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Hello Mindsports Academy members! I am WFM Maria Manelidou, and I will be writing here regularly to share hints and tips to help you with your game, as well as stories from the world of chess. For the first instalment I am going to tell you how I got into the game, and give a summary of my story in chess so far.


I was born in 1992 in Tbilisi, Georgia, the youngest of four siblings.  Chess is an important part of Georgian culture, and my three older brothers all learned to play at a young age.  Initially I did not join them, pursuing other pastimes including ballet, but when I was 8 years old my father saw me playing with some chess pieces and resolved to teach me.

As a family we had just moved to Greece, and I immediately found chess to be an escape from the pressures of life as an immigrant child.  I did not yet speak Greek well, which made school life difficult, but at the chess board this did not matter.  One of the wonderful things about chess is that differences of nationality, age and gender are irrelevant – everyone is united by the common language of chess.

I was lucky that the city we had moved to, Kavala, was home to a thriving chess scene, and the local club had a number of children around my age.  Spurred on by the friendly competition at the club, and encouraged by my brothers, I made quick progress, and qualified for the Greek Youth Chess Championship in my first year of playing competitively.  My result there was unexceptional, but I had learnt an important lesson – that travelling to chess tournaments is a great way to have fun, make friends and see more of the world.

Upon returning from that first big tournament, I re-doubled my training efforts, and went on to win six rapid and two classical Greek Youth titles over the coming years.  At fifteen years old I managed to win the Under 18 Championship and place third in the Greek Women’s Championship.

As well as individual tournaments, I have always enjoyed playing for teams.  Although in essence a solo sport, the shared joys and frustrations of playing in a team format appeal to me, as does the additional element of strategy inherent in playing for match points.  Notable successes in team events include winning the 2007 World Schools Championship U16 in Pardubice, Czech Republic, and winning three Greek Team titles with my local club, Kavala.

In 2014 I moved to London for my latest adventure, and now reside here teaching chess to children.  I do a lot of work with the charity Chess in Schools and Communities, which aims ‘to improve children's educational outcomes and foster their social development by introducing them to the game of chess in schools and inner city communities.’  This is rewarding, but challenging work, so some evenings I like to unwind with my London team, The Drunken Knights.  As you might guess from the name, this is one of the more sociable teams around, so do pop in for some blitz if you happen to be near The Plough on a Monday night!  I also play for Wood Green MM in the 4 Nations Chess League, and believe we are in with a great chance of promotion this season.

That’s all for now, but let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.


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