Seven Questions with... Lan Yao

Yan Lao
Yan Lao
Meet Lan Yao, winner of the Chessable English Women’s Championship and the British Women’s Championship! Lan chats to us about her experiences playing chess at UCL and internationally, plans to teach history and chess after graduation and shares seasonal tips to explore London.

What are you studying, why are you interested in this subject and what do you plan to do in the future?

I am studying MA Education (History). I am interested in this subject because I have experience in teaching history as well as other humanities subjects. I enjoy teaching and I hope to learn more about how to be a good educator. In addition, I did my undergraduate at UCL majoring in history, which deepens my understanding of history and provides me with useful insights into history education. After I graduate, I plan to be a high school history teacher, an educator in other humanities subjects, as well as a chess educator.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?

My most interesting experience while studying at UCL is my involvement in chess activities. I have been playing chess for more than fifteen years, and I have travelled to more than twenty countries to play chess tournaments. I began to play under the flag of England last November. Last December, I was invited to participate in the English Women’s Rapidplay and I won the event. This May, I won the English Women’s Championship. In July, I played the chess Olympiad in Chennai, India, for the first time in my life for the team of England. It was a special experience, and I’m glad that I tried my best to win for the team and managed to play some perfect games. In August, I won the British Women’s Championship.

I enjoy playing chess a lot, not only because chess brings me a sense of achievement, but also because chess provides me an opportunity to gain friendships, know great people, and engage the wider world. Therefore, I have also become a part-time chess coach, and I hope to bring the fun of playing chess to young players.

Have you discovered any hidden gems during your time at UCL?

I think the UCL libraries are amazing! The thing I like the most is that they have many quiet study spaces, which have the magic to make me concentrate and are perfect places for reading, writing, and meditation.

Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London:

1. Walk in the Royal Parks in late autumn, taking pictures with gorgeous autumn leaves.

2. Go to Regent Street during Christmas to see the angels with the most loved ones.

3. Hang out with best friends in exquisitely decorated pubs, talking to new people and experiencing the pub culture.

What’s one thing you’d like to see in a post-Covid world?

I’d like to see people’s lives return to normal.

Who inspires you and why?

The Polgar sisters inspire me. They are strong chess players, and they endeavour to challenge gender stereotypes and demonstrate women’s ability in intelligent sports. Also, they have brilliant ideas for chess education as well as general education for children.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

My undergraduate dissertation of the module Soul and Body in Renaissance Thought was about chess. I wrote about how existing pieces of literature and artworks of chess in the Renaissance reflected the perception of gender relationships.

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