Laos, a new chess destination

by Edwin Lam
9/16/2018 – The Southeast Asia chess scene has given an important step forward this year, as Laos organised its first international tournament. The landlocked country launched the 'Chess in Schools' program six years ago and has been working towards growing the game's stature. In the first Laos International Open, Armenian GM Karen Grigoryan was declared the winner, while the success of the event prompted the organisers to run a second edition later this year. Update September 21| Photo: Laos Chess Federation

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Grigoryan gets there first

Have you heard of Laos? This landlocked nation situated at the heart of Indochina had not been known in the chess world until January 2018, when it hosted the country's first-ever international open chess championship. It offered top-notch prizes and attracted 68 players from 14 countries. Four GMs and four IMs participated, included GM Karen Grigoryan, GM Gerhard Schebler, GM Bui Vinh, GM Sriram Jha, IM Le Tuan Minh and IM Nguyen Anh Khoi. The tournament was won by GM Grigoryan. 

The verdict at the end of the week-long contest earlier this year was one of great satisfaction.

The inaugural tournament was made possible due to the long-term vision of the Laos Chess Federation (LCF). According to John Inthava Vilavane, the General Secretary of the LCF and Councillor for FIDE's Development Commission:

Our chess federation, with the strong backing of the government of the Lao People Democratic Republic, is committed to the development of chess in this country. Our multi-year plan began in 2012 with the agreement of the Ministry of Education & Sports to launch the 'Chess in Schools' program.

Soon after the kick-start of the 'Chess in Schools' program, chess was included in Laos' National Games. As the game's stature grew through the years, its importance within the national education ecosystem followed suit. By the end of 2017, the 'Chess in Schools' program had penetrated all but two provinces of Laos. This confirmed the successful laying of the foundational groundwork for the game in the country.

With the fundamentals in place, the LCF set its sights on bringing the game's development up to the next level. As part of its multi-year masterplan, the LCF had targeted 2018 as the year for them to organise an international-level chess open in Laos. The General Secretary added:

This is an important jigsaw in our multi-year plan as such a high-level, international open will provide our local chess players with the exposure and opportunity to pit their wits against top players from abroad.

All these efforts resulted in the organisation of the 1st Laos International Open Chess Championship in January 2018, which was won by the Armenian GM Grigoryan (pictured) with a score of 7½ out of 9.

A final photo with players and organisers | Photo: Laos Chess Federation

Final standings (top 20):

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Grigoryan Karen H. 7,5 0,0
2 Le Tuan Minh 7,0 0,0
3 Duong The Anh 6,5 0,0
4 Bui Vinh 6,5 0,0
5 Causo Deniel 6,5 0,0
6 Lee Jun Hyeok 6,5 0,0
7 Sriram Jha 6,0 0,0
8 Ferriol Gerald 6,0 0,0
9 Rom Jasper 6,0 0,0
10 Wiwatanadate Poompong 6,0 0,0
11 Habla Jony 6,0 0,0
12 Chan Peng Kong 6,0 0,0
13 Nguyen Anh Khoi 5,5 0,0
14 Schebler Gerhard 5,5 0,0
15 Tran Dang Minh Quang 5,5 0,0
16 Ayza Leon David 5,5 0,0
17 Nguyen Thi Minh Oanh 5,5 0,0
18 Khumnorkaew Tupfah 5,5 0,0
19 Kim Changhoon 5,5 0,0
20 Tantipura Noppakorn 5,5 0,0

Why wait another year?

The success of the inaugural event prompted the LCF to organise the next edition later this year, in a sustained effort to continue growing the stature of the game in this country of 7 million people. To be held in conjunction with the closure of the program Visit Laos Year 2018, this chess event is aimed at boosting chess tourism in the Land of a Million Elephants during the upcoming year-end holidays. 

With its UNESCO World Heritage sites and architectural wonders to complement its great food and friendly people, the country is a wonderful kaleidoscope waiting to be explored.

Elephants are a common sight in Laos | Photo: Patrice Terraz/Signatures

So, what are you waiting for? You should quickly sign-up to compete in the upcoming 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship. This nine-round, FIDE Rated tournament is scheduled to be held from December 17th to 22nd, 2018 at the same excellent venue from the first edition, the five-star Don Chan Palace (Vientiane). The 90 minutes plus 30 seconds per move time control will be used at the tournament. 

This year's edition promises a total prize fund of US$ 10,000. The winner will also lift the President's Cup of Laos NOC (Minister of Education & Sports Lao P.D.R.). Titled players such as GMs and IMs can write to the tournament organiser for consideration of waiver of entry fees.  

This tournament will once again be organised by John Inthava Vilavane together with IA Brahmawong Patcharawee. IA Brahmawong Patcharawee will be the Chief Arbiter for the tournament (pictured).  

With the same organisation team, you can be assured of an excellent, top-notch chess event in a five-star hotel setting! The entrance fees for the 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship are US$ 100 (Rated players) and US$ 150 (Unrated), respectively. With the inclusion of rapid and blitz chess events this time around, the event will be a true week-long chess festival in Vientiane. The rapid and blitz events will take place on December 23rd and 24th, 2018, respectively, with entry fees of USD $40 and $20.   

The Don Chan Palace Hotel in Vientiane

For more details about chess in Laos, do visit their national chess federation's website or go to their Facebook page. To sign-up for either the main event (2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship), rapid or blitz tournaments, please contact John at (+856) (20) 5810 7990 (WhatsApp) or via WeChat (User Name: jOhn, ID: wxid_9bos8flhgr7i22) and LINE (ID: j210918). John can also be reached via Email at Payment details will be given via email once tournament registration is made to the organiser while accommodation can be booked via or via email to and copy

Tournament Dates and Schedule of events*

  • 17th December 2018: Opening Ceremony to the 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship together with the players’ meeting
  • 18th December 2018 to 22nd December 2018: Rounds 1 to 9
  • 22nd December 2018: Closing Ceremony
  • 23rd December 2018: Rapid Event
  • 24th December 2018: Blitz Event


Update September 21:

We've just received the following "official media statement" providing important updates on the 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship:

Laos federation logoThe Laos Chess Federation (LCF) regretfully announces the scaling down of the upcoming 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship that is scheduled to take place from the 17th to the 24th of December 2018. 

According to John Inthava Vilavane, the Chief Organiser as well as General Secretary of the LCF, "After much deliberation, the sports council had decided yesterday (20th September 2018) to either cancel or scale down all mass upcoming sporting events and activities.”

“While the 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship will continue as planned, it will be scaled down to reduce costs. There will be no more fanfare, no opening nor closing ceremonies. The total prize monies for will also be halved to just US$ 5,000," he added. 

What does this mean to chess players looking forward to competing in this chess tournament? John clarified that, "The tournament will still go on at the same venue and on the same dates, but minus the fanfare. The total prize money will be half of what we had originally planned. But, despite that, the players can still battle it out for FIDE rating points.” 

John InthavaJohn, on behalf of the LCF, apologised to chess players around the world for this change in the tournament's prize monies. "This difficult decision was made to help the country save and channel valuable financial resources to help rebuild areas badly affected by massive flooding this year. While many of you may be aware of the Attapeu flooding that happened in the South-eastern Champasak province in end July, I am sure it is less known globally that 14 out of Laos' 18 provinces have been hit by floods during this rainy season - resulting in massive damages to homes and public amenities as well as loss of lives and missing loved ones," explained John. 

It is to this last point that the Laotian government decided to cancel its National Games and to request for various large-scale events to be downsized. He said, "The scaling down of mass sporting activities is meant to mourn the loss of 60 lives as well as the hundreds of missing individuals caused by the floods. We seek your understanding of our predicament.”

“Should there be any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact me via email (, WhatsApp (+856 20 5810 7990), WeChat (User Name: jOhn, ID: wxid_9bos8flhgr7i22) or LINE (ID: j210918)," concluded John. 

Released on behalf of the Laos Chess Federation,
John Inthava Vilavane
General Secretary as well as Chief Organiser of the 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship

Additional FAQs for publication:

"I have already transferred entrance fee for the tournament to the LCF, booked my accommodations and flight tickets. What do I do now?"  

"You are still welcomed to play chess at the scaled-down version of the 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship, with a reduction in prize monies and minus the opening and closing ceremonies. You will still get to enjoy the chess in Laos and to play to gain FIDE rating points." 

"I am an IM and you have promised me free entry fees as well as free accommodation if I come and play in the tournament. With this announcement, does your promise to me remain the same?"  

"Yes, our promises to you remain true till today. GMs and IMs who have been promised free entry fees as well as free accommodations will continue to enjoy this benefit, just as planned."

"I am a GM. I know you have promised me free entry fees as well as free accommodation if I come and play in the tournament. While I thank you for confirming that the arrangement as agreed previously will continue to be honoured by you and the LCF, I am less keen to play due to the reduction in prize monies. I would now like to pull out from the tournament."  

"I understand your disappointment. And, given that you find the reduction in prize monies unacceptable, we will, as a gesture of goodwill allow you to pull out from the tournament. We hope to welcome you to Laos in future chess tournaments."

"I have already paid for my entrance fee in full, booked my accommodations and flight tickets. But, with the reduced prize monies, I am not interested to participate in it anymore. Can I get a refund for my entry fees from the LCF as well as compensation for the cancellation fees I will be charged on my accommodation and flights?"  

"We understand your disappointment and we are equally sorry for having to scale down the tournament arrangements as well as the prize monies for the 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship. As a gesture of goodwill, we will refund in full the entry fees you have paid to us in advance. However, we will be unable to provide any compensation for charges incurred due to cancellations of accommodation and flights. What we can do for you is to issue a copy of our official media statement above with LCF's letterhead via email so that you can use it to explain to your accommodation and flight provider about the changes to the chess tournament so as to help facilitate your accommodation and flight refunds from the hotel and airline." 

"I have not yet registered for the 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship, but I am still keen to play there despite the reduced prize monies. Can I still register for it?"  

"Yes you can! Please contact Chief Organiser, Mr John, via email (, WhatsApp (+856 20 5810 7990), WeChat (User Name: jOhn, ID: wxid_9bos8flhgr7i22) or LINE (ID: j210918). In fact, aside from the individual standard events of the 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship, the rapid and blitz individual events will also continue as planned with no fanfare and reduced prizes monies on the 23rd and 24th of December 2018. We thank you for your continuous support of Laotian chess." 

"Despite the scaled-down arrangements of the tournament, will the venue of the competition remain the same?"  

"Yes the venue of the tournament remained the same, at Don Chan Palace Hotel in Vientiane. We will only scale back on the fanfares as well as on the prize monies to the winners. The venue will remain the same as planned."


Edwin Lam Choong Wai is a Malaysian chess player and author. He was previously attached to Procter & Gamble doing local, regional and global marketing roles, before joining Pfizer, Essilor and Yeo’s in both Malaysia and Singapore. He had also previously been attached to The Purpose Group, a creative and digital marketing agency in Ho Chi Minh City. He is now based in Malaysia having started an education venture known as My SKOLA+ ( since end-2017.


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