The remarkably talented Harmony Zhu

by Frederic Friedel
1/20/2014 – "Did you see the Canadian girl?" Garry Kasparov said to us. "Very impressive!". He was in Al Ain, paying a visit to the World Youth Championship, where a seven-year-old was dominating the under eight group. We check her out and found that Harmony Zhu is not just a great chess player. She is extremely talented in a completely different field – hint: nomen est omen... You will never guess!

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Harmony in at the Youth World Championship in Al Ain

When we checked out the seven-year-old girl Garry had mentioned, we found that she had just turned eight, during game ten of the eleven-round tournament, on November 17. She won that game and eventually scored 9 points in 11 games, tying for first place with a girl from Mongolia, but winning the title on tie-break. Here are the final top standings:

Zhu Harmony CAN
Mungunzul Bat-Erdene MGL
Bhagyashree Patil IND
Divya Deshmukh IND
Mironenko Galina RUS

It is worth mentioning that the group had 117 players. The full results are here, and below is the scoresheet of Harmony's tenth round win.

Harmony in the decisive final round during the World Youth Championship

[Event "WYCCh Al Ain"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.12.28"] [Round "11"] [White "Wan, Qian"] [Black "Zhu, Harmony"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B22"] [PlyCount "126"] [SourceDate "2014.01.20"] 1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. Be2 e6 7. Na3 Nc6 8. Be3 cxd4 9. Nb5 O-O-O 10. Nbxd4 Nxd4 11. Qxd4 Qxd4 12. Bxd4 Bxf3 13. Bxf3 Kb8 14. Rd1 Be7 15. Ke2 Rhg8 16. Rd3 Ka8 17. Rhd1 Nd5 18. Bxd5 Rxd5 19. g3 b6 20. b4 f6 21. Be3 Rxd3 22. Rxd3 Rd8 23. Rxd8+ Bxd8 24. a4 Kb7 25. Kd3 f5 26. Bd4 g5 27. Be5 Kc6 28. c4 Be7 29. Kc3 a5 30. bxa5 bxa5 31. Bd4 Bc5 32. f4 gxf4 33. gxf4 Bd6 34. Be3 {[#]} e5 35. h3 (35. fxe5 Bxe5+ 36. Kd3 Bxh2) 35... exf4 36. Bf2 Bc5 $1 37. Bxc5 $2 Kxc5 38. Kd3 f3 39. Ke3 Kxc4 40. Kxf3 Kb4 41. Kf4 Kxa4 42. Kxf5 Kb3 43. Kg5 a4 44. Kh6 a3 45. Kxh7 a2 46. h4 a1=Q 47. h5 Qg1 48. h6 Kc4 49. Kh8 Qf2 50. Kg7 Qg3+ 51. Kh8 Qf4 52. Kg7 Qg5+ 53. Kh7 Qf6 54. Kg8 Qxh6 55. Kf7 Qf4+ 56. Ke6 Qg5 57. Kf7 Qh6 58. Kg8 Qf6 59. Kh7 Qg5 60. Kh8 Kd5 61. Kh7 Ke6 62. Kh8 Kf7 63. Kh7 Qh5# 0-1

My, are you tall! Here Harmony receives her gold medal from the President of the
Asian Chess Confederation Shaikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Shakhboot Al Nahyan (photo Reint Dykema)

On the stage with Shaikh Sultan and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Here's a YouTube video interview with Harmony after the event (starts at 3:26:40)

The photos above were provided by Vadim Tsypin, seen above right chatting with Garry Kasparov. Vadim is a chess dad who volunteers as a member of the board of the Canadian Chess 'n Math Association. His interests include promotion of chess for young people of all ages, especially girls. At the 2013 WYCC in Al Ain, Vadim was privileged to serve as assistant to Head of Delegation for Team Canada.

Other talents

Like any other young girl Harmony Zhu has dreams, including one rather extravagant one, which was, however, fulfilled in the past year – not once but twice. And here, once again, we ask you to pause for a moment and guess what this extraordinary talent is. Horse riding? No. Figure skating? No. Gymnastics? Uh-uh. As we said: nomen est omen. If you have guessed you can scroll down and find the solution.





But brace yourself for a shock!





Harmony Zhu, piano virtuoso

So what was Harmony's greatest wish in life? Not your usual run-of-the-mill little girl dream, but a rather extravagant one: to one day get a chance to play in the world famous Carnegie Hall in New York. The piano, for a live audience. And this wish was fulfilled, twice in 2013, while she was still seven years old. Here's one performance:

Harmony Zhu playing at Carnegie Hall: Chopin Nocturne in C Sharp Minor Postcriptum

Harmony always schedule conflicts between chess and piano. For example, during British Columbia Youth Chess Championship she was was over half an hour late for two morning games, as she had to rush from a concerto competition at downtown on the same days. "I love playing piano," she says, "because I get to compose my own music composition on the piano."

Harmony Zhu playing at Carnegie Hall: Chopin Waltz in C sharp Minor, Op.64, No.2

It doesn't seem possible that a seven-year-old (at the time of playing) can do this:
CMC 1st Round, Bach Two Part Invention No.13 in A minor BWV 784

"It bothers me so much that I can hardly concentrate on the chess board because of my own composed music in my head!" says Harmony. "I just cannot get rid of it. Sometimes I even think about Tinker Bell, Peter Pan, Snow White and lots of other characters from the movies I have seen. I guess this is why I always play so slowly and run out of time."

Harmony Zhu - Johann Sebastian Bach French Suite No.5 BWV 816, Allemande and Gigue

Harmony, who is from Richmond Hill, is now studying at the Young Artists Program at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Harmony's father Todd has set up a special YouTube channel for the budding pianist, where you can watch a number of further pieces by Hayden, Bach, Mozart and Chopin. Enjoy them an be inspired. And do not believe that this is the last you hear about Harmony Zhu on our news page.

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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