Liem Le Wins Biel International Grandmaster Triathlon

Liem Le Wins Biel International Grandmaster Triathlon


GM Liem Le has been crowned as the winner of the Grandmaster Triathlon at the 2023 Biel International Chess Festival for the second year straight after a dominant classical performance.

Following his 5/7 score and 2853 rating performance in the longest time control, Le built a total score of 32.5 across the classical, rapid, and blitz portions which was enough to win the $11,500 first prize. Second-place GM Vincent Keymer still managed to lift his rating to 2701 despite losing his lead with a final-round loss.

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The Biel International Chess Festival is an annual celebration of chess that has taken place since 1968; the first GM tournament was won by the late English GM Tony Miles in 1977. For the 2023 edition, a colorful schedule featured masters and amateur tournaments, Chess960, simultaneous exhibitions, and more creative formats such as the “Brain Battle Chess vs. Poker.” 

Moussard took on challengers in a customary simul before the commencement of the GM event. Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

Of these events, none are more prestigious than the Grandmaster Triathlon, an eight-player round-robin invitational where participants compete in classical, rapid, and blitz, with scores in each added to determine the final standings.

The top seed for this event in all time controls was GM Yu Yangyi. However, several dangerous challengers were also selected: GMs Le, Arjun Erigaisi, Bassem Amin, Bogdan-Daniel Deac, Keymer, David Navara, and Jules Moussard. With a mixing point of experience and young talent ready for action, pundits were hard-pressed to pick a winner.

The 2023 Grandmaster Triathlon field. Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

The rapid section was the curtain-raiser for the festival, and two players—Keymer and Navara— scored 5/7 in this time control. The German number-one was particularly impressive as he didn’t lose a single game, even ousting Navara. His win over Arjun included an incisive exchange sacrifice in round seven and was the icing on the cake for the rapid victor.

Despite his loss to Keymer in round five, Navara proved borderline invincible in the rapid section and secured four wins and two draws in his other games. A blistering queen sacrifice against the Grandmaster Triathlon’s eventual winner Le certainly raised eyebrows.

By the lofty standards of the former world blitz champion Le, a 2.5/7 start in the rapid was a modest one. Fortunately, his play later in the event would allow him to claw his way back into contention.

Two points were awarded for wins and one point for draws in the rapid section.

In the first round of classical chess, it was the Czech GM Navara who was able to extend his lead following a convincing victory over Amin, while Keymer was able to respond in kind two rounds later with a win over Le to join the leader once more. One unique feature of this section is the fact that players received four points for a win and one and half a point for a draw.

Navara bounced out to an early lead with a round-one classical win. Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

Le was the main beneficiary of this rule and did everything he could to ensure as many games as possible were decisive. Despite his round-three loss, wins in rounds one, two, and four over Deac, Amin, and Arjun respectively, left him in pole position heading into the blitz rounds.

After four rounds of classical chess, it was time for the blitz portion, which was a double round-robin with typical scoring methods. Arjun was the hero of the 3+2 time control and scored a blazing 10.5/14, eclipsing the second-placed Le who managed 8.5/14.

The blitz results favored Le and Navara, who were able to creep closer to Keymer in the overall standings.

For the Indian GM who recently topped the field at the Sharjah Masters, the end of the month will see him ascend to the number-one spot in Indian blitz chess (ahead of none other than GM Viswanathan Anand) for the first time in his career.

Arjun’s 27-point gain has landed him the number-17 spot in the world. Image:

Clinical pressure and tactical mastery are the names of the game for the 19-year-old who dispatched foe after foe. One of his key victories was the round-14 game against Keymer, which went a long way in deciding his German opponent’s fate in the tournament. See if you can find the move that sealed the game for Arjun below.

With the resumption of classical chess the following day, the players faced the challenging prospect of reverting back to slow play. Le seemed to adjust the best and scored a crucial win over the struggling Chinese GM Yu with the black pieces.

With Keymer, Navara, and Le all realistic contenders for first place in the tournament, it was the former who would take a half-point lead over Le heading into the final round. Navara, who was poised 2.5 points off the lead, had the opportunity to steal first place if he could topple Le in the final round provided that Keymer lost his game.

It wasn’t to be, though, and after a high-quality draw transpired between the second- and third-placed players, the onus to claim the crown rested solely on Keymer, who was locked in a battle with Arjun. His Indian opponent mercilessly swept him aside after blitzing out the majority of the game. While the result was disappointing for Keymer, his 2701 FIDE rating is a new personal best.

A heartbreaking loss for Keymer in the final round cost him first place. Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

For Le, who has not played competitive chess since the 2022 edition and instead has focused on coaching the talented Webster University team, it was a warm welcome back to the elite echelons of the game. The Vietnamese victor’s 2739 live classical rating is also a new personal best, and he is now positioned 16th in the world.

On the podium in finishing order: Le, Keymer, and Navara. Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.


(Full standings in all categories here.)

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The Grandmaster Triathlon was the highlight of the 2023 Biel/Bienne International Chess Festival, which was an 8-player tournament that took place July 16-26 in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland. Results from classical and rapid round-robins, as well as a blitz double round-robin, were combined to determine the winner of the event which had a total prize fund of approximately $32,800.


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