for detail


Here's the gang of planners with IM Goh Wei Ming, Junior Tay (coordinator), Dr Mark Liew (chairman), IM Goh, IM Dr Hsu Li Yang (advisor, sponsor) and Ronald Liew (sponsor, CEO QCD) | Photo: Pearl Gan


A chess author, editor and coach for the past three years after being a school teacher for 17 years, Tay is a former National Rapid and Cairnhill Open Champion and represented Singapore in international events including the Asian Team Championships.


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