Qiyu Zhou’s mother (Penny) describes in a thoughtful — and at times painfully candid style –the trials and tribulations that her daughter had to endure inorder to pursue her dream of becoming champion. ”The cruel thing about chess is that whenever you see a happy face coming out of the playing venue, there must be a sad or crying face.”
I am certain that most chess-parents can relate to the mother’s personal experience, which has probably been as emotionally frustrating as that of her daughter. Playing competitive chess since the age of 5, Qiyu soon realized that getting better in chess is not a ‘FUN’ process at all. ‘‘She complained that chess is not as fun as before. When she was young, she thought that chess was such an easy and fun game, but not now…if she knew that playing chess needs to memorize and study so many openings, she would not have started at the very beginning.”
2005. Five-year old Qiyu (easily recognizable in the photo) won the U-10 age group in Finland where the family lived at the time. This achievement qualified her to the WYCC in Belfort later that year. Qiyu finished almost deadlast–she cried–but by 2008 (Vietnam) Qiyu finished 2nd and this experience ignited a passion in her to become champion one day. There were some successes, initially. In 2010 Qiyu won the Nordic School Championship. But it was to be a long and difficult road ahead. Especially, there was little or no financial support outside of her parents.
Initial successes and high expectations were soon replaced by setbacks and frustrations. The mother helped to keep Qiyu focused on her objectives, but dealing with failure is never easy, regardless of age.
Right before leaving for Qiyu’s 9th WYCC, Penny was reflective: ”To be honest, I really don’t know what she has gained from her WYCC chess trips. Every year, she wanted to be the top, and she gradually dropped to rank 17 in 2013. She learned to face the very painful reality and not to become extremely disappointed with herself. This is a very bitter experience as well. She knows at least it’s not an easy job to be the top in the world.”
2014. September, Durban. Qiyu’s parents struggled to raise the funds to send their daughter to the WYCC. The CFC gave no financial support. But in Durban, disciplined and focused, Qiyu was able to put everything together and play like she was really able to play. She scored 8.5 /11 , not losing a single game. Qiyu won the gold in the U14-girls section! She had achieved her life-long goal!
Qiyu Zhou and her friend U16 Rachel Tao
On Sunday I incorrectly wrote that Canadian IM Aman Hambleton was Qiyu’s official coach. This is not quite right. My friend, Romanian GM Gergely Szabo (on the left in the above photo, next to me) is infact Qiyu’s official longtime coach! Aman was assisting. My apologies, Gergely! By the way, Gergely is one of the world’s top coaches and trainers. This photo was taken earlier this year in Cappelle.
I wrote on this blog on Sunday about the recently held Shirov vs Sveshnikov match. Shirov won the friendly encounter with a convincing 5.5 points from 6 games, though each game was exceptionally hard fought, and the winner had luck on his side from time to time… To me the score was not a big surprise, infact I was pleased since Shirov is a long time friend and I am happy to see him perform like he has in the past. I hope Alexi is going to make a comeback. (He is scheduled to play a match against Dutch superstar Giri starting on the 11th of this month)
The veteran Sveshnikov made some interesting comments on his match against Shirov, several of which give some insight into Sveshnikov’s psyche and combativeness in chess. “Immediately after the end of the match… well, I had an urge to abandon serious chess and forget about playing at this level. As well as to throw in the towel and just keep silence…”
I have to chuckle a bit at this comment as it brings back memories from some of my own frustrating experiences when I was first starting out in tournament chess in Montreal back in the ’70s. Sometimes I felt so emotionally-empty that I wanted to quit! I think it is quite natural to ask yourself why you play a game that gives so little return for so much effort. And where , often, the final score seems so unjust…
Sveshnikov goes on: ”However, this attitude changed after I had analysed my games and spoken to the commentators. I realised that Alexei’s superiority hadn’t been really as much as it could seem from the score. Moreover, I played more creatively.”
Sveshnikov then goes on and discusses some of the individual games, almost exclusively from the perspective of the openings. Which I suppose is not so surprising, as Sveshnikov is one of the world’s leading opening theoreticians, and hence his particular area of expertise. He concludes:
”I’m thinking about challenging Shirov to the return match, however funny it may seem. Let me repeat that I outplayed him in the openings while many novelties prepared for the match haven’t been used. I assure you that neither Kasparov nor Carlsen can refute my opening ideas.”
Smyslov playing Sveshnikov back in the good old days. Source.
Fair enough, I suppose. But had I been Sveshnikov I would have waited a while longer before making public comments about a match while one is still feeling the emotional-trauma of losing in a big way. Alexi did not lose any sleep about these overly-optimistic comments and diplomatically replied: