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Mariya Muzychuk: Our goal is to be among prize winners

Mariya Muzychuk won her 9th round game and helped her team achieve victory against Azerbaijan, but the highlight of her day came a little later: Susan Polgar, a former World Champion herself, presented Mariya with the “Caissa” Cup, the award for Female Player of the Year, in her capaticy as Chairwoman of FIDE’s Women’s Chess Commission. The prestigious trophy, hand-made from silver, gold and diamonds, with the winner’s name engraved on its back, and crafted by famed jewelers Lobortas, was certainly eye-catching; but Mariya herself was equally radiant when receiving it, as well as in the ensuing press conference with Susan and Anastasia Karlovich.

–          The FIDE Women’s Chess Commission started the tradition of this award a few years ago, supported by the sponsorship of Lobortas Classic Jewelry House from Ukraine. It is therefore fitting that today a Ukrainian player receives this beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of art. The award is the result of a vote between all members of the Women’s Commission; the Chairperson and the senior members propose the candidates, and then each member votes. This time, Mariya Muzychuk has been voted as Female Player of the Year for 2015, her victory in the Women’s World Championship being the most prominent factor.

So, Mariya, how do you feel about receiving this prestigious award?

It is of course a great honor for me to be awarded this beautiful cup! The year 2015 was very tough for me, so I am really glad that my efforts were appreciated so highly.

–          You had several good results in 2015: first there was Sochi (the Women’s World Championship), then you scored an excellent result at the European Team Championships in Iceland, others… You said it was a tough year, but at the same time it was quite successful for you!

Sure, it was very successful for me. But actually, this World Championship in Sochi was the most difficult part. As I have said before, I lost six kilos during that tournament; thankfully, I have those kilos back!

–          What about your game tonight? How are you doing so far in this Olympiad?

Today I won; we played against Azerbaijan, which, as everyone knows, is a quite solid team. Talking about my game, I can’t be satisfied with how the opening turned out, but in the middlegame I think I calculated better; after I played …h3 I liked my position and eventually managed to win the game.

–          You come from a chess family: your sister plays chess and is almost as successful as you are – your ratings usually are very very close. How is it, growing up and living with a sister that is, at the same time, such a close rival?

It is actually very good, because we can help each other. But it’s not only my sister that plays chess: my parents are Merited Trainers in Ukraine; and also my grandparents play chess, so… I can say that almost all my relatives play chess!

–          This prompts a key question: when you have children, will they play chess?

(laughs) Actually I haven’t thought about it! I can’t say right now… I would certainly want my children to know how to play chess, but probably not to become professional chess players.

–          Now that you mentioned your sister Anna, I think it’s the first time that she represents Ukraine in an Olympiad, am I right? How does it feel to play together with your sister on the same team, fighting for medals? What are the goals of the Ukrainian team here in Baku?

The experience is not entirely new for me; we have already played together in other team competitions. In any case, it’s much better playing along Anna, rather than alone! As for our team, our general goal is to be among the prize winners; naturally, we really want to fight for first place.

–          Well, my sisters and I were always very close (ed: the Polgars), it was always great to travel and play together, so I suppose it’s something like that with you and Anna, right?

Yes, of course. We are not only colleagues in chess, but also very good friends.

–          This nice trophy you just received, made by such a famed jewelry house based in Ukraine, travelled all the way to Baku and now it will travel back!

Of course I am fully aware of Lobortas and their status! After I won the World Championship, I had a meeting with them in Kiev; it was very nice. I hope I will manage to bring it back to Ukraine unharmed!

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