Chess: Beating Niemann, finishing second in Spain event was ‘highlight of my year’, says S’pore’s Tin Jingyao

Singaporean chess player Tin Jingyao finished second at the III Elllobregat Open Chess tournament in Barcelona on Thursday. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SINGAPORE CHESS FEDERATION

SINGAPORE – Tin Jingyao has had a phenomenal year. After claiming three medals on his SEA Games debut in Hanoi, he made history by becoming Singapore’s youngest chess grandmaster. 

But the highlight of 2022 came when he finished second at the III Elllobregat Open Chess tournament in Barcelona on Thursday. En route, he beat American grandmaster Hans Niemann, arguably the most infamous person in chess.

Niemann, 19, made headlines in September after beating Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen, who later accused him of cheating.

Tin, 22, told The Straits Times on Friday: “I’m very pleased with my results and this might be the best performance I’ve ever had. I’m glad I got the opportunity to face so many world-class players.

“This result has been a big confidence boost for me and has shown me that I have the ability to compete with players higher rated than I. It’s comforting to know that I’ve made progress and I wish to continue improving...”

After stunning Niemann 1-0 in the seventh round to remain joint-top with India’s Aditya Mittal, Tin had been aiming to win the tournament and the €10,000 (S$14,279) prize. 

The win against Niemann was “one of my best games in this event in terms of quality of play (as) it’s not often that I win games against players of his calibre”, said the Singaporean, who had been slightly nervous because he knew Niemann is a strong opponent.

Tin added: “I avoided (thinking about the controversy) because it was only going to worry me for no reason and that’s not really something within my control. 

“Instead, I focused on delivering the best game I could. But generally, I would like to believe that players are playing fair.”

He noted Niemann seemed emotionless throughout their match and beyond the board, the two did not interact.

Tin said: “I would have liked to discuss the game after the match but he was understandably upset after losing the game so I didn’t bother him with it.”

His last two rounds ended in draws and a play-off ensued among the leaders Mittal, Iran’s M. Amin Tabatabaei and himself, with Tin qualifying directly for the final with a better tiebreak record.

Facing Tabatabaei, who beat Mittal in the semi-final, Tin had been leading in the first game but made a mistake towards the end, allowing his opponent to snatch victory. Tin then had to win the second game to force an Armageddon tiebreaker but could not change the momentum. He earned €5,000 as runner-up.

Still, he was pleased with his performance while improving his opening, so he will be less predictable.

He said: “Being able to compete so often has given me valuable practice and allowed me to identify the strengths and weaknesses in my game.

“I’ve managed to improve on some of my weaker areas such as openings, dynamic play, and evaluating material imbalances. 

“While I am really happy with my SEA Games performance and attaining the GM title this year, I have to say that this tournament is my highlight as it’s where I’ve demonstrated the best chess so far.”

Singapore Chess Federation chief executive Kevin Goh said Tin should be proud of his performance and hopes he can replicate his form at the Chessable Sunway Sitges Chess Festival, which starts in Barcelona on Sunday.

He added: “Jingyao’s performance in this tournament is 2,767 (performance rating) which is considered a world-class performance.

“This outstanding result in such a strong field at a high profile event easily ranks as the best performance of a Singaporean player in our chess history.”

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