Laos Open 2018

The Southeast Asia chess scene has given an important step forward this year, as Laos organised its first international tournament. The landlocked country launched the ‘Chess in Schools’ program six years ago and has been working towards growing the game’s stature. In the first Laos International Open, Armenian GM Karen Grigoryan was declared the winner, while the success of the event prompted the organisers to run a second edition later this year. | Photo: Laos Chess Federation

Grigoryan gets there first

Have you heard of Laos? This landlocked nation situated at the heart of Indochina had not been known in the chess world until January 2018, when it hosted the country’s first-ever international open chess championship. It offered top-notch prizes and attracted 68 players from 14 countries. Four GMs and four IMs participated, included GM Karen Grigoryan, GM Gerhard Schebler, GM Bui Vinh, GM Sriram Jha, IM Le Tuan Minh and IM Nguyen Anh Khoi. The tournament was won by GM Grigoryan.

The verdict at the end of the week-long contest earlier this year was one of great satisfaction.

The inaugural tournament was made possible due to the long-term vision of the Laos Chess Federation (LCF). According to John Inthava Vilavane, the General Secretary of the LCF and Councillor for FIDE’s Development Commission:

Our chess federation, with the strong backing of the government of the Lao People Democratic Republic, is committed to the development of chess in this country. Our multi-year plan began in 2012 with the agreement of the Ministry of Education & Sports to launch the ‘Chess in Schools’ program.

Soon after the kick-start of the ‘Chess in Schools’ program, chess was included in Laos’ National Games. As the game’s stature grew through the years, its importance within the national education ecosystem followed suit. By the end of 2017, the ‘Chess in Schools’ program had penetrated all but two provinces of Laos. This confirmed the successful laying of the foundational groundwork for the game in the country.

With the fundamentals in place, the LCF set its sights on bringing the game’s development up to the next level. As part of its multi-year masterplan, the LCF had targeted 2018 as the year for them to organise an international-level chess open in Laos. The General Secretary added:

This is an important jigsaw in our multi-year plan as such a high-level, international open will provide our local chess players with the exposure and opportunity to pit their wits against top players from abroad.

All these efforts resulted in the organisation of the 1st Laos International Open Chess Championship in January 2018, which was won by the Armenian GM Grigoryan (pictured) with a score of 7½ out of 9.

A final photo with players and organisers | Photo: Laos Chess Federation

Final standings (top 20):

top 20

Why wait another year?

The success of the inaugural event prompted the LCF to organise the next edition later this year, in a sustained effort to continue growing the stature of the game in this country of 7 million people. To be held in conjunction with the closure of the program Visit Laos Year 2018, this chess event is aimed at boosting chess tourism in the Land of a Million Elephants during the upcoming year-end holidays.

With its UNESCO World Heritage sites and architectural wonders to complement its great food and friendly people, the country is a wonderful kaleidoscope waiting to be explored.

Elephants are a common sight in Laos | Photo: Patrice Terraz/Signatures

So, what are you waiting for? You should quickly sign-up to compete in the upcoming 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship. This nine-round, FIDE Rated tournament is scheduled to be held from December 17th to 22nd, 2018 at the same excellent venue from the first edition, the five-star Don Chan Palace (Vientiane). The 90 minutes plus 30 seconds per move time control will be used at the tournament.

This year’s edition promises a total prize fund of US$ 10,000. The winner will also lift the President’s Cup of Laos NOC (Minister of Education & Sports Lao P.D.R.). Titled players such as GMs and IMs can write to the tournament organiser for consideration of waiver of entry fees.

This tournament will once again be organised by John Inthava Vilavane together with IA Brahmawong Patcharawee. IA Brahmawong Patcharawee will be the Chief Arbiter for the tournament (pictured).

With the same organisation team, you can be assured of an excellent, top-notch chess event in a five-star hotel setting! The entrance fees for the 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship are US$ 100 (Rated players) and US$ 150 (Unrated), respectively. With the inclusion of rapid and blitz chess events this time around, the event will be a true week-long chess festival in Vientiane. The rapid and blitz events will take place on December 23rd and 24th, 2018, respectively, with entry fees of USD $40 and $20.

The Don Chan Palace Hotel in Vientiane

For more details about chess in Laos, do visit their national chess federation’s website or go to their Facebook page. To sign-up for either the main event (2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship), rapid or blitz tournaments, please contact John at (+856) (20) 5810 7990 (WhatsApp) or via WeChat (User Name: jOhn, ID: wxid_9bos8flhgr7i22) and LINE (ID: j210918). John can also be reached via Email at Payment details will be given via email once tournament registration is made to the organiser while accommodation can be booked via or via email to and copy

Tournament Dates and Schedule of events

  • 17th December 2018: Opening Ceremony to the 2nd Laos International Open Chess Championship together with the players’ meeting
  • 18th December 2018 to 22nd December 2018: Rounds 1 to 9
  • 22nd December 2018: Closing Ceremony
  • 23rd December 2018: Rapid Event
  • 24th December 2018: Blitz Event

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