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Estonian chess champion Mai Narva aiming for Grandmaster status

Mai Narva.
Mai Narva. Source: Maria Emelianova/Team Estonia Malekoondis/Facebook

For 24-year-old Estonian women's chess champion Mai Narva, the last year was the most successful of her career so far, particularly the second half. Not only did Narva finish 38th at the Women's Chess World Cup, she also placed 11th at the prestigious FIDE Grand Swiss tournament, defeating world number two Aleksandra Goryachkina and former world champion Maria Muzychuk.

"I think this year can be called a breakthrough year. Partly because I had the opportunity to play in so many strong tournaments. I hadn't had the opportunity to try my hand against such tough opponents and prove myself to that level before," Narva told ERR.

"But because tournaments like this are often every two years, like the World Cup and the Grand Swiss, I had become two years' more experienced. I was able to show in the meantime that I could play at the same level as the top players."

Currently ranked 49th in the women's FIDE chess world rankings, Narva's next target is to reach grandmaster standard and play in the world's top tournaments.

"I think I'm at that intermediate stage. I'm planning to spend more time on chess now. However, before I was working full-time, and now I would like to try chess full-time," Narva said.

"I already go to so many competitions and so, I thought it would make sense to do chess full time. Try to get better, learn chess, and make sure that this is reflected in the tournaments. So, I'm really working on openings and endgames."

Jaan Ehlvest. Source: Kristjan Teedema/Eesti Meedia/Scanpix

"My coach is Jaan Ehlvest, who I have worked with for three years. It started quite suddenly, I think he saw potential in me. We began slowly, a couple of times a week, but then the following year, in 2021, I had a World Cup tournament and he started coaching me more, so we met every day," Narva said.

"After that, maybe several times a week we were looking at something. It wasn't always that intense, sometimes half an hour, sometimes an hour and a half a day. But yes, since 2021 our cooperation has been stable and consistent."

It's always tough at the top of international sports, and so to stay there often requires a certain type of personality. "I think that at the top of the world, for the most part, there are players who are relatively confident and maybe even aggressive. But I also know a lot of players who are calm and don't show any emotion at all. They just try to play as good a chess game as they can. I think I'm more that type of person," Narva said.

"It's not important for me to win at all costs, I just go into the match trying to do my best. It sounds simple, but that's basically all that's in my control. Because the openings that come, what my opponent is like and what our game is going to be like is out of my control. A lot also depends on the opponent. My goal is to play the best game of chess as I can, regardless of the opponent."

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Editor: Michael Cole

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