Jamie Kenmure: Firstly, congratulations on winning the World Junior Girls Championship. We know it is a tough tournament to win so tell me how you felt after winning the event or when you found out that you won?
Zhansaya Abdulmalik: Thank you! I’m very glad that I finally managed to win this Championship! Honestly, I thought that I would be happier with my victory, because I was preparing for this for a long time. And when I won the last game, I said to myself “okay, you did a great job, now you can relax” and nothing more.
JK: I recall back to previous editions of this tournament that you played in where you have came 2nd and 3rd. Would you say this tournament was stronger than previous ones you played in or were the previous ones stronger?
ZA: This tournament was much stronger than the previous one, because many strong chess players took part in it. I was the top seed in the tournament, and every game I had to prove that I was the strongest. But in some way it was easier, because we had two days off and played only 11 rounds.
JK: Having the 2 free days has been a small topic amongst some people regarding the length of the tournament. Do you think there should be one free day cut out or just leave it the way it is?
ZA: I think it is good having the 2 free days. The first free day I spent relaxing in the hotel and the second free day I went with Sarasadat Khademalsharieh to the mountains and this was so perfect. So I am quite happy that I had 2 free days.
JK: Having won the World Girls Junior Championship, would this be your biggest achievement to date or is there something better?
ZA: I think this has been my first major achievement. I am just so happy as this is my last World Girls Junior Championship and I am not going to play next years’ edition, even though I have 3 more years left. So this is my last and I am happy that I won it. Even if I was to get silver or bronze, I still wouldn’t play the tournament the next years. There is an option that I may play in the Open section next year but this will depend on a few things.
JK: Now as the Girls Junior Champion, is there a temptation to play in the Open section for the stronger opposition?
ZA: Yes, because they are stronger and it would be really interesting for me to play against them. Of course I want to gain more rating and the chance to get a GM norm. Also, I want the chance to win the Gold medal in the Open section too.
JK: You recently played in the Asian Indoor Games where you had great success there. Do you think your good form from there flowed on to this tournament?
ZA: I have been in good form and I recently had some training sessions with my coach. My coach is Zahar Efimenko from Ukraine. He has being the credit to my recent success, especially regarding my openings. I have been working with him for 1.5 years now and I am really happy that I have him as my coach.
JK: You have 2 chess schools in Almaty with a 3rd opening up, with your success now as the Girls Junior Champion, this would inspire your students to play and perform to their best?
ZA: This will definitely inspire my students at all 3 schools with my victory. I hope that my victories will inspire them to work harder, to achieve new goals.
JK: Having visited one of your schools in Almaty, and I was very impressed with what I saw, what is the structure, the training and programs for your schools?
ZA: The first thing is that the most of the trainers are from foreign countries, like Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus etc, etc. They are strong coaches, but they also have like a 2 month trial to see how their coaching is with the students, like how they students relate to the coaches. If the kids do not relate to the coach, then we change the coach at our academy. Everything at our schools is just for the kids, to make them strong professional chess players. And we created a special program for our children on which they train. Also, most of our coaches are around 2400-2500 rating strength.
JK: With your school, are you planning to expand into other cities in Kazakhstan?
ZA: We are unsure on what city we would expand into, but possibly into Astana as many parents are asking for us to open a school there.
JK: Kazakhstan has been known as a big supporter of chess especially with the support from your schools, will there be any financial reward or medal from the Government for winning the World Girls Junior Championship?
ZA: I am not sure but I do hope so. Before I didn’t win the World Girls Junior Championship, so I don’t know. Let’s just wait and see. I know we got some financial reward from the Asian Indoor Games.
JK: Finally, before I let you continue your celebrations on your victory and before you prepare for your flight back to Kazakhstan, do you think you will get more fans and potentially more students in your academies?
ZA: Of course. Now that I have finished playing today, all the news in Kazakhstan is about me winning the World Girls Junior Championship. People are looking and when people are looking, kids will follow to play and learn chess. I hope that there is a big hero’s welcome upon returning to Almaty, but I am just not sure how big it will be.
JK: Thank you very much for the interview and best of luck for the rest of 2017 and all of 2018.
ZA: Thank you. I am hoping to get a medal in Saudi Arabia and be in the top places for the money as well.