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The Vietnamese female chess team finished seventh at the 2016 Chess Olympiad which concluded on Wednesday in Baku, Azerbaijan, making history as Vietnam’s best showing at the biennial event.

The 42nd Chess Olympiad was held in Baku, the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan, from September 1 to 14, welcoming teams from over 180 countries competing in the event’s open section.

In the women’s section, over 140 teams fought for medals.

Vietnam’s female delegation to the competition outshined their male counterparts on Wednesday after finishing seventh in the team standings and bagging an individual bronze medal.

With participation from world-class grandmasters such as China’s Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun, who ranked first and second respectively on the women’s Elo rating table of World Chess Federation (FIDE), Vietnam’s seventh place finish was a “remarkable” success, said Nguyen Phuong Trung, vice chairman and secretary general of the Vietnam Chess Federation.

With an average ELO rating of 2307 between its four players, Vietnam’s female team was a dark horse in Baku that shocked their competitors by pulling off draws with India and defending champion China; defeating Romania, Turkey, and Spain; and losing only to Russia.

Vietnam’s coach Lam Minh Chau attributed the team’s success to a pressure-free mentality that allows the Vietnamese women to unleash their best without being distracted by goals and quotas.

“Vietnam was among the only two teams that managed a draw with China this year, the other was Romania,” Chau said proudly.

According to the coach, a crucial element in the power of Vietnam’s team lay in Nguyen Thi Mai Hung (Elo 2316), who earned an individual bronze medal for Table 3 by scoring eight points after 11 matches.

By medaling in the event, the northern Vietnam-born woman achieved two of the requirements for earning the lifetime title of International Master (IM) by FIDE, while accumulating 41 more Elo points for herself.

“I’m amused by our achievements at the tournament,” Hung told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper in a post-competition interview.

“Among the tournaments recognized by FIDE, Olympiad is considered the biggest team competition, so this bronze medal is my highest ever achievement in a team tournament.”

“There were difficult times for us [in the tournament] too, especially our ninth match against Russia. Our opponents were so strong that I felt anxious and intimidated, which affected my performance,” Hung confessed.

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s male chess left Baku in 42nd place out of more than 180 teams that competed at FIDE, scoring only 13 points in 11 matches.

Vietnam’s female chess team (in red-and-yellow uniform) in the middle of a match against China at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, September 1-14, 2016. Photo: Baku Chess Olympiad

Vietnamese Woman Grandmaster Nguyen Thi Mai Hung at the 42ndChess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, September 1-14, 2016. Photo:Baku Chess Olympiad

Vietnamese Grandmaster Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son at the 42ndChess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, September 1-14, 2016. Photo:Baku Chess Olympiad

Vietnam’s male chess team (L) in the middle of a match against the Netherlands at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, September 1-14, 2016. Photo: Baku Chess Olympiad

Vietnamese Grandmaster Le Quang Liem (R) chats with members of other teams at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, September 1-14, 2016. Photo: Baku Chess Olympiad

Vietnam’s female chess team attend the closing ceremony of the 42ndChess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, September 14, 2016. Photo:Baku Chess Olympiad

Vietnamese Woman Grandmaster Nguyen Thi Mai Hung at the podium after receving an individual bronze medal at the closing ceremony of the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, September 14, 2016.

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