La Cañada Flintridge chess player, 16, wants to crush all competitors, is among the best in the world – Pasadena Star News

By Brandon Black

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In the intellectually grueling competitive game of chess, 16-year-old Annie Wang, the top American player in her age group, has a style of play that is both aggressive and tactical.

She sets the tone for a match methodically, but with brute force. How aggressive is she against an opponent?

“Tactical chess is more like directly trying to crush them, but positional chess is more like slowly squeezing them until they die,” she said, describing two approaches to the game. make sure I can kill them.”

Wang, a junior from La Cañada High School, put that mentality to the test last month when she was among the nation’s 12 most elite female chess players competing at the U.S. Women’s Championships at the Saint Louis Chess Club in the Missouri.

The title wasn’t the only thing up for grabs during the two-week tournament; so did the coveted leaderboard points and $25,000 in prize money for first place.

Annie Wang of La Canada Flintridge is among the top 25 chess players in the world for girls. (Photo courtesy of Annie Wang)

At the 2018 U.S. Women’s Championships, Wang finished second after leading a stellar group of competitors for much of the tournament until she made a minor, but critical mistake during the playoffs, breaking the tie of first place between her and veteran player Nazi Paikidze of Baltimore. .

“I was upset and disappointed,” Wang said of last year’s result. “It was not too happy a memory for me.” Although she finished fourth this time around, she also walked away with $10,000 in prize money.

Wang has many happy memories to build on and many more to create as one of the most renowned chess players in the country.

Her stellar track record predicts a bright future: Wang is ranked in the Top 5 of all American players and is in the Top 25 of international players.

She’s been playing chess for almost as long as she’s been a student, and it all started at Arcadia County Park when she was 5 years old.

“There was a guy who was giving simuls (playing multiple chess games against multiple opponents at once) and my dad took me to see that. I thought it was very interesting because the pieces are a kind of like toys,” Wang said.

She immediately got hooked and started taking lessons with that same simulation player, Kongliang (Ben) Deng, an international chess master, who inspired her.

Wang is naturally modest but her air of confidence is evident. She is currently a female international mistress (second highest rating in the sport behind grandmaster) and whose competitive chess outing was nothing short of remarkable.

In 2014, then 11 years old and in sixth grade, Wang became the youngest girl in United States history to win the title of National Chess Master after winning the North American Chess Championships of the youth of the under 18 section.

The win and milestone catapulted her to the cover of Chess Life magazine, a quasi-Sports Illustrated for those who play and follow competitive chess.

Chess tournament halls are littered with the names of those sought for greatness who are never heard from again, Dan Lucas, senior director of strategic communications for US Chess, said in an email. So there is always a reluctance to place a teenager on the cover. Still, Wang’s accomplishments since have confirmed the decision.

“She is now our highest rated 16-year-old daughter,” Lucas said. “With her versatile style in which she seems equally at home in a positional game as she is in a tactical game, I have no doubt that she can achieve any chess goal she sets for herself. “

Competing on the world stage, Wang’s passport has been stamped in many countries, from Argentina, Turkey, Greece, Russia and the United Arab Emirates to Uraguay, where she won the gold medal. gold at the 2017 U16 Junior Women’s World Championship.

Although she doesn’t have as much free time during a tournament to explore surrounding towns – let alone fatigue from the grueling schedule of daily matches – Wang said she loves to travel.

“It’s always nice to go somewhere else to see how it is. Usually the places where they hold the tournaments are very nice too, so it’s nice to go out and visit the local towns,” she said.

His matches can be strenuous, taking only four hours and up to six hours.

“Six hours seems very long, but it’s really easy to consume a lot of time when you’re thinking,” Wang said. “If you don’t know what to do, you can take a long time, like 30-40 minutes, on a position.”

As she gets older, her game also evolves, said grandmaster Melik Khachiyan, Wang’s coach.

“She’s been considered a chess prodigy since she was 7 years old or even younger,” he said. “She has all the tools to be a good chess player. All she needs right now is to gain experience playing solid tournaments.

Since Wang started participating in chess tournaments, she said the prize money she won went directly into her savings account. “Everything goes towards college.”

She hopes to be accepted by one of the Ivy League universities. She is also considering schools closer to home, including UC Berkeley and UCLA.

Outside of tournaments, Wang was able to use his fundamental knowledge of the game in his community, teaching children at Foothill Chinese School in La Cañada Flintridge on Wednesdays and once a month at La Crescenta Library. They impress him.

Wang is quick to dismiss the idea that she is someone the kids aspire to be or even idolize. “Most of the time they just want me to ride on their backs.”

The constant throughout his burgeoning career has been an encouraging mindset: “I just try to stay focused, do my best and just focus on the game,” he said. And when it comes to her schoolwork, Wang uses the same mindset.

“I try not to get too stressed out,” she said of juggling her chess career with a rigorous academic course load of five AP courses, including history, chemistry and physics. Priorities: Homework first, then chess, said Wang, who practices all week and works with two coaches who coach him on different aspects of his game.

Her busy schedule keeps her up until almost midnight during the school week. Like most teenagers his age, sleeping becomes sacrosanct on weekends.

“She is efficient. When she wants to do something, she is usually able to do it,” said father Ou Wang.

While Annie Wang has many more tournaments on the horizon, in the immediate future she is focused on improving her rating and improving as a player.

Like any professional, Annie Wang has the right approach and mentality to achieve this.

“Keep improving, always strive to do better than before,” Annie Wang said. “Don’t settle too much for where you are now because you can always be better than you are now.”

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