Among the notable chess players Tin Jingyao has beaten in his career are grandmasters and SEA Games champions and, on Tuesday, the Singaporean claimed his most notorious scalp when he defeated American Hans Niemann at the III Elllobregat Open Chess tournament in Barcelona, Spain.
Sitting across each other at Board 1, the difference between the two chess prodigies was particularly stark.
Tin, 22, sported a neat crop and black-rimmed spectacles, while 19-year-old Niemann – dubbed the “bad boy of chess” by the New York Times – stood out with his unruly hair and facial stubble.
But it was Tin who drew blood in their clash as he stormed to a 1-0 win to retain top spot in Group A with six points and two rounds to go. He plays joint-leader Aditya Mitta of India on Wednesday. The tournament ends on Thursday, with the winner claiming the €10,000 (S$14,220) prize.
Niemann, who dropped to sixth, made headlines in 2022 after beating Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen, who later accused his opponent of cheating.
The American later admitted to cheating on online playing platform Chess.com on two occasions, but stressed that he had never cheated in a live match.
In October, Chess.com released a 72-page report concluding that he had cheated in more than 100 games on its platform. The report added that Niemann’s rise in the ranks of in-person chess was “uncharacteristic”, implying that he had also cheated at live tournaments.
The teenager then launched a US$100 million (S$136 million) defamation suit against Carlsen, Chess.com and chess player Hikaru Nakamura.
Before his victory over Niemann, Tin made history in 2022 by becoming Singapore’s fifth and youngest grandmaster. This came after he won silver in the men’s rapid chess and two bronzes in the men’s standard individual and blitz on his SEA Games debut in May.
Singapore Chess Federation chief executive Kevin Goh praised Tin for starting aggressively against Niemann and putting up “his best performance so far” in 2022. He told The Straits Times: “I believe that Hans was rattled by Jingyao’s direct and confrontational approach and could not find a way to defend the end-game.”
Goh hopes that Tin’s victory lays down a marker for the fraternity. “The local chess community has been crying out for a player who is able to compete on equal footing with some of the best players in the world,” he said.
“Jingyao is now at that level and I hope that his results can inspire the younger generation to recognise that, with hard work and dedication, it is possible to become a world-class player even if you are not a full-time professional.”