Shamsiddin Vokhidov wins Asian Individual Hybrid Chess Championship 2021

by Diana Mihajlova
6/2/2021 – Due to the ongoing pandemic the Asian Individual Hybrid Chess Championship 2021 was played online. From 21 to 29 May 82 players from 15 countries battled in a hybrid tournament for the title, a place in the FIDE World Cup 2021, and the pitfalls of online play. After nine rounds the 19-year old Grandmaster Shamsiddin Vokhidov from Uzbekistan and IM Tin Jingyao from Singapore shared first with 7.0/9 each, but Vokhidov won the tournament on tiebreak. Top seed Parham Maghsoodloo from Iran finished tenth and suffered from power failures.

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Asian Individual Hybrid Chess Championship, 2021

Since the hybrid format for playing chess competitions has been endorsed by FIDE, more and more tournament organizers are opting for this way of competing in the face of the pandemic. The latest event to adopt the hybrid format is the Asian Individual Championship 2021 (a.k.a. Asian Continental Chess Championship) that was played from various centers from 21 to 29 May as a 9-round Swiss tournament. Players rated 2300+ as per May 2021 were eligible to participate.

82 players from 15 countries, namely Australia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Chinese Taipei and Uzbekistan participated at the The Asian Continental Chess Championship. Among them there were 20 Grandmasters, 20 International Masters and 12 FIDE Masters.

If we look at the starting ranking list we will find players that made waves in recent times, namely the Iranian rising star GM Parham Maghsoodloo, three-time Iranian national champion (2017, 2018 and 2021) and World Junior Champion in 2018. Other high-ranking players included Chinese GMs Lu Shanglei, (2014 World Junior Chess Champion; Chinese Blitz Champion, 2019) and Xu Yinglun, and two more Iranian GMs, M.Amin Tabatabaei  and multiple national champion Ehsan Ghaem Maghami.

However, the final ranking list provides different names. Parham Maghsoodloo, who was top seed with a current Elo of 2698 finished only on place ten which was partly due to technical problems which will be detailed at the end of this report.

The Asian Individual Hybrid Chess Championship’s winner is the twelfth seeded GM Shamsiddin Vokhidov from Uzbekistan. Not that the 19-year old Uzbek is without his own career sparks. He will be remembered for beating Magnus Carlsen at the 2018 World Rapid Championship, then an unknown, sixteen year old emerging player.

M. Carlsen vs S. Vokhidov, 0:1, at the World Rapid Championship 2018 (Photo: https://kun.uz/)

Vokhidov and IM Tin Jingyao from Singapore scored both 7 out of 9. They drew their direct encounter in the last round and tied for first place but thanks to his better tiebreak Vokhidov won the tournament. Tin Jingyao is the top Singaporean player and national champion who finished the National Championship 2020 with a perfect 9.0/9 score.

Tin Jingyao at the age of 15, at the Asean+ Age Group Championships 2015, where he won gold in the U-20 category and scored his final IM norm (Photo:http://www.straitstimes.com/)

GM Temour Kuybokarov (AUS) was leading until the seventh round but after a loss against the eventual winner in round 8 and a draw with GM Javokhir Sindarov (UZB) in the last round he finished third.

The Asian Individual Championship was a qualifier for the FIDE World Cup to be held in Sochi, Russia in July 2021. The seven highest placed players will be eligible to participate.

Final standings

Rk. SNo     Name FED Rtg Pts.  TB1 
1 12
 
GM Vokhidov Shamsiddin UZB 2529 7,0 2466
2 19
 
IM Tin Jingyao SGP 2482 7,0 2438
3 7
 
GM Kuybokarov Temur AUS 2549 6,5 2521
4 3
 
GM Tabatabaei M.Amin IRI 2613 6,5 2503
5 4
 
GM Yakubboev Nodirbek UZB 2605 6,5 2489
6 36
 
IM Ervan Mohamad INA 2356 6,5 2483
7 9
 
GM Sindarov Javokhir UZB 2544 6,5 2465
8 28
 
IM Gan-Erdene Sugar MGL 2419 6,0 2547
9 2
 
GM Lu Shanglei CHN 2615 6,0 2501
10 1
 
GM Maghsoodloo Parham IRI 2698 6,0 2454
11 24
 
GM Bilguun Sumiya MGL 2454 6,0 2388
12 23
 
IM Taher Yoseph Theolifus INA 2455 6,0 2378
13 20
 
IM Lou Yiping CHN 2472 6,0 2376
14 5
 
GM Xu Yinglun CHN 2554 5,5 2549
15 34
 
IM Setyaki Azarya Jodi INA 2389 5,5 2502
16 8
 
GM Ghaem Maghami Ehsan IRI 2547 5,5 2456
17 14
 
IM Mousavi Seyed Khalil IRI 2510 5,5 2449
18 41
 
FM Atakhan Abtin IRI 2319 5,5 2380
19 39
 
WIM Ning Kaiyu CHN 2327 5,5 2359
20 18
 
IM Song Raymond TPE 2485 5,5 2348

... 82 participants

Temur Kuybokarov and Nodirbek Yakubboev qualified for the FIDE World Cup 2021 as winners of the zonals 3.6 and 3.4 respectively. Therefore Sugar Gan-Erdene (Mongolia) and Lu Shanglei (China) will be added to the participants at the World Cup.

Kuybokarov who is now playing for Australia is originally from Uzbekistan and was representing Uzbekistan until moving to Australia in 2018. He won the Australian Open Championship twice and is reigning Australian Champion.

Temur Kuybokarov (Photo: Wikimedia)

Three of the top seven players are from Uzbekistan and the success of the Uzbeks is perhaps due to the support that the Uzbek Government is bestowing upon its sportsmen. Browsing through the Uzbek press I came across the following information:  

In 2018 the Uzbek squad won gold at the World Chess Olympiad among juniors under 16. They won eight of the nine matches losing only to the United States in the fourth round. Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Nodirbek Yakubboyev and Shamsiddin Vokhidov were presented with "Spark" cars by the Uzbek Government for their impressive results in the tournament.

Not a bad incentive at all.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov with his new toy (photo: https://kun.uz/)

When GM Javokhir Sindarov made his third GM norm to become the second youngest Grandmaster of all time at the age of 12, the Tashkent city administration rewarded him a three-room flat.

Sindarov was given his new flat with a bit of fanfare  (Photo: https://kun.uz/)

Javokhir Sindarov at the Sunway Sitges International Chess Festival, 2019 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Due to the severe pandemic that rages in India, Indian players could not be provided with a playing venue. However, the Indian Chess Federation was granted one spot at the FIDE World Cup.  In order to choose their representative, an online 17 player round robin World Cup qualifier was organised. GMs P. Iniyan and D Gukesh both scored 12.5/17 and shared first but as Iniyan had won their direct encounter he qualified for the World Cup.

Final standings of the Indian World Cup Online Qualifier

Rk. SNo   Name FED Rtg Pts.  TB1 
1 4 GM P Iniyan IND 2506 12,5 1,0
2 11 GM Gukesh D IND 2578 12,5 0,0
3 15 GM S.p Sethuraman IND 2644 10,5 0,0
4 10 GM Sekhar Ganguly Surya IND 2625 10,0 3,0
5 5 GM S.L Narayanan IND 2624 10,0 1,5
6 2 IM S. Nitin IND 2381 10,0 1,0
7 12 IM Rithvik R Raja IND 2408 10,0 0,5
8 1 IM Srivatshav Peddi Rahul IND 2463 9,0 0,0
9 16 GM Baskaran Adhiban IND 2660 8,5 0,0
10 14 GM Sengupta Deep IND 2527 8,0 0,0
11 3 IM Mittal Aditya IND 2438 7,5 0,0
12 7 GM Vasanthan Perumal Vishnu Prasanna IND 2476 6,5 0,0
13 9 IM Krishna Crg IND 2478 6,0 0,0
14 6 IM Swaminathan Soumya IND 2351 5,0 0,0
15 17 FM Vinay Kumar Matta IND 2305 4,0 1,0
16 13 IM Krishnan P Saravana IND 2312 4,0 0,0
17 8 FM Singhania Vatsal IND 2371 2,0 0,0

On the occasion of the event, Mr Bharat Singh Chauhan, the Honorary Secretary of the All Indian Chess Federation, who provided me with further information, thanked Prof. Dr. Kenneth Regan who did the Fair Play checking of all the games using his program FIDE Game Screening Tool. 

GM P.Iniyan will represent India at the World Cup (Photo: https://aicf.in/)

The Chinese WIM Ning Kaiyu (2327) placed high in the final ranking list. She scored 5.5/9 and her notable results against much stronger opponents include a win against the Iranian GM Aryan Gholami and draws against Ghaem Maghami and the International Masters Urazayev Arystanbek (KAZ) and Raymond Song (TPE).

Just a few days earlier, in the Chinese Women Championship, 7 – 15 May 2021, Ning Kaiyu finished with 8.0/11 and narrowly missed first place that went to the top seeded former Women World Champion, GM Tan Zhongyi (8.5/11).

In May 2020 Ning Kaiywon the Asian Junior Girls Championship but her first big success dates back to 2018 when she won the World Youth Chess Championships Girls under 14.

WIM Ning Kaiyu after winning the World Youth Chess Championships Girls under 14 in 2018 (photo: FIDE/ Niki Riga)

The Hybrid Format is still a new experience for players, organizers and arbiters. The Asian Individual Hybrid Chess Championship 2021was organized by the Asian Chess Federation that operates from offices in Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. Its executive director, Mr Casto Abundo kindly provided me with a description of the measures taken for the smooth running of the tournament and photos from various venues, some of which we reproduce here.

From the start of the series of Asian qualification tournaments for the World Cup, strict Fair Play controls were applied. And FIDE has announced a possible ban of 15 years for Fair Play violations.

All venues at the Asian Continental Hybrid Chess Championshipo were monitored by panoramic cameras and players were requested to stay within view when they stand to stretch their legs.

The Iranian IA/IO Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, the tournament director, installed front and back panoramic cameras in the building of the Iranian Chess Federation.

Each venue had a Local Chief Arbiter and a Local Technical Assistant. Moreover, a foreign Arbiter, respectively, would monitor each playing venue at the low ratio of an average of ten players for one foreign Arbiter to keep an eye on. Videos and microphones were always open for the foreign Arbiter to listen. Only players and Arbiters were allowed in the playing area.

The venue for the players from Uzbekistan

The last line of defence was provided by a correlation analysis of every game. Critically, this did not attempt to "catch" or "disqualify" players, but provided arbiters with statistical evidence around the likelihood of a player having received assistance.

The Chinese (above left) were playing in Shanghai and allowed the one Chinese Taipei player to join them. The venue on the right is in the office of the Bangladesh Chess Federation.

All games were checked by Prof. Dr. Kenneth Regan but who found no issues with any of the players.

Chess legend Eugenio Torre provided commentary

Screenshot from the online closing ceremony

Unfortunately, online play has its setbacks and can be marred by various problems: At the Asian Hybrid Individual Championship, Iranian players were victims to an electricity failure.

When the Iran Chess Federation lost electricity for two hours in round two the story appeared in most major newspapers in Iran. Actually, electrical power is rationed in Tehran and two hour blackouts are scheduled daily.

The news shocked readers in Iran. They learned that their national players had to continue playing while worrying that their laptops or mobile hotspos would run out of battery power. Top seed GM Parham Maghsoodloo suffered an upset loss. GM Aryan Gholami, Orini Mahdi Gholami and FM Abtin Atakhan all lost their games in round two and the distraction and stress in losing electrical power was blamed.

Aran Energy Systems, a private company in Iran, came to the rescue and donated a $10,000 generator to the Iran Chess Federation. The photo shows the engineers Hassanpour, Pahlevanzadeh and Madani from the company.

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A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.
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