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Chess Adventures in Vietnam Print E-mail
By Evan Rabin   
June 24, 2010
About a month ago, I was finishing up my sophomore year at Brandeis University and my father invited me to visit him in Asia. He does business and investment promotion consulting throughout Southeast Asia and had a few weeks to spare. Without much time to think, as I was studying for final exams, I said yes, assuming I would be able to put some of the ideas I learned in International Global Studies and Anthropology this last semester to practice.

This spring was profitable for me chesswise. I gained 60 rating points, going from 2166 to 2231, making master for the first time. In Asia, I planned to take a break from chess and focus on getting my FIDE up later in the summer.  However, this plan was not to be- when I arrived in Malaysia, the chess bug hit me.  

A few months ago, soon after I began my blog adventuresofrabin.blogspot.com a fellow blogger in Malaysia, Gilocatur recommended that I come to play there sometime soon. I told him I was a student and although it would be nice, there was no way I could afford it. Of course, I did not have psychic powers to know my dad was going to soon invite me to the 6th annual World Islamic Economic Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I will not bore you all with a long analysis of the event; after all, this is Chess Life, not The Economist. I do however, want to mention one statement H.E. PROF Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman said when speaking about the importance of innovation in business. He explained how through installing television rooms in Pakistani universities, Pakistani students quickly obtain scholar information from universities across the globe such as MIT as an example of how technology equates to less borders between nations.  

Using Rahman's concept, as I was at the airport waiting for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City, I emailed the Vietnamese Federation to see what events were going on. The webmaster hastily replied and by the time we arrived in our hotel in Ho Chi Minh city, I read there was a blitz tournament the next day. I looked up the tournament site and my hotel on Google maps and was excited to see it was only a 15-minute cab drive away. In New York, such a ride may be around $15; in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon as all the Vietnamese still call it), it was about 80,000 dong (about 3 US Dollars). A blitz tournament and a cheap cab fare: What could be better?: a tournament that I could play in. I got there 20 minutes before the starting round and tried to register. Few people could speak English and one man, who later told me he was the coach of the Vietnamese Olympiad team, told me it was the National Blitz championship and only members of the Vietnamese federation could play. Darn.

Evan at the Vietnam Blitz Championship
On the other hand, the lady on the right of the picture, who works at Ho Chi Minh City's chess club Cau Lac Bo Co was kind enough to invite me to the club the next day at 9 am. I had no clue what type of tournament or match to expect and was somewhat reluctant to come the next day at such an early time as I was not over my jet-lag; however, it was an honorable invitation and I am certainly happy that I ended up going.  

It turned out to be a 6 round G/10 tournament. There were 12 players, about half of them being masters.  I did not notate but I did manage to recall my first game.

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Be3

The so called "150 attack" as Brtish players around the grade of 150 would often play it.
Often today,people delay kingside development with 4.. c6
5. Qd2 O-O 6. f3 Nbd7 7.Bh6 e5 8. Nge2 c5?!
Forcing the issue in the center; however, c5 is a good square for black's knight on d7. I expected him to maintain the tension in the center with either 8.. Re8 or 8.. c6
9. d5 a6 10. h4 b5 11. h5 Nxh5 12. g4 Nf4 13. Nxf4 exf4 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. Qxf4 g5 16. Qh2 Rh8 17. Qxd6

I can't remember the rest but with the connected central pawns and the knight manover d1-e3-f5 Black's position is rather grim. 1-0  
Overall, I played two expert level players and four masters.  I would like to give names to the players but unfortunately, as it was not a rated event, I cannot find the standings online. I generally was better prepared in the openings than my opponents. I ended up scoring 3-0 with white and 1-2 with black although my last round game with black, I was actually winning out of the opening. Had I won that game, I would have tied for first, but such is life(wink). On the up side, I got clear third and was one of the winners: One of my losses was to the guy standing next me in the white shirt. 
In addition, they generously gave me a chess set with the club's name on it and a scorebook for being a guest, which came in handy when working on this article on the bus ride to Cambodia:
To a certain degree, this tournament was a rough ride, as other than my father and the lady who invited me, no one spoke English there beyond a few words. Last year, I played my first international tournament in Puerto Rico and was able to hold my own in Spanish. This time, when I asked basic questions such as "Do you have a FIDE rating?" or " That was an interesting game", no one knew what I was talking about. In addition, I felt like I was a kid again when the pairings were made by hand and the organizer sits you down one by one, in contrast to any tournament in the States, when the players crowd around the pairing area, often so the director has to squeeze inside to put up the pairings. On the other hand, as seen through the picture in which I shake the organizer's hand and the co-winners are smiling at me, I saw a true connection between us based on chess. Sure, we couldn't further our conversation beyond "Hello" and "Goodbye", but we did communicate through the language of chess. 

For more writing by Evan Rabin, see his blog, adventuresofrabin.blogspot.com.

October - Chess Life Online 2010

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