Friday, February 26, 2010

Comparing Wesley So and Le Quang Liem

JUST like China, over the past two decades, Vietnam has shifted from a centrally managed economy to a socialist market economy and has experienced rapid growth.

Known as “Doi Moi,” the policy was aimed at making the country self-sufficient in food production and basic commodities and reducing state intervention in business.

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This has resulted in more resources being channeled to sports in general and chess in particular.

When Eugene Torre became Asia‘s first grandmaster in 1974, Vietnam was at the bottom of the barrel. Now, they are dominant in Asean chess and slowly but surely gaining the respect of the world chess community.

An exciting chase between the chess prodigies Wesley So and Le Quang Liem is dramatically unfolding as to who will first breach the 2700 rating and the next level, the world top 10.

Wesley at 16, two years and seven months younger, is considered the better player, primarily due to his dramatic performance in the World Cup last December.

However, two major tournaments have changed all that. Liem recently was solo winner of the toughest open in the world, Aeroflot 2010, and gained an amazing 25.8 Elo.

A day earlier (without any rest), he was tied for second place at the strong Moscow Open and added another 16.2 points to his cap for a mind-boggling 42 Elo to reach 2689, just 11 shy of 2700. He is now in the top 50 in the world.

He also won the 4th Kolkata Open Tournament ahead of 13 higher-rated players in September last year. The tournament got international attention due to the Tkachiev incident where the Russian maverick fell asleep at the chessboard because he was totally drunk and could not finish the game.

An example of how Vietnam supports their world-class players was the news in 2008, which said that Liem will receive US$35,500 from the Vietnam Chess Federation to raise his Elo rating to over 2600 and then 2700.

The Federation planned to spend the money on Liem’s participation in four international competitions per year.

He will also enjoy a foreign tutor three months per year,
and learn chess from an expert over the Internet three hours per day.

Wesley, on the other hand, studies by his lonesome. He eked out only 9.3 in his last two contests, 4.7 in Corus 2010 (Group B), where he placed fifth, and 4.6 in Aeroflot Open 2010 where he tied for 7th-19th. His live rating is now 2666.

There is some good news, too. PSC Chair Harry Angping said So will be included in the “elite group” headed by netters Cecil Mamiit and Treat Conrad Huey and bowler Biboy Rivera. He will thus get a monthly stipend of P20,000 plus a choice of international stints on a quarterly basis.

Angpin added that the PSC would be willing to put up P1-2 million to finance So’s training this year.

Wesley needs at least two or three more tournaments to reach 2700, provided he plays well while Liem needs only one. If this is a tennis game, the score is: advantage Vietnam!

In the Asian Continental Championship held in Subic last year, Liem defeated Wesley to first qualify to the World Cup although he was eliminated in the first round while Wesley reached the quarter-finals.

Labogon Open IM Kimkim Yap was the solo winner in the Open section followed by Venancio Loyola,Voltaire Sevillano, Nelman Lagutin, Yves Fiel,Joel Fernan,and Adonis Buenaventura.

Among the Kiddies, the champion was Felix Shaun Balbona.Runners-up were Alan Pason, Raymond Abelan, and John Francis Balbona. Ladies winner was Jessa Balbona followed by Sofia Balite and KC Morala.

Incidentally, Kimkim will be playing in the Kuala Lumpur Open International on April 6-13 courtesy of Boojie Lim of Rose Pharmacy.


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