White Queen In the Spotlight
Belarus’ female chess champion dreams of a match with Garry Kasparov
What is the image of a typical female chess player? Obese, wearing glasses, reading books, ceremonious and boring. Quite contrary to male grandmasters. Those are wunderkinds, slim intellectuals, the cream of the cream, a bit extravagant or even mad, like Fisher. The situation has changed drastically. Female chess players seem to have just left fashion catwalks. They often play better than men, by the way. Think of the Polgars: they would give any man a head start, and a draw would be just as good as it gets.
A girl with a [chess] knight on the cover of a glamour magazine is much more congruent than a lady with camellias. Take Alexandra Kostenyuk, a Russian grandmaster that poses in bikini with gigantic chess pieces on her own website.
The 31-year-old Marina Manakova posed nude for the Russian magazine “Speed” and later for “Maxim” and Playboy”. These girls are attracting sponsors in chess proving that beauty and brain go together well… Anna Sharevich is good proof. So, she is sitting in front of me with a big cat on her laps…
— Ann, when did you start playing chess?
— When I was five. Now I am twenty, so you can count.
— And you were never sorry about what you do?
— Never. I had gone in for calisthenics until I was 10, but chess proved more appealing.
— Were you good from the very beginning?
— Yep. I became the champion of the region, which was very encouraging. I played and played until 2002, when I became the champion of Belarus. In 2005 I managed to do it once again.
— How old were you in 2002? Sixteen?
— Yes, I was the youngest champion of Belarus in history. I managed to beat the record of Elmira Khorovets, who won the title in 1981.
She is modest, this girl, modest and beautiful.
I have never spoken to chess players before, and I must say she is very well-educated and eloquent. However, there is definitely a girl with dreams and whims behind this mask of the champion of the country. By the way, she is not as crazy about chess as it may seem. She dreams of a family, love, children. Is there the big L now? Ann keeps silent, but rumors have it there was an affair with some prominent player.
— What sort of person it takes to play chess very well, like you do?
— It takes talent, perseverance and a strong will. It is hard to make yourself read many books to perfect yourself, prepare for tournaments and championships, when your young body needs a discharge. When it happens, I meet with my girlfriends, we have a small talk and go to discos. Hard work is the key element of success: you want something, you work hard.
— Why do men play better than women? Are they more intelligent?
— I won’t say so. Men have more time to play, to focus on chess. Men think about matches and nothing else.
— And women think about men?
— Women have families, children and so many problems besides the chessboard.
— Do you play better when you are in love?
— Amorousness is just the beginning of relations, when you think of the beloved one, when you fly into the sky, while love seems very stable, making you confident. So amorousness hampers my game, and love may help a lot.
— Do you sometimes have dreams about chess at night?
— It happens quite seldom. When I am through some tournament, I play with someone even at night, when I sleep.
— Have you ever defeated Kasparov in your dreams?
— I would love to play with him in real life. I had a draw with Karpov once when he was giving a simultaneous display. I was 11 at that time.
— This Russian beauty Alexandra Kostenyuk, is she a good player?
— Yes, she won the European championships last year, she even qualified for male grandmasters. She has great coaches and lots of money. Good investments mean a lot in any sport.
— Do you know that they often call Kostenyuk a chess Kournikova?
— She does not look like Kournikova, as she is a brunette. At the same time, Kournikova did a lot for tennis, and Kostenuyk is doing a lot for chess, making this game more and more popular.
— Have you been compared to anyone?
— I don’t think so.
— Never? I have heard many time the Sharevich-Kostenyuk comparison.
— Oh, with Kostenyuk. Yes, true.
— What do you think about it?
— It is fine, I guess. I am the best chess player in Belarus.
She is happy and purposeful, this typical Belarusian girl. Stylish, well-educated, no complexes, likes active rest, romantic music. She also wants to learn to cook just like her mother. “I am not concerned about it now, but when I decide to get married, and will take some lessons from my mom. She is number one cook…”
The Shareviches are very united. Anna’s brothers also play chess: it was her dad that taught them how to play. His advice is still very valuable for the champion. She loves chess and loves traveling, but she is always glad to come back to Belarus, to her native city of Brest, the best city on earth, as she puts it. Haven’t you heard of her? No? The situation will change soon, and the whole world will be speaking about the beautiful chess grandmaster from Belarus. She wants to become a chess queen so much, and it is clear that she will become one soon.