Paul Truong and Michel Truong November-1979
This is Paul (at 14) and his father as Vietnamese boat people back in 1979

Here is an article that Mr. Randy Hough (a USCF board member) wrote about Paul more than 20 years ago (there are a few minor factual errors but in general it is a fantastic article). He has not changed. He is still full of energy, still loves chess as much as anyone (even though he does not play competitively, he uses his knowledge to help countless youngsters) and still works hard, but now for chess full time. Even though he basically stopped playing serious chess in the mid 80’s, he’s still a very strong player.

Paul played a major part in helping the 2004 US Women’s Olympiad team capture the team Silver and me 4 Olympiad medals (He’s my personal chess coach as well as the captain and business manager of the team.) I remember that the Vietnamese chess delegation at the 2004 Olympiad still feared him. They know of his reputation in chess 3 decades earlier. And they were right. Just as Mr. Clayton said of Paul as a youngster, he has an incredible ability to evaluate and assess positions correctly.

He is also the same way in life. Paul’s strategy in the last round of the Olympiad helped our team defeat Vietnam 2.5 – 0.5 to win the team Silver. If it was not for Paul, we would have went home with no medal as a number of teams were separated by only 1 point (The US Women’s Teams have never won a single medal in Olympiad history until Paul was involved and we came back from the 2004 Olympiad with 4 medals – 2 Gold and 2 Silver.)

The USCF is very fortunate to have someone with his experience, professional expertise and passion for chess wanting to help our sport. Just look at what he has helped me accomplish with the Susan Polgar Foundation as well as promoting chess in the US since 2001. As I stated before, no one can even come close to him in chess marketing, promotion and PR. And everything was done with virtually a zero budget.

Instead of using Paul as a person who can motivate and energize the entire sport, I am stunned that some vicious chess politicians choose to attack him because of where he came from and what he had to endure throughout his life. Instead of thinking for the best interest of chess, they chose to attack Paul because they are intimidated by his immense success and talent.

Sept 1986 Chess Life, page 26


Happy To Be A USCF Member
Assistant Editor, Chess Life

Paul Truong is a survivor. And although he would like to say that his love for chess helped to sustain him during two hellish weeks in early 1979 aboard a crowded, leaky, wooden refugee boat — it would be untrue.

For Paul, who was born in Saigon on June 2, 1965, and whose Vietnamese name is Hoainhan, found that “survival pushed everything else to the back of [his] mind.” Still, chess does play an important role in the life of this energetic, young Vietnamese-American.

Paul learned the moves in 1971 at age six from USCF master Kenneth Clayton (Paul learned chess at age 5 from his father. Mr. Clayton started to teach him at age 6 but since one did not speak Vietnamese and the other did not speak English, their interaction was very difficult.), who was then working in Vietnam as a computer adviser. Paul and his father Tien, who spoke good English, used to visit a local sports club (It was actually not a local sport club. It was the National Sports Center. It’s local because of the vincinity of the center.) with a large swimming pool, billiards tables, and whatnot. But it was chess which attracted the lad. Recalls Clayton of the young boy: ”

He was always attentive, retained what I taught him, possessed good nerves and evaluated positions objectively. I recall one game against a strong player, whom Paul defeated in an ending in which he used a Bishop to trap his opponent’s Knight on the run of the board. Playing virtually a piece up, he just walked in with the King. He had seen a similar maneuver in one of my games.”

At age eight, Paul won the closest thing that Vietnam had to a national championship (This was the national championship of South Vietnam and not Vietnam because at that time, North and South Vietnam were split. They were 2 separate countries just as North and South Korea. Therefore, no player from North Vietnam could compete and this championship only included players from South Vietnam.) by finishing behind only Clayton in a tournament at the sports club. “In our game,” Clayton remembers, “I set some nice traps that he saw. I was finally able to wear him down positionally, but it was a real struggle.” Clayton estimates that the eight-year-olds strength was in the class “A” range.


The happy times didn’t last. The South Vietnamese government fell to the Communists in early 1975, and Tien Truong, a former employee of the United States government, faced hard times for himself and for his family. And in 1979, when the Communists began to persecute Vietnamese citizens of Chinese ancestry, the Truongs formulated a plan to leave. Acquiring false identification papers and greasing the palms of a few officials, Tien and Paul managed to leave. “We wanted the freedom a human being deserves,” says Paul, “and my father was concerned about his children’s futures.” But Paul’s mother, Yen, and a younger brother, who was too young to make the perilous journey through the South China Sea, had to remain behind.

The following six weeks were the most memorable period of Paul’s life. Over 600 passengers were crammed into a 150-foot wooden vessel, which had to return to Vietnam for repairs after several days at sea. When the boat again left Vietnam, after payment by the passengers of additional bribes, it was boarded by pirates on the second day out. And the refugees found themselves without much of their food, medical supplies, and valuables. Women were raped, and the boat was virtually torn apart as the pirates searched for jewelry.There were additional boardings, and the boat drifted for days beneath the tropical sun – a vessel of misery filled with terrorized human beings. And then the refugees were spotted by an American oil tanker.

Tien Truong persuaded the tanker’s captain to help the passengers reach the East Coast of Malaysia, where they spent weeks in a teeming, island refugee camp before setting out in a new boat. On this second voyage, people began to die of hunger and thirst before reaching the coast of Indonesian Sumatra … where they were again turned away.

In despair the passengers began to throw over board the dead bodies in order to lighten the boat’s load. And suddenly, the Indonesian authorities took pity on these unwanted refugees, allowing them ashore. Whereupon. Tien and Paul spent six months in yet another camp. On December 1, 1979, Tien and Paul arrived in the United States, sponsored by an aunt who lived in New Jersey.


Paul started school in the ninth grade in Washington Township, New Jersey finding that he had plenty of catching up to do. Tien looked for and eventually found a job with Versa a valve manufacturer in Paramus, New Jersey. Where he now works as a control manager. After school, Paul also worked. He and his father offered and they saved money to pay for the freedom of his mother and younger brother And years later – in August 1985 – they to arrived in America.

School, money scrimping, hard work – none these things kept Paul away from his old love of chess. But his rust was apparent in early American tournaments, and his first rating was only in the 1600s. However, he improved rapidly thanks in significant measure, to support from the North New Jersey chess community. At the 1981 New York State Championship, he achieved a USCF master’s rating, which he has kept ever since.

Thus far in his chess life, Paul’s most memorable competitive experiences (aside from playing for the Collins Kids against Iceland in 1983) occurred in the summer of 1984 when he qualified for the U.S. Junior closed and when he participated in Gary Kasparov’s “Starwars Simul” – a set of ten game played by Kasparov in London against British and U.S. juniors with the Americans in New York playing via a telecommunications hookup. Paul went astray in a complex middlegame, but the then world championship contender later said that Paul played better than any of his compatriots.

In a Sicilian Defense, Paul Truong sacks a Rook for White’s Knight on c3. That’s the sort of sharp trading he had to practice to survive a perilous journey to the United States.

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