Wang Hao wins 9th HD Bank Open 2019

by Irina Bulmaga
3/17/2019 – Chinese GM Wang Hao finished first in the 9th HD Bank Open in Vietnam's most populous city and most popular tourist destination, Ho Chi Minh City. IM IRINA BULMAGA was there and reports on this strong traditional Open tournament, which saw a star performance by the second youngest Grandmaster ever, the Indian prodigy D. Gukesh. | Pictured: Stanislav Bogdanovich, Wang Hao, Nandhidhaa P V, Wen Yang | Photo:

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Wang wins, Gukesh shines

When thinking about how to entitle my report, something like “An overly excited WGM reports from Vietnam” came to my mind. It would probably best describe my whole experience while participating at the “9th HDBank International Chess Tournament” held from the 6th to the 13th of March in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

I once made myself a promise, that I will play one ‘exotic’ tournament per year, to reward my hard work. I did forget about this for quite some time, until coming across this tournament while checking the chess calendar. I remembered I heard only positive comments about it and given the fact that it had also an impressive starting list of players and prize fund I decided to give it a try. I must say that there was no moment in the whole week I stayed in Vietnam that I regretted this decision!

Ho Chi Minh City is the most populous city of Vietnam, with 8.4 million of inhabitants

Given my playing very actively, I have started to value the good organization of tournaments. Some years ago I couldn’t care less if there was tea, coffee and water in the playing hall, if there was good lighting and comfortable tables and chairs, if we would play in the same place where we lived, nowadays these are the first things I want to find out before going to a tournament and all was great in Ho Chi Minh City! There were even fruits and small bites available for the players! I was also very impressed to see advertising panels of the tournament everywhere in the city, like every five meters! Have you ever seen such thing before and in such a big city?

I can only hope that this tournament will be an example and inspiration to the organizers around the World, as chess will definitely benefit from it! I loved receiving a flower and a small gift as a present for the International Women's Day from the organizers!

Bulmaga gift

Irina Bulmaga receives a flower on March 8th | Photo:

The schedule of the tournament was quite tough, given the two double-rounds and the morning hours we used to play at on daily basis, but hey, I came there to play chess, right? (And also, if I'm being completely honest, for the sunbathing and swimming sessions in the pool of the hotel's rooftop garden!)

From day one, I have decided that I would return for the tournament next year and also book some extra days, so I didn’t force myself to take any extensive visiting tours. I was happy discovering the restaurants in the area where I stayed, trying every day some new dishes and fresh juices. I must say that I have really enjoyed the ‘food experience’! Seafood, salads, rice, noodles, spring rolls, chilly dips- all yummy! It was quite hot there, around 35 C degrees, which made the walking and visiting possible only after the sun would go down, which was actually perfectly fine, as I have never seen such a sparkling and lively nightlife before!

As about the tournament itself, I must admit that I was quite worried before the first round. Most of the Europeans I know are worried when playing against Asian people, as there’s this ‘legend’ that they play strong despite their somewhat low ratings. My worries never stopped during the tournament, but I was lucky enough to have myself only one proof of ‘the legend’.

Wen and Wang

GM Wen Yang (left) facing Wang Hao, the winner of the tournament! | Photo:

The fight for the 1st place was fierce. It seemed that nothing could stop GM Stanislav Bogdanovich from Ukraine, as he was on 6½ points after the seventh round, with two impressive wins vs GM Ivan Cheparinov and GM Sandro Mareco.


Trompowsky for the attacking player

Tap into your creative mind and start the game on a fresh note. The Trompowsky (1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5) is an opening outside of conventional wisdom. Create challenges and make your opponent solve problems early on.

However, GM Wang Hao wasn’t as impressed as I was and he won with the white pieces in the decisive eighth round against the Ukrainian in a very tough ‘Spanish’ battle, taking the sole lead himself with 7 points before the last round.


A solid draw to finish the tournament was enough to secure clear 1st place, becoming once again the winner of the “strongest chess open of the region”, as Mr. Arkadiy Dvorkovich, who honoured the closing ceremony with his presence, mentioned during his speech. Dvorkovich pointed out that he hoped that Vietnam would become a venue for international chess tournaments where “every country” will participate!

I must mention that the Closing Ceremony was simply amazing! There were traditional Vietnamese songs and ‘hat dances’ — a true show of colours!

closing ceremony

Colours of the closing ceremony | Photo:


FIDE President Dvorkovich at the HD Bank Open | Photo:

I had a quite good tournament myself, finishing on 5½ points and taking the 2nd prize among women.

[Irina selected her round seven win as her favourite -Ed.]


The winner was the Indian WIM Nandhidhaa P V, who after losing to me in the second round didn’t lose any other game and scored a very impressive 6 points out of 9, making also an IM norm!

Winners and guests

The winners of the tournament together with the official guests | Photo:

The Indian delegation was quite vast and it was no surprise given the continuously rising popularity of chess there. I was very impressed by some really young boys giving hard times to experienced IMs and GMs. Amongst them, the ‘new’  12-year-old GM Gukesh was the one shining the brightest! He scored 7 points out of 9 with a performance of 2700 and shared the 2nd place!

Gukesh's eighth round win over GM Anton Demchenko was notable:



This young man will go very far in my humble opinion | Photo:   

I don’t know if it was about the journey, the destination or my whole experience there, but my trip to Vietnam has been like a balsam on my soul and I’m just happy!

Final standings (top 5)

Rk.     Name Typ FED Rtg Pts.  TB1 
GM Wang Hao   CHN 2718 7,5 0,0
GM Wen Yang   CHN 2599 7,0 0,0
GM Bogdanovich Stanislav   UKR 2536 7,0 0,0
IM Gukesh D U16 IND 2529 7,0 0,0
IM Liu Guanchu   CHN 2445 7,0 0,0

All available games


Correction March 18 — Hanoi, not Ho Chi Minh City, is the capital of Vietnam.


Irina Bulmaga is a WGM/IM born in Moldova, currently representing Romania. She became the youngest Moldavian Champion among Women at the age of 14 years old. Since 2010, she has been a part of the Romanian Olympic team, successfully representing it at 5 Olympiads, winning an individual bronze medal in 2014.


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