Interview with a former World Champion Zhu Chen
Saturday, 17 September 2011
Zhu Chen: “We were really lucky for each other…”
Zhu Chen was born March 13, 1976 in Wenzhou, Zhejiang. In 2001, she became China 's second women's world chess champion after Xie Jun, and China 's 13th Grandmaster. In 1988 Zhu became the first Chinese player to win an international chess competition when she won the World Youth Championship among girls U-12 in Romania. She repeated her success and became the World Champion in her age groups in 1994 and 1996 as well. In 2002 at the age of 25 she defeated Russian player Alexandra Kosteniuk in the Women's World Chess Championship and became the eleventh World Champion among women. In 1998,2000,2002 she played for Chinese Olympiad team and bacame three times team world champion. Zhu gave up the chance to defend her world title in Georgia in May 2004 due to a jammed schedule and her pregnancy. In 2000 Zhu married to Qatari Grandmaster Mohamad Al-Modiahki, and in 2006 she transferred to Qatar chess federation.
Anastasiya Karlovich: You have so much attention from media in China. Is it a common situation?
Zhu Chen: It’s a very normal situation here. Sometimes I feel under pressure when I play in China. I was playing not so well in Doha and in China last year. So I have a hope that my results will be better in Russia.
Anastasiya Karlovich: Which connection do you have with China? How do you live in between two different cultures?
Zhu Chen: It’s a different life but it’s not so difficult for me now because I have been living in Doha for last 8 years and I know the type of life in Qatar and China. Normally I’m much free in Doha – I like to spend time on a beach with kids. In China I always get more attention from friends, journalists.
Anastasiya Karlovich: Do you come often to China?
Zhu Chen: I used to play in Chinese league but I stopped playing it this year because it has a difficult schedule. I had to fly so many times to China in order to play 2-3 games. We also have 5 hours time difference and it’s not so easy.
Anastasiya Karlovich: How is the tournament going for you so far?
Zhu Chen: I think until now I’m doing quite well comparing to all other Grand Prix tournaments I’ve played. I’m satisfied with the quality of my chess games here – it is not so bad but I’m still waiting for the results (laughing).
Anastasiya Karlovich: It seemed like you were ill at the beginning of the tournament…
Zhu Chen: Yes I was very ill but I feel better now. It’s always a bad reason to explain your results.
Anastasiya Karlovich: It’s well-known you were training with famous Russian player Alexander Morozevich. In his interview for chessvibes he told that it was not only him trying to help you but he also learnt interesting things from you. What can you say about that cooperation?
Zhu Chen: He tried very hard to help me. I was really happy to have such a coach. It seems to me he is so talented and I think he was really born to play chess. Maybe it was the waste of time for him in Doha – he has such a high level! At the same moment it was more relaxing time for him. It` s a pity he didn’t qualify in Hanty-Mansiysk. I really hope he’ll get the title of the World Champion one day. He has a big talent and he is working hard. I was very proud of his return to chess – it was very successful. In his interview probably he meant that I clarified to him the Chinese way of thinking but it’s difficult to explain. I also feel that my chess quality becomes better. In the other hand maybe we are good to work together, we are good friends as well and sure I would like to continue such cooperation in the future.
Anastasiya Karlovich: Which ambitions and goals do you have?
Zhu Chen: My ambitions are to have a good life! I have two kids now and I think my chess career is not so much important. I want to help my kids to grow up healthy. I want to give them good education, spend time with them – all those things are very important.
Anastasiya Karlovich: To be without family during chess events is a part of the life of professional chess players. Can you concentrate on chess only or it’s necessary for you to know what’s going on at home?
Zhu Chen: During the tournament I always try to concentrate on chess but I’m an emotional type of person so I always feel sorry for my kids when I leave them for so long. When I go back home I try to spend as much time as it’s possible with them and try to compensate my absence.
Anastasiya Karlovich: You said you are emotional person. In which other words can you describe your personality?
Zhu Chen: Well I’m working hard time to time depending on the mood (laughing). When I want to do something sooner or later I’ll achieve it. If I have a goal I always have it in my mind and I go for it. I’m not really a self confident person I do not really trust in myself in general. I don’t think I play really good chess, I think I only play some good games.
Anastasiya Karlovich: It’s not common words from somebody who achieved the best level in chess, who was World Champion.
Zhu Chen: Maybe, but I mean my games are far from really good level.
Anastasiya Karlovich: Is it difficult to stay on the same level with a new generation? Can you compare your preparation and their preparation nowadays?
Zhu Chen: Any time I’m interviewed there is at least one question connected to Hou Yifan (laughing). I think even Zhao Xue is already one generation older than Hou Yifan. A current World Champion is young and very-very talented chess player that’s why she got the best conditions. Many Chinese women players don’t have the permanent coach. They train with different people and it’s not very stable situation. Hou Yifan got the attention since she was very young and in the national team they allowed her mother to stay with her and accompany her in all tournaments. I think all the other chess players never had such conditions. She had much more confidence from the beginning and more tournaments as well. All those factors helped her but of course at the same moment she worked very hard since she was very young. When I was growing up we also had a coach and almost same conditions but my parents were not with me. You can imagine me as a 10 years old kid growing up without parents in a different city. Surely I had some friends but of course it would be better if we were together.
Anastasiya Karlovich: You and your husband are both grandmasters; do you want your kids to play chess?
Zhu Chen: My husband is a sport fan in general. Actually when the first child was born he said he wanted our kid to do some sport and it didn’t matter for him which kind of sport. Our younger daughter is not interested in any kind of sports yet. Our older daughter Dana likes to swim but we don’t allow her to do it professionally. She also likes to play chess a little bit but I don’t know about the future. Maybe if I stay more time at home they’ll learn chess more.
Anastasiya Karlovich: How do you see yourself in 10 years?
Zhu Chen: I don’t think I’ll play in so many serious tournaments any more, well, maybe few of them. I don’t want to fight for too long because I want to spend more time with my family. I like to play chess but I like to have normal life as well. I fell in love with my husband when we were about 20 years old. When we were 24-25 we got married. When I was 28 I gave a birth to my first child, so I think in my life I was doing everything step by step. The general picture looks nice. I won all my titles when I was spending my time with my husband. I felt relaxed and happy together with him. After he knew me he reached his GM title and became Arabic Champion. We were really lucky for each other I believe. We take care of our life and we do some investments. My husband used to play stock and he is good in that. I played Chinese stock market as well but the outcome was more or less equal and that was a really lucky result (laughing).
Pictures by Karlovich Anastasiya