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Published On . Sept. 6, 2023 . By Srikanth Bangalore

Unconventional Chess: The Mind of IM Steve Wang

Unconventional Chess: The Mind of IM Steve Wang

Coach Q: Welcome to the 1000GM Player Profiles series, IM Steve Wang! Congratulations on achieving the International Master title. How does it feel to reach this milestone?

Steve Wang: Thank you, Coach Q! It feels absolutely amazing to have reached the International Master title. It's a culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and sacrifices. I'm extremely proud and grateful for this achievement.

Coach Q: Let's get started with a question from the organizer, 1000GM. IM Steve Wang, how much money have you spent overall playing Norm events? 

Steve Wang: Coach Q, I must admit that I have spent a considerable amount of money on Norm events. I estimate it to be in the high four digits, possibly even crossing into five digits. This includes expenses such as travel, accommodation, and tournament entry fees.

Coach Q: That's quite a significant investment, Steve. Can you provide some insight into why you have spent so much on Norm events? 

Steve Wang: Well, Coach Q, at some point, I became so focused on improving as a player that I didn't pay much attention to the financial aspect. I was fully invested in my chess development and realized the opportunities that could arise from achieving Norms. I saw it as an investment in my future and believed that eventually, it would start to pay off.

Coach Q: It's understandable, Steve. Sometimes the passion for the game can overshadow financial considerations. You mentioned traveling to Budapest multiple times. Was that necessary for your chess development? 

Steve Wang: Yes, Coach Q, to some extent. By traveling to different regions and playing in various tournaments, I gained valuable experience and insights into how players from different backgrounds approach the game. It allowed me to broaden my understanding and adapt my playing style accordingly. Additionally, traveling to international events helped me avoid the pitfalls of being too familiar with local playing conditions.

Coach Q: That's a great point, Steve. Exposing yourself to different playing environments and opponents can enhance your overall chess skills. Now, let's talk about the availability of Norm tournaments. You mentioned disparities in access to tournaments in the United States. Could you elaborate on that? 

Steve Wang: Certainly, Coach Q. Before I turned 18, there weren't as many FIDE tournaments available in the United States. Norm events had a sort of mythical vibe, as they were rare and not easily accessible for many players. I've heard stories of talented individuals who didn't have the opportunity to play enough FIDE-rated events and were thus unable to improve their ratings accordingly. It was a challenge for them to bridge the gap between their USCF ratings and FIDE ratings.

Coach Q: That's an interesting perspective, Steve. It highlights the importance of having sufficient access to FIDE tournaments for players to progress in the international chess arena. With that in mind, do you believe that there is systemic discrimination in chess towards financially privileged players when it comes to accessing IM and GM norms? 

Steve Wang: Coach Q, I do think there is a degree of systemic discrimination, primarily due to the high costs associated with organizing Norm events. Running Norm invitational tournaments can be expensive, and this financial burden can limit the number of opportunities available to players from less privileged backgrounds. I've even read about instances where players from certain countries received more support, both financially and institutionally, giving them an advantage over others.

Coach Q: Your perspective sheds light on the challenges faced by players from diverse backgrounds. It's important to address these issues and strive for a more inclusive and accessible chess community. Now, let's shift gears and discuss the playing conditions during tournaments. How important are the conditions, such as lodging and playing environment, to you? 

Steve Wang: Coach Q, overall, I don't let external factors heavily affect my performance.

Coach Q: Alright, Steve, I'd like to give a shoutout to your coach. Can you tell us more about them? 

Steve Wang: Absolutely, Coach Q. I met my coach, Gregorian, at a certain point in my chess journey. One of the things she taught me, and I still do to this day, is playing blitz games to memorize certain openings or test out unclear positions that are not well-documented in books.

Coach Q: That's interesting, Steve. How does playing blitz games to memorize openings and test positions benefit your play? 

Steve Wang: It gives me an advantage, Coach Q. By playing blitz games, I don't have to rely heavily on preparation. I almost never prepare for tournaments. I mainly focus on banning certain openings in my opponent's repertoire. I believe in punishing them for not having proper knowledge and capitalizing on their weaknesses. Preparation, in my opinion, is often done wrong at our level, leading to predictable play.

Coach Q: Wow, that's quite surprising, Steve. You rarely prepare for tournaments and instead focus on exploiting your opponents' lack of preparation. I'm intrigued by your approach. Is there any particular reason behind this style of play? 

Steve Wang: Coach Q, my style has evolved over time. I realized that relying too heavily on computer-heavy openings and extensive preparation is not my strength. Instead, I prefer to be adaptable and play unconventional lines that aren't extensively covered in books. This approach keeps my opponents guessing and allows me to take them out of their comfort zones.

Coach Q: So, your strength lies in being an all-around player who can handle various positions. Would you say your style resembles that of Karpov or other players known for their prophylactic play? 

Steve Wang: In the past, I have been described as having a Karpov-like style. However, recently, I've been exploring certain lines in the E4 openings that involve less piece development. It fits my overall approach of being unpredictable and not allowing opponents to prepare against me.

Coach Q: That's fascinating, Steve. Your ability to suppress your opponents' preparation and your emphasis on adaptability make you a unique player. Now, let's move on to some rapid-fire questions for fun. Who is your favorite superhero? 

Steve Wang: As someone who grew up in East Asia, my favorite superhero would have to be Ultraman. Although I must say, I prefer the older Ultraman series, as I feel the newer ones don't live up to the same standards.

Coach Q: That's a great choice, Steve. Now, if a movie were made about your life in the future, which actor would you choose to play? Steve Wang: Well, I'm a fan of an actor named Andy Lau. I've enjoyed his performances in the few works I've seen. So, if a movie about my life were made, I'd choose him to play the role.

Coach Q: That's an interesting choice, Steve. Finally, what is your favorite chess movie? 

Steve Wang: Honestly, I haven't watched many chess movies, but if I had to pick one, it would be "Searching for Bobby Fischer." I found it to be a captivating and inspiring film.

Coach Q: Thank you, Steve. Your insights and answers have been incredibly interesting. I appreciate you sharing your unique perspective on chess and wish you continued success in your future endeavors.

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