Person of day   -  17 FEBRUARY 2021

ALMIRA SKRIPCHENKO

ALMIRA SKRIPCHENKO

Almira Skripchenko was born in Chisinau into the chess family of celebrated administrator and arbiter Fedor Fedorovich Skripchenko and eight-time champion of Moldova and recognised trainer Naira Dylanovna Agababyan. Almira was taught the rules at the age of six by her mother. Skripchenko’s debut at international juniors’ tournaments after the collapse of the USSR was astonishing- the Moldovan chess player won the U16 world championship.

Almira was immediately called up to the adult national team- she performed at the Olympiad and the European team championship in 1992 at the second board, after Marina Sheremetyeva. From 1996 until her emigration to France, Skripchenko was the team’s leader. In 2001, Almira and Svetlana Petrenko sensationally won second place at the European team championship.

In 1995, the young chess player fulfilled the requirement for grandmaster and qualified for the inter-zonal tournament. Almira had a good chance of playing in the candidates’ tournament, but in the penultimate round she lost to Alisa Maric.

In 1997, Almira Skripchenko married the famous French grandmaster Joel Lautier and she carried the double name Skripchenko-Lautier until 2002, when the marriage fell apart. From 1996 to this day, she has lived in Paris. She began to play for the French flag in 2002 and she is a decorated champion of Moldovan and French national championships.

She played in the 2000 World Cup, where she split 1st place with Qin Kanying and Wang Pin but lost in the additional match-tournament. She is the five-time winner of the European Cup and a multi-time winner of the France with the “Monte Carlo” super-club- Almira is not only a valuable player, but a theoretical inspiration of the team.

Almira Skripchenko played in knockout world championships in 2000- losing to Maric in the quarter-final- in 2001- when she also lost in the quarter-final, this time to Alexandra Kosteniuk, in 2004, 2006, 2010- when she lost another quarter-final to Zhao Xue - and in 2012. At the 2001 European championship, she split 1st-7th placed and won gold after additional contests in speed chess. She was recognised as Moldova’s finest sportswoman in 2001 and awarded a national medal for services to the nation. For a while, she was a member of the ACP’s governing board in the position of Treasurer.

In 2004, she won the women’s super tournaments in Biel and Krasnoturyinsk. In 2006, she married a French grandmaster Laurent Fressinet; in 2007, the couple had a daughter. Nominated by Monaco, she played in FIDE’s Grand Prix in 2015-2016.

Aside from Western chess, Almira plays shogi, just like Lautier. In 1999, she represented Moldova at the 1st International shogi forum. In 2011, at the 5th International forum, Almira defeated the legendary meijin champion Toshiyuki Moriuchi, while he was giving a session of simultaneous exhibition.

As well as playing chess and shogi, one of the world’s most beautiful chess players is known as a strong poker player. In 2009, she came 7th at the World Series of Poker No Limit Texas hold ‘em, earning 80000 dollars. Second place at the World Poker Tour earner Skripchenko 50000 dollars and the grandmaster earner 250000 dollars in the most successful year of her poker career.

“I like Paris as much as I like Kishinev. I visit Moscow with pleasure to enjoy my native city, to remember my childhood and juvenility, to meet with school friends and, of course, to meet my family. Since I visit Spain and Bosnia often, I have learned to speak Spanish and Serbian. Father taught me English and German from childhood and I learned Russian and Moldovan in my family circle. Finally, I learned French after moving to France. A chess player’s life is on wheels. Whether one wants to or not, one needs to understand languages of other people.

After graduating from high school, I enrolled in the Moldovan State University’s faculty for journalism and dreamed of pursuing this career. But it so happened that I was offered to study in Sorbonne and I could not refuse. Father helped with the documents for France and in 1996 I flew to Paris with the French delegation after the Olympiad in Yerevan. I believe that I was lucky, since I doubt anyone would refuse to study in celebrated Sorbonne. But, while studying in Paris, I played for the Moldovan national team at all competitions for six years, including Olympiads. I love Moldova- it is my homeland and its chess school set me on the path to high level chess.” (A. Skripchenko) 

Nowadays, Almira Skripchenko often works as a commentator at the world biggest chess events and participates in tournaments.