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Interview with Ruan Lufei
Monday, 08 August 2011



Ruan Lufei: “Although I’m lighthearted I still want to fight!”

Ruan Lufei (born October 2, 1987) is a Chinese chess player. Ruan's natural talent for the game, hard work, and co-operation with her coach, Xu Jun, saw her break into the world's top 20 female chess players in January 2008. In the 2010 Women's World Championship she reached the final, having won on tiebreaks in every round (eliminating previous champion Alexandra Kosteniuk in the process), and faced fellow Chinese Hou Yifan for the championship. She lost the match only on tie-breaks and showed strong character by equalising the score of the match in the fourth classical game. Anastasia Karlovich: Half a year ago you took silver medal in the Women’s World Championship. It was really a great success. Did it change anything in your life?

Ruan Lufei: Yes, of course, it did. Maybe it has not changed my pattern, I cannot say I became different. At the same moment it changed other people’s will about me and, of course, it attracted the attention to my in the USA. A lot of chess players, a lot of people were following my games at that time and also cared about me.

A: Did you get more attention in your native China?

L: No actually. There were many students who supported me even before the World Championship but I don’t feel any difference in their attitude after my success in Turkey.

A: You mentioned in some interviews that you study at the university and your PHD is more important for you than chess…

L: Nothing changed – my studies are still more important for me. I study at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and it’s really a good university; it’s not a big one but there are a lot of fields in which they are on top all around the world. Personally, I like to study there very much, I like the environment that is very friendly. I just finished the first year so I need other 4 or 5 years to complete my program. I study at the Business School and my aim is to become a professor of university. It’s my future goal.

A: After such a success in the World Championship didn’t you get an idea to become a professional chess player? Have you ever given any thought to the fact of challenging the title of the Women’s World Champion?

L: Several years ago I had a goal to become a world champion, I was focused on chess. It’s not the same, not any more. I enjoy my life the way it is now.

A: Alexander Shabalov, a four-folded U.S. chess champion, commented your play and mentioned that you had a very stable nervous system. Which characteristics help you to play chess?

  L: When I was playing in the World Championship I expected to be eliminated in the first round. Every next round seemed like a gift to me. I’m a lighthearted person that’s why I can do really well in tie-breaks. I don’t feel much pressure – if I lose nothing is going to happen. 

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  A: I was taking your pictures in the 4th round and I noticed that while you were playing your emotions showed a will to win…

L: I think there is no conflict between a will to fight and the fact of being lighthearted. Although I’m lighthearted I still want to fight! For example, in Turkey I was sure that the World Championship would be my last tournament. So since it was the last one why not to fight in every game?

A: Fortunately it turned out not to be the last one – you are here playing in the Women’s Grand Prix and you have three more chess events ahead of you

L: Here I’m also choosing sharp variations; I still feel it can be my last Grand Prix Circle so I have nothing to lose. It’s also difficult to combine these tournaments with my studies. I didn’t play for half a year since the World Championship and I started preparing for Grand Prix in Rostov only one month ago and I wasn’t doing it permanently.

A: Who supports you during the tournament?

L: I should have said that my dad does. He is watching my games online he criticizes me when I do something wrong like today (or in my game with Humpy). He points out my weaknesses and tries to remind me about them. I can even say sometimes he is too critical towards me…

A: Did he teach you how to play chess?

L: No, he learnt chess with me. I went to the chess school and at that time he didn’t know how to play chess, he knew only Chinese chess. He is not a good chess player but still he can point out some things I had never thought about. 

A: Is there a boyfriend or close friends in your life?

L: I don’t have any boyfriend because I haven’t met him yet but I hope I’ll meet him soon. I have many friends in university and one of my current classmates helps me a lot in mathematics. There is an opinion that chess players should be good in mathematics but before I went to make my PHD I was sure that it was my biggest weakness. My classmate taught me a lot and I feel more confident now.

02.jpgA: What are your other interests?

L: I like reading, especially novels. I also like light music or some pop-music but it should be Chinese.

A: You live in the USA and no doubt there are lots of opportunities for having fun…

L: In fact I don’t like to visit overcrowded places – I don’t like malls, loud music and I don’t like to go shopping.

A: What about food?

L: I hate fast food! Actually I liked fried fish that we had during the lunch on the rest day very much…

A: Are you superstitious?

L: Psychological issues are very important in chess. So I should let myself be self confident. Some people noticed I didn’t change my cloth during the World Championship too often but actually I didn’t have many outfits with me – I thought the tournament would be over for me quiet soon. But I can not say I’m superstitious.

A: Are you going to play for the Chinese national team? What are your plans?

L: No, actually I’m busy this year, so I will not play in the World Team Championship in December. I have a really important examination in January, so I’m not going to play any chess except for Grand Prix events. I’ll just focus on my studies.

A: Thank you for the interview and I wish you good luck!
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