Grandmaster Chef: Wang Hao

by Alexey Root
12/17/2020 – Wang Hao is ranked second in China, behind Ding Liren. In round 1 of the 2020 Candidates Tournament, Hao defeated Liren, a game that National Master Mike Walder annotates. Walder also creates a recipe for a dish that Hao might like. WIM Alexey Root tells why Wang Hao is a Grandmaster Chef honoree. | Photo: Maria Emelianova / FIDE

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Instant grandmaster

As Diana Mihajlova’s thorough profile of Wang Hao (part one is here; part two is here) stated, Hao jumped from untitled to grandmaster “bypassing both the FM and IM titles.” Becoming a grandmaster at age 16 was a high point in Hao’s already impressive junior chess career. For example, at age 14, Hao won team gold and an individual gold as China’s first board in the Under-16 Olympiad.

2019 Grand Swiss

Wang Hao qualified for the 2020 Candidates Tournament by winning the 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss with 8 out of 11, on tiebreak over 2018 World Championship Challenger Fabiano Caruana and ahead of World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who tied for third place with 7.5.

As Carlos Colodro noted in his tournament report, the Grand Swiss win came after some bumpy years: “On January 2013, the Chinese achieved his peak rating of 2752, but then a slow descent began to take place, with his Elo dropping down to 2670 four years later. Nevertheless, Wang kept showing intermittent good performances in open tournaments — his latest triumph was getting clear first place at this year’s HD Bank Open.”

Wang Hao, Grand Swiss FIDE

Wang Hao won the extremely strong Grand Swiss on the Isle of Man | Photo: Maria Emelianova 

Vietnamese food

Hao’s victory in the 2019 HD Bank Open, held in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam, was just his latest trip to Vietnam’s most populated city. Three years prior, right before winning the 2016 HD Bank Open, Hao asked on Facebook “Any delicious restaurant in Saigon? Vietnamese or French food.” Since Vietnam has been one scene of Hao’s chess triumphs, and since he likes Vietnamese food, Walder created a recipe for a traditional Vietnamese dish to honor Wang Hao.

The recipe

Canh Chua Ca is a traditional Vietnamese soup. 

Canh Chua Ca by Mike Walder


  • catfish filets, 1 lb. cut into 1-inch steaks (can substitute similar quantity of cod, shrimp, or tofu)
  • lemongrass, 2 stalks bruised (whacked with a meat mallet or rolling pin) and cut down into 3-inch lengths
  • tomatoes, 2 cut into bite-size wedges
  • pineapple chunks, 1 cup
  • okra, 8-12 sliced into ½-inch segments
  • mung bean sprouts or soybean bean sprouts, big handful
  • Ground cumin, 1 teaspoon
  • shallot, 1 coarsely minced
  • garlic, 4 cloves coarsely minced
  • Thai chili, 1 sliced, add more if you enjoy a spicier soup (substitute a sweet chili for those adverse to heat)
  • tamarind paste, 2 Tablespoons (can substitute the juice of 2 limes)
  • sugar, 1.5 teaspoons, adjust if necessary
  • fish sauce, 2 Tablespoons
  • water, 6 cups (or substitute 6 cups of fish stock for fish sauce and water)
  • peanut oil, 1 Tablespoon (or substitute any light-flavored cooking oil)
  • basil leaves as an optional garnish
  • Rice wine vinegar (to taste, if the soup needs to be made more sour)


  1. Marinate the fish, shrimp, or tofu in the fish sauce in a bowl.
  2. Fry the garlic with the peanut oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat until garlic turns golden brown. Remove the garlic and drain on a paper-towel lined bowl.
  3. Sauté the shallot for 2 minutes in the large pot from step 2, which should still have peanut oil in it.
  4. If using fish, quickly sear the fish strips in the oil, flipping them once after 2 minutes, then waiting another 2 minutes to sear the other side.
  5. Add the water, sugar, and tamarind paste into the large pot then bring the pot to a boil.
  6. Immediately add the tomatoes, pineapple, okra, lemongrass. Also add the shrimp or tofu, if you opted to use them instead of catfish. Let cook for 5 minutes, spooning off soup scum at the 4-minute mark.
  7. Add the cumin, Thai chilies, and bean sprouts, stir gently, then remove from heat.
  8. Taste the soup and adjust the sweet and sour to taste using additional sugar and/or rice wine vinegar.
  9. Once the sprouts become soft, typically in 2-3 minutes, ladle the soup into dining bowls, removing large pieces of lemongrass as you find them and garnish with the fried garlic and optional basil leaves.
  10. Serves 3 people. Takes about 30 minutes including prep time.

Ding Liren, Wang Hao, Canh Chua Ca

Ding Liren v Wang Hao after 30.f4 alongside Canh Chua Ca | Photo: Elliott Winslow

The game

In round 1 of the 2020 Candidates Tournament, Wang Hao won, as Black, against his compatriot Ding Liren. The game has been previously analyzed on ChessBase. National Master Mike Walder annotates it again here, with Canh Chua Ca flair.


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Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


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