Interview with nine time Chinese Champion Liu Shilan.
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Liu Shilan (born January 24, 1962) is a Chinese female chess player who holds the WGM title, which she received in 1982. She was the first Chinese woman who received this title from FIDE. She was nine-time China National Women's Champion. In 1982, Liu came third at the World Chess Championship Interzonal Tournament in Tbilisi with a final score of 9/14. In 1983, she qualified for the Candidates Tournament in Velden, but lost in the quarterfinals to Nana Ioseliani. Liu competed for China women's national chess team for five times at the Chess Olympiads (1980–1988) with an overall record of 68 total games played (+25, =27, -16). She had the second best Rating Performance and won a bronze medal at the first board at the 27th Chess Olympiad in Dubai, 1986. She reached her highest FIDE rating of 2260 in July 1990.
Anastasiya Karlovich: You were 9 times Chinese champion and participated in candidate matches. Today we have the second stage of Grand Prix here in Shenzhen. Can you compare chess in China and in the World 30 years ago and nowadays?
Liu Shilan: It’s obvious that since 30 years women chess players become stronger and stronger. Chess got much more attention and support here in China. The situation changed since Xu Jun won the World Championship title. It’s much easier for Chinese women players to play in the World Championships nowadays. I’m the one of the first women who represented China at international arena. Of course our general level was lower comparing to the other countries and it was more difficult to play with such knowledge. We didn’t have self confidence at that time. There was not much support from the government because it was obvious for everybody we are not so strong. Today Chinese chess changed its face – government provides huge support to Chess Federation and players. Today we also have strong men players and it’s very important that girls also can play with them and improve their level. When I was playing chess we participated mostly in the Women tournaments and there were no such strong opponents. Although I had a right to participate in men’s national championship and even won one in 1980.
Anastasiya Karlovich: Did government respect the title of Chinese champion in 80s?
Liu Shilan: First time I won Chinese championship in 1979 when I was 19 years old and became a star immediately. I started to play successfully in some international tournaments as well. When I was 20 years old I became the deputy of the National People's Congress and held this position till 1989.
Anastasiya Karlovich: Was it difficult to receive permissions to play in international events at that time?
Liu Shilan: There were some little problems but I had a chance to play abroad because I was showing quite good results. I participated in a few Olympiads and even won the bronze medal playing at the first board at 27th Chess Olympiad in Dubai in 1986. Today it’s not a problem at all - chess players can go everywhere.
Anastasiya Karlovich: After you stopped playing chess actively you switched to the chess in schools project. How did you start it and which results did you achieve?
Liu Shilan: In 1992 I moved to Shenzhen and there were only three kids who were interested in playing chess. People didn’t know anything about chess so I was personally coming to every director of the school, every director of kinder garden asking to include chess lesson into the school program, trying to convince them at least to try. I was a deputy of the parliament in Shenzhen at that moment, so of course this status and my chess successes helped me to speak with people and encourage them. They trusted me and nowadays we have 163 schools which opened chess lessons.
All schools in China are state property, so the school program was adopted by the Chinese National People's Congress. There is obligatory program and extra program, so from the beginning we got the special directive from the Ministry of Education and Sport which was proving that chess can be chosen as a part of the extra programme. I was showing this paper to the directors of schools in Shenzhen because nobody knew about this possibility. At the first days we visited two schools with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The second middle school is a best one in Shenzhen and one should make very good marks to enter it. The director has a big respect of chess, he believes that chess helps in general education and let the best chess players to enter this school without exams. He is very glad to see the results - all those children usually show the best grades on their exams when they enter the universities, so he has been continuing this practice for 15 years. We also started to make lessons for all teachers and parents, so they could help their children during other lessons and at their homes. We have many friends and supporters here. Many of them are not even paid; they just try to help us. It would be impossible to achieve any good result without help of all enthusiasts such as our representative of Shenzhen in Samara region (Russia) who helps to organize events between chess schools from Shenzhen and Samara. We also have very big support from Chinese Chess Federation. I’m a very lucky person because I have so many friends. A current World Champion Hou Yifan, former World Champions - all of them were in Shenzhen and gave simuls for children.
15 years ago I also got very important support from the supermarket Shi Bao – Company from Hong Kong. We organizedchess events and that supermarket gave special prizes: refrigerators, TV-sets, microwaves, computers - everybody got a prize. Believe me, to win TV-set, refrigerator 15 years ago meant the same thing as to win a flat today! Many parents started to bring their children to chess lessons - that’s how chess became fashionable in Shenzhen 15 years ago.
Anastasiya Karlovich: Did your daughter also take part in such events?
Liu Shilan: Yes, my daughter managed to win few TV-sets and refrigerators, she was a champion of Shenzhen and won so many TV-sets that we didn’t know where to put them (laughing)!
Nowadays I’m trying to represent chess as an intellectual sport. I created a special lesson for the deputies of Shenzhen parliament, so all of them can learn chess and understand why chess is so good for children. They can pay more attention to different chess activities in the future.
Anastasiya Karlovich: Few days ago you played the improvised chess match against Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and showed real fighting spirit during the games even though you lost both of them. What are your impressions? Do you continue playing chess nowadays?
Liu Shilan: Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is a very nice man and a strong chess player. We really played, the fight was real! I was participating in the preparation of Shenzhen Universiada and in the organisation of Grand Prix and for one year I didn’t touch chess at all. I missed a lot of things in the games because there should be at least some preparation. I had opportunities to win but it’s not a shame to lose against a strong opponent.
Anastasiya Karlovich: I saw the game and I’ve got an impression you were fighting for a win...
Liu Shilan: I think good chess players, professional chess players should always have the will to win. If they do so they show self-respect and respect for chess.
Anastasiya Karlovich: Are you ready for the revenge match with FIDE President?
Liu Shilan: Yes, sure, after the finish of Grand Prix I have more time to prepare and when I come to Russia I’ll try to win! (Laughing) I believe I have some chances to win. Chinese chess school gives fundamental knowledge and everybody can train for some period and would be able to play good chess again.
Anastasiya Karlovich: Please share your impressions about the organization of Grand Prix in Shenzhen.
Liu Shilan: It`s a first time when the Press Group organises such an international event in China. For one month before the start of the tournament they were publishing some information about Women’s Grand Prix and continue doing it every day. We have never had such media support before. It means that all people from the government of China would know about Women Grand Prix and pay their attention. During first 3 days more than 140 journalists visited the event and published their reports all around China.
Anastasiya Karlovich: What would you like to wish to all the participants of Grand Prix?
Liu Shilan: I wish for all of them to use all their abilities during the tournament and show the best result they can.