Irine Sukandar Asian Women's Champion

by Sagar Shah
5/1/2014 – The 13th Asian Continental Open in Sharjah included a Women's section. Gold went to Irine Sukandar, a 22-year-old WGM from Indonesia — not the first time she has won an Asian Continental. And already at the 2004 Olympiad in Calviá, at the age of twelve (!), she scored 10/12. This remarkable young lady has sent us pictures and annotated a game from Sharjah.

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Irine Sukandar Asian Women's Champion

By Sagar Shah

The Asian Continental Championships (Open and Women) were held from 17th-26th April 2014 in the city of Sharjah, UAE. This tournament not only helps to find out who the strongest players in Asia are, but also at stake are five spots from the Open section and one spot from the Women section for the World Cup 2015 to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Irine Kharisma Sukandar (2319), the first WGM from Indonesia, became the Asian women champion. It was the second time that Irine has won this tournament, after her victory in the year 2012. She was in such sublime form that in spite of losing the last round game she won the tournament by a full point margin. She led the tournament from round five and won game after game to take first place with a round to spare. It was total domination by the 22-year-old Indonesian girl.

First place in the 11th Continental in Ho Chi Minh City

Irine (who sometimes spells her first name Irene) was born in Jakarta on 7 April 1992, so she has just turned 22. She has represented Indonesia in four Chess Olympiads: 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010. Her best result was in Calviá 2004, at the age of twelve (!), where she scored 10/12 and won the silver medal on board three.

Irine won Gold, with 7.0/9 points and a 2526 performance, which gained her 37 Elo points. The silver medal was won by the Atousa Pourkashiyan (2335) from Iran and the bronze went to Tan Zhongyi (2488) from China.

Top final rankings (after nine rounds)

Rk. SNo Title Name FED Rtg Pts.
1 12 WGM Sukandar Irine Kharisma INA 2319 7.0
2 8 WGM Pourkashiyan Atousa IRI 2335 6.0
3 1 WGM Tan Zhongyi CHN 2488 6.0
4 15 WGM Hoang Thi Bao Tram VIE 2280 6.0
5 14 WGM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat IRI 2292 5.5
6 10 WIM Gong Qianyun SIN 2327 5.5
7 17 WGM Nguyen Thi Thanh An VIE 2237 5.5
8 4 IM Karavade Eesha IND 2414 5.5
9 9 IM Pham Le Thao Nguyen VIE 2332 5.5
10 3 IM Tania Sachdev IND 2427 5.0
11 11 WIM Ni Shiqun CHN 2325 5.0
12 6 WIM Abdumalik Zhansaya KAZ 2379 5.0
13 13 WIM Nguyen Thi Mai Hung VIE 2312 5.0
14 2 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag MGL 2432 5.0
15 18 WIM Hoang Thi Nhu Y VIE 2207 5.0
16 7 WGM Soumya Swaminathan IND 2336 4.5
17 22 WIM Xu Huahua CHN 2110 4.5
18 16 WGM Swathi Ghate IND 2269 4.5
19 19 WIM Gu Tianlu CHN 2162 4.5
20 5 WGM Gomes Mary Ann IND 2386 4.5
21 25 WIM Dahdal Lougain JOR 2003 4.5

After such a fabulous tournament, I was very eager to ask Irine a few questions. Usually after an intense tournament it would be natural for a player to take some rest and celebrate the success. But Irine was kind and polite, and she answered all my questions in great detail. And not only that: she also annotated her favourite game of the tournament and sent some pictures from UAE. Truly, a wonderful and down-to-earth personality! Here is the interview:

Sagar Shah: What was your aim in this tournament?

Irine Kharisma Sukandar: I was only aiming to play my best since I had dropped a lot of Elo points in the first three months of the year. I was hoping that the least I could do was to gain back my lost rating.

SS: When did you start believing that you had a great chance of winning the gold medal?

IKS: When I won against Ni Shiqun in the fifth round, somehow my confidence got boosted and I started believing that I had a great chance to repeat my victory from two years ago.

Which was your favourite game from the tournament and why?

Probably my game in round seven against Hoang Thi Bao Tram (which I have annotated below), it was the shortest game I played in the tournament. I was really happy to be back to my hotel after less than two hours of playing and had some much needed rest, as the tournament was already getting very tiring.

You gained 37 Elo points with a phenomenal performance of 2526. What exactly went right for you in this tournament? What was your routine like?

This tournament reminded me of one thing that I have already learnt before about myself: if I am able to focus enough on what I'm doing, I can actually get good results from it. In this tournament I had a normal routine. I tried to sleep for minimum seven hours. I always woke up on time for the breakfast – I didn't want to skip it, as I just wanted to eat a small lunch before the game. Then I usually prepared for around two hours, and always had some rest after this, before going for lunch and to the game. After the round, I analyzed my game a bit, and once the pairing was out I prepared for the next day. Basically I was just trying to really focus on each game and do my best. I must mention that I owe a lot to my coach, GM Ruslan Sherbakov, who was preparing me for each game throughout the tournament.

In Bulgaria, June 2013, I remember you saying that it was your seventh IM norm and you are ready to trade it for rating points! What exactly is stopping you from reaching 2400?

In Bulgaria I got my seventh norm, and by winning this tournament it means yet another norm must be added to the list. I realized I still don't have enough consistency in my play. Sometimes I play well up to my level and sometimes I can even make a draw against below 2000 rated opponents, or lose in some crazy games. Most of the time I am too relaxed at the beginning of a tournament and I start regretting it when it’s already too late.

How was your approach towards the last round when you had already won the tournament?

I tried to be as focused as possible. But maybe I was a bit euphoric about winning the event with a round to spare. I didn't calculate long enough in one critical position in the game and decided to play very ambitiously, which resulted in a loss for me.

With Garry Kasparov and her little sister in Indonesia

How do you intend to celebrate your victory?

I am taking a week off with my loved ones.

Which tournaments will you be playing next and what are your future aims?

I'll be playing in Bulgaria again this summer, and one more tournament in the Czech Republic before the Olympiad. I hope I can gain as many rating points as I can and improve my quality of play.

World cup 2015? Do you think you can win it?!

Objectively not. But I'll try to do whatever it takes to bring the best out of myself.

With three Indian friends: IM Akshat Khamparia, GM Abhijeet Gupta, GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly

Here's the annotated game that the tournament winner sent us:

[Event "13th Asian Continental Women"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.04.23"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Sukandar, Irine"] [Black "Hoang Thi Bao Tram"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B17"] [WhiteElo "2319"] [BlackElo "2280"] [Annotator "Irine Sukandar"] [PlyCount "41"] [EventDate "2014.04.17"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] {Before the game I mostly prepared for the Caro-Kann against my opponent as it is her main opening. But lately I saw she has started to play the Philidor Defence too, so not to be surprised over the board later I had to prepare for that one as well, although it turned out to be the Caro-Kann in the end.} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Bc4 {One of the main lines beside 5. Ng5 or 5. Nf3} e6 $6 {This move looks a bit strange as it gives White all the chances to comfortably develop her pieces and start attacking earlier than Black. The bishop on c8 would have some problem seeing the pawn setup (c6 and e6) that Black creates.} ({Usually people go with....} 5... Ngf6 6. Ng5 e6 7. Qe2 Nb6 8. Bd3 (8. Bb3 h6 9. N5f3 c5 10. Bf4 Nbd5 11. Be5 Qa5+ 12. Nd2 b5) 8... h6 9. N5f3 c5 10. dxc5 Bxc5) 6. Nf3 Ngf6 7. Nxf6+ Nxf6 8. O-O Be7 9. c3 O-O 10. Qe2 c5 11. Bg5 cxd4 12. Rad1 a6 $6 {Maybe Black has to start doing something with Bc8 now and a6 might be a bit too slow. 13.... Bd7 might have been better, althought its already += here.} 13. Rxd4 Qc7 14. Ne5 b5 15. Bd3 Bb7 16. Nd7 $1 Qc6 (16... Rfd8 17. Bxf6 Bxf6 18. Nxf6+ gxf6 19. Rg4+ Kf8 20. Rg3 {White is better.}) (16... Nxd7 17. Bxe7 Rfe8 18. Bxh7+ Kxh7 19. Qd3+ Kg8 20. Rxd7 Qc6 21. Qg3 e5 (21... Qxd7 $4 22. Bf6 {and Black soon will be mated.}) 22. Re1 $16) 17. Nxf6+ {The rest of the game is not that hard for White to convert the advantage into a win.} Bxf6 18. Be4 Qc5 19. Bxh7+ Kxh7 (19... Kh8 20. Bxf6 gxf6 21. Rfd1 Qg5 22. Rg4 Qh6 23. Rd3 $18) 20. Qh5+ Kg8 21. Rh4 {Black resigned.} 1-0

Video report of the final round by Vijay Kumar

The interview with the Women's winner Irine Sukandar starts at 11:21 minutes

There is always some high quality coffee waiting for the players...

... with muffins to cure hunger and low sugar levels during the games

The team of arbiters and organizers who did a wonderful job at the tournament.

The Asian Continental championships have ended and the question that we set at the start of the event has to be asked once again: “Who are the superpowers of Asian Chess?” And without a doubt, this award goes to CHINA! With three players (Yu Yangyi, Ni Hua and Wen Yang) qualifying for the world cup 2015 we can safely say that China is currently the dominating force in Asian Chess.

Pictures from the official tournament site and Irine Sukandar


The games were broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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JimmyDean JimmyDean 5/2/2014 07:26
Asian Women's Champ, but ranked 22nd among Asian females! What does the title really mean?
WickedPawn WickedPawn 5/2/2014 01:12
Tim Hortons coffee and muffins in Sharjah, UAE! Roll up the rim to win!