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Andrew Tang Interview

To preface: I have tried to send questions that our readers will hopefully be curious about.
I appreciate your time and will work with you to format the interview, as well as seek
your final approval on the final draft. I’m sending quite a few questions. I want to stress
that in no way does that mean you need to answer everything. I am also open to any
suggestions you have and will include anything you think worthwhile mentioning that
isn’t directly asked in one of my questions.

Once I have your answers I will do my best to edit the interview with the help of another
lichess4545 moderator who is an English professor.

Lastly, I have published my previous content of the league newsletter under a creative
commons license (non-commercial - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc- sa/4.0/).
Please let me know if this is okay or you have other thoughts. It basically means that the
contents can be copied on other internet sites but only for non-commercial purposes and
if attributed to the original source.

1. How was your experience being coached by JB and how do you think it has
helped you? Have you had other coaches?
John is a great coach who explains concepts very clearly just like how he does in
his YouTube videos. He definitely improved my understanding of the game, and
refined my opening repertoire which helped me reach International Master level
from being a National Master. I’ve had several coaches besides John but John was
definitely one of the best.

2. What was your biggest improvement in chess and what led to it? What has
influenced your play the most?
Learning how to play positionally was most important for me to go past master
level. My positional understanding was built up by both a lot of coaching and
playing in strong tournaments. My coaches, and my own experiences have shaped
my play the most since I was never a huge fan of studying particular players or
classic games.

3. How many hours a day did you dedicate to chess? And what did your study
regimen look like?
If you include playing a lot of bullet and blitz online, probably around 3 hours a
day. I have taken weekly lessons from my coaches for most of the time that I have
been playing, and always analyzed my games from OTB tournaments. I was never
much of a book person although I have read a few books here and there over the
years.

4. What are your goals for the near future and how do you plan on achieving them?
Of course I want to become a GM soon because I’m only one norm and 8 FIDE
rating points away from satisfying the requirements. The plan is just to play as
many norm tournaments as possible although it’s tough to schedule them during
the school year.
5. How would you describe your style of play and which are your preferred
openings in OTB chess?
I consider myself to be a pretty universal player. When I was a kid, I was a very
tricky and tactical player but once I started going beyond master level my
positional play really improved. As for openings, I’ve been a lifelong d4 player
and in particular I love playing the Saemisch against the King’s Indian. I also like
the QGD a lot for both sides.
6. How has streaming chess for viewers affected your overall experience of the
game?
Mainly it’s allowed me to meet a lot of new people from all over the world and
adds more of a social aspect that isn’t always present at tournaments.

7. Are there any goals or aims with regards to your YouTube channel?
I’ll just upload more videos and try to grow the channel but I don’t have any
really specific goals right now.

8. You’re fairly young, and I’m sure growing up in this generation with numerous
occupancies in day-to-day life is challenging. How do you split your time
between things?
Schoolwork is my #1 priority in my schedule. I always make sure to get my
homework done well and on time before using any extra time for chess and other
activities.

9. How much of taking chess seriously at a very young age was your decision and
how much of it was influenced by your parents?

It was completely my decision, and my parents supported it.

10. How do you deal with doubts regarding the game and your time invested in it? If
doubt ever creeps in, that is.
I’ve never had doubts about chess. The most important thing for me is that chess
is fun, and making progress or not has never really changed that.

11. Is bullet the most enjoyable chess time-control for you?


When playing online, bullet is definitely my favorite time control. When I play
online it’s just to relax and have fun. Serious long games online just aren’t fun for
me for some reason. However, OTB classical games are still my favorite.

12. What is more rewarding, a mistake-free long game (online/OTB) where you
outplayed a good opponent or a win in the bullet arena, which you win at often?
Definitely a long OTB game. Bullet arenas are mostly just for fun, and it doesn’t
matter too much to me If I win an arena or not. But an OTB game is putting hours
of hard work into outplaying your opponent.
13. Were there any interests that competed with chess for your time and focus? Or
any compulsions that drove you away from the game for longer than you would
want?
I’ve played travel soccer for a long time and enjoy it very much, and I also do
math team. However, chess has almost always taken precedence over my
other interests. For example, every summer I have to miss a couple soccer
games because of out of state chess tournaments.
14. How is being an IM perceived amongst your peers and friends?
My friends and peers are impressed by it and know me as the chess kid at school,
but they don’t know too much about chess or what it really takes to become an IM
or GM so they aren’t impressed in the same way most chess players are. They just
think it means I’m smart.
15. Any good or bad stories that you would like to share from a tournament you have
played in?
My most disappointing moment ever was from a game in the 2014 World Open
U2400 section when I was completely destroying my opponent, missing a mate in
5, then missing a way to win a queen for a bishop. Then I settled for a Q vs R
endgame where I had three pawns and he had one pawn, but I let it get to the 7th
rank. It was still winning, but with little time and only having 10 second delay I
let the win slip, ended up sacking my queen for the pawn even though I always
had a perpetual, and ended up losing the R v 3P endgame. It was even worse
because I had 4/5 and it probably ended up costing me thousands of dollars as I
still played a good tournament and finished with 6.5/9.
In contrast, just 2 tournaments later at the 2014 North American Junior, as the 8th
seed I unexpectedly lost to a 2000 with white in the second round. I was
disappointed, but I just stopped thinking about the outcome of the tournament.
Then I went on to win 6 games in a row, beating 2 IMs to finish clear first with
7.5/9, winning the IM title and my first GM norm.

16. Any particular opponent you like/dislike playing against?


I don’t like playing lower rated opponents who play dry openings as white and
just try to hold on to a draw.
17. Do you have a favourite chess book?
I haven’t read many chess books, but I really enjoyed Endgame Strategy by
Mikhail Shereshevsky.
18. Today, we have lots of educational chess resources online. Do you think that
watching these videos is an effective enough substitute for a chess books? If not,
how effective would you say learning from videos is, in your opinion?
When I was kid, there were far fewer chess videos than today, but I also didn’t
read many books. I do think videos can be more interesting for people making it
easier to learn but books have better content, so it depends on the person.

19. How do you prepare yourself on a match-day?


Sleep well, and just follow my normal routine. Like most players I also prepare
against my opponent if I can.
20. What is one advice/tip you would give any chess player?
Don’t worry too much about rating. I see a lot of players that get scared to play in
fear of losing rating. If you’re getting better your rating will follow, just try to be
confident. Everybody has a bad tournament once in a while.
21. What according to you is the most important role of a chess coach?
22. How did attaining the highest ever bullet-rating feel? Was it a milestone for you?
It felt good, but I wouldn’t really consider it a milestone. Bullet is something I
don’t think I take that seriously. If I become the best bullet player in the world,
however, I’d consider that a milestone. Otherwise I would be happier to become a
GM.
23. How does it feel to play against guys like Magnus and Hikaru? Do you find
yourself being star-struck or do you smell blood?
The first few times I played them I think I was definitely a bit nervous. Now that
I’ve played Hikaru hundreds of times in bullet, I don’t have any nerves against
him. Even though he always crushes me in matches I certainly look to win as
many games as possible.

24. Have you ever plateaued? If yes, how did you deal with it? If not, do you fear
getting to a point where your work is not leading to a tangible increase in
performance or rating?
I have had a few times where my ratings didn’t go for almost a year, but it never
really bothered me too much. Even if I wasn’t gaining rating I still enjoyed
playing tournaments, and eventually I would hit another rating growth spurt. I’m
also not really worried about peaking. If it happens, it happens. I’ll still enjoy
playing in tournaments.

25. What’s your greatest chess-related fear?


I don’t really feel like I have any chess fears. I get nervous sometimes before
games, but once a game starts I just try to win. Maybe it would be losing an
important game because I didn’t trust my instincts.
26. What do you think is the least you need to achieve for you to be satisfied with
yourself?
GM.