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Friday, April 24, 1998

Chess

New Asian woman champion

By Quah Seng Sun

XU YUHUA, the 22-year-old woman international master from Hangzhou, China, is the new winner of the Asian Women's Individual Chess Championship.

She was undefeated throughout the 11-round competition and finished the clear winner with 8 1/2 points from 11 games. The championship, which began on April 9, ended on Tuesday at the Awana Genting Highlands Golf And Country Resort, Pahang.

With this victory, Xu gained possession of the Indira Gandhi challenge trophy and bagged US$500 in the process. Xu, the 1996 Asian junior girls' champion, also gained her third woman grandmaster title norm in this event.

Lebanese woman grandmaster Eva Repkova came in second. Repkova had been expected to challenge Xu for the top prize and indeed, after the ninth round had seemed set to do so, but an unexpected loss to Vietnamese player Le Thi Phuong Lien in the 10th round dashed her hopes.

In the final round last Tuesday, Repkova showed none of the effects of this loss to collect the full point from the Australian women's champion, Ngan Phan-Kostnistsky.

Repkova ended the tournament with eight points and with it, the second prize of US$400. Her closest rival, Rena Mamedova from Uzbekistan, lost to Vietnam's Nguyen Thoan Hua and stayed third with seven points.

Interestingly, just minutes into the start of the 10th round on Monday, the head of the Vietnamese contingent to the championship, Dang Tat Thang, mentioned casually to one of the arbiters that Repkova would lose her game to Le. It became apparent, as the game unfolded, that Repkova had walked into a line prepared by the Vietnamese.

Le proceeded to show her opponent the extent of her preparation, and Repkova, unable to put up any resistance, soon conceded the game to her when the checkmating threats could no longer be stopped.

Despite this loss, I found Repkova to be the most elegant player in the event. In most of her games, whenever she found herself with an advantage on the chessboard, she played dynamically to finish off her opponent in the most economical and straightforward manner.

My observations about Repkova should in no way distract us from the fact that Xu is also a very accomplished player.

Xu played with an air of calm and confidence. Her style is less tactical, but she would be patiently collecting small advantages at all stages of her game.

Nevertheless, being a less dynamic player than Repkova meant that she was more susceptible to drawing her games. In the tournament, she made no less than four significantly drawn games.

The closest I ever saw her come to a disadvantage in any of her games was in the ninth round when spirited play from Mamedova forced her to simplify into an end game where she was left with two pawns against Mamedova's knight and pawn. But Xu had seen to it that the position was still a draw.

Among all the players in the field, the one person who gave me the impression of being a very difficult opponent was Tamin Upi Darmayana.

Tamin Upi was the defending champion. Her resistance collapsed towards the end of the championship but she accounted for herself very well in the middle rounds.

She was a very game fighter, unwilling to concede much in her games, and she often found the resources to win or to save a lost position.

The Malaysian Chess Federation entered four local players in this tournament and I was glad to see that our players did not disgrace themselves.

Nurul Huda Wahiduddin and Samantha Lee gave good accounts of themselves, scoring 4 1/2 points each, and both Roslina Marmono and Lim Jeannie were not too far behind with four points each.

The Asian Women's Individual Chess Championship, like the Asian Cities Team Chess Championship which ended a week earlier, was organised by the Malaysian Chess Federation and fully sponsored by Resorts World Bhd.

Final standings: Xu Yuhua (China) 8 1/2 points; Eva Repkova (Lebanon) 8 points; Mekhri Ovezova (Turkmenistan) 7 1/2 points; Rena Mamedova (Uzbekistan) and Le Thi Phuong Lien (Vietnam) 7 points; Bagyashree Thipsay Sathe (India), Nguyen Thi Dung (Vietnam), Irina Gorshkova (Uzbekistan) and Nguyen Thi Thuan Hoa (Vietnam) 6 1/2 points;

Angela Khegai (Uzbekistan), Maria Lucia Sulistya (Indonesia), Ngan Phan-Koshnitsky (Australia) and Anupama Gokhale (India) 6 points; Tamin Upi Darmayana (Indonesia) 5 1/2 points; Maisa Ovezova (Turkmenistan) 5 points; Nurul Huda Wahiduddin (Malaysia), Samantha Lee (Malaysia) and Maral Ovezova (Turkmenistan) 4 1/2 points; Roslina Marmono (Malaysia) and Lim Jeannie (Malaysia) 4 points; Cynthia Yap (Singapore) 1 point; and Lee Wing-Ian (Macau) 0 point.

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