ACM: The Crown Jewel: WIM Annie Wang

by American Chess Magazine
4/28/2018 – At 15, Annie Wang is already a world champion. Last autumn, the California-born American girl took home the gold medal at the 2017 World Youth Chess Championship U16 girls with an impressive score of 10½ / 11, two and a half points ahead of the runner-up from Russia. Her performance rating? An incredible 2589 — practically that of a grandmaster. The rising star was the pride of the nation.

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Catch a Rising Star

with Yuanling Yuan

5–year–old Annie first became curious about chess when she noticed a simul going on at a nearby park. Initially, she just thought that “the pieces looked interesting” but when her parents started sending her to the local Beyond Chess Academy for weekly lessons, chess quickly became much more than the strange shape of the bishops. “I like thinking and seeing the patterns on the board. It’s like solving puzzles. I feel a sense of accomplishment whenever I do well.” According to Annie’s father Ou Wang, the most memorable occasion during Annie’s childhood was when she won her first chess tournament and was awarded a trophy taller than her!

Annie Wang in 2015Between the first monumental trophy and the U16 World Championship title lay ten years of hard work, sweat and perpetual failures. A well–deserved victory does not occur overnight. Over the years, Annie made a conscious effort to work on chess almost every single day. On weekdays, at least one hour daily. On weekends the commitment would double as schoolwork takes a backseat. Maintaining such a level of discipline is particularly dif cult for most children at a young age. However, for Annie, spending time on chess was more play than work. It was always at the forefront of all the activities in her life. “Chess is my life. It’s always chess first, then school, then everything else”, Annie told me with a smile.

Prior to the World Youth Chess Championship, Annie’s list of accomplishments was already lengthy and impressive. At 11, she became the youngest female chess master in the country, breaking a fine record that had been held by seven-time U.S. Women’s Champion Irina Krush since 1996. Less than a year later, she took home both the gold medal at the 2014 North American Youth Chess Championship U18 Girls and the of official Women’s International Master title. At 13, Annie was one of the youngest players to be invited to play in the highly coveted U.S. Women’s Chess Championship.

Over the years, young Annie worked with several coaches including WIM Sarah Lu, IM Ben Deng, GM Varuzhan Akobian, IM Wenliang Li and currently, with GM Melikset Khachihyan. “She is super motivated and a winner by birth,” described coach Melik, “She always wants to be first. It is very hard to break her spirit.”

Apart from chess, Annie is also competitive in both sports and music. At her high school, she is on the cross–country team and finds the long distance run quite cathartic. She told me, “After the run, you feel really relaxed.” Perhaps most people wouldn’t use the word “relaxing” to describe a 5–mile run but we all know that someone who becomes World Champion does not abide by conventional wisdom anyway. Engaging in an active sport is often the counterbalance to the sedentary lifestyle of a chess player. When the body works, the mind rests.

In addition to using cross–country as a way of taking her mind off of chess, Annie often plays the piano at home. In fact, her devotion to piano preceded that of the royal game itself. Annie started learning notes and keys at the age of four and has long since passed all ten levels of foundational piano tests. She enjoys the classical composers such as Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin. In Annie’s words, “I don’t really participate in piano competitions like I do with chess. I play it simply because it sounds nice.”

And when there is no chess tournament, no cross–country meet or piano practice, Annie slips out of the house and hops on the nearest roller coaster for an adventure. Though admittedly somewhat scared, she loves the adrenaline rush more. That probably explains why she self–described her chess style as an “attacker”.

At the end of the day, chess is still at the center of Annie’s attention. She’s found that skills developed from chess have permeated into many other aspects of her life. Because of her incredible ability to focus and concentrate, she has a much easier time in paying attention to the school teachers despite sitting at the back of the classroom. The problem–solving mindset also helps her with logic–oriented tasks such as following the proof of a theory in geometry. Chess has also turned Annie into a perfectionist, “Everything I do has to be perfect. The letters in my writing have to be straight, for example. It’s like in chess when I spend 25 minutes to find the best move even though there are many decent candidate moves.”

For now, Annie will continue to play chess out of a love for the game. Her near-term goal is to become a WGM but otherwise, she’s happy to use chess as an excuse to travel the world. With her fighting spirit, Annie Wang is determined to put her best foot forward and see what happens. “I never really thought about becoming a master or World Champion. It just kind of happened.” Finally, some words of wisdom from Annie to other chess girls out there:

“Keep correcting your mistakes and never give up playing. It will be useful later on. Don’t get intimidated by losses. You just have to believe in yourself. It doesn’t really matter if you’re the only girl in the tournament hall because you’re going to beat them anyway.”
-WIM Annie Wang


ACM issue 06, Spring 2018

ACM issue 06, Spring 2018, page 68

 

ACM cover

The above is reproduced from American Chess Magazine, Spring 2018, with kind permission.


Video preview of the full Issue No. 06:


Awards and Info

A single issue costs USD $29.99, but to receive CBV & PGN files as well, you'll want to subscribe for a year (four issues) for $99, which includes free shipping for readers in the USA.

The "Letter from the Editor" column in the current issue notes with pride that ACM has won several awards from the group Chess Journalists of America, a not-for-profit organization that encourages and promotes chess journalism. Among them was a "Best Interview" award to Asik, "Best Chess Analysis" to GM Sokolov, "Best Instructive Lesson" for an article by GM Alex Fishbein, and — perhaps most noteworthy — "Best Magazine / Newsletter Layout".

A flip through any of the first four issues, and it's not hard to see why.


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We are devoted to chess in America without forgetting what’s going on in the chess world at large. We cover national events and encourage reporting on chess in individual states. We do in-depth interviews, behind the scenes reporting and have great grandmasters writing notes that actually explain what’s going on.
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mragel mragel 4/28/2018 11:50
This is not an article, it's a praise. Is such a one-sided text typical for the magazine?
Also: this seems to be an advert for the magazine, but where is it mentioned that it's an advert?
With that said: I wish Annie Wang all the best.
UncleBent UncleBent 4/28/2018 04:09
Annie Wang is showing great maturity in her games of the current US Women's Championship. She has that intangible ability to maintain her composure during the ups and downs of a complicated game vs a top opponent -- as was demonstrated in her victory over the more emotional Irina Krush in round 8. Her tactical and strategical prowress will improve with training and experience, but she already has the nerves of a Korchnoi.
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