The Vietnamese dragons are coming

2/22/2010 – 19-year-old Le Quang Liem has won a string of very strong events, jumping from practically nowhere into the top 50 in the world (expect to see him in the top 20 soon). His achievements are in the news all over the world. And he is joined by Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son. High time for us to learn these names and understand how they work. Nguyen Hong Son helps us.

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Some years ago we brought you an article on the correct usage of Indian and Russian names – working out the intricacies of "Vishy Anand" (and helping out a friend who could not understand why Anand's wife called him by his "surname"). Then we instructed you on the correct pronounciation of Qosimjonov – sorry, Kasimdzhanov – when the Uzbek was on the verge of winning the FIDE world Championship in 2004. Now it is time to get acquainted with the workings of Vietnamese names, and we have been helped tremendously by a chess fan in that country.

Vietnamese names

By Son Nguyen, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Vietnamese people are good at board games, especially in the Chinese version of chess (xiangqi), where we are the dominating power together with China. Everybody here is crazy about that game, as you can see in the following picture, which I took at a recent traditional xiangqi tournament held in Hanoi during the ongoing Lunar New Year celebration.

But back to traditional western chess: you can expect more stars, or in our Eastern tradition of saying, dragons to rise in the future in Vietnam. That's why an explanation is in place here to clear future confusions on how to use Vietnamese names.

The Vietnamese has a distinct way of naming. In the full name Le Quang Liem, contrary to Western tradition, Le is actually the family name (surname), Liem the first name, and Quang (or anything in the middle place in case of more than one word) is the so-called middle name. As a rule we always call each other, whether casually or formally, by their first name, no exception. So Liem is the correct way to call the player. Likewise for the other player, Son (Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son). By the way Son is also my name, and a very popular Vietnamese name. Liem is less so.

Occasionally a very formal version is used (similar to that of Western names) like so: Liem, Le Quang (where the first name is truly first and the middle name is no more). In that case a comma is neccessary to distinguish a non-traditional name sequence. Unfortunately it is often missing, so all you can do is guess which is the surname (also unlike in the West, surnames are far less various than first names). For your information here are some popular Vietnamese surnames: Nguyen, Tran, Le, Ly, Pham, Phan, Hoang, Trinh, Duong. That should be a helpful list to remember since those account for 80% of surnames ever given to Vietnamese, I guess.

Now if you are confused by my name, as given in the head of this article, I can explain. Son Nguyen is a "westernized" form. Unlike the traditional way of SurName MiddleName FirstName, in the context of communication with foreigners, we often adopt the West-friendly order of FirstName SurName MiddleName instead (with or without comma), and probably even leave out the middle name (like the missing Hong as middle name in my case – my full name is "officially" Nguyen Hong Son). We almost always format names in email contacts and English business cards according to that western style, so as to remove the confusion for the western audience. And as a result of this inconsistency even Vietnamese often face the name-guessing game (e.g. to tell whether Son or Nguyen is the first name). For us it is, however, fairly trivial, and if you refer to the surname list I gave above you should find that as easy too, at least in 80% of the cases.

Welcome to the Vietnamese culture, and promising you of more Vietnamese wonders to visit the Western world! Chuc Mung Nam Moi! (Vietnamese for Happy New Year).


International reports

The Telegraph: You've been Quangoed
The Vietnamese Grandmaster Liem Le Quang has sacked Moscow and achieved the unlikely feat of winning two Open tournaments there in quick succession. With analysis of his game against Nepomniachtchi, by IM Malcolm Pein.

The Guardian: Vietnam teenager Le Quang Liem secures victory at Moscow Aeroflot
A little-known 18-year-old from Vietnam stole the show this week at Moscow Aeroflot, the toughest open tournament in the world. Le Quang Liem secured several eminent scalps, took first prize unbeaten with 7/9, and followed up his victories at Kolkata (Calcutta) and the Moscow Open with an even more impressive performance. Liem is the fastest improver among the world top 50 and is now close to the 2700-rated grandmaster elite. By Leonard Barden.


Saigon GP Daily: Chess: Vietnam’s Le Quang Liem takes Aeroflot Open title


Nhan Dan: Vietnamese chess master to be listed among world’s top 50


ChessBase articles

What's in a name?
13.01.2004 – In a recent interview on India's NDTV GM Vishy Anand explained the origin of his name. But many readers thought his explanation did not bring final clarity into the matter. With two weeks of Anand on the front pages of our Wijk coverage we thought it would not be amiss to bring you a short primer on his and other players' names.

FIDE WCC R7-4: Just call me Qosimjonov!
10.07.2004 – Everyone was expecting a draw, with Rustam Kasimdzhanov using the white pieces to calm things down after his loss to top seed Michael Adams in the previous round. But the 24-year-old Uzbek underdog came out fighting and won a fine game, which brings him within a heartbeat of the world championship title. High time we learnt how to pronounce his name.

Le Quang Liem – a new star in the Vietnam sky
18.02.2010 – Every so often a player has a run for the ages, and this incredible series inevitably ushers in a new name to be reckoned with at the highest echelons of chess. 19-year-old Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem has just had such a run, passing through the fiercest trial by fire the chess world has to offer, coming first or equal first in two super-strong Russian tournaments. Albert Silver reports.

Aeroflot Open – Le Quang Liem victorious
18.02.2010 – This young Vietnamese grandmaster is having an incredible run: after finishing joint first in the very strong Moscow Open, and without a single day's rest, he played in the Aeroflot and clinched sole first with a fine win over Ian Nepomniachtchi in the final round. Second was Ukrainian GM Anton Korobov. Final results, games and pictures from Moscow.

Aeroflot Open 2010 – Le Quang Liem in the lead
12.02.2010 – After three rounds of this massive tournament GM Le Quang Liem is the only player left with a clean score: three wins in three games. He is followed by another Vietnamese GM (and a Bulgarian and a Russian), with 31 players behind them – of whom two are female and one an IM. We bring you results and games, plus photo impressions by WGM Yana Melnikova.

Chernyshov wins Moscow Open 2010
08.02.2010 – This event took place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 7, just before the 9th Aeroflot Open (Feb. 8–19) – which meant that many strong players were in the Russian capital to participate in both tournaments. Four players shared first in the Moscow Open, with 7.0/9 points. The winner was Konstantin Chernyshov on tie-break, with the decisive factor being that he had the most wins. Illustrated report.

XiangQi – the Chinese version of Western Chess

XiangQi – an alternate to Western Chess
19.11.2006 – Are you frustrated by chess? Disillusioned by realizing that you may never be good enough to make it to the top – no matter how hard you work? Well, here's a remedy: before you throw away board, books and pieces, why not try XiangQi – chess Chinese style. You can even take part in a world championship. Dr. René Gralla explains.

The Chinese secret to success
13.07.2005 – What is the reason for the remarkable success of Chinese players in the international chess circuit? According to Prof. David H. Li it is entirely due to the fact that they are all weaned on XiangQi, the fast and combative Chinese version of the game. The outspoken academic elucidates in part two of his interview with René Gralla.

Give up the sissy version – play Chinese chess!
15.06.2005 – David H. Li is not too fond of chess – at least not the strange variety we play. The retired professor from Washington DC calls it Queen-Qi or the "Queen’s Game“. A much faster and more exciting version predates Western chess. It originated in ancient China and is called XiangQi, the Elephant Game.

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