Inspired Education Group recently invited students from their member schools to compete in a global online chess tournament. As a devoted enthusiast of the game, Year 12 student Gia Huy Nguyen (Tony) was keen to make the most of this opportunity. And after several days of fierce competition, he was absolutely delighted to be awarded the 2022 Inspired Chess Champion title.
The 17-year-old has been playing chess for over a decade and was first introduced to the game when he attended a small workshop held by a chess master. Then, with the assistance of his cousin (a solid club player), Tony began to study basic chess, developing his understanding of the opening, middlegame and endgame.
The logical aspects of the contest immediately appealed to the young student.
"I like to do things that require me to engage in critical thinking and reasoning," says Tony. "Chess is a very complex game where we have many different strategies to get the win. It challenges your ability to concentrate, as in some classical tournaments, we have to put deep focus into each of our moves for hours on end."
When the formidable player first heard about the Inspired global chess tournament, he immediately joined the AIS Chess Club in hopes of representing the school for the event.
"The tournament involved 25 Inspired schools from 14 countries," explains Tony. "It was structured in a knock-out format, which means if you lose, you are out. The result is a BO3. Every player has 10 minutes per side, and if the time runs out, you lose. I played a total of four rounds before reaching the finals."
In a nail-biting finals match, Tony faced Lorena Garcia Pardo from King's College Soto de Viñuelas in Madrid.
"The most challenging match in the tournament was the second game in the final," he adds. "We were both low on time and in a complex endgame position. But I had a small advantage which I was able to convert into a win."
Having successfully competed in many other chess events – both over the board and online – the highly-motivated teen is no stranger to the pressure and mental stamina required to achieve a podium finish.
"I had participated in tournaments in the past, and I was lucky enough to win several times, which provided a lot of valuable experience. I have also managed to medal in other chess competitions in Vietnam and Australia."
After initially honing his craft in a local chess club for three years, the budding champion decided to take a four-year break from chess and only competed in occasional tournaments for fun. He then became a little more serious, hiring an online personal chess master to coach him for two years, which helped bring his game to the next level.
"During that time, I had to memorise opening moves, strategies in the middlegame and some complex and tricky endgame positions. We had to focus on mental aspects too; gaining the right mindset to win more games psychologically."
This year, Tony took a second break from competitive chess to prioritise his final years of study at AIS, but the chance to represent AIS in the Inspired tournament was one he couldn't pass up. And thanks to his love of the game, he still manages to carve out a quick 20-minute break every day to develop his abilities and advance his proficiencies.
"I play practice games once a week, online. On the other days, I do some puzzles, chess tactics and important drills that sharpen my calculating and vision skills. I also analyse my previous games (usually longer games) to figure out the mistakes I had made and try to find a way to solve them. And I work on managing my time so I can spread it equally into the game."
In addition, he is simply enjoying the social elements of the AIS Chess Club as well as showcasing his athletic talents as a member of the school's swimming team, with hopes to join additional sporting teams in the future.
However, the lessons he has learned from chess continue to influence his day-to-day activities.
"Firstly, chess has helped me calculate different possibilities that I have learnt to apply when making my life decisions. Secondly, chess enables me to do logical reasoning, which may apply to other aspects of life. Plus, it has helped my concentration ability and widened my memory since I have to memorise many different things in chess and be focused for hours in each classical game."