Cover Pic:  Goh Wei Ming being interviewed by Straits Times on clinching his final GM norm

With a 17 move draw against Xiangyi, Wei Ming finally, after 6 years of chasing the elusive final norm, scored 6.5/9 to make it.

The Grandmaster-elect mused, “Throughout the tournament, I was quite fortunate. In Rd 1, I had a significant advantage and kind of lost track of the position but Qing Aun didn’t use his activity in the best possible way. Rd 2 was a crucial round because I had my back against the wall vs the 2 bishops and later was a pawn down. Had I not made my way out, my chances would have been seriously curtailed. I was very relieved to find activity and in the end, Qianyun  had to find very precise moves to convert her advantage and to my relief, she didn’t. In Rd3, my confidence level was pretty low and in this round, things turned around. Jingyao played 2 Knights with Be7 to surprise me but I had spent like 30 hrs on that position so I knew the ideas better than him. Many training matches with IM Hsu Li Yang allowed me a pretty good understanding of the plans. When he went …Re8/…Be6, he was already in difficulty. I consolidated my advantage and the final conversion which started on the queenside and ended in the kingside was pretty satisfying. My next two wins were really fortunate, but you need some luck in such events, especially in double rd events, I didn’t play precisely but was fortunate to pull it off. Overall, the tournament was extremely well organized. A lot of people invested their time to put this together. I think our young players will gain a lot of experience for this and will probably be better prepared for subsequent years’ editions”.

A rather uneventful draw was played out between Batchuluun and Nguyen Anh Dung.

Munkhgal gambled with 18…g5!? to dare Irine to play the thematic knight sacrifice Nxg5. Irine balked and the initiative was taken over by Black. He pressed resolutely and aggressively, and eventually Irine tried to bail out into the notorious Rook (+pawn) vs Rook + Bishop ending. The incremental time pressure mode coupled by the fatigue that towards the end of a gruelling event certainly told as Munkhgal pushed himself up to 3rd placing.

Timur Gareyev took advantage of an ill-timed central break by Qing Aun to send his knights gallivating and grabbing squares. Eventually, the latter had to give up the a2-pawn for some semblance of counterplay. The young Singaporean managed to get some play on the kingside but the wily Uzbek repelled the threats with aplomb and the schoolboy had to lay down his arms.

Gong Qianyun nailed down her final WGM norm by beating Jingyao. Half an hour before the game, Wei Ming had gone through the Steinitz 9 Nh3 line in the Two Knight’s Defence with her . He sold her the line by declaring “One pawn up, the bishop pair typically and a g-file attack…sure win…” (although it was clear he was in motivational speaker mode). With the WGM title at stake, Qianyun rose to the occasion and defeated Jingyao convincingly!

Double joy!