Dinara Saduakassova – the Kazakh prodigy

by Diana Mihajlova
8/5/2015 – Sometimes life makes it easy by making it clear to a person where their biggest talent lies, and sometimes it does not. Imagine being gifted with skills to compete in artistic gymnastics meets, musical talent to aspire to be an artist, or chess, and no doubt others that were never explored. Here is a portrait of the lovely multi-talented prodigy from Kazakhstan.

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At the recent Karposh Open I met a young, pretty, dark-haired girl, with a long plate reaching below the waist, Kazakh style. WGM Dinara Saduakassova had won the Best Woman Prize at the tournament at which no fewer than 98 titled players had partaken. Soft spoken, sweet and serious at the same time, Dinara has an effortless manner to win you over.

Dinara Saduakassova

Born in 1996 in Astana, Kazakhstan, on the 31st October, she likes to point out that she shares the same birth date with the fourth world champion, Alexander Alekhine, and former world champion in blitz, Alexander Grischuk. Focused, determined and absolutely in love with the game of chess, her manner and confidence, as well as her results, indicate that she is also champion material. In a short span of about five years as a chess player, she has amassed more than 45 medals and prizes in national, Asian and world competitions.

Dinara, a champion in the making

Dinara started playing chess when she was five. She would win many local and national competitions already by the the age of ten. By the time she was fourteen, her successes reached world proportions: In 2010 she was the world champion among girls under-14, having won with 9.0/11. In 2014 she won the under-18 World Youth Championship for girls, with a dominant 10.0/11.

Her national and Asian prizes include a vice-champion of Kazakhstan under-20, seven-time champion of the Republic of Kazakhstan and a triple world and Asian Vice-Champion.

Dinara in her national chess uniform

At the 2012 Olympiad in Istambul, fifteen- year-old Saduakassova was its youngest participant. She played on third board for her national team scoring 7.0/9, which included a draw with China’s WGM Ju Wenjun who was ranked 312 points higher than Dinara. As a result of the successful performance in Istambul, Saduakassova was awarded the Woman Grand Master title. A little later, the same year, she shared first at the prestigious Moscow Open.

[Event "Istanbul ol (Women) 40th"] [Site "Istanbul"] [Date "2012.09.07"] [Round "10.3"] [White "Ju, Wenjun"] [Black "Saduakassova, Dinara"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A11"] [WhiteElo "2528"] [BlackElo "2216"] [PlyCount "101"] [EventDate "2012.08.28"] [EventType "team-swiss"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "TUR"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2012.10.19"] [WhiteTeam "China (W)"] [BlackTeam "Kazakhstan (W)"] [WhiteTeamCountry "CHN"] [BlackTeamCountry "KAZ"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 c6 4. O-O Bg4 5. h3 Bxf3 6. Bxf3 Nbd7 7. d3 e6 8. Bg2 Be7 9. c4 O-O 10. cxd5 exd5 11. e4 Re8 12. Qc2 Bc5 13. Nc3 dxe4 14. dxe4 Qe7 15. Kh2 Bd4 16. Bd2 Rad8 17. f4 Bxc3 18. Bxc3 Nxe4 19. Rae1 f5 20. Qb3+ Qf7 21. Qxb7 Ndc5 22. Qxc6 Qxa2 23. Be5 Qe6 24. Qxe6+ Rxe6 25. Rd1 Ree8 26. g4 Nd2 27. Rf2 Nce4 28. Bxe4 Nxe4 29. Rxd8 Rxd8 30. Re2 Rd2 31. Rxd2 Nxd2 32. gxf5 Nf1+ 33. Kg2 Ne3+ 34. Kf3 Nxf5 35. Ke4 g6 36. Kd5 Kf7 37. b4 Ne3+ 38. Kc6 a6 39. Kb6 Nd5+ 40. Kc5 Ne3 41. Bc3 Ke6 42. Bd2 Nc2 43. Kb6 Kf5 $1 44. Kxa6 {[#]} Nxb4+ $1 45. Bxb4 Kxf4 46. h4 Kg4 47. Be7 h6 48. Kb5 g5 49. hxg5 hxg5 50. Kc4 Kf3 51. Bxg5 1/2-1/2

2012 was the most successful year for Dinara that saw her being presented with a national award,
’The Best Sportswoman’. Here she celebrates with the Kazakhstan President, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

At 2401 rating, today she is ranked first in her country and 70th in the world among women; she is ninth in the FIDE top girls.

With Dinara as a subject of this interview, I take this opportunity to point to the steady climb of Kazakh chess and particularly its women’s team. Their biggest success was the latest Olympiad, at Tromso, 2014, where they shared 4-6th place (with Georgia and Armenia), with 8.5/11 and no loss. ’It was like a victory for us’, quips Dinara.

The Kazakh chess girls repeated a similar success, winning again sixth place at the recent World Women’s Team Championships in Chengdu, China, in April of this year. Dinara brought in an important point winning a game against the former World Champion, Alexandra Kosteniuk.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Saduakassova, D."] [Black "Kosteniuk, A."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A05"] [PlyCount "119"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 b6 3. g3 Bb7 4. Bg2 e6 5. O-O Be7 6. d4 O-O 7. Nc3 Ne4 8. Bd2 d6 9. d5 Nxc3 10. Bxc3 e5 11. b4 Nd7 12. Nd2 f5 13. Qc2 Qe8 14. Nb3 Qh5 15. Bf3 Qg6 16. a4 Nf6 17. a5 Rab8 18. axb6 axb6 19. Ra7 Bd8 20. Bb2 Bc8 21. Bg2 Qh6 22. e3 Ng4 23. h3 Nf6 24. Bc1 Qh5 25. Qd1 Qg6 26. Qc2 Bd7 27. Bd2 Ne4 28. Be1 Qh5 29. Nd2 Ng5 30. h4 Nf7 31. Bh3 Bc8 32. Kg2 Nh8 33. e4 f4 34. Bxc8 Rxc8 35. Qd3 Qg6 36. Nf3 Qg4 37. Nh2 f3+ 38. Qxf3 Rxf3 39. Nxg4 Rd3 40. Ne3 Ng6 41. Kf3 h5 42. Ke2 Rb3 43. Kd1 b5 44. cxb5 Nf8 45. Kc2 Rxe3 46. fxe3 Nd7 47. b6 Nxb6 48. Kd3 Rb8 49. Bd2 Nc8 50. Ra6 Nb6 51. Rfa1 Kf7 52. Ra7 Ke8 53. Bc3 Kd7 54. Rf1 Bf6 55. Rf5 Rh8 56. b5 Nc8 57. Rb7 Ne7 58. b6 Kc8 59. Rxc7+ Kb8 60. Rxf6 1-0

The Kazakh Women Team at the 2015 World Team Championships. From left: Zhansaya
Abdumalik, Guliskhan Nakhbayeva, Madina Davletbayeva, Gulmira Dauletova and Dinara
Saduakassova (Photo: WTC Official website)

The Kazakhstan Chess Federation celebrated the "International Day of Chess", 20 July by organising a simultaneous exhibition conducted by Dinara, on the "Chess Square" in Astana. The square was opened in 2005; it is situated in the central park of the city, amidst lush greenery and trees planted symbolically by, among others, Anatoly Karpov and Boris Spassky

Dinara giving a simultaneous of the Chess Square in Astana on 20 July, the International Day of Chess

Dinara is truly in love with her native city Astana. It is refreshing to hear from somebody who has travelled the world over to express such a tender appreciation for their own city. ’Astana is my favourite city in the world. I always miss home and Astana when I am away.’ In her spare time, she likes reading books, watching movies, listening to music, swimming, table tennis, skiing and – walking on the streets of Astana!

Enjoying a day in Astana in front of the Ishim river

In her private life, Dinara remains a big child at heart. Cuddling a fluffy toy from her collection of teddy bears gives her a tender pleasure that seems almost a complete contrast to the deep concentration she displays in a chess game.

Dinara with a part of her collection of teddy bears

Dinara is under her mother’s constant vigil. A chemical biologist by profession, Mrs. Oral Utesheva has played a decisive role in the shaping of Dinara’s career. Noticing her daughter’s many creative gifts, she supported her in several endeavours while Dinara was a young school pupil. Her idea was to give Dinara free rope to taste various disciplines until they discover where the multi-talented girl especially excels. Mrs Utesheva thought that a particular ’profession’ would discern itself following Dinara’s development and results. For a while, it was difficult to make a choice as the gifted and disciplined girl would show excellent results wherever she would put her foot in.

Dinara and her mother, at the Karpos Open, in Skopje, Macedonia, March 2015

Dinara had a spell as a gymnast and as a pianist, two creative activities that predominated over the others in her early years. As a gymnast, she participated in international competitions in artistic gymnastics. As a pianist, following a rigid musical education and piano practice, she mastered some difficult numbers in the classical repertoire. Mozart, Haydn and Schumann are her favourites, but she also played some pieces of the Kazakh national repertoire and was eager to try her hand at the complex piano inventions by Bach.

She attended the school Zerde, a specialised educational institution for gifted children, at which she graduated with honours and was awarded as the ’Best Talent’.


A small portrait of Dinara Saduakassova

Chess was just lurking on the horizon while Dinara was making noteworthy appearances in other sports and artistic fields. Once again, it was her mother who would prove crucial for Dinara’s development as a chess player. Fond of chess herself, Mrs Utesheva took the five-year old Dinara to a chess club. She was also her first trainer. Within time, as the inexplicable destiny would have wanted it, chess won over and, with her mother’s blessings, Dinara succumbed to its guiles for the price of gymnastics, music and any other further shaping that her young, creative spirit might yet undergo.

Dinara with her two siblings, sister Ainur and lawyer brother Arsen, who is also a chess
coach and an international arbiter

Understandably, the role of a supportive, nurturing mother cannot be underestimated

As of 2010, Dinara abandoned her regular schooling in order to dedicate herself fully to the game of chess, continuing her education through home study. It is surprising to hear that she has achieved such amazing success working predominantly on her own; but she intimated that she is looking for a coach.

Today, she is a professional chess player with a clear goal: to become a woman World Champion! She is convinced that her dream is a realistic expectation. ’I have enough time to achieve this.’ Her belief and determination are contagious. I could wish for nothing more than this ’modest’ desire to become a reality.

An opportunity has presented herself already for Dinara to try her first take towards this aim. At the recent Zonal Championship for Women (Zone 3.4, Central Asia), Dinara was the only one of the fourteen participants who was undefeated in the nine-round qualifying tournament. With 6.5/9, she was proclaimed champion and will represent Central Asia and, naturally, Kazakhstan, at next year’s Women World Championship.

Dinara, a darling of Kazakh TV

Already, a new challenge is on its way – she is playing at the Asian Continental Championships (Open and Women’s) taking place in Al Ain (UAE) from 1-13 August, 2015.

Photos: Dinara Saduakassova’s archive and Diana Mihajlova

A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.


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