Madison’s chess prodigy, Awonder Liang, captures world youth championship
DENNIS PUNZEL | Wisconsin State Journal
Awonder Liang, Madison’s 10-year-old chess prodigy, has added another major trophy to his impressive collection.
Awonder, a fifth-grader at Van Hise Elementary School, won the World Youth Chess Championship gold medal for the under-10 open classic competition held in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.
Awonder, who also won his age group title two years ago in Brazil, won his first 10 matches to assure himself of the gold medal even before playing his 11th and final match early Saturday morning. He became the first person to win both the U8 (under 8) and U10 championships.
“Awonder will still try his best to compete tomorrow for a new piece of history at the WYCC of winning all the games played in one tournament,” his father, Will Liang, wrote Friday in an email to friends and supporters.
Earlier this year, Awonder became the youngest American to become a chess master, achieving that status at 9 years, 11 months and 14 days.
After placing sixth in the U10 competition as a 9-year-old last year in Slovenia, Awonder was the top-ranked player in his age group this year.
Although he is 10 already, Awonder competed in the Under-10 group because players are classified according to their age at the time of registration for the tournament. Next year he will be in position to compete in the Under-12 competition for the first time in Durban, South Africa.
Awonder was the only American in position to win a gold medal heading into the final round of competition.
While Awonder’s father accompanied him to Al Ain, his mother, Helen Liang, has watched his progress from home on the Internet, along with his brothers, Adream, 12, and Able, 9, and sister, Angelva, 6.
Despite all of Awonder’s success, his mother still gets nervous watching him play.
“Even when you’re winning, you don’t know,” she said. “They’re kids, and one bad move can lead to a loss. At his age the players all have a lot of potential and you don’t know how well they will play.
“His brothers know chess, so they will explain to me if Awonder is safe. I don’t know anything about chess.”
Helen Liang said she didn’t talk with Awonder and her husband until Friday after her son clinched the championship.
“He was happy, but there’s not too much excitement,” she said. “Not overboard, or anything like that. The whole family is very happy. It really is amazing. I think (his success) is because he’s very prepared. Awonder prepares for every game and never gets overconfident.
“His confidence comes from hard work. I always tell him you cannot depend on good luck.”