Winning three strong tournaments in 22 days - Le Quang Liem
Former World Blitz champion and Vietnam's no.1 GM Le Quang Liem won the Asian Continental for the very first time in his career just a month ago. He became the first Vietnamese player ever to do so. He did not stop there, he continued his momentum and went on to win two more strong tournaments consecutively - Summer Classic and the World Open. He did it all in just a little over 3 weeks, 22 days to be exact. How did he do it? How does he maintain such a strong composure in such a difficult field? In this article, we bring you answers to all the question you have in your mind and more in an exclusive interview with Le Quang Liem. Photo: Sinquefield Cup 2017.
Le Quang Liem wins three strong tournaments within a month
An interview was conducted with the Super GM from Vietnam to get an insight of the champion, what it takes to be one and how he managed to win three strong tournaments within a month.
Shahid Ahmed (SA): How does it feel to win Asian Continental finally after coming close to it on numerous occasion?
Le Quang Liem (LQL): It is really special to win Asian Continental Open Championship, especially considering that no chess player from Vietnam ever got this title. I came close to it a couple of times before, but missed my chances in the end. So this achievement feels like a dream come true for me.
SA: After starting the tournament with the draw, did you expect to win the Asian tournament?
LQL: Obviously I was not happy with how I started the tournament, but I kept my hopes. I knew it was a long tournament, so everything was still under my control. I was not worried too much, but just focused on playing my best chess.
SA: Since winning the Asian Continental, you have won Summer Classic and World Open. Which tournament was the toughest for you?
LQL: I would say each tournament has its own challenges. Summer Classic was the toughest chess-wise because all the participants were very strong, while World Open was the most physically demanding due to its packed schedule. In terms of quality of the games, Summer Classic is perhaps my favorite victory.
SA: What is the secret of winning three events in a row?
LQL: I don't have any secret. I simply work hard to improve my skills, and it pays off. Also, once you win a big tournament, your confidence gets a boost, and you will often be able to carry that good form to the next tournament.
SA: At the halfway mark in Summer Classic you were trailing at the last place, how did you manage to make a comeback and win the tournament?
LQL: I think one of the reasons I played poorly in the first half of Summer Classic is that I had so little time to overcome the jet lag. After Asian Continental Championship in China, I got back to St. Louis in the evening of June 16th, and Summer Classic started in the afternoon of June 18th. After the first half, I just tried to have some rest and adjusted my strategy for the rest of the games. Fortunately I got 3 whites in the second half, and I managed to win all the must-win games.
SA: Which games are your personal favorite from Asian Continental, Summer Classic and World Open?
LQL: My favorite games are my wins against Firoujza (Asian Continental), against Xiong (Summer Classic), and against Nyzhnyk (World Open).
We have all three games annotated below by IM Sagar Shah. One position that is worth checking out for Le Quang Liem's timing is his win over Jeffery Xiong. Check if you can play like Liem.
Le Quang Liem vs Jeffery Xiong, Summer Classic 2019
SA: We all know that you have won World Blitz Championship in 2013 and you are strong at all formats of the game. Which format is your personal favorite?
LQL: Lately I have been focusing mostly on classical chess. I am the type of player who always aims to play the best moves, so I like classical chess the most because I have time to think thoroughly.
SA: Since you did so well in two consecutive tournaments in USA, is there any plan for you to change federations?
LQL: I have never given much thought to the idea of changing federations, and I don't see any reason to do it now.
SA: Who is your coach/second?
LQL: I often train/study chess with some friends, but I do not have a regular coach/second. Occasionally I have a strong GM friend to help me during important tournaments. If I get to top 10-20, I may be able to hire a full-time second then.
SA: What do you do currently in terms of profession/academics?
LQL: I graduated from Webster University (in St. Louis) 2 years ago with double majors in Finance and Management. Since my graduation, I have been focusing on chess. I would like to see how far I can go as a professional chess player.
SA: What are your thoughts on the new Asian Junior champion IM Nguyen Anh Khoi?
LQL: I am happy with the new success of Nguyen Anh Khoi, and that he will become Vietnam's 11th grandmaster soon. While he definitely has good potential, it is still too early to tell if he can get to 2600 or 2700. There are so many promising young players nowadays, and getting the GM title is only the first step towards the world of professional chess. Hopefully he can still improve.
SA: How is the chess scene in Vietnam?
LQL: Chess has become much more popular in Vietnam in recent years. We have some governmental support especially for the young players. However, the main problem most chess players face in Vietnam currently is to choose between chess or academics when they get older. We (myself included) do not have any corporate sponsorship like chess players in many other countries, so it's harder to dedicate your life to chess. The only player I know who received a significant amount of private sponsorship from a Vietnamese company is IM Nguyen Anh Khoi.
SA: You have won many last round games on demand. How do you prepare for such a game before the round mentally?
LQL: I believe the main thing is to focus on the chess board and learn to control your own emotions. At the end of the day, whoever plays the better chess will win.
SA: What's next for you?
SA: Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions. Wish you the best in your future endeavors.
LQL: Thank you