Cover pic: IM Liu Xiangyi in post mortem analysis with GM Batchuluun, joined by GM Andrey Kvon
(Round 3 was covered by a friend, as I was still in a zombie state following the exertions of the previous day’s work)
The third round of the QCD-Prof. Lim Kok Ann Grandmaster Invitational saw four decisive contests, competing in ferocity. Let’s get the drawn affair out of the way: after the morning round and lunch, an exhausted WIM Gong Qianyun was seen stretching her legs on a sofa opposite the Metropolitan YMCA’s reception desk. A diligent staffer addressed her briefly but she was in no mood for a lengthy debate and, instead, stepped inside the nearby restaurant for another strong cup of coffee. Once the round started, she surprised GM Nguyen Anh Dung with a trendy double-fianchetto in the Queen’s Indian. Hesitating about going for the thematic e2-e4 push, the Vietnamese player obtained virtually close to nothing from the opening, allowing Qianyun to equalize comfortably with precise moves like 14…c5. It’s very likely that this won’t be the last time we’ll see this curious system in this tournament.

After round 2, the three young challengers were seen slumped at the lunch table, fatigued and subdued. Of course balancing schoolwork and chess isn’t easy. Things were about to get worse as the double round sets in….

Apropos of surprises, Singaporean youngster FM Lee Qing Aun made use the off-beat Pin Variation in the Sicilian against IM Sukandar Irine Kharisma but she was up to date and displayed a thorough understanding of the system. Her less popular 8.Ndb5 (8.Bd2 is the main move) seems to have surprised the Singaporean FM. After 14.Bh6, it was evident that he was in trouble and – after a clever attempt to complicate things with an interesting exchange sacrifice – he almost pulled it off but not quite. Irine maintained the initiative all the way and took advantage of one final serious judgement call and secured the full point.

IM Liu Xiangyi’s opening did not work out much better than Qing Aun’s.  An ill-timed knight exchange in the French Winawer Poisoned Pawn placed Xiangyi into a clearly inferior position. A further mistake at move 23 gave the Mongolian the opportunity to score with a pretty queen sacrifice.
GM Timur Gareyev’s opening choice against IM Munkhgal Gombosuren was interesting as well. Like in his excellent game with IM Tin Jingyao in the morning, the top seed expanded early with a b-pawn push and obtained a significant space advantage on the queenside. A series of commandeering strokes (16.Nc6!, 19.Be5!) allowed White to obtain impeccable central control that invited tactics in every section of the board, which the Uzbekistan-born grandmaster speculated with ease to convert his advantage.
It was a difficult day for IM Tin Jingyao who, after a morning-round loss to Gareyev, had to meet another strong contender, IM Goh Wei Ming, in a genuine Singaporean duel. After 12 moves, it was clear that Wei Ming was better prepared theoretically in a fashionable line. Jingyao’s structural concession (12…Be6, instead of the more prudent 12…Bf8) was speculated by Wei Ming with an energetic queenside expansion, followed by the installment of a powerful knight to c4, and a couple of stylish piece restriction moves on the kingside. With 26.a5!, Wei Ming broke through the a-file and then, once his rook landed on the seventh rank, a forceful exchange sacrifice (30.Rxf7!!) brought the storm closer to Jingyao’s king. The brilliant execution and conversion make it the blockbuster game of the round.