Chess master overcomes visual impairment to top region at Para Games

Nguyen Thi Hong, 25, from Hanoi overcomes her visual impairment to become a chess master through her determination and passion for the game.
Nguyen Thi Hong receives a gold medal at the 12th ASEAN Para Games.

Nguyen Thi Hong receives a gold medal at the 12th ASEAN Para Games.

Chess Master Nguyen Thi Hong was recently selected as one of the 420 young people who achieved the “Outstanding Youth in Following Uncle Ho's Teachings” title at the award ceremony that took place in Hanoi.

Looking at the petite girl with a bright face and a confident demeanor, many people might not realize that she is visually impaired until they understand the arduous journey she had gone through to be present at this ceremony.

Continuous Learning and Dedication

Hong was born in Hiep Thuan commune, Phuc Tho district, Hanoi. Her early years were marked by a rare and severe eye condition known as retinitis pigmentosa, which progressively diminished her eyesight.

When she was just 7 years old, she was sent to Nguyen Dinh Chieu School in Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung District, a special school for visually impaired students.

Her father worked tirelessly to earn a living, he rented a room to care for and support her, hoping for a brighter future for his daughter. Hong was an understanding and diligent girl, not demanding special treatment despite her misfortune.

Hong's path towards triumph took a remarkable turn when a group of volunteers from the Bac Ninh Sport University of Vietnam came to train students in her school to play chess.

She meticulously explored the chessboard and carefully examined each move. Surprisingly, in a short time, she astounded the student volunteers with her impressive chess skills.

Driven by her newfound love for chess, Hong began to immerse herself in the game. She devoted herself to training and gradually revealed her exceptional talent in this intellectual sport.

Hong's dedication paid off in 2016 when, while studying at the Tran Nhan Tong High School, she was invited to join Hanoi's chess club for people with disabilities. Since then, her daily routine involved hard training to improve her performance.

Mr. Le Trung Quyet, Chairman of the Hanoi Blind Association, shared that few people are as diligent, persistent, and determined as Hong. She has inspired many young people to overcome adversity and succeed in life.

Despite her visual impairment, Hong never hesitated to reach out to seasoned chess players for guidance. Using a screen reader application on her phone, she scoured the internet to study chess games played by international and domestic grandmasters, delving into intricate positions and strategies.

Hong shared that her idols are the world No 1 Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Vietnamese Grandmaster Le Quang Liem. She has learned a lot from their playing style and tactics.

Believing in Hong's potential, the coaching staff allowed her to participate in annual sports events for people with disabilities, where she consistently won many medals.

7 gold medals at the Para Games

Hong's dedication and unwavering spirit paid off in the most remarkable way. She achieved remarkable success in the sport of chess, a testament to her indomitable will.

Her achievements include two consecutive appearances at the ASEAN Para Games, a regional competition for athletes with disabilities. In her debut at the 11th ASEAN Para Games in Indonesia in 2022, she pocketed two individual gold medals, one individual silver medal, and three team gold medals.

At that time, Nguyen Thi Hong was the highest-achieving athlete in the sport of chess among the national para-athletes. In the 12th ASEAN Para Games in 2023, Hong won 1 gold medal in individual and 1 gold medal in team, contributing to Vietnam's third-place overall at ASEAN Para Games 12.

In the V1-B2/B3 blitz chess category at the 12th ASEAN Para Games, Hong was only considered a fourth-place contender in terms of personal achievements. However, driven by her desire to win, she defeated a formidable opponent in a spectacular manner.

She shared that every time the national anthem of Vietnam plays on the international stage, she feels so proud and cries because of her happiness in contributing her humble labor to Vietnam internationally.

Accompanying Nguyen Thi Hong for many years, coach Bui Quang Vu said that her significant strengths are her ability to calculate, high determination in competition, and a self-disciplined training spirit.

The chess master plans to continue pursuing chess and further improving her skills, competing, and aiming for higher achievements on the international stage. Her dream is to open a chess class of her own to help nurture talented athletes for the future.

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