Who was that lady?

9/25/2003 – A few weeks ago we asked you to identify some baby pictures of the strongest American-born female chess player in history. It is remarkable how many readers were able to work out the puzzle and send us the correct answer. It was Alisa Maric, who was born in New York but now lives in Belgrade. Here's a picture portrait of this remarkable young lady.

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It started with a report we posted in August, proclaiming that Jennifer Shahade, 22, the 2002 U.S. Women's Champion, was the strongest American-born female chess player in history. Soon after that we got a message from another female player drawing attention to a little error in that statement. "The simple fact," she wrote, "is that there is another player who is by far the strongest American-born female chess player in history. She became a WIM at 15 and WGM at 18. She was among the ten best in the world in six consecutive women's world championships, and twice the third ranked player in the world women's rankings. This is not a record achieved by any other American-born female chess player."

In a puzzle page we published two baby pictures of this player and asked our readers to try to identify her. A remarkable number of readers were able to do so, naming both her and the other little girl on the picture.

A few of the readers got unexpected help from a Belgrade newspaper. Branislav Rakic, the editor of Express Politika, had discovered the puzzle on our site and splashed the story on the sports page of his newspaper.

The title of the story was "Guess which one is Alisa". Above that the headline reads :"Extraordinary quiz for visitors of the German site Chess Base".

The solution was that the player was Alisa Maric, 33 years old, chess player and TV anchor in Belgrade. The other little girl in the picture was her twin sister Mirjana. They were born in January 1970 in New York City, their parents were a university professor and a math teacher. Both girls went on to become the only twin grandmasters in chess history.

Alisa Maric – a short biography

Alisa Maric was born in New York on January 10, 1970 during her father's service at the UN headquarters. Her twin sister Mirjana, born 21 minutes after Alisa, is a women's grandmaster (WGM) and former Cadet's World Champion (Israel 1985). Mirjana got a Bachelor's degree in mathematics, and works as a programmer. Alisa and Mirjana are the only twin grandmasters in chess history. Alisa's father Nebojsa is university professor, and mother Zivka is high-school teacher of math.

Alisa herself holds the chess titles of International Master (IM) and WGM. She graduated from Belgrade University and got BS and MS degrees in Economics. Alisa is a Ph.D. candidate and works at University "Braca Karic" as teaching assistant in marketing. Alisa also anchors a chess program called "Alisa in the Chess World". It is aired every second week on TV Politika.

Alisa. Maric played the first chess games at the age of four, and the first tournament at the age of nine (she won all nine games against boys and earned men's forth category). Many of her results are unique in the Yugoslav chess history:

Age Achievement
12 National master, Belgrade women's champion
15 International master, 15 World's Vice Champion for Under 20 (1985 Dobrna)
16 Yugoslav Champion for women
18 Grandmaster
20 One of the two winners of the Candidates Tournament (1990 Georgia)
21 She played the World Challenger Match (1991 Belgrade and Beijing )

Alisa has been the first board of Yugoslav Olympic team since 1986. She has earned two Olympic medals, one of which is individual for her result at the first board (Elista 1998).

In the first ten months of the year 2001 Alisa held big titles in all three competing categories: individual (being the third in the World), club (as the first board of Agrouniverzal, the Champion of Europe) and national (as the first board of Yugoslavia the vice champion of Europe).

Another extraordinary achievement was at the World Champion Cycles. Five times in a row, from 1990 to 2000, she has always been among the best six in the World.

Alisa was the first board of the club that won three times the European Team Championships.
In May 2001 Alisa Maric played for the chosen six in the "All Worlds' Star Team" against China, in the spectacular match in Shanghai. This was the first such an event in the chess history.

Alisa won some games against famous chess players including world champions (Anand, Zhu Chen, Xie Jun, Gaprindashvili, Chiburdanidze). She has been the special honored guest at many international events at home and abroad.

Picture Gallery

Alisa thankfully sent us some interesting pictures from her collection of more than 50 albulms.


Alisa and Mirjana Maric in 1970, at the age of four months


Alisa and Mirjana are not identical twins. But they were often identicaly dressed with clothes made by their mom.


Mama Maric made dresses for herself in the same product line. The picture above shows the trio in 1970 in NY Flushing Medow Park.

In 1971 Alisa and Mirjana moved to Belgrade from New York, with American passports and Yugoslav visas. Later they got Yugoslav citizenships as well.


Here in 1974 the two girls (Alisa on the left, Mirjana on the right) are shown sporting Serbian national dresses.


The first chess moves came very early – in 1974


Alisa (left) playing Mirjana in the Yugoslav countryside


In 1976 the family went to Colorado for a year, where the girls started their education and finished the first grade. There they also encounterd sports that were, let us say, different to their beloved chess.


In 1988 the two sisters visited the town of their birth and posed in front of a famous landmark.


At the New York Open in 1988 Alisa Maric plays GM Leonid Shamkovich. In the background you can see a very young Judit Polgar playing with the black pieces.


One of her greatest achievements: world women's championship challenger match 1991 in Beijing, China.


Ten years later Alisa (left) was part of the "World All Stars" team that played against China


A duel with World Champion Zhu Chen, Shangai 2001


A portrait taken in 2001

During the last several months Alisa has been producing a chess program called "Alisa in the Chess World". The goal is to promote chess. In order to demonstrate that chess is accepted among many professions, the guests in the program are from various areas of public life – politicians, sportsmen, actors, writers etc.


In August the UK ambassador to Serbia and Crna Gora, Mr. Charles Crawford, was on the show. He is a passionate chess fan, and he told many interesting chess stories and meetings with famous chess players. The ambassador sent us two pictures of himself playing "the excellent Alisa Maric". He wrote: "I played a game against Alisa. Alas I lost, but for a while I had a much better position".


Charles showed me some special chess sets including a chess board from Egypt. At one picture taken at our conversation it can be noticed one portrait of Short that stands at one wall at his residency.


Alisa Maric today, above with Vladimir Kramnik


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