Singapore's SEA Games medallist one step closer to becoming chess grandmaster

International master Goh Wei Ming Kevin (left) is now one tournament away from becoming Singapore's second chess grandmaster.
International master Goh Wei Ming Kevin (left) is now one tournament away from becoming Singapore's second chess grandmaster.PHOTO: PEARL GAN

SINGAPORE - With the draw he secured during the final round of an international chess competition held in Singapore on Tuesday (June 12), international master Goh Wei Ming Kevin, 35, is now one tournament away from becoming Singapore's second chess grandmaster.

The first Singaporean to achieve that was Dr Wong Meng Kong in 1999.

Dr Wong, 55, now practices as a psychiatrist in Hong Kong and has stopped playing chess competitively, leaving younger players like Mr Goh to carry Singapore's legacy.

Attaining the status of grandmaster "is a lifelong ambition of every chess player, especially for a player like me who does not do this full time", said Mr Goh, who finished second in the QCD-Professor Lim Kok Ann Grandmasters tournament.

The tournament, which ran from June 7, was won by Mongolian champion - grandmaster Tsegmed Batchuluun.

To be a grandmaster, a chess player must attain a high performance ranking at three events with at least three grandmaster opponents from the chess federations of three different countries. Finally, he must reach 2,500 in the Elo ranking - the chess ranking system. Mr Goh is now ranked 2,494.

Mr Goh started playing chess at 10 years old and took part in his first SEA Games when he was 20 in 2003, while he was in national service.

The seven-time Singapore national champion and three-time SEA Games bronze medallist is the chief financial officer of an international molecular diagnostics company, Lucence Diagnostics.

The QCD-Professor Lim Kok Ann Grandmasters tournament, organised in remembrance of Singapore chess patriarch Prof Lim Kok Ann who died in 2003, was the first grandmasters-level chess competition held in Singapore in 21 years.

It was put together by Dr Mark Liew, Mr Junior Tay and Dr Hsu Li Yang with sponsorship from Prof Lim’s children and the firm QCD Technology, among others. The Singapore Chess Federation assisted in running the event. 

The tournament featured 10 chess players from countries like the United States, Vietnam and Mongolia.

The event provided local and overseas chess enthusiasts with an opportunity to achieve international master and grandmaster titles in Singapore.

Dr Mark Liew of QCD group said that the firm started supporting chess here to provide more opportunities for local players to compete and to increase Singapore's standard of chess.

The chess enthusiast said: "I'm no master but I believe in contributing what little I can to help this game grow in popularity, especially in my own country."

"I love the game of chess because it teaches many life skills not found in the classrooms. Life lessons like developing objectivity on both sides of an argument, calculation, risk-taking, and of course humility," added the 35-year-old.

Mr Goh thanked his colleagues for covering his duties when he had to take time off for the tournament. His longest game was six hours, and he trained his stamina by going for long runs, completing a marathon earlier this year.

He will be competing at Singapore's National Chess Championships this December, and hopes more Singaporean chess players will train for competitions.

He said "there are many professional players in our neighbouring countries, whereas in Singapore we are busy juggling other facets of life".

But it can be done, Mr Goh added. "We are not limited by size. We have the brainpower and some of the biggest academic successes."