Chess: S’pore grandmaster Tin Jingyao second at Australian Open; 12-year-old Leah Rice is women’s champion

SINGAPORE – The year has just begun but 2023 is already turning out to be a good one for Singapore chess.

After an excellent season in 2022, grandmaster Tin Jingyao kicked off his campaign in January at the 2023 Australian Chess Open, where he finished second out of 114 competitors.

Another Singaporean, 12-year-old Leah Rice, was crowned the Australian women’s chess champion after she placed 12th in the same field.

Held in Scarborough, the Australian Open saw the region’s best chess players square off in an 11-round swiss format, with the tournament won by Kuybokarov Temur, the hosts’ hottest prospect.

Despite placing second, Tin believes he still has room for improvement. The 22-year-old, whose current International Chess Federation (Fide) rating is 2,598, is set to see a dip when the rankings are updated in end-January.

He said: “Second place in any event is often a good result but I am a little disappointed with my performance.

“I was definitely one of the favourites to win the event and I lost some games which I shouldn’t have. Overall, I think I definitely could have done better.”

Tin, who is pursuing a computer science degree at the National University of Singapore, in 2022 became Singapore’s youngest grandmaster at the age of 21, but he was coy when asked about committing to a professional career in chess.

He added: “I’m still more focused on my academics for now.  It’s not really sustainable to make a living through just prize money from competitions as it’s often far from enough.

“Additionally, it’s quite unstable and inconsistent. It will likely require some kind of financial support in terms of sponsors to have it be a viable career..

Another concern for Tin is the number of hours that professional players put into training. He said: “Right now, I do spend quite some time daily on chess but it is still far less than I expect a professional would. I would need to see if I am able to adjust to spending many hours daily on chess and whether I would enjoy that sort of grind.”

It is not an issue Leah will have to worry about for now. The Nanyang Girls High School student, who beat opponents rated much higher than her, clocked a performance rating of 2,104 at the tournament and will see her Fide ranking of 1,403 rise dramatically as a result.

Leah attributed her success to her sister, Lauren, saying: “My big sister, Lauren, who is in the Singapore national women’s squad, picked up chess at Nanyang Primary School and enjoyed it. She introduced me and my younger sister Lana to the game.”

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