Vietnam’s 15-year-old National Champion - Banh Gia Huy

by Peter Long
6/6/2024 – 15-year-old Banh Gia Huy is only a FIDE Master with a rating of 2384 but already has two IM-norms and is the sensational winner of the Vietnam Championship. Huy will therefore be a member of the Vietnam team at the 45th Budapest Olympiad in September this year, joining the likes of GMs Le Quang Liem, Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, and Tran Tuan Minh. Peter Long knows more about this exceptional talent. | Photos: Peter Long

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Despite learning chess at four years of age from a chess set given to him by his father, Huy was a late starter to chess, his first tournament being in school during Grade 1 when six years of age. Check out teenager prodigy's journey so far, written by Peter Long. Photos: FM FT IA Peter Long

A special characteristic of this talented and extremely intelligent young man was already revealed the following year when the self-taught occasional chess player failed to win his school’s Grade 2 tournament! Stunned by this “failure”, Huy started to take chess “seriously” and at 10 years of age won the “Amateur” U-10 section of the very strong and prestigious Vietnam Youth Championship.

FM Banh Gia Huy with his coach GM FT IA Bui Vinh

The reader might be asking how can an U-10 be anything but “Amateur”? Well, in Vietnam, if you play repeatedly, then you are categorised as “Professional” and so Huy’s first victory was that of a first timer in his first actual competition. It was then, as his mother Le Phuong pointed out, that they had the good fortune to be recommended to ask GM Bui Vinh to coach him.

The relationship paid immediate dividends as Huy in the following year, 2020, won the Vietnam Youth U-11 Championship. In 2022, Huy played in his first international youth tournament, the Asian Youth U-14 Championship in Bali, Indonesia, and his failure to win proved not to be so much a second crisis given his personal expectations but more of an eye-opener as to what he needed to do to get better. So he took 2023 to be the year to get the needed experience by participating in as many kinds and types of tournaments.

In the World Youth U-14 held in Montesilvano, Italy, Huy played well and had real chances to win but while remaining unbeaten, simply conceded too many draws. Huy is often accompanied on his trips by either one of his two grandmothers, by itself a special family bonding, and the Asian Youth in Al-Ain, the Abu Dhabi and Qatar Masters, and the ASEAN Age-Groups in Bangkok were all events with mixed results. It provided invaluable lessons for his future development which has now culminated in his big success to become Vietnam Champion in 2024.

His secret? Primarily self study. Working hard on his own, and already being a widely read bookworm, together with an extensive reading of the chess classics. Just a week ago, Huy has now came off a near miss in the Quang Ninh GM Tournament where he just failed to get a first GM-norm in a must win last round game that could have had any three results. His immediate plan is the review of his play and to prepare for Six Days Budapest in June to be followed by further participation in open tournaments to complete his IM title requirements.

It is clear that Huy will become a GM and almost certainly in the next two years, fulfilling a personal ambition to do it before graduation from school. Mum Le Phuong was quick to add her appreciation to his school and teachers - Greenfield School - for supporting his time off and allowing him to sit exams late and of course the young man has reciprocated with excellent grades. Huy acknowledged the enormous financial support given by his family, but most of all in allowing him to chase his dreams, his thanks to the Vietnam government for sponsorship to official events, and his coach Bui Vinh for providing regular lessons together with absolute belief in him and constant guidance. Vietnam chess may soon have another special talent on the world stage!

Here are Huy’s favourite games with his personal annotations:


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Peter Long is an FM, FIDE trainer, international organiser, international arbiter and a man who has brought chess to Malaysia and neighbouring countries through his efforts over the years. He has previously been part of FIDE as Secretary of the Trainers’ Commission.
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