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MACA Chess Horizons Magazine Article
 Interview Yi Wang
 Nathan Smolensky
  December 2016

Young Ryan and Tianna Wang have been storming up the ranks of Massachusetts chess the past few years, their rapid ascent highlighted by Ryan’s clear victory in the K-1 section of the Elementary National Championships. Both represented the United States at the recent World Cadets Championships in the Republic of Georgia, so I thought it was due time to catch up with their father, Yi Wang. 

Nathan Smolensky: How did Ryan and Tianna find the game of chess? Did you introduce them to it?

Yi Wang: Tianna and Ryan received their initial chess exposure at Westwood Chinese School back in Fall 2013. The school met every Sunday, and chess was one of the extra-curricular classes offered in addition to regular Chinese class. I knew very little chess myself, not much more than moving the pieces. Ryan showed a particular interest in the game, and always asked for my cell phone so that he could play chess on it. NM Farzad Abdi was the chess teacher there, and he talked me into supporting the kids to study chess more seriously, and took them to BCC for their first tournament. Later they joined an online Chinese chess school,, and started to play online games more often. In 2015, they met their current coach Jorge Sammour-Hasbun, and have been going to his club, Chess Master Connections, in Providence regularly since then.

NS: You decided to attend the USCF National Elementary Championships in 2016. Not that many parents from Massachusetts travel to these events. What compelled you to?

YW: Yeah, it’s true that chess kids from MA are not very well represented in national scholastic events, even though the state has top scholastic players like Carissa Yip. There were more than 2000 kids playing in the 2016 National Elementary Championships, and only five came from MA, compared to 600+ from New York state. I think kids from MA are actually very strong in terms of ratings, but they might not have the information or motivation to go to outof-state or national events. Before going to the tournament, I didn’t personally know anyone in Massachusetts who had done so. Ryan’s first coach Farzad Abdi had mentioned his expectation for Ryan to compete nationally and internationally in the future when we just started. Although that was quite a long time ago, those early ideas did influence my decision, and I was very intrigued to find out what a national scholastic chess tournament look like. I got the tournament information from a social media chess group, and checked the crosstables of previous events, and realized that Ryan could be in the top 10 seeds. I thought he could have a chance, and that that would be a good experience for both kids at an early age. Their performance in state scholastic tournaments was also an important factor for my decision: both Tianna and Ryan qualified for and played in the Spiegel Cup Finals in the 8 and Under section, and Ryan won the the 1st Grade section at the [Gus Gosselin Grade Championships] earlier in the year. 

NS: How did you react to Ryan winning his section at the event? Did you think about the possibility going into the event?

YW: I did think it was possible for Ryan to win before we set out. That was a dream far away, but I talked with Ryan about trying to win the tournament. Going into the final round, Ryan had gradually moved from table 6 to table 1, and was the only player with 6 points out of 6 rounds. And I realized we were very close to that dream. I was extremely nervous siting in the waiting room. Thankfully, the final game was relatively short, and I was extremely happy when I saw Ryan come out of the playing room with a smile on his face. We got a bit carried away and showed our excitement in the waiting room. 

NS: What did you feel were the keys to Ryan’s success at that event?

YW: Personally, I think the MACA scholastic tournaments prepared Ryan and Tianna well. A year ago, their main goals were to qualify for Spiegel Cup Finals. They’ve played in six qualifiers, and every one of them was a very memorable experience for us. Going through the process of competing, failing, and coming back to fight again is the key to build a strong chess character. They are used to going into a tournament with a mission to win, and of course they’ve learned to handle the failure and disappointment along the way.

NS: Did that event change your approach to chess, and how it fit in to your, Ryan, and Tianna’s life?

YW: I can’t deny that the championship win affected my expectations for them at the time. It also reassured us that if we work hard, dreams may not be that far. But now, half a year later, I realized that chess is rather a long-term commitment, like running a Marathon. You can’t let an early lead affect your pace or cause you to lose sight of long-term goals.

NS: Could you talk about your travel to the World Cadets? How was the event?

YW: World Cadets was quite a journey for the whole family. We took two flight segments with a long layover, followed by a seven-hour freezing bus ride, and finally arrived at the hotel in Batumi, Georgia after 36 hours of travel. The chess competition was extremely tough. A passive move would get punished immediately, and blunders were often downright fatal. They had a rough start, and then came back into the competition very strongly before finally facing the reality of the competition level closer to the top boards. Both kids ended up scoring about 50%. That said, I cannot complain much about their performance, as they did fight hard. They probably could have done slightly better if we had more experience and were able to better adjust. But there were many things that could have gone worse. 

There was as much for parents to learn as for the kids from that experience. I certainly understand the top-level competition more, and always reflect how I should guide and support kids to continue engaging in this highly competitive mental sport. Ryan and Tianna were fortunate enough to be in the same training group with Rochelle Wu, who won the U10 girl’s world champion, and they were coached by GM Miroslav Miljkovic at the event. The interactions with teammates, coaches, and parents were extremely helpful. For example, I thought I was quite committed in supporting kids. But after finding out Rochelle’s father, who lives in Alabama, drives every weekend on average five hours one way to bring Rochelle to a tournament, I feel the chess parents in MA are actually very lucky.

NS: Do Ryan and Tianna have a coach (or coaches)? Do they study together?

YW: They’ve been going to classes and tournaments (except all-girls tournaments) together from day one. The two kids have drastically different playing styles, and I think they learn from each other a lot. We plan to continue this way of training. I do want to take the opportunity to thank the coaches that worked with Ryan and Tianna-- Coaches Adbi, Jia, Miljkovic, and Sammour-Hasbun. They are all great coaches, and they’ve been mentors for me as well.

NS: Would you say that Ryan and Tianna have a rivalry? Do they play each other at home often?

YW: Maybe to some extent. Usually they do not play chess with each other. But recently they started to play games against each other at home. They had a six-game match this summer, and they might have another match this winter break. They are better in handling games between each other now.

NS: What’s next for your family, chess-wise? What are the plans and goals for 2017 and beyond?

MB: They’ve played a lot of tournaments lately, so we might reduce the number of tournaments we go to in the near future so that they have time to do more training. In terms of tournaments, success in the Spiegel Cup is still the immediate goal. The US Amateur Team East, Supernationals, and All-Girls National Championships are on our radar in early 2017. They also hope to qualify for World Cadets again. 

Ryan Wang (1474)
Sebastian Prestia (1346)
National Elementary Championships (7)
King’s Indian Defence [E90]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Nf3 O-O 5. e4 d6 6. Bg5 Na6 7. a3 c5 8. d5 e6 9. Be2 exd5 10. cxd5 Nc7 11. O-O Qe8 12. Bd3 Bg4 13. h3 Bxf3 14. Qxf3 Nd7 15. Rac1 Ne5 16. Qe3 Qd7 17. Bf4 f6 18. Bxe5 fxe5 19. Be2 a5 20. a4 Rab8 21. Nb5 Rfc8 22. Nxc7 Rxc7 23. b3 Qf7 24. Bg4 Qf8 25. Be6+ Kh8 26. Qd3 Bh6 27. Rc2 Bf4 28. Qb5 Qf6 29. Qb6 Re7 
30. Qxd6 Rbe8 31. Rxc5 Rf8 32. Rc7 Rxc7 33. Qxc7 Be3 34. Kh1 Qh4 35. Qxe5+ Qf6 36. Qxf6+ Rxf6 37. Kg1 Bb6 38. g4 Bc7 39. g5 Rf4 40. Rc1 Rxe4 41. Rxc7 Rf4 42. Rc8+ Rf8 43. Rxf8+ Kg7 44. Rg8# 
Ryan Wang
Stepan Tetyuev
World Cadets Championship (4)
Grunfeld [D87]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8. Ne2 O-O 9. O-O Nc6 10. Be3 Qc7 11. Rc1 Rd8 12. Qa4 Qa5 13. Qb3 Rf8 14. e5 cxd4 15. cxd4 e6 16. Ng3 Rd8 17. Rfd1 Bf8 18. Ne4 Be7 19. Bb5 Rd7 20. Rxc6 Rd5 21. Rxc8+ Rxc8 22. Bc4 Rdd8 23. Bxe6

Photos Courtesy Yi Wang