Irene Sukandar: "Of course I sacrificed my childhood"

by Macauley Peterson
9/5/2017 – Irene Sukandar is not only an International Master, but she also has a Masters in International Relations. She recently returned home to her native Jakarta, after a long multi-country tour through Europe playing in tournaments. Along the way she spent a day in Hamburg, where she stopped by ChessBase HQ and shared some insights into her background and chess training. | Photo: Pascal Simon

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An interview with IM Irene Sukandar

International master Irene Sukandar recently completed a Masters degree in International Relations at Webster University in Saint Louis. Last month she paid a visit to our Hamburg studio to be a guest on Endgame Magic (replay on-demand below). But beforehand, we sat down for a brief chat.

Some highlights:

Irene Sukandar

  • She was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, and started playing chess when she was seven, with her first international tournament at nine
  • Qualified for Southeast Asian games at age eleven, where she was the youngest participant
  • At twelve, she played in the Calvia Olympiad in 2004, and earned a silver medal
  • Her first FIDE rating was 2010
  • Earned WGM title at sixteen in 2008 at the Dresden Olympiad
  • She qualified for the IM title in 2013, and now has one GM-norm from the Asian Continental, 2012
  • She was periodically sponsored by a patron:
    Eka Putra Wirya
  • Follow her at



Listen to the full interview


Pawn structures you should know

Every pawn structure has its typical plans and to know these plans helps you to find your way in these positions. On this DVD Mikhalchishin presents and explains the most common central structures: The Hedgehog, the Maroczy, Hanging pawns and the Isolani.

Here's one of her wins this year, from the Saint Louis Winter Chess Classic B-group, against GM Irina Krush, and a nice illustration of the dynamic potential of the hanging pawns.


Lost belongings

Unfortunately Irene's next stop, Barcelona, did not go as planned in a few respects. She did not earn a hoped-for GM-norm, but most aggravating was the theft of her handbag from the playing hall, as she described on Facebook:

During the game, as if I was being punished for focusing too much on chess, I realized my handbag which I put under the table was gone and nowhere in my sight after I made my 14th move.

The handbag had my passport, wallet, and some other valuable things. Freaking out, I immediately told the arbiters in charge about it and asked the players around my table if they saw something. Unfortunately no-one saw anything and nothing could be done to recover my handbag.

In the ensuing panic and confusion, I left my game and went to ask for the computer and phone access to cancel my credit and debit cards that were stored in my stolen wallet. The Chief Arbiter repeatedly tried to convince me not to worry about my game and encouraged me to do what I needed to do. Various phone calls to the banks in the U.S. and Indonesia and then to the Embassy of Indonesia in Spain were followed by a visit to the police station.

Sadly, after I did everything I could, the arbiter told me that they tried their best to offer my opponent a draw in a +=/= position for me, but my opponent who was rated about 400 points less than me decided to seize the full point. This game alone cost me 9 Elo points and I had to fight very hard just to recover them by scoring 7 points from the remaining nine games.

With the help of the Indonesian Embassy in Spain, I’m now home safe and sound. With this story I hope I can raise awareness to my chess friends, especially to my fellow female players who frequently bring the purses and handbags to the chess games. We often feel the playing hall is a safe environment and get comfortable, so please take care of your belongings so you don’t suffer the same unpleasant fate as me!

A cautionary tale!

Endgame Magic #92:

Watch on-demand (requires a ChessBase Premium Account)


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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adbennet adbennet 9/7/2017 11:57
"International master Irene Sukandar recently completed a Masters degree in International Relations at Webster University in Saint Louis." -- so, now she is an International Master twice.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 9/6/2017 10:03
I agree with Rational. It was an unfortunate situation, but we don't know the other player's evaluation of it. Maybe she thought that she was winning or had some reason to believe she could win. But the bigger question is, who took the handbag? Was it another chess-player? Clearly someone affiliated with chess, or were there outsiders present?

Although as Ivanchuk pointed out, being a chess-player does not mean that one also has certain ethical values.
RayLopez RayLopez 9/6/2017 12:36
One day in the life of an international chess master. Such stories are legion. She is good to beat GM Krush.
The_naked_king The_naked_king 9/6/2017 12:16
@Rational, Yes she has! Moral principles, ethnics!
Afterwall, this is just a "game".
Rational Rational 9/5/2017 11:59
I feel sorry for her being a victim of theft , but If she has her handbag stolen the other player is in no obligation to offer her a draw.
The_naked_king The_naked_king 9/5/2017 11:29
So now, everybody should know who her opponent was .
Player: "HARSHINI A" from India! Indeed the position was +=/= .
Such players need to be exposed, no matter how old they are.