Picking Up the Pieces as an Adult: Interview with Cindy Nam Print E-mail
By Dr. WIM Alexey Root   
October 19, 2011
Cindy Nam, Photo Kim Nguyen
When Cindy Nam registered for one of my Chess Online courses on October 20, 2010, she wrote in her self-introduction, “To be honest, I needed to enroll in another class at UTD to be eligible for financial aid. It was too late to enroll in regular classes so I decided to browse through the fast track eight week courses and came across this class.” Cindy added that she “never really got into chess growing up” but had won two chess games on Yahoo! Less than 12 months later, Cindy is the 2011 U.S. Class Chess Championships Class “D” champion, winning her section with a 5-0 score. I interviewed her via email shortly after her victory.

Alexey: What assignments within your first Chess Online course got you interested in playing chess?
Cindy: Although the course put more emphasis on chess in education rather than how to play chess, we were still required to learn the rules of chess and play a few games with our fellow classmates. In the beginning of the course, as part of our required reading assignments, there was a chapter on “Scholar’s Mate” that I really enjoyed. Scholar’s Mate taught me the basic concept of checkmate. I then used that knowledge and slowly built upon it. My understanding of the game seemed to accelerate faster than some of my online classmates which encouraged me to keep playing and read more chess theory books.

Alexey: You played the game of “Go” when you were growing up. Can you tell me how Go and chess are similar and how they are different?
Cindy: Some dads have chess sets at home, but as an American of Korean descent, my dad had a Go set. I was never exposed to westernized chess growing up in our household since nobody in our family knew how to play. This is most likely due to cultural differences. Koreans are more exposed to games like XiangQi (Chinese chess) or Go, also originated in China. Go and chess are definitely different. It is almost like comparing checkers with chess. They are two totally different games. Both do require massive amounts of intellectual strain and depend heavily on strategy and theory. One opponent is black, the other white, and capturing your opponent’s pieces is the ultimate goal.

Alexey: The 2011 U.S. Class Chess Championships was your fifty-eighth USCF event since you began playing USCF-rated chess games in December of 2010. Most of your rated games have been at Dallas Chess Club (DCC). Tell me about your experiences at DCC.
Cindy: I absolutely love the Dallas Chess Club. I am so fortunate to be living in Dallas where we have one of the most active chess clubs in the United States. Since starting tournament chess just last year, my social life has practically disappeared. My friends already know most of my Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights are spent at DCC playing chess. Some of the top ranked juniors are DCC members like Jeffery Xiong, Tommy O He, Sarah and Jonathan Chiang, and so many other brilliant kids. Not only do I respect them as young people, but I respect them as great chess players. As a lower rated player, I look at these young chess masterminds and hope to be as great one day. Every person and every game played at DCC has unintentionally encouraged me to become a better chess player.

AlexeyandCindy.JPGAlexey: You were twenty-four years old when you played your first USCF tournament. What suggestions do you have to get other adult women into USCF-rated chess?
Cindy: It is never too late to start playing chess! Chess is a lifelong hobby anyone can enjoy at any age. I started a bit late, but I am glad I started. I would suggest other adult women take Dr. Root’s Chess Online courses at UTD; that is how I started. The courses were online based so it was less intimidating for me as a female to learn an otherwise intimidating “man’s” sport. On top of that, the person teaching the courses just so happened to be a female chess player, WIM, and former U.S. Women’s Champion. I think if adult women, or any person for that matter, actually take the time to learn how to play chess, they would love the game and be as motivated to earn a national USCF chess title as any other USCF rated player. There is nothing more gratifying than watching your rating climb and inch closer to your ultimate goal.
Cindy’s most exciting game at the 2011 U.S. Class Chess Championships was in round 4, on October 2, 2011.


Dr. Alexey Root teaches Chess Online courses, available nationwide via UT Dallas eLearning, and is Associate Chair for the Second Koltanowski International Conference on Chess and Education, November 18-19, 2011 alongside the National K-12 in Dallas.