World’s youngest IM, Awonder Liang (13), joins Rilton Cup
By Ingemar Falk

“I could have obtained my IM title much earlier”
IM Awonder Liang will certainly be in the limelight in Sweden during Rilton Cup 27 December–5 january. Awonder Liang is officially the world’s youngest IM yet and hunts for a GM norm in Rilton Cup.
Here is an interview with the American chess prodigy coming into Rilton Cup.
You had a successful tournament in Hasselbacken Chess Open. What have happened in your chess career since then?
“I had a wonderful time during the Hasselbacken Chess Open in Sweden. I and my family greatly appreciated the kindness and generosity of the organizer for providing the great opportunity for me to be a part of the prestigious event. I Had 7/9 in the tournament and that looks impressive. But I did very poorly early on due to the severe jet leg I had. I had a performance of about 1900 after the first four games. That is very bad for an IM, especially for an young and improving IM like me. But the very competitive yet very friendly and joyful atmosphere of the event helped me gradually get into good form. I won my last five games in a roll. So when I and my dad left Stockholm, I was feeling inspired and energized. I just simply wanted to play better chess. So I have been working harder on chess and making decent progress since then. In the last four months since the Hasselbacken Chess Open, my Elo rating has been raised from 2410 to 2484 as shown in the FIDE September rating list.”
Do you study in school or is chess everything in your life right now?
“I am partially home schooled right now. What this arrangement means is that when I am in town, I still go to my school, the Hamilton Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin to be in classes. On the other hand, I have the flexibility to go and compete in more strong tournaments out of and far away from my home town. I love chess and academic learning greatly. I and my family are profoundly appreciative of my school, my principal, my teachers and the Madison Metropolitan School District for their support to my chess and academic pursuits.”
Do you have any financial supporters in USA? 
“I have very little institutional financial support in in my country, the United States of America. I have been travelling around the world attending chess tournaments and learned that many top chess kids in other countries enjoy great backing from institutions within and outside of the chess circle in their countries. The Young Stars–Team USA Program does provide me with some complimentary training since 2012, on the average a few days per year. However, no monetary support so far. The program is supported by the KCF and the Scholastic Center and Chess Club of Saint Louis (SCCCSL) which has been found and supported very generously by Mr. Rex Sinquefield and it has been the major force behind chess development in the US under the exceptional leadership of Mr. Tony Rich, the Executive Director of the SCCCSL in the last few years.  On the other hand, fortunately I have some friends and supporters who have been very kindly and generously supporting my chess pursuit through private donations.  Without that it would be totally impossible for me to travel to so many chess tournaments in the last few years. In addition, almost all chess event organizers in the US and abroad have been very kindly providing me with conditions, in one form or the other, to enable me to attend their chess events.  I, my family and all my friends and supporters can not thank all these nice people enough for providing me the opportunities to improve my chess.   
You were only 12,5 years old when you got your third and final IM-norm. Can you describe your feelings when that happened?
“Officially, I am still the youngest IM in the world at the moment though I have learned that a much younger one is on its way. I could and should have obtained my IM title much earlier than that. But I only could manage to do it with the conditions that I have had. I obtained my first IM norm when I was 11 years and three months old without a private coach. Some people predicted that I would get the IM title very quickly since I nearly got another IM norm in a tournament held just one week after I got my first IM norm. But it took me another 16 months to obtained the other two IM norms after a couple of narrow misses. So when I actually got my last IM norm and fulfilled all IM title requirements in the UTD Fall FIDE Open in November 2015, I had a feeling of being liberated.”
I guess your new goal is to be a Grandmaster. Can that dream become true very soon?
“I certainly hope so. To be a grand master (GM) in chess is certainly a cool thing. I have earned one GM norm so far and need two more norms. My FIDE rating is at 2484 in the September FIDE rating list, only 16 points away from 2500, the rating requirement for the GM title. So if things go well, I should become a GM in the near future. But in any case, that is not such a big goal in my chess pursuit. I will keep going and working hard on chess. I love the beautiful game of chess. Hopefully that more kids, many many more kids will pick up chess because they may learn my chess story. I am also a good student in school. My experience is that chess helps building skills in academic learning.”
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