The strongest Vietnamese masters are taking part in the 2017 King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships that begins on December 26 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The final world tournament of the year sees more than 180 masters in the open category and 150 others in the women’s class at the iconic Apex Convention Centre. All the players are rated at least 2,600 for the open and 2,300 for the women’s class in any of the FIDE rating lists.
Vietnamese top grandmaster (GM) Le Quang Liem and teammates GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son will compete in open while GM Hoang Thi Bao Tram and three international masters, Pham Le Thao Nguyen, Nguyen Thi Mai Hung and Vo Kim Phung, are in the women’s pool.
Liem is the most hopeful member of the Vietnamese side as he won the World Blitz title in 2013. He brought home a bronze medal from the International Mind Sports Association Elite Games in China two weeks ago.
Asian champion Phung is expected to continue her outstanding performance in Riyadh. Earlier this month, Phung topped the women’s discipline at the London Chess Classic.
Magnus Carlsen (Norway), the highest-rated chess player in the world and world champion in classical chess, will compete here.
The incumbent World Rapid and Blitz Champions — Sergey Karjakin (Russia) and Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine) — have confirmed their participation, making the five-day championships the strongest open event of the year.
Notable entries include World No 2 Levon Aronian of Armenia and No 3 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan, former champion Viswanathan Anand of India and a record-breaking level of grandmasters from over 40 countries.
According to the coach, Lam Minh Chau, the tournament would be a competitive one due to the presence of world’s best players. Carlsen, Karjakin and Ivanchuk are the title favourites but there could be a challenge from Mamedyarov, Aronian and No 6 Wesley So of the United States.
The games and official ceremonies will be broadcasted online with expert grandmaster commentary.
The rapid event will be organised in three days and consists of 15 rounds, followed by the two-day blitz tournament with 21 rounds.
A huge prize fund of US$2 million, split US$1.5 million for the two men’s events and US$0.5 million for the women’s, dwarfs previous contests.
For the first time in a sporting event in Saudi Arabia, women will not be required to play with a hijab or an abaya as a head covering.