Harnessing the future of Asian chess

by Edwin Lam
4/6/2019 – Waskaduwa beach in Sri Lanka is fast becoming the Colosseum of Asian junior chess battles. Now it's hosting the Asian Youth Chess Championships 2019. EDWIN LAM and KK CHAN check in from on site. | Pictured: The tournament hall where 571 kids from around Asia battle wits against one another | Photo: KK Chan

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Asian Youth Championship

Nine months’ ago, Waskaduwa beach in Sri Lanka hosted the Asian Schools Chess Championship 2018. Then, 450 junior chess champs from 17 countries across Asia came together to battle wits against one another. Surely the locals were jolted from their afternoon naps by hundreds of screaming kids running around, playing gleefully alongside the beautiful beaches of otherwise, sleepy Waskaduwa in between rounds of chess battles.

This past one week of April 2019 saw the congregation of an even larger number of junior chess gladiators in Waskaduwa. A total of 571 brainy kids from 23 countries cross the continent have gathered since April 1st together with their parents or shaperones to compete in the ongoing Asian Youth Chess Championships 2019 (AYCC 2019).

Waskaduwa Beach

AYCC chess players and their parents relaxing on Waskaduwa beach in front of the Jie Jie Beach Hotel | Photo: KK Chan

Scheduled from the 1st to the 10th of April 2019, the AYCC 2019 comprises the Rapid, Classical (Standard) and Blitz events. The Rapid event was held on the 2nd of April. With the time control of 15 mins + 10 sec increment, this served as a warm-up before the main event (Classical) that started on the 3rd of April. Results can be viewed here for the Under-8 Open category, while sub-links from their page will route you to results of the other age-groups and categories.

Rapid results, at a glance

There were plenty of upsets at the Rapid event. Except for the top seeds of the Under-8 Open (Mathew Liu Fung Ming), Under-14 Girls (Balabayeva Xeniya of Kazakhstan), Under-16 Open (FM Nogerbek Kazybek of Kazakhstan) and Under-16 Girls (WFM Nurgali Nazerke of Kazakhstan) who finished first in their respective Rapid events, the other top seeded kids in the other categories failed to win their rapid events.

At 7/7, WFM Nurgali Nazerke won the Under-16 Girls’ Rapid event in style as she steamrolled past all her opponents for a performance rating of 2344. The other key highlights of the Rapid event were the victories of WCM Khaliunaa Gankhulug of Mongolia in the Under-12 Girls Rapid as well as that of Mathew Liu Fung Ming of Hong Kong in the Under-8 Open Rapid.


WCM Khaliunaa of Mongolia | Photo: KK Chan

WCM Khaliunaa, seeded only 7th, came through the event with six wins and a draw. En route to her victory, she defeated the first, third and fourth seeded players (WCM Nurmanova Alua, Ratnapriya K and WCM Nguyen Linh Dan) to prove her champion credentials.

8-year old Mathew Liu Fung Ming from Hong Kong was the sole victor in the Rapid event who came from non-traditional powerhouses of chess. He broke the dominance of players in the other age-group categories who originated from Kazakhstan, Vietnam, India, Uzbekistan and Mongolia — all these countries have produced GMs, while Hong Kong is still waiting for its first!

Mathew Liu Fung Ming

8-year old Mathew Liu Fung Ming | Photo: KK Chan

Mathew picked up chess at the age of five. He was born in Hong Kong but studies in China. It is perhaps due to his being in China — a land of so many talented chess players and Grandmasters — that he was inspired to pick up the game whilst in kindergarten. According to his parents, Mathew learns chess on his own and does not have a proper chess tutor. His talents were obvious early on due to having played and won many strong junior events in the past and this has led to his high FIDE standard rating of 1624.

The main event

After the conclusion of the Rapid events, the real deal began. 571 kids have been battling it out to win the Standard events from the 3rd of April. Run across twelve different categories, from age 8 to 16, Open and Girls, the players are vying to not only win the Gold medals for each respective category but also for the rights to play in the World Youth Chess Championship.

Beyond that, players also battle through the nine rounds of Classical play in order to gain chess titles awarded by FIDE. International Master (IM), Women International Master (WIM), FIDE Master (FM), Women FIDE Master (WFM), Candidate Master (CM) and Women Candidate Master (WCM) titles will also be awarded to top finishers in their respective age-group categories, should they meet the minimum rating requirements set by FIDE.

Punching above their weights

After four rounds, key highlights of the leading players in the respective age-group categories include Kavin Mohan of Malaysia and Mathew Liu of Hong Kong. Both Kavin and Mathew are the only two players in the top 10 Under-8 Open category whose countries do not have any GMs as yet. 8-year old Kavin regularly plays in classical, rapid and blitz events in his home country, Malaysia. He competes and have won Under-12 events, punching above his weights against bigger boys and girls.

Right before flying out to Sri Lanka for the AYCC 2019, this student of Stella Maris Primary School in Kuala Lumpur had just competed in the Malaysian National Youth Chess Championships 2019. He convincingly won the Under-8 category with an 8 out of 8 score, finishing two points ahead of the second placed competitor. After four rounds, Kavin has 3 points and with five more rounds to go, he might just go on and win the AYCC 2019!

In the Under-8 Girls category, top seeded WCM Zhumagali Raian is leading with 4/4. She hails from Kazakhstan, an ex-Soviet republic with many Grandmasters (GMs) as well as a rich chess history and a long-standing culture of grooming chess players from a young age.


Unheralded Sri Lankan Thewmali R K Nuthara (right) | Photo: KK Chan

Unheralded Thewmali R K Nuthara of Sri Lanka had just lost to WCM Zhumagali in round 3, but is within striking distance of a top-3 finish if she maintains her performance towards the finishing line. Fellow Sri Lankans, Herath Pamudi (Under-10 Girls), Saravanabaavan Brijeash (Under-12 Open), Wilvalaarachchi Oneli Omaya (Under-12 Girls), Samaraweera Dimuth Indeepa and Piyumantha M Thisal Manjith (Under-14 Boys), Pavalachandran Ashvini and Sandeepani M Tharushi (Under-14 Girls), Dissanayake R K T (Under-16 Boys), Fernando G W Nethmi L (Under-16 Girls) and WCM Wijesuriya G P Y (Under-18 Girls) are also punching above their weights after four rounds. They carry the hopes of a nation, still waiting for its first Grandmaster.


WCM Chua Jia-Tien | Photo: KK Chan


Thai WFM Chuemsakul Sarocha | Photo: KK Chan

The other key highlights of players from nations who have yet to produce a GM, but are within striking distances of a top three finish include WCM Chua Jia-Tien of Malaysia and WFM Chuemsakul Sarocha of Thailand in the Under-16 Girls category. Both of them are at 3 points after four rounds, placing 9th and 10th in the field.

Chan Kim Yew

Chan Kim Yew of Malaysia (left) | Photo: KK Chan

Chan Kim Yew, a fellow countryman of WCM Chua Jia-Tien, is ranked just outside the top-10 in the Under-18 Open category. This 17-year old, who is an alumnus of SJKC Chee Wen in Subang Jaya, had just competed in the 2019 Aeroflot Open scoring 4½ points out of 9 rounds against a field comprising 2 GMs, 4 IMs, 1 FM and 1 CM. His results there included a draw against GM Natalia Zhukova. Over here at the AYCC 2019, he lost to FM Abdisalimov Abdimalik in Round 4. Despite this, he has five more rounds to go to make amends.

The critical final rounds, will be played Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Under-18 Open standings after four rounds (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Nurzhanov Timur 4,0 0,0
2 Abdisalimov Abdimalik 3,5 0,0
3 Krishnater Kushager 3,0 0,0
4 Manish Anto Cristiano F 3,0 0,0
5 Thilakarathne G M H 3,0 0,0
6 Nyambileg Erdene-Ochir 3,0 0,0
7 Mitrabha Guha 3,0 0,0
8 Vatsal Singhania 3,0 0,0
9 Tobing Daniel Hermawan Lumban 3,0 0,0
10 Panesar Vedant 3,0 0,0
11 Chan Kim Yew 2,5 0,0
12 Al Hosani Omran 2,5 0,0
13 Dai Wenzhi 2,5 0,0
14 Nayem Haque 2,0 0,0
15 Herath H M H C B 2,0 0,0
16 Sezdbekov Arzybek 2,0 0,0
17 Om Kharola 2,0 0,0
18 Liu Yu-Ping 2,0 0,0
19 Ilampoornan Raguparan 2,0 0,0
20 Nguyen Huynh Minh Thien 2,0 0,0

Selected games from the Under-18 Open category


Click or tap a game from the list to switch games

KK Chan contributed reporting. Chan is the President of the Hong Kong Chess Federation, a member of the FIDE Arbiters' Commission, and Press Officer of the AYCC 2019


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+ (http://myskolaplus.com) since end-2017.


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