Exclusive Q&A with GM Melik KHACHIYAN
Over the years, GM Melik has become a staple of Chess.com/TV, and for good reason. His personality has irresistible appeal, with his laid back demeanor and loving a good laugh yet having strong, serious analysis, all making him very popular. He’s kept busy hosting various shows and tournament broadcasts, his flagship show being "Melik & Me," in which he analyzes games submitted by viewers. It launched as individual shows geared for different playing strengths, with co-hosts: Brother Josh (Beginners), Shaun (Intermediate), and Gerard Le-Marechal (Advanced). The show now combines all three skill levels into one beneficial program. He has also begun hosting one of Chess.com/TV’s newer shows: “Chess Therapy.” Whenever GM Melik is on the air, the audience always come away with a smile, having learned something valuable about chess play.
Viewers also have the pleasure of occasionally hearing GM Melik’s commentary during broadcasts such as the recent recaps and analysis of the 2016 FIDE Candidates Tournament alongside another favorite Chess.com/TV host, GM Alex "Uncle Yermo" Yermolinsky. This former—and first—coach of GM Levon Aronian, Baku-born GM Melik now resides with his family in Los Angeles, and spends time sharing his expertise as a coach. His roster is quite impressive with students such as IM Steven Zierk and GM Kayden Troff!
We hope you enjoyed the interview!...
A Chess.com/TV “Lighter Side Up” Q & A:
Getting to Know GM Melikset Khachiyan
Naturally, with this being a Chess site and our hosts being chess players, whether a host is a novice or pro, members are interested in hearing their chess-related answers to chess-related questions. And we have them here, BUT—we also want to know a bit more about the person behind the chess; about the lighter side of their personalities and lives. That’s why we’ve included a few of those questions, too and GM Khachiyan has graciously agreed to let us in on some of those fascinating chess and chess-less facts :)
GM Khachiyan has an interesting history, his Chess.com history having been summarized on Mark’s blog. Born July 6, 1970 in Baku, USSR, (now Azerbaijan), he began playing chess as a child and at the tender age of 10, won the Baku Junior Championships. As one of his earliest coaches he was fortunate to have had the 9th World Champion Tigran Petrosian! Having become an IM in 1995, GM Melik played in the Chess Olympiad in 1996, the World Team Chess Championships in 1997 and the European Chess Club Cup in 1997. It was in 2006, after immigrating to the U.S. in 2006, that he became a GM. He served as the first coach of GM Levon Aronian and continues coaching young chess talents including IM Steven Zierk and GM Kayden Troff!He is also a U.S. National Olympiad Chess Team Coach.
So now that we’re settled in and comfy, let’s begin…
How and at what age did you discover chess?
I was 8 years old when my Dad taught me chess.
Who or what brought you to Chess.com?
My good friend David Pruess had told me about it during the tournament in Reno, 2009.
Which chess tools and resources for learning/playing (e.g., books, videos, coaches, computer software, chess sites, etc.), according to skill level, do you consider essential?
I would say everything is important these days. But I guess computer work is prevailing, it's becoming very important.
Chess fans, in general, would likely agree that chess should be as commonplace and encouraged as other extracurricular activities such as sports and dance at a young age. Going a step further, do you feel chess should be included as part of school curriculum/recreation?
Yes, absolutely, it will help kids to build discipline, being creative, and will develop logical thinking.
Of the Masters you’ve studied, from who have you learned the most and why?
9th World Champion T.V.Petrosian, simply because there are a lot of GMs up there, but not too many world champions. He was the Best Chess Experience in my Life. I'm still getting sometimes flashbacks from those sessions!
Do you enjoy playing bullet and/or blitz chess? If so, do you have preferred blitz time controls? Do you play as enjoyable changes from standard chess, as learning tools, or both?
Blitz—yes, bullet , not really. But from time to time, why not?
Yes, I like to play standard games as well, to learn more about chess, create something.
What moment in chess history is your favorite?
It's almost happened. My former student L. Aronian for more than 10 years considered as one of the Best Players, staying in top 10 . I feel very lucky to help him to become where he is now. So, I feel, I become part of whole chess history.
On a personal level, what moment in your chess life is the most memorable?
Meeting WC Tigran Petrosian,when I was 12.
Speaking of memories, as a child, what were some of your favorite pastimes—e.g., games, TV shows, movies, books, sports, etc.—other than chess, that is
I had many activities: I liked soccer, running, had read a lot of books, collected soldiers from different armies and times, and all war-related toys. I had huge collection, but then I gave it away to my little cousins.
How about as an adult? How do you enjoy spending time aside from playing chess?
Mostly if I have time to watch TV, it would be NBA, but I prefer to spend my time with Family.
Seeing as you’re a father, in what ways do you or will you incorporate chess into your children’s lives, if at all? And if so, do any of them show potential?
I taught my kids, but none of them actually had real interest. My eldest son had played some tournaments, even recently, but still he is not that serious about it.
Does your wife share an interest in chess? And in what ways does that play a part in your relationship?
My wife doesn't play chess, but she is super supportive and helpful. She has created atmosphere for my work, she is doing an awesome job. She is organizing my lessons, like my agent. She is the Best!
Early on, you had the privilege of being coached by former World Champion GM Tigran Petrosian. Can you tell us what that was like and a bit about the man himself, from your personal perspective?
He was very interesting person, very funny, loved to joke a lot, very sharp, and obviously amazing in chess. And he never hid anything; he tried to share all his knowledge with us.
Obviously GM Petrosian impacted you as a chess player. Including having him as a coach, what aspects of your training with him impacted you the most as a player?
Logical thinking. He taught us to think properly and to understand the whole process.
You have coached the likes of GM Levon Aronian, IM Steven Zierk and GM Kayden Troff and share your expertise here on Chess.com through your training videos and, of course, on Chess.com/TV. What is it about teaching that you enjoy and find most rewarding? Can you share a few proud moments?
I like to help kids to get stronger, to show them the right direction. I like to take kids, who seem almost desperate, and help them to believe in themselves, to get stronger, to stay positive, and most importantly still to stay a good person.
In that list I'll add a couple of my recent students: NM C. Hilby (who had raised his rating from 1850 to 2450 in 4 years), NM V. Panchathan, NM A. Lu, NM A. Hong. These days I have a very strong core of kids who I believe will definitely be GMs one day.
For anyone who’s had exposure to cartoons, whether through television, movies or comics, we can’t help having one or more favorite cartoon characters. Which were—and are—your favorites?
If you could have one super power, what would that be and why?
Flying! I want to feel real freedom, and as well being able to help people when needed—it’s faster.
What would you consider your ideal vacation?
With radio silence, me and my wife, just 2 of us, for a couple days.
Though it can be difficult to narrow down a list of favorites, which musical artists and songs often rise to the top?
I worked with Sting, and he still remains on top of my list. Obviously The Beatles.
As well, I know a lot of russian songs, and sing them quite often, even while I’m playing.
There’s something very satisfying about sandwiching something between two pieces of bread. Which sandwich/es do you eat most often?
Subway! Chicken and bacon with avocado—amazing.
When that sugar craving strikes, which candy bar/s would you storm the convenience store to buy?
I like chocolate. I’d probably storm Ralph’s since I like Swiss Chocolates.
It’s common to be drawn to more than one profession. Other than yours, which profession would you like to attempt? Never attempt?
An actor, always wanted to be comedian.
There are countless famous quotes, from silly to poignant. Do you have a favorite or two you’d like to leave us with?
Whenever you wake up, smile first and your day would be fine. Get rid of your negativity and enjoy your life!
To close out this interview: what do you enjoy most about being a chess player?
Making so many friends and discovering, every day, something new in chess!
Thank you, GM Khachiyan, for taking the time to share these thoughtful answers with us. You’ve helped shine a brighter light on who you are as a person and chess player, and added a bit more color to the décor here at Chess.com/TV :)
Where you can find GM Melik:
Thanks for reading!
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