Young Chess Champ Talks About The Game

Lynn Neary speaks with Awonder Liang and his father Yingming "Will" Liang. Awonder recently won the under-8 division at the Youth World Chess Championships, which were held this year in Brazil. Awonder says he used to play with his older brothers, but now he's too good for them and they hate to lose.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

And I'm Lynn Neary. And now, an impressive little boy named Awonder - Awonder Liang. The eight year old from Wisconsin is, for his age group, the best chess player in the world. He recently took gold in the under-eight division at the World Youth Chess Championships in Brazil and he joins us with his father, Will Liang.

Good to have you with us.

YINGMING LIANG: Thank you.

AWONDER LIANG: Thanks.

NEARY: Let me start by talking with you, Awonder. How long have you been playing chess and what got you interested in it in the first place?

LIANG: I have been playing chess for about three and a half years and I just liked it because - just seemed to work with my brain and just seemed like a good game for me.

NEARY: Does your dad play chess? Is that how you first started seeing it?

LIANG: Uh-huh. My dad taught me how to play chess.

NEARY: Oh, Mr. Liang, so you've been training him, so to speak?

LIANG: Coaching, so to speak. His brother's the first one. And they learned it in a library in Madison, Wisconsin.

NEARY: And do you play with your brothers?

LIANG: Well, not really.

NEARY: Why? Because they're not very good anymore, compared to you?

LIANG: Well, my older brother is the best besides me and he doesn't really like to play, so...

NEARY: I think maybe you surpassed them. Is that right, Mr. Liang?

LIANG: Yeah, that's the case. Yeah. In the beginning they played a little bit with each other. And then when Awonder get better, you know, his elder brother, Jim, does not want to lose to Awonder, so...

NEARY: So, Awonder, do you like being able to beat your brothers?

LIANG: Yeah. But he gets a little bit mad.

NEARY: How did it feel when you won the championship?

LIANG: I was pretty happy.

NEARY: I understand you won in a tie-breaker. That must have been pretty hard.

LIANG: Yeah, kind of.

NEARY: Did that make you more nervous than usual, the fact that you had to win that tie-breaker in order to win the championship?

LIANG: Yeah.

NEARY: So when you get nervous like that, what do you do? How do you get yourself calmed down so that you can really concentrate on the game?

LIANG: I just kind of took a nap and stuff.

NEARY: You just took a nap. You rested. That's good. What did you do when you finally won? How did you celebrate?

LIANG: Well, there wasn't much to do in Brazil, so I just took a nap, too.

NEARY: I think a lot of adults out there are going to be surprised to hear you say there wasn't much to do in Brazil. But was there anything that you really wanted to do that you weren't able to do?

LIANG: Yeah. I wanted to go to the water park. It was a huge one. But, unfortunately, it was raining there.

NEARY: Oh, that's too bad. Well, Awonder, now, the next time I play chess, do you have any advice for me? Any tips? What should I do?

LIANG: Well, I'm not sure. Like, maybe practice on the general stuff, like castling and, like, getting your pieces out, control the center.

NEARY: All right. I'll work on that. That's Awonder Liang and his father, Will Liang. Awonder took gold in the under-eight division at the World Youth Chess Championships in Brazil. It was great talking with you.

LIANG: Thank you.

LIANG: Thanks.

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