Grandmaster Quang Liem on achieving his childhood chess dreams

Saturday, 2013-09-21 13:18:52
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Liem realises his childhood dream of being crowned world champion.
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Nhan Dan – The year 2013 marked a sparkling milestone in the career of top Vietnam chess master Le Quang Liem. He finished first in the blitz chess event at the World Blitz and Rapid Chess Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia in June, before making history as the first Vietnamese player to progress into the fourth round of the World Chess Cup two months later. During 16 years of pursuing a career in chess, Liem has worked hard to fulfill his childhood dream of clinching a world championship title.

Liem shared interesting facts about his chess career and future plans in an open interview with Nhan Dan Monthly.

Renouncing graduation exam to become grandmaster

Q: Why do you choose to pursue a career in chess?

A: I loved sitting by the chessboard, playing other competitors when I was a child, so I asked for my parents’ permission to pursue chess. Chess has a special attraction to lure any pursuers. Since the moment I first approached chess, I have dreamt of becoming the world’s number one master someday.

Q: As a world-famous chess grandmaster, how do you manage to keep up with your academic studies?

A: I attend about ten tournaments per year, so it is normal that I am absent from home for five or six months. During the time off from school, I ask my friends to take notes of lessons for me, and I use my free time for compensational learning. I once renounced my secondary-school graduation examination, in June 2006, to join the national chess team at the 37th World Chess Olympiad. At the competition, I claimed victory over five international grandmasters while holding five others to draws, and was granted the ‘international grandmaster’ title by the world chess federation (FIDE). For that achievement, former Prime Minister Phan Van Khai asked the Ministry of Education and Training to exempt me from the graduation examination.

Q: Why chess is your favourite sport?

A: I also love badminton, swimming and race walking because they are good for health but chess demands intellect, and also requires strength, as sometimes it takes nearly ten hours to finish a game.

Q: What have you learnt after 16 years of pursuing chess?

A: Leading players always have to work seriously and creatively to come up with new things and address their weak points to unceasingly improve their expertise. Therefore, chess always requires perseverance, creativity and strong will.

World champion and the dream for a world top ten ranking

Q: Which grandmaster do you admire the most?

A: It is Magnus Carlsen of Norway, who is dominating the FIDE world men’s rankings with an impressive Elo rating of 2862. He is among few grandmasters in the world to have comprehensive talent.

Q: Have you ever set the target of beating a certain strong opponent?

A: In each competition, I play to win the aggregate victory, not to beat a certain player. In chess games, we cannot afford constant wins, sometimes we also have to concede draws.

Q: You really have had an amazing 2013, clinching the world blitz title and making the Men’s World Chess Cup fourth round. How do you feel about these milestones?

A: Taking the world blitz title was really a sweet dream for me; one which I had never thought of during my chess career. Advancing into the World Cup fourth round is the brightest milestone, not only to myself but also to Vietnam and all Asia. I was impressed the most by my third game with Russian Alexander Grischuk, which lasted 6 hours and 25 minutes, and 154 moves.

Q: You have convincingly fulfilled the dream of winning the world championship title. How about your target to enter the world’s top ten ranking?

A: Making the world’s top ten ranking is a much higher level of difficulty than taking the world crown, because it requires outstanding performances at all competitions. However, I think it is quite within my reach in the future, as I always work seriously to fulfill my dream.

And other dreams…

Q: In addition to chess, you are nurturing another dream of pursuing a career in finance and banking?

A: Following the conclusion of the World Cup, I flied directly from Norway to the US to study finance and banking at Webster University. The Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE) at Webster University consists of many well-known international grandmasters, among whom is my best potential Southeast Asian opponent, Wesley So of the Philippines. This promises to be a very convenient environment for me to practise and improve my chess power during my US study.

Q: Does pursuing academic study limit the time you spend on chess?

A: To me, academic study must go parallel to chess. I have no intention of giving chess up because it has been my biggest passion. I also want to pursue finance and banking, and the four-year study at Webster University will help me fulfill this dream.

Q: It can be said that ‘Quang Liem’ has become a well-known name in world chess circles. Do you think that you are a role model of a Vietnamese chess master, symbolising Vietnam’s intelligence in the world?

A: Chess is not as popular in Vietnam as football, so I hope that my world blitz championship title will help popularise chess in Vietnam and create an impetus for national chess development. I think Vietnam should focus its investment on some potential sports like chess in order to reap better achievements on world arenas.

Thank you, and wishing you success!