Meet the Muzychuk sisters

4/11/2004 – At the European Women's Championship in Dresden we met a charming young lady, just 14 and close to 2400 Elo points in weight. Anna Muzychuk is one of the super chess talents that are appearing in Ukraine on a yearly basis. Now we discover that Anna has an equally talented younger sister. Here's the story...

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An interview with Anna Muzychuk

We met Anna at the recent European Women's Championship that was held in Dresden. Sitting across from us at one of the giant circular tables which fed the players at breakfast, lunch and dinner, she spoke to us confidently in English, nicely picking up the jokes and ribbings that go when chess players get together at tournaments. "You are how old?" we asked incredulously when we heard the 2400 rating category. "I became 14 on February 28", she replied. That's exactly two months younger than our special friend Kateryna Lahno, who is well on the way to international stardom. Both girls hail from Ukrain, a country that has, in recent years, given us Ruslan Ponomariov, the youngest FIDE world champion ever; Sergei Karjakin, who at 12 became the youngest (by far) grandmaster in the history of the game; and of course Kateryna Lahno, who at 14 is number seven in the world's women's rankings. "Are you and Katy friends?" we ask. Anna's trainer speaks up for the first time: "They are konkurents!" Rivals in English.

After she had returned to her home town of Stryj in the Lviv Region of Ukraine Anna scanned some pictures from her family album for us. It was then that we discovered that there is a second talent in the making: Anna's 11-year-old sister Mariya, who is already playing at a 2000+ level. We asked Anna about the secret of her success and the course her chess career has taken.

ChessBase: Anna, you are incredibly strong for your age. How did it all begin, when did you learn the game?

Anna: When I was two years old I could put the beginning position on the board, and at three I could play chess with all the chess rules. When I was five I took part in my first chess tournament (championship of our sport school) and won the second place. At the same age I played in the Championship of Lviv region (girls U10) and managed to win the second place.


The little champions of the future. Anny with her younger sister Mariya in 1995.

Who taught you the game?

My parents were my first teachers. They are professional coaches (they graduated from the Lviv State Institute of Physical Culture) and they taught me how to play chess. My parents work in the sports school and train me and my sister.


The whole family at a festival in the sports school: father Oleh, mother Nataliya, Anna and Mary in 2002.

Do you go to school or do you study at home?

I am currently in the 8th form of the Stryj Gymnasium. At school I have an individual plan. When I return from the tournament I pass the exams. In spite of many tournaments I don't have big problems at school. My parents help me with my studies in different subjects, and English I learn with a tutor.


Anna in the national costume and with her WFM title in 2002

Do you work very hard? Apart from your parents, who are your chess trainers?

I practise chess about six to eight hours a day. The last two years Roman Kozel has been helping us. His rating is 2347. Currently he lives with us. I have also had three weeks of training with GM Orest Gritsak. He is 2541 and has worked with Vassily Ivanchuk for a long time.

Can you afford proper professional training?

Not really. To have full Grandmaster training, like some of the other players have, costs about $1200 a month. That is too expensive for us.


The sisters at home in 1999

So how do you improve your playing strength?

I used chess programs. I use Fritz 7 to check my ideas, find plans and analyse positions. In Dresden I got a copy of Fritz 8 after I commented my game on Radio ChessBase. I have installed it on my computer. I cannot say that I know chess programs perfectly, but as a user I don't see something any problems.


Her favourite toy, a pink elephant

Do you like playing against computers?

It is more interesting for me to play with people than with computers, and that's why I very rarely play against a chess program.


The sisters in the official national sports jackets (in 2003)

Do you play on the Internet? Against other people?

No, I have also never played on the Internet. D do not have an account for Playchess.

You will have one in a few minutes. What are your next tournament plans?

Now I am preparing for WGM tournament in Hungary (Szombathely) which begins on the 19th of April.


The family at a press conference, after Anna had won the Ukrainian Women's Championship in 2003.

And your long-term plans in chess?

I definitely want to become Women's Chess Champion, and maybe the World Champion also.


Anna with her "Best Sportsman 2000" award

Who are your favourite chess players?

My favourite chess playera are Garry Kasparov and Judit Polgar. Dynamic chess is what I want to have in every position. I had one interesting story with Judit Polgar. In a free day of European Championship 1998 she gave a simultaneous. I liked one of her games and the next day I played the same variation. I won the most important game and finnaly become the champion.


Anna in Vienna on her way back from the 1998 European Championship

Apart from chess what are your hobbies?

I have little free time, but I like to play table-tennis, go swimming or go for walks very much. Sometimise I help my mother about the house.


Ping-pong gal. Anna shares this hobby with her hero Judit Polgar


Sister Mariya is the attacking player with a mean top-spin


Together in a doubles these girls are definite a force to reckon with

Anna Muzychuk

Born 28.02.1990
Title: WIM / Grandmaster of Ukraine
Elo rating on the 1.04.2004: 2387

Best results:

  • The champion of Ukraine in 2000 (girls U10) and 2002 (girls U12)
  • The European champion in 1996 (girls U8), 1998 (girls U10), 2000 (girls U10), 2002 (girls U12) and 2003 (girls U14)
  • The 2nd place in the European Championship in 1997 (girls U10), 1999 (girls U10) and 2001 (girls U12)
  • The 2nd place in the World Championship in 2002 (girls U12)
  • The 3rd place in the World Championship in 2000 (girls U10)
  • The winner of Women's Ukrainian Championship in 2003
  • The champion of Ukraine in 2004 (girls U20)

Mariya Muzychuk

Born: 21.09.1992
Title: WFM
Elo rating on 1.04.2004: 2063

Best results:

  • Champion of Ukraine in 2001 (girls U10) and 2004 (girls U12)
  • The 3rd place in the European Championship 2001 (girls U10)
  • The 2nd place in the World Championship in 2001 (girls U10)
  • The 2nd place in the European Championship in 2002 (girls U12)
  • The European Champion in 2002 (girls U12)

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