Chess in a time of war: The struggles of a Ukrainian woman master

·2-min read

Anastasiya Rakhmangulova emerged as the best woman player at the recently held rapid and blitz chess tournaments at Port Marly near Paris. The Woman International Master from Ukraine scored 9.5 points (in 13 rounds) and 6.5 points (in 9 rounds) in the blitz and rapid events respectively.

Even though Rakhmangulova is now playing tournaments across Europe, focusing on chess has been a tough task for her since 24 February, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On that day, the 27-year-old woke up, with horror and confusion, in her Kyiv apartment to the sounds of air-raid sirens.

“I couldn’t understand what was going on. When I realised it, there was a really short time to pack my essentials. I took just my laptop, a few clothes and some food cans,” she said.

Along with her mother, Rakhmangulova spent one week in a bomb shelter in Kyiv before deciding to evacuate Ukraine.

“It was impossible for me to stay there longer. It was really hard for me mentally, more than physically,” she said. Rakhmangulova and her mother eventually managed to move to the Czech Republic.

Despite leaving Ukraine, Rakhmangulova said she had war-related nightmares for a month afterwards.

“It was only after a month that I managed to resume my chess training,” she said. She also started a fundraising campaign to help her fellow citizens impacted by the war.

“So far, I have raised 5000 euros that has gone to volunteers, army and people who suffered from the war.”

According to Rakhmangulova, chess has been of great help to her in recent times.

“When training or playing in tournaments, I find myself insulated from the outside world. Moreover, tournaments are also a means to make people aware about the situation in my country,” she said.

She is still unclear as to what she will do in the immediate future but she said she is considering a return to Kyiv soon.

“It is really hard for me to make the right decision. I have been afraid of war since my earliest childhood. I am afraid of going through it again. But, on the other hand, I really miss my country,” she said.

In chess, her immediate aim is to become a Woman Grandmaster (WGM).

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