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Moldova Plays Chess
International Chess Federation (FIDE) recently highly appraised the work of the Chess Federation of Moldova naming it one of the ten best in the world. Its total number of winnings for the female chess team only put it in the second place in Europe. Thanks to its success in chess Moldova became known in many other countries. Grand master Svetlana Petrenko kindly agreed to answer some of our questions.
Svetlana, what do you believe powered the success of our Chess Federation?
I totally agree with the international grand master Elmira Scripcenco-Lotie that the success gained on the international arena is due entirely to the level of intellectual development of Moldovan chess players. Despite the great economic difficulties our players manifested extraordinary tenacity. This helped us all achieve success, which to my belief, was first demonstrated at the Women's Championship in Warsaw. In the process of persuading leading grand masters from 32 different countries Elmira managed to win the gold medal and the crown of the European champion. I was happy when only after a few months from the victory at the European championship among women's teams in Spain ULIM's team, including Elmira Scripcenco-Lotie and myself won silver medals.
You were half a point away from gold. Was it not a little bit disappointing?
We came very close to winning but at the last moment luck shifted away from us. It was a pity but the second place is a good result too.
You are a university student. What do you major in?
Currently I take psychology but it used to be journalism.
So if you had not become an international grand master you might have been a journalist?
Yes, I enjoyed traveling, discovering new things, making live reports and analyzing events. I wrote many sports articles for various publications. But it turned out otherwise and I transferred to psychology, which is also interesting.
What else do you like to do?
A: I enjoy playing basketball, swimming and jogging. The ancient Greeks used to say: "If you want to be beautiful you have to jog, if you want to be clever you also have to jog." A healthy spirit lives in a healthy body. It is important to overcome all difficulties and sport plays an important role in that for me.
You must have played chess since childhood. What does it mean for you?
Chess is the love of my life. I was 10 when after school I happened to see two boys playing it. I walked up to them and spent almost two hours watching them as if mesmerized. Then I did not even know the rules of the game. Later I found out that the game was called chess. I asked my mother to buy me a chessboard and teach me how to play. However at home nobody know how to play. My mother, surprised by my great interest, took me to the Chisinau chess club. I was not accepted. At ten I was a non-perspective player. Then I determined to show my strong will and every day after school was spent at the chess club, in an attempt to teach myself the rules. I started reading specialized literature. Gradually came the first victories. At first I took part in republican competitions and later in International championships. Obtained all standard requirements and became a grand master.
At the world championship in Moscow in the first period you defeated Ukrainian champion Tatiana Kononenko with the overall score of 2-0. In Moldova you made it into top five international grand masters. At the world championship you were 17th. It is a good result. Do you plan to improve your standing even more?
Of course, a soldier is no good if he does not dream of becoming a general. I think so far I have realized only about 1/10 of my intellectual potential. That is why the most important thing for me now is self-improvement and full personal exertion. All the major victories are still ahead.
Do you believe in luck? Or does one have to be born a chess-player?
In chess just like in everything else talent is crucial. But what is talent? It's 99% labor. Developing a phenomenal memory, analytical thinking and a creative approach to everything. Luck is too capricious to rely on and can desert you at any time. Then you strengthen your grip and surmount all difficulties on your own. One must play chess every day.
If you have to exert yourself so then you must have very little time left for your personal life.
I do not have a family of my own yet. Happiness is where you are understood. I get that kind of understanding from the men that play chess but I live alone.
Do you ever make yourself meals?
Russian poet Marian Tsvetaieva said that the more elated a woman's intellectual life is the less time she spends on household chores. Preparing meals takes up a lot of time, which I do not have. That is why I mostly consume healthy and natural foods. I love fruit and vegetables. Sometimes I indulge myself and have tenderloins, mititei and sarmale cooked.
You drink juice, but do you also drink Moldova wine?
I do, in reasonable quantities it's good for your health, but mostly at banquets to future victories. It would be a shame not to drink to that. But sensibility always prevails in chess-players. If you make a move you know what the next one would be. That is why I can always stop myself when necessary.
What is your zodiac sign?
Gemini. I was born in the year of the Tiger. Many talented people were born under the same sign. It would be nice for my name to be a good example for other people to follow. I try to be better and eradicate all faults, which I have, like any other human being.
You make your own living. For many young people in Moldova money becomes the most important thing in their lives. What is your opinion on that?
One of my favorite writes Somerset Maugham said: "Money does not bring man happiness but it has a sedative effect. It's like the eight emotion, when it does not exist you cannot make use of the other seven." If I do not have money to support myself then I have to earn it somewhere. This distracts me from chess. Chess brings only a minimum salary to pay living expenses and buy clothes. But chess is the meaning of my life and I will play it always even if does not bring me financial riches.
Do you have any typical female hobbies?
I used to enjoy knitting. It pacified me after difficult games. Now I am seriously interested in Eastern gymnastics ushu and tsigun. I meditate. It enables me to attain interior balance and composure.
What kind of music do you like? Who are your favorite Moldovan interpreters?
I like classical and just good music, which I pick depending on the mood. Among Moldovan singers I prefer Nelly Ciobanu.
What would you wish our readers?
Never to be afraid to set high goals and to walk boldly through all difficulties to achieve them. We are not born only to enjoy good food and sweet drink. We must find something special inside ourselves and ignite that spark for the realization of all plans.