FM William Stewart Interview

1) Who are you?
FM William Stewart

2) Why did you leave the country and how was the experience?
I left the US after graduating from UGA in 2009, wanting to learn about new cultures and especially improve my language abilities by becoming fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese. It was a fantastic experience and really helped me gain perspective on how easy life is in the United States.

3) How did you become involved with chess?
I became involved in chess at the age of 10 because a friend’s dad ran the chess club at my elementary school (Spalding Elementary in Sandy Springs).

4) Who was your first teacher? First rating?
My first teacher was Nick Paleveda, a strong expert and multiple-time Florida State Champion. (Nick earned hisNM certificate in 1992-A.W.) Big Nick is one of the coolest guys I have ever met and I have to thank him for introducing me to chess and being a great teacher. My first rating was around 1100-1200.

5) Do you have a favorite current player? Former player? Anyone you have tried to emulate?
This is a tough one because I really like a lot of top players today. My biggest picks would be Kramnik (incredible reinvention of his style lately), Carlsen (he is just too good!), and Wang Hao (I really like his attacking style and he seems like a very normal, relaxed person). Ah – and Vassily Ivanchuk because he is incredibly creative. I’ve tried to emulate Kasparov’s extreme attacking style and ridiculously stubborn desire to win every game.

6) When did you make NM? (Where were you after playing for six years? I ask because GM Soltis wrote in his column that players usually peak after six years.)
I became an NM about 9 years after I started playing (I was about 19).

7) The best game you have played. The most exciting. Game that made greatest impression on you. Best game you’ve seen.
Well this is a very easy question for me to answer – I played a nice game against GM Ray Robson at the 2012 National Open in Las Vegas. This was in the last round (the money round!), I was having a great tournament, and I went all out to win this game. Here is a link to my game with Ray Robson from last year:
The most exciting game I have ever played was at the 2009 World Open in Philadelphia. It was round 9, I was having a great tournament, and the winner of this game would at least tie for first and win over $10,000. I won this game, co-won the Under 2200 section with Scott Low, graduated college 6 months later and used this money to travel and support myself in Brazil and Argentina over the next year.
Game that makes the most impression on me – this is too tough to say. I am a huge fan of Karpov’s game because his style is so subtle and unique. At his best, you would see the leading GMs in the world playing timid chess, trying to beg him for a draw by trading pieces into a very slightly inferior ending. And Karpov would obtain such a tiny advantage, grind them out, and win the game.

8) Best result(s).
2012 National Open was great. I very narrowly missed an IM norm at a tournament in Argentina in early 2013 (Copa la Razon), although I did pick up about 35 FIDE points there which really helped push me over 2300.

9) Talk about your education; degree’s, etc.
I graduated with a BS in Psychology and BA in Spanish from the University of Georgia in 2009. GO DAWGS!

10) Favorite food; fruit; drink; season; color; music, movie, etc.
Food – Sushi and/or Hot Wings; Fruit – Mango or Maracuya; Season – Summer, I love to hit the pool; Color – Red; Music – I like all kinds (except new country music), I’ve played drumset since I was 10 years old; Movie – King of New York

11) What is your favorite novel; writer. What about best non-fiction book? Did any book have a profound effect on you?
I used to love Stephen King books when I was a kid, but I’ve basically only read chess and business books in the last 10 years. I really like Kasparov’s “My Great Predecessors” series.

12) First chess book; favorite; best.
Man I can’t remember that far back Mike! Probably was something like “Play the Accelerated Dragon” by Daniel King. My favorite books are by Mark Dvoretsky, he is an incredibly deep writer and provides extremely challenging material.

13) What is the purpose of life; chess?
Deep stuff Mike! For me, the purpose of life is to better everyone around me. If I can do that, I know it will come back to me tenfold and contribute to my success. In chess, the answer is the opposite! I want to crush everyone I play so badly that they quit playing! Grandmaster is my ultimate goal, although I work too much right now to make that a real possibility.

14) You have a new book being published. Tell us about it; how did you decide to write it, what prompted you to write it?
“Chess Psychology: The Will To Win!” was very recently published by Everyman Chess in June 2013. I wrote this book because I thought it would be a great way to share my years of experience as a chess trainer. It is targeted at beginner and intermediate players and intended to serve as a comprehensive guide.

15) There are myriad books on chess being published. Why should someone purchase it over other books?
I have over 10 years of experience as a chess trainer and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I combine two of my best skills with a passion for teaching. This book is very different from other chess books because I am very clear and to the point. It is also a comprehensive guide, focusing on a variety of topics – while almost always maintaining a focus from the psychological perspective. Here are links for my book:

16) With what person from the past would like to converse? Living person?
This is a tough question. I guess I would say Ray Charles or James Brown for past – two of my favorite musicians. For present, it would be awesome to have a drink with Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter.

17) What would you change about chess?
I am extremely disappointed with FIDE and their lack of organization with respect to high level tournaments, the world championship cycle, and especially their blatant disregard for the widespread promotion of chess.

18) What needs to be done that is not being done to promote chess?
The 21st century is the fastest changing time ever! But chess and its’ promotion simply have not caught up. Computers are taking over the game and making chess players very bored with memorizing variations, etc.. It is very difficult to commercialize chess and I think a few very easy ideas to make it more fun for chess players and general audiences would be to:
1. Use faster time controls (non chess players cannot focus on 3 hour games, but a 5-10 minute game is short enough to maintain their attention).
2. Popularize variants (specifically Chess960 – this is a very interesting variant that would bring a lot of chess players back to the game and showing up in tournaments.)
3. The Intel Grand Prix Series in the 1990s was incredible! It combined a variety of appealing factors: the best players of the world, fast time controls, large prize money, and an exciting knockout format. I can’t understand why FIDE (or some other organizer/sponsor) won’t run another type of tournament series like this.

19) How can chess be improved in the Great State of Georgia?
More FIDE-rated tournaments will bring more titled players to Georgia. I think that is the biggest thing missing in Georgia chess – there aren’t many high-rated players here because it is impossible to compete for a FIDE title. As for scholastic chess, I think the Atlanta area has been very successfully developed in the past 15-20 years. Maybe it would help if some of these companies in the Atlanta area received support from the GCA to extend their programs to other parts of the state.

20) What do you see in your chess future?
Ah finally an easy question! I very recently confirmed the title of FIDE master as of May 2013 with a rating of 2305. My goals are to become an IM in 3 years and GM in 5 years. My biggest obstacles to these goals are very simple – I work at least 70 hours/week so I don’t have much time to study and play. And of course the United States very rarely has any FIDE-rated tournaments (and if they do, you have to travel far and pay a lot of money in entry fees and hotels) So basically I will leave the United States again to find FIDE-rated (thus IM norm and GM norm) tournaments that are realistically available. I think it is really a shame that the USCF does not do anything about this problem, because forcing your talented players to go abroad to play competitively does not really do much to promote chess here in the US…

As a chess organizer however, I am much more control! I currently operate a chess website in English (http://OnlineChessLessons.NET) and Spanish (http;//ClasesdeAjedrez.NET) with my business partner Freddy Lansky (I do the chess, he does the IT). We are working with dozens of Grandmasters now to produce high-quality chess DVDs at low prices, called the Empire Chess series (or in Spanish, Imperio Ajedrez). We also work to promote chess by releasing free promotional excerpts on our YouTube channels. We also publish free content on the blogs of these websites – check us out!
21) Thank you for an interesting interview and continued success in chess!


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