Checking out his options

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Since he started playing in chess tournaments at the age of 8, first-year Penn State engineering student Andrew Yang has won more than a few matches. At one point, the State College native was ranked among the top 100 players in his age group in the country.

The memories of a tournament where he did not do much winning, though, stand out.

“I lost to people several hundreds of rating points lower than me,” he said. “After that I had to think about whether or not I wanted to keep playing.”

Yang, who at one point held a United States Chess Federation ranking of 1988 — just below 2000, which is considered Expert Level —kept playing. But his outlook also changed, which has enabled him to feel less pressure when he plays.

“You want any game you play to be fun,” said the Schreyer Honors Scholar. “I think that I was too overly stressed about my rating, and that led to it not being fun anymore. You have to play until it gets fun.”

Chess isn’t the only game that interests Yang. A long-time video game player (he prefers PC games to console games), he also has an interest in game development and game design. He is a member of the Software Development Klub (SDK) at Penn State and is hoping to design a game by the end of the year.

“I think the internet is one of the coolest things to ever exist,” Yang said, smiling. “I think games definitely connect people over the internet.

"Games bring people together. They make people have new experiences.”

During the summer before Yang’s senior year of high school, he spent two weeks at The Quantum Cryptography School for Young Students (QCSYS) at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, where he and other students learned about how the laws of quantum mechanics can be used to develop unbreakable encryptions.

“I was interested in quantum physics, I was interested in computer science, and quantum cryptography was the combination of the two,” Yang said.

Yang studied the differences between bits and qubits and how the computers that housed those qubits are built, and potentially, used for cryptography purposes.

“If you’re able to harness them for everyday purposes, a qubit computer could break every security code that we have,” he said.

Yang wants to study computer science because he believes it is necessary for both of his potential chosen career paths — quantum computing scientist or game programmer. His studies occupy most of his time now, but he hasn’t put the chess board away yet, either.

Yang joined the Penn State Chess Club not long after he began classes at the University Park campus in August. He plays there once a week and, though he knows there are some talented players in the group, likes the low-key vibe.

“When you’re at a certain level, it takes a lot of effort to play a game,” he said. “You end up thinking through a lot. … Now, I’m playing to have fun; I’m not playing to win all the time.”

Last Updated October 19, 2017