After a two-year break from the chess scene, junior Wendy Xia returned to the game that brought her many successes both in addition to her choice in major and independent lifestyle.
Xia started chess at age 8, which in China “is not so early like other child prodigies,” she said. Her dad pushed her to play chess after speaking with someone at her town's local chess center.
“I didn't like chess at first … but my dad heard that it is really good for your brain development, spatial abilities, analysis reasoning,” she said. “He really wanted me to do it. He asked me, 'Do you want to learn chess?' I said no, but luckily he didn't give up on me.”
To motivate her to play chess, her dad bought many chess books and a new chess set so the two could practice together.
“He would lose to me on purpose, and I would say, 'Yeah, I beat my dad,'” she said. “After half a year he couldn't beat me anymore.”
Xia said her dad continued to spark her interest in chess to the point at which she entered various chess tournaments around China and eventually went to a junior high school in Beijing that focused on academics for the first part of the day and chess for the second part.
By attending this junior high school to be on the National Junior Chess team, Xia said she gained a lot of her independence, living almost three hours from home.
“I had been constantly involved with chess tournaments [around China],” she said. “I got used to it - it helped me apply to American colleges and motivated me to live away from home.”
At the end of junior high school, Xia had the option to become a professional chess player but declined the offer to stay in high school because she said she enjoys chess but enjoys many other things as well.
Through chess, Xia found her love for psychology and added it as her second major in addition to biology.
“Chess has a lot of psychology in it,” she said. “It has a rational side … but there's a less rational side, which is psychology. Sometimes top players intimidate people by making pretty aggressive moves and looking confident when, really, they aren't that confident.”
While she still played chess recreationally, Xia didn't return to chess tournaments until the Geneseo Chess Club hosted a tournament last semester. She won first place. She also attended the New York State Championships in Albany over Labor Day weekend and won for her under 2,100-points group.
Xia said she attributes much of her success in to her persistence because she “doesn't easily give up” regardless of the skill level of her opponent.
“I think I actually play better against really good players,” she said. “It brings out potential in me to play really well. Sometimes when I play someone worse than me … I make reckless moves. I tend to make a lot of chances in those games because I assume [my opponent] is not as good as me.”
Xia is now waiting on her national rank but knows she will be in the top 100 females in the United States.
Xia said chess has been “a blessing and a curse” in the ways in which she thinks in both academic and social settings.
“After you're really good at chess, how you think is kind of different,” Xia said. “I tend to overanalyze stuff in social situations. I tend to think a lot and not just speak whatever I think. It's part of how I play chess - before every move, I have to think, even if it's obvious. I like to think deeply.”