Zhansaya Abdumalik: Parents sold our apartment to invest in me

Zhansaya Abdumalik: Parents sold our apartment to invest in me

At the age of 8, Zhansaya Abdumalik became the world champion. At 13 she played with Anatoly Karpov and won one game. Now the girl is 18 and she is considered to be the strongest chess player among women up to the age of 20. The World Chess Championship among women will take place this year and Zhansaya Abdumalik plans to conquer another goal.

- Zhansaya, hello! How are you doing?

- Excellent, thank you. I'm currently training with the male team. I'm in a good form, I recently played at a tournament in Armenia, so I am ready. All is well.

- The desire to train with men is your personal desire?

- Yes, it was personally mine. It's more interesting here, plus the team composition is stronger. If we take separate sparring matches, then its more useful here for me than in the women's team. In the women's team, I'm number one so here it's more challenging.

- You had different mentors at different times. In particular, you were trained by Nikolai Peregudov, the Chinese grandmaster Zhang Zhong. Who is training you now?

- Now I'm training with Ukrainian grandmaster Zakhar Yafimenko. He was second to Vladimir Kramnik, the world champion, hе also scored more than 2,800 points in the national team of Ukraine. I have been training with him for 1,5-2 years. I like it. His training, his analysis, everything is good in this respect.

- And how many mentors have you had over the past 5 years?

- For the last 5 years, there were 3 of them. You reach a certain level with one mentor and you understand that he can not give anything more, you learned everything from him. You need to grow.

- Is it difficult to part with them emotionally?

- Of course. But if you want to become a professional, you have to get used to it. Trainers are divided into categories. Someone is strong in one direction, someone in another. Therefore, we have to work with different people.

- You could explain how chess scores are considered, and who is in the elite?

- In general, 2700 points is no longer considered to be an elite. But in Kazakhstan, there hasn't been a chess player who would pass for this mark or at least come close to it. it is very hard to get 2700 points. If you got them - then you're a super professional, but you have to give all of yourself all the time. For example, my rating is now 2481 points. For every successful tournament, you can score 25 points, this is at best. So I still need to play a lot of tournaments to get the necessary 300 points. 

- Among the players from Kazakhstan, you are closest to this mark.

- Among women - yes. Among men, we have players with a rating of 2600. The fact is that they are already adults and, in order to exceed the 2700 mark, we need to make a strong effort.

- How many hours a day do you spend at the chessboard?

From 3 to 6. At the training camp, it can be around 8 hours. 4 hours in the morning 4 after lunch, but this is the maximum. you squeeze everything out of yourself. You understand that you learning something you can use later against any opponent and you will get the title of the world champion and it's great. There are guys who say they train for 10-12 hours, but I think half of that information doesn't stay with a chess player. It's impossible to be 100% concentrated for so long.

- What is your main goal in chess?

- To become a world champion among women. This year, for the first time, I will take part in the World Championship knockout system. It will be held in November, now I am preparing for it. This was my goal since childhood. Since I was 7 years old, I have been dreaming to become a world champion and this year it will be the first opportunity.

- As far as I know, your father brought you to chess, he really wanted you to become a chess player and you started to train with your brother.

Yes, originally I started training with my brother. After 3 years of training, he decided to stop playing chess and focused on studying. I stayed in chess. He received a FIDE male master, now he sometimes plays training games with me. He is currently studying in Germany. In general, once he finished with chess, he started track-and-field athletics and literally 1,5 years later he became the champion of Kazakhstan in athletics. Then, apparently, he also became bored and left athletics.

- Was it difficult to start chess at the initial stage? It cost a lot of money, you need to travel somewhere constantly, you need strong mentors, sparring partners.

Yes, at the initial stage it was hard, because you do not show big results at once. Parents sacrificed a lot, we borrowed money, we sold our apartment to invest in me. It is necessary to take risks.

- But do you remember these times, how difficult was it?

I was little, my parents tried to protect me from it so that I did not feel it. My goal was to train, train and win world championships. thats what I did. My father trained me until i was 10 years old. Even now looking at the chessboard he can explain everything in simple language. So that I understand everything. Not everyone has such parents. And it's cool that he trained too in his childhood and now he can help me.

- Do you think chess took your childhood away from you?

- No, absolutely. I competed in tournaments with children, I traveled and saw the world. I had a great childhood.

- The chess lessons didnt interfere with your studies?

No, I studied and trained at the same time.

- That is, you managed to study  and play chess.

- Yes, I studied at home. It is not difficult for chess players. Our memory is good. I did not have time for the entire school program, but mathematics, physics were the main subjects, i had time to learn them.

- Did you have many friends in your childhood?

- To say the truth, no. All my friends are chess players, but there is no one from school. I did not communicate with anyone closely, because I often traveled, we had little in common. Everyone talked  about something else, and I talked about chess, about titles. In principle, I can communicate with people, at school there was only ”hello-bye" communication and this was the maximum.

- Who do you want to become in the future, what about your education?

- It's that time of my life when I can still think about it. I'm in college at the moment.

- Two more years to go. In college, what is your major?

- I am studying to become a programmer. Chess closely resembles computers and it was interesting to me to combine it. And as for whether I'll be a programmer and whether I'll go on to study as a programmer, I have not decided yet. I think more about the World Cup.

- But you will continue your studies?

- Of course. I will be a professional chess player, but I will combine both.

- Several games in your career lasted for more than 7 hours. How difficult is it to stay so concentrated?

- When we are in the game, the time flies. you completely immerse yourself in the game and you count the time. you don't notice those 7 hours after the game you feel tired. you feel pressure in your head, it’s hard to keep concentration all the time, we can not talk to anyone we can not go out. It's difficult, but it's a sport.

- But this is an experience. What do you need to keep this kind of concentration for a long period of time?

- It is necessary to train in any sports. Everyone chooses for themselves some type of sport. I'm swimming in parallel. I do this every day. i have a coach, I try to keep myself in good physical shape. For a chess player, this is very important, someone is playing football, someone is playing tennis. Sometimes I go to the gym. It turns out i play chess for 6 hours, for 2 hours I exercise. It turns out I have a full-time working day.

- Its a discipline. Did you get used to it?

- I started to get used to it when I went to study at the Singapore Chess Academy I was 11 years old. At that time I had a tough schedule. I was preparing for the World Cup in Brazil. My day began at 6 am, my mother still was sleeping I woke up and was making breakfast for myself. I took a book and watched the endgame for 1.5 hours. Then my mother woke up, and we went to practice with the Chinese grand master.

- Can you make money playing chess? You are constantly on the road, you need to somehow pay for everything

Players who show good results - have their sponsors. Now it's easier for us, because some expenses are covered by sponsors and federation. You can earn money in the adult championships, the children championships don't have big prize money.

- Do you have sponsors?

I am now sponsored by the federation and if I am not mistaken by Samruk-Kazyna.

- Did the chess level rise in Kazakhstan?

- A lot. They take us into account on the world chess arena. We have a lot of children who are world champions. Our female team shows very good results. We are all young and very strong. We need to have a good reserve of players. We have a team, but  we need a good reserve, there are not so many girls playing. It is necessary to strengthen out teams, males team is in a similar situation.

- You're very young. Now you are 18. Did you have any problems with your older colleagues?

Yes, I had experienced something like that. I had to go through it. But I quickly joined the team, became friends with eveyrone. We have 3 more girls at the training camp - they are our reserve players and we try to cheer them up. For example, there is a girl Assel Serikbay, she is 15 years old, she will go with us to the Asian Championships and afterwards to the World Chess Olympiad in 3 months, which will be held in Georgia. This will be her first serious team championship.

- Anatoly Karpov is the most difficult opponent with whom you’ve met before?

- I guess it's true. he is the World champion. Over the years, his level did not fall, he even became stronger. With age, you understand chess in a different way. I had such a period when i was 15-16 years old, when my rating did not grow. i practiced, but something was missing. once i became older - I understood. There was a lack of worldly wisdom.

- Is it true that you want to become a deputy?

- True. The idea came in 2008. I won the World Cup in Vietnam, before that I won in Asia. I was invited to Astana by deputy Gulmira Isinbayeva, she showed me the mazhilis, how they work. I liked it.

- Still, is this a desire to work there or the desire to create something new, to influence the destiny of the people of Kazakhstan?

- Of course, this is the main goal. As a child, I was impressed by the atmosphere. She showed me the hall, where they pass laws. My goal is to promote sports, chess. I have already went through a lot and already understand what I went through with my parents.

- How do you spend your free time?

- I go fishing to my grandfather in Shymkent. This is the most wonderful holiday in nature. There I do not think about chess, because I even dream of chess. I can relax only when fishing.

- And what did chess give you, what skills and abilities?

- Tons of them.

- The top skills that you got from chess?

- The visual memory, it is unique. I memorize faces instantly, but I do not remember the names of people and phone numbers. I only know my father's phone number. Although my visual memory is great.

- Zhansaya, thank you very much for the interview!

- You too!