Humans of Chess: Qiyu Zhou

Qiyu Zhou, featured in this edition of “Humans of Chess” is leading a new Girls’ Chess Club on Monday nights, starting on January 27 – details here. Spaces in the program are still available.

“I learned chess in France, just before I turned four years old. It happened completely randomly, I was walking down a street to the beach and just happened to see a chess set. I was immediately intrigued. I joined the local chess club, and I think right from the start the people at the club realized my potential. I was winning against 10-year-old boys a month into learning the game!

I really started taking chess more seriously when I won the Finnish National Championships for U-10 Open (at age 5) earning me the right to play in the World Youth Chess Championships. When I was interviewed by Finnish media at the time, I told them my dream was to become a world champion. Then the highlight of my chess career came when I won the World Youth Chess Championships for U-14 Girls. It was a dream nine years in the making! It’s never too late to achieve your dreams.

I remember meeting Hou Yifan back at that first WYCC I went to when I was five. She’s still the chess player I admire the most. I admired her right from the start because she was young and seemed to have so much potential! Also, she was playing in the open section. I think it’s cool that we have women’s titles and a Women’s World Champion. For me, when I play in women-only events, the pressure has always been higher, but this is a biased inference because the only time I’ve played women-only events has been for North American and World Youth Chess Championships and for the World Olympiads.

I’ve personally never had a female chess coach, but I think it would have been super helpful! It definitely would’ve helped with the psychology aspect. I have to admit I believe psychology to be different for women and men. This isn’t just me saying it, there are many studies done on the differences. How that applies to how girls approaching the game has been studied as well.

I think fundamentally there’s not much difference at a young age, but the way society has it is that boys tend to stay in chess longer. There just happen to be more boys playing chess right now (and throughout history) which in turn attracts other boys. The lack of girls is likely not going to attract other girls to play. I suppose the lack of potential friends in the game pushes some girls to pursue other activities.

We really need some kind of catalyst in order to get more girls playing. That’s part of the reason why I want to be involved with this workshop (Girls’ Chess Club on Monday nights in Toronto, starting January 27). I’m seriously hoping for it to be a success and inspire girls to enjoy the game!

Chess has helped me with a learning a lot of life skills, such as patience and risk-taking.  These are skills I use on a day-to-day basis. Chess has also led me to be a very motivated and hard-working person, as I’ve understood that success doesn’t come without its fair share of work. It’s also led me to travel to more than forty countries, meet lots of amazing people, and attend a lot of wonderful events. I hope to introduce other girls to the wonderful game of chess!