Interview with Chess Grandmaster Illia Nyzhnyk

I believe that keeping in a good physical shape, practicing, as well as playing as a team are the 3 key components

Q: Congratulations, you had a successful summer, including winning the World Open – clear first! You also won the U.S. G/30 and G/60 Championships among other great results. What is your secret to consistently great performances specifically at the World Opens?

A: Thank you very much! Although I believe that there is no secret for my good chess performances, I do think that the 3-week chess training session I had right after my graduation really helped me prepare for the upcoming events. It seems that I play more “stable” chess during World Open which may have something to do with the fact that the World Open usually is one of the last tournaments I play during summer, so I am completely warmed up by the time the World Open begins.

Q: You started out as a child prodigy. Many of us still vividly remember photos of you with a teddy bear…How old were you when you discovered the chess and who taught you at first?

A: As far as I remember, I was around 4 years old when my parents introduced me to the chess program that would play itself. I was sitting and watching it play until my parents suddenly discovered that I know all the rules (according to them nobody has ever taught me rules, I picked them up while watching those games). However, after I was accepted into a chess school my father was the one who played me nearly every day which improved my chess significantly.

Q: What are your favorite childhood chess related memories?

A: In the chess school I was going to there were weekly rapid and blitz tournaments on weekends. Participating in those was really fun, and I wish I could play in them again one day.

Q: What were your biggest accomplishments as a junior player? How old were you when you made your first GM norm and at what age did you make the title?

A: I believe winning the European Chess Championship under 16 when I was 12 years old, as well as placing 2nd at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in 2011 were my two biggest accomplishments.

I got my first GM norm when I was 11 years old, and the actual GM title when I was 14, which I believe made it as the youngest GM in the world at the time.

Q: Which is your favorite game you ever played?

A: I do not think I have a favorite game, but my win against Samuel Sevian during the World Open just now was pretty nice.

Q: You have recently graduated with a B.S. in computer science. What are you studying as a graduate student?

A: I am seeking a Master’s degree in Cybersecurity.

Q: You have been part of Webster University's nationally #1 ranked chess program for the past four years and have prominently contributed to four Pan-American and three Final Four titles of your chess teams. What do you see as the key components of the continued success of the SPICE program?

A: I believe that keeping in a good physical shape, practicing, as well as playing as a team are the three key components of a successful team.

And now a few non-chess questions…

Q: How many languages do you speak?

A: I speak 4 languages – English, Russian, Ukrainian, und ein bisschen Deutsch :)

Q: What type of music do you like to listen to? Who are your favorite artists?

A: I am open to any music genre, and I do not really have a favorite artist. However, I have been listening to lots of Queen and George Ezra.

Q: What type of movies do you like best? What movie did you see last?

A: I like adventure movies with happy endings the most. The last movie I have seen was Avengers: Infinity War, but it was somewhat confusing, because I did not see any of the previous Avengers movies before.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Undoubtedly, my favorite food is steaks, but I also like salads a lot.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: Any chess-related activities, hanging out with friends, and watching movies.

Thank you, and good luck in your upcoming chess tournaments!

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