GM Hoang Thanh Trang is soft spoken and possesses a natural courtesy that belies her serious demeanor. The Hungarian No. 1 who is 32 years of age now playing at the Indonesia Open Chess Championship (IOCC) 2012 as part of her preparations for the World Championship later this year.
So what are her preparations and what are her impressions of IOCC? Following is our interview with the young lady who was born in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Q: How are you finding IOCC?
A: This tournament is really strong. And to be honest I am not used to playing two games in a day much less four games in two days. Normally in Europe we play a game a day.
Q: When did you start studying chess?
A: I started learning chess from my father when I was four and a half years old and to this day he remains my coach.
Q: Did you dream of becoming a grandmaster when you were young and learning chess?
A: From small I dreamed of becoming a champion. I am still chasing that dream, hoping one day to become World Champion. I have already become World Junior Champion in 1998, then achieved the Grandmaster title, but there is still to become Woman World Champion. This tournament starts in November, next month and I will try to win this title.
Q: How are your preparations coming along?
A: IOCC 2012 is the tournament I am using for my final preparations and that is why I am here. After Jakarta I will take a short break in Vietnam and then return to Budapest. Usually two weeks before the World Championship the pairings will be out and I so will be ready for my opponent.
Q: Do you feel you have sacrificed anything in the course of pursing titles in chess?
A: I have never felt I needed to or have sacrificed anything. I know I am doing this for a reason and at the same time I have also gone to many places and made many friends. So I have really lost nothing. I like chess and I also want to be successful in chess.
Q: How do you motivate yourself to play in a tournament?
A: For me chess is my job. So when I have to play an opponent I see it as a work challenge where if one puts in the necessary work and effort the result will be good. When I am at the board, playing, I treat it as a game and so I completely enjoy it.
Q: When you won the World Junior Championship in 1998, you had already decided that that chess would be your life?
A: Yes, I had already become a chess professional. But now the situation has become more difficult for women chessplayers and many are looking to do other things. So I have now finished my studies and also started to work. My family owns a hotel in Budapest that we run and I have become a Manager there. So I cannot anymore say I am a chess professional as half the time I do chess and half the time I work as a hotel manager. When there are tournaments of course most of my time will be for chess and when there is none then I will be working at the hotel.
Q: In which discipline did you complete your studies?
A: I have graduated with an Economics degree from a college in Budapest and I have taken a Hotel Management course.
Q: Has living in Hungary contributed towards your chess development?
A: Yes. 20 years ago I moved to Hungary and that brought me many benefits. But now this is changing because chess in Asia is now booming so there is no need to move to Europe to become a better chessplayer.
Q: Why did you move to Hungary?
A: My parents studied in Budapest. After they graduated from university they returned to Vietnam and got married and so I was born in Hanoi. Later my father worked at the Vietnam Embassy in Hungary and I naturally followed them there and since then we have lived there.
Q: Do you prefer to live in Hungary or in Vietnam?
A: I have now lived in Hungary for 22 years and so I am comfortable there. Every year if there is an opportunity I visit Vietnam and meet up with friends and family. So I love both countries.
Q: What is your favourite Vietnamese food?
A: Pho Noodles. My great grandmother and grandmother are great cooks and my mother can also cook. We have a Vietnamese restaurant at our hotel in Hungary so every time I return from a tournament where I did not find Vietnamese food, I will immediately have my Pho Noodles.
Q: Which places you have been to that are unforgettable?
A: Many. One is here. If a person likes a place usually it is because they have good memories from that place. So I have to include India too as it was there that I won the World Junior Championship.
Q: Do you do any other sports?
A: Swimming, table tennis, dan zumba.
Q: Is this your first time to Indonesia?
A: Second. The first was in 2004. It was a closed tournament and if I am not mistaken, called the Kings and Queens Tournament.
Q: Who do you find Jakarta?
A: I like it a lot. I decided to come to IOCC as I had come here before and so of course I wanted to come back. I have good memories of this place and the people are also nice.
Q: What do you plan to do on the rest day?
A: I intend not to do anything because I have played two games a day for the last two days and that is four games in two days. So I just want to rest.