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Cong Khon triumphs at Golden Week Rating Open 2023

by Sheldon Donaldson - 17/05/2023

Mayur Gondhalekar and his good friend, Sheldon Donaldson keeps us updated about the Japan chess scene. Sheldon writes a blog about his experience in the Golden Week Open 2023. It was a FIDE rated event. The Canadian origin, currently residing in Japan, Sheldon's takes on his games are a nice light read. He does not go too hard on himself for the losses, yet he makes us all enjoy various moments from his games. Check out his experience taking part in the tournament which took place just in the capital - Tokyo. He also talks about his games with analysis and shared photos of the tournament. All photos in this article: Sheldon Donaldson

Hello, my fellow chess tournament goers, and welcome to another edition of the Osaka Papers. Here in Japan we have just finished celebrating Golden Week; from April 29th through May 5th a number of national holidays are favorably clustered together, allowing many people in Japan to have the entire week off.

Congrats to (L) Hiroki Yamagami 2nd place, (R) Satoshi Tanaka 3rd place, and (C) Khon Cong Nguyen 1st place, winning with a perfect 5/5 score, in spite of his 1346 rating...there is hope for us all.

Just took a free bishop on c5, the rook cannot recapture because...wait...?!

The Japan Chess Federation holds the Japan Chess Championship and the Golden Week Open during this period. Tragically, I was unable to qualify for the Japan Chess Championship, so for me, the Golden Week Open served as a type of consolation tournament, which would allow me to compete against players far closer to my own skill level.


The Golden Week Open 2023 is a FIDE rated tournament consisting of five rounds, with a time control of 90 minutes plus a 30-second increment. It was held in Tokyo, Japan from May 5th through 7th.


I was ranked 22nd out of the 60 players participating, furthermore, most of those ahead of me outrated me by little more than 100 points. With this in mind, I harbored illusions of performing quite well, scoring four points out of five was not an outlandish aspiration, and maybe just maybe, I could win the whole thing...


Nonsense...these turned out to be the ravings of a madman...but more on that later.


First, let's see some pics to prove that any of this even happened.

The Sites

Mt Fuji from the window of a Bullet Train

The Brand New Logo...

...That says Golden Week Open 2023... trust me.

The incredible Shibuya Scramble Square

Pins Over Everythang

The following position is taken from my first round game. Most of my opponents didn't have a FIDE rating so I have listed their national rating. One thing I have learned from playing in Japan is to never judge your opponent by their rating. Despite only being rated in the 1100s, Ryo Yakushijin put up a hell of a fight.

Sheldon - Ryo, Round 1

Position after 28...Re6

Unfortunately, he is down a pawn in this endgame and his king is in a terrible position. White to move; can you see the winning continuation?

Better Than Best

The next position comes from my round four match up, we'll revisit round two later, while round three will be consigned to the dustbin of history...


Anyway, the position arose from the Alapin; an opening I detest. We are on the cusp of entering the true endgame, but my opponent finds an astonishing resource to maintain equality.


Interestingly, the engine doesn't seem to know what the best move is? It states that Qd4 is "Best", but it also claims that White's move is "Brilliant". Well, which is it? It's an insoluble riddle...

Hyeon - Sheldon, Round 4

Position after 24...Rcb8

White to move; can you play a move that is better than Best?

The Ring

The final position, from the fifth round, comes with a little bit of a story. I stayed at a hotel which neighbors the playing hall. Five minutes before I'm set to checkout of my hotel room, I realize that my favorite ring is missing. I have had this ring for like 20 years, I wear it everyday.


So, I'm tearing the hotel room apart looking for this ring, and I simply can't find it. Finally, I rush downstairs to checkout and explain to the staff, in my wretched Japanese, that I have lost my ring, but need to leave immediately. The staff assures me that if I come back within an hour or so, I can continue to search my room...


Which brings us to the game. Heading into the endgame I had a clear advantage, so what do you think I did? Calculate my moves and consolidate my position?

That's right, why take your time when you have 75 minutes on the clock? I blitzed out these moves like I had a built-in pre-move button. Yet, 1 second after playing this blunder I realized my folly...

Sheldon - Ryoma, Round 5

Position after 35.Rxc5

Black to move; can you spot the move that Black missed in the game?

Btw... I went back to the hotel and found my ring, it was sitting right under the lip of the sink, where I left it to wash my hands... O_o...

Knight vs Bishop

As promised, let us revisit round two. Masakazu Nakajima was one of the strongest competitors in this field, and had a rating nearly 150 points above my own. Yet, I felt really confident heading into the game. The match came down to whose minor piece would gain more activity, the classic knight versus bishop battle.

With my final game finishing early, I decided to head to Shibuya and have a drink with an old friend...

Not great, not terrible...but a gratifying experience

A special thanks to Akihiro Yamada, who has resigned as Representative Director of the Japan Chess Federation and will now take on an advisory position. He is one of the people who keep chess alive here in Japan.

Final standings

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgIRtgNClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 
144Nguyen Cong KhonVIE013465121414,007047
211Yamagami HirokiJPN168216724,5121412,756587
31Tanaka SatoshiJPN194215524151712,006429
416Okayama RyotaJPN165715144131410,006275
56Nakagawa SeijiCAN17331807412,514,511,506429
646Ogawa GenkiJPN01326412,514,510,506566
721Shibata MisakiJPN16191529412139,005782
88Fukuda ToyoakiJPN17151668411,513,510,506235
97Muto YuhiroJPN17331570410,511,58,505903
109Nguyen Cong KhenVIE170215253,513159,256620



Overall, I'm relatively happy with my performance, it was a fun tournament and a great experience. However, it did make me realize just how far I still have to go in order to see real improvement.


It is one thing to have flashes or brilliancy, but consistency is what wins games and tournaments. I need to discipline my thought process if I am ever going to make a meaningful improvement in this game.


As always, thanks for reading, and feel free to share these games with your friends down at the hotel or bar.


Cheers, SheldonOfOsaka

About the Author

SheldonOfOsaka is a 41-year-old chess player originally from Canada, who has lived in Japan for the past 13 years; he took up chess 10 years ago, but only began to play over-the-board tournaments last year.

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