Monday, January 2, 2017

Interview with IM Yeoh Li Tian

Yeoh Li Tian was already identified as a chess talent at a young age. At the age of 10 he was sent to a six week training stint in Beijing, China, sponsored by Dato' Tan Chin Nam. In the next four years, he came tantalizingly close to IM norms in several tournaments.

In 2015 he finally made his first norm and last December, Yeoh Li Tian made back-to-back International Master norms at two tournaments in Australia, fulfilling the norm requirements of 27 games.

Recently, I did an interview with him to find his thoughts, his preparations and how he sees his future  chess career.

JL: You recently finished your SPM examinations and straight after flew to Australia to play two tournaments. What expectations if any did you have when you were invited to these two tournaments?

LT: Frankly speaking I didn’t expect much before these tournaments. As it was right after SPM examination, I didn’t have time to prepare for my opponents beforehand as if they were round robin tournaments. Hence I was just aiming for IM norms before these tournaments. I was actually quite confident on the chances as my performance has always been stable and seldom become rusty even if I have not played in any tournament for a long time. It turned out to be correct as I got my IM norms with one round to spare in both tournaments.

JL:  How did you prepare for these tournaments? 

LT: As mentioned above, I didn’t prepare for any of the 2 tournaments due to my SPM examination. However, in a round robin tournament, I will normally first check the age and rating of my opponents to estimate their strength. I will then check the required points to achieve IM (maybe GM in future) norm and set a target score (win or draw) for each game, based on my colour if possible. After completing all these only I will start to prepare on a particular opponent by his opening and try to find out which type of position he/she normally loses in.

JL: Which game did you like the most from these two tournaments?

LT: I like some of my smooth wins against lower rated opponents, but I think the most interesting game is my game against Patrick Gong in the Lidums Young Master. (Game below)

JL: Any stories you want to tell us?

LT: There was really not much interesting moment in Australia. It was all about mind duel during the game and resting my mind after the game. I was hosted by a local family in Adelaide and they were really friendly. We actually saw a wild koala on a hill road while getting back home. 

JL: How old were you when you learnt the game?

LT: Around 2-3 years old. I must be literally “playing” with the chess pieces at that time.

JL: How much time do you spend on chess?

LT:It really depends on my other activities. At the very least, I will spend some time daily to follow the current tournaments to keep my chess-mind awake. I will put it as 10 hours per week.

JL: Young talented chess players often make their IM titles even before the age of 14. Why did it take you until 17 years old?

LT: The first factor is of course being an amateur player. Even though I focused in chess as much as in academic, it is still a big disadvantage to not work on chess full time compared to those young professional players. Besides, there are also not many suitable sparring partners in Malaysia as chess is not a mainstream sport. There are also few problems with myself such as easily distracted when I face difficulties during training.

JL: How much the computer plays in your chess preparations? Do you bring it to you every tournament?

LT: Computer definitely plays a crucial role in my chess preparation. Basically all my preparations require computer, including checking opponent’s basic information, database and opening. Computer is a necessity for me in all important and big chess tournaments. I only leave it at home in event like MSSM [Note: MSSM is an annual schools chess competition in Malaysia] or rapid events.

JL:  Who is the player you admire most?

LT: I really admire Magnus Carlsen. Sometimes I simply couldn’t understand how he wins such drawish position against strong players. I really hope I can learn that skill.

JL: What is your career that you think you most likely be in. Is it chess?

LT: To be honest I don’t plan to have a profession related to chess. I may contribute to chess in future, but definitely not full time. I am interested in actuarial science, computer science and engineering.

JL: What subjects are you good in or like at school?

LT: I am really good in mathematics compared to my peer. I like math, physics and chemistry in school. I like part of biology but I have never obtained good results in biology.

JL: What advice will you give to others who wish to pursue their ambition to be a good player?

LT: Study midgame and endgame. I can see many players and coaches focusing too much in the opening. Trying to win fast by trapping your opponent in a sharp opening can never bring a player to high level.

JL: Are you going to be world champion :)

LT: As far as I am concerned, no. It is pretty impossible to reach the elite without doing chess full time.

JL: Thank you for your very informative answers. I believe other young chess players as well as chess parents will find it very useful