Wang Hao: “I don’t spend so much time on chess”

22-year-old Wang Hao is China’s top-rated player, but defies the stereotype of Chinese players achieving success by enormous hard work. In an interview with Eteri Kublashvili for the Russian Chess Federation website the 2739-rated player revealed that he currently works on chess only 3-4 hours a week, concentrating more on his university studies. Perhaps Levon Aronian was perfectly serious at the 2010 Tal Memorial when he told chess journalist Ilya Odessky that Wang Hao was the most talented player there.

Eteri Kublashvili interviewed Wang Hao for her photo report on the final classical day’s play of the Russia – China match in St. Petersburg. Given Wang Hao’s critical assessment of his own play it’s worth noting that he won one game and drew four for 3/5 and a 2784 performance, surpassed only by Dmitry Jakovenko on 3.5/5.  

How have you found playing here?

I like St Petersburg. It’s a city of culture: the buildings and sculptures strike me as incredible. I’ve already visited Russia quite a lot and Moscow more than once, but I’m here for the first time.

Oddly enough St. Petersburg's sphinxes are genuine, brought from Egypt in 1832 | photo Eteri Kublashvili

And where do you prefer, here or Moscow?

Everything’s very expensive in Moscow, and you feel more stressed there. Besides, Moscow is a very fast city where everyone’s rushing somewhere. Here it’s calmer, and I also like the fact that at the moment there’s daylight here for almost 20 hours a day. At three in the morning I saw the sunrise! But winter here is probably much worse (laughs). In general Petersburg is similar to Stockholm in that regard.

And what can you say about the chess component?

I don’t particularly like my games. Frankly I didn’t do a lot of training before the match and I didn’t do much analysis. The only game I could single out is probably the one against Tomashevsky.

Are you pleased with the team’s play overall?

Not at all. Your men’s team has been playing a lot better than ours. Our women are playing well but, one way or another, women’s chess is something else entirely.

You’ve probably been playing too much?

No, not too much. In any case, without analysis and looking at variations the play's not going to be any good.

What are your plans for the near future?

When I return I’ll play three games in the Chinese National League. In general, I’ve played terribly this year and on one occasion I even blundered in an absolutely drawn position.

What else have you been doing other than chess? What city do you live in?

I live in Beijing. Currently I’m studying advertising at Beijing University.

Interesting. And how do you combine chess with study?

Chess and studying at the same time is a nightmare! (laughs) Frankly I don’t spend so much time on chess: three or four hours a week, which is almost the same as not working at all. Of course that’s not a serious approach.

Do you mainly play abroad?

Yes, mainly abroad, because playing in China is terrible. The majority of Chinese players have a low rating so it’s hard to raise your rating and you can only lose points. That’s bad, as I need to increase my rating to play in supertournaments, so I get invites.

When did you start to study chess? How did it happen?

I was six years old. It’s funny, but back then I was planning to study xiangqi, Chinese chess, but in the school I went to there was a chess teacher who said that if I started to study chess I’d be able to travel overseas. To be honest, though, we didn’t expect what happened (laughs).

Do you work with a computer or do you sometimes look at books?

Mainly with a computer, and I don’t read chess books at all. I don’t consider it useful for me, although reading books probably suits some people.

Wang Hao, thank you for the conversation!

Thank you!