Mischievous child becomes top chess player

International Chess Master Pham Le Thao Nguyen has transformed from a mischievous child to become Vietnam’s top ranked female chess player.
International Chess Master Pham Le Thao Nguyen has transformed from a mischievous child to become Vietnam’s top ranked female chess player.

Born in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho, the bright-eyed girl has played chess for 23 years and achieved countless victories, ranging from the municipal-level medals to prestigious international titles. Nguyen is currently the top women’s chess player in Vietnam and 30th in Asia. With an Elo of 2338, she is ranked 121st around the world.

Ho Van Huynh, Head of the Chess Division under Can Tho’s Sports Centre, is extremely proud of his student Nguyen, saying that she won first prize at the city’s chess tournament for primary students at the age of six and has played for Can Tho’s chess team ever since.

Contrary to her playful character, Nguyen, now 28, is modest about her achievements, saying that she lost her count of how many medals, titles, and prizes she has won so far, except for two gold medals she won at the National Games two months ago.

Nguyen came to chess accidentally, according to her mother. “When she was a child, Nguyen was restless and mischievous, so my husband and I thought she should play chess to learn patience and silence,” Nguyen’s mother said.

But the six-year-old girl surprised the whole family with a first prize medal at Can Tho’s chess competition one year later. Nguyen was then selected to play for Can Tho’s chess team.

“Nguyen is a self-driven student with a serious working attitude,” said Huynh. “She strictly adheres to her training schedule; it is rarely to hear Nguyen lamenting or feeling bored or skipping training regardless of her busy life. I often use her as an example when I talk to the other students on the team to encourage them to work harder and advance their career.”

To achieve such success in her chess career, Nguyen has had to overcome a wide range of obstacles, from her lack of professional training to lack of good materials and adequate coaches.

“Like many other chess players, I do not have a professional training. Most coaches are only able to offer me materials for self-study. No coaches have been able to point out my weaknesses, which I need to improve my skills,” the 28-year-old girl said.

“I also do not have many chances to compete in international tournaments, especially championships in the European Union with the top players, because of the cost and the visa difficulty,” Nguyen added. “The lack of international competition experience is one of the main limitations for Vietnamese players, including me”.

After her recent successes in the past years, Nguyen is expected to continue learning, studying, and growing to become a major international chess champion.

After retiring, she dreams of becoming a coach and training a league of strong players to improve Vietnam’s outcomes in global arenas.-VNA

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