Person of day - 21 SEPTEMBER 2020
The future world champion began her chess career in Uhersko, in the Lviv region, where she enrolled in a local chess class at the age of 4. The girl had to travel there from her hometown, Stryi, but Mariya managed to work at home since her older sister Anna also became a well-known chess player soon enough and her parents were candidates for master, as well as celebrated trainers.
“The girls grew up surrounded by chess. They saw me and my husband analysing games and watched us playing with interest. Mariya held her first chess piece when she was 1.5 months old. Of course, like any child, she tried to put it in her mouth. But when she was two, she set up all the pieces on a chess board correctly. She knew where the knight was, where the queen had to go. After that, I began to teach my daughter how each piece moves. “A rook moves sideways, a bishop diagonally and a pawn only forwards.” As a child, she could not process a lot of information at once, so our first lessons usually lasted no longer than 10 minutes. But we trained five-six times a day.” (Nataliya Muzychuk)
Since she was 7, Muzychuk has been playing for her country’s juniors’ championships and in 2002, she won the Ukrainian and European U10 championships. When she was just 11, Mariya qualified for her country’s women’s national championship before winning the world U14 championship alongside several medals of the Old World and world youth championships.
Her success at European women’s championship brought Mariya the title of grandmaster and in 2008 she became an international master among men. At the juniors’ U20 world championship, Muzychuk fought bitterly against the future champion, Harika Dronavalli, but she ended up splitting 2nd place. She has won multiple Vladimir Dvorkovich Cups with the Ukrainian team. In 2009, Mariya qualified for the world women’s championship for the first time.
After making her first moves in elite chess, Muzychuk-junior was called up to the Ukrainian national team (while her older sister was playing for Slovenia). She went on to win two Olympic bronzes, a world championship and a European team championship. She was known as a true team player- she was the best on her board on several occasions. Mariya Muzychuk has won the Russian team championship and the European Cup with ABC. She also won the 2012 Ukrainian championship.
Mariya’s first two attempts at the world championship were in 2010 and 2012, but she got knocked out in the third round in both. Muzychuk’s star moment came at the 2014 knockout world championship in Sochi, where she defeated Yuanling Yuan, Monika Socko, Antoaneta Stefanova, Humpy Koneru, her old nemesis Harika and Natalia Pogonina, thus becoming the 15th women’s world champion.
Mariya Muzychuk: “Before the tournament, a security guard in Sochi came up to me and told me he thought I would win. I was so astounded by his forecast that I found him after and asked him if he had prophetic abilities. And he admitted that his Father possessed that ability.”
For her victory in Sochi, the 15th world champion was awarded a Medal for Services to the Motherland, III category.
In March 2016, Mariya Muzychuk lost her title to Hou Yifan from China. In September of that same year, she won bronze at the Olympiad in Baku.