Sunday, April 20, 2008

Chess BeautifulLadies : Almira Skripchenko

Almira Skripchenko (born 17 February 1976) is a French chess player who has achieved the FIDE Woman Grandmaster title. She won the second European Open Women's Chess Championship in 2001.

She was born in Kishinev (today Chişinău, Moldova). The daughter of pedagogues, both chess coaches, Skripchenko started playing chess when she was 6 years old.

In 1991, Moldova became independent from the Soviet Union. This meant that Skripchenko could take part for the first time in the World Youth Chess Championships. She was soon crowned champion at Under-16 level (1992, Duisburg, Germany) and in 1993, took the bronze at Under-18.

She married French Grandmaster Joel Lautier in 1997 and consequently moved to live in France. Despite separating from Lautier in 2003, she became a French citizen in 2001 and continued to make France her home. Skripchenko then married French Grandmaster Laurent Fressinet and in January 2007, gave birth to a daughter.

In 2001, at 25 years old, she celebrated her biggest success ever, winning the individual ladies European championship. She was at this time chosen "best sportsperson in 2001 in Moldova" and decorated with the Order of National Merit in her native country.

In 2004 she won the North Urals Cup, the second international super-tournament for female chess players. Held in Krasnoturinsk, the 9-round single round robin tournament featured ten of the strongest female players in the world. Skripchenko finished a half point ahead of Maia Chiburdanidze, the former Women's World Champion, and also defeated her in their individual encounter.

Living in Paris and representing France in tournaments since 2002, Skripchenko has become a noted ambassador for the game in Europe. She was the first woman to have competed in the Men's French Individual Championship (2002, 2003). In 2004, 2005 and 2006, she also won the Ladies' French Chess Championship. In team play, she won the French Nationale Chess League with celebrated club side NAO Chess Club (2003, 2004) and the German Chess Bundesliga with Werder Bremen (2005). Her career victories also include three Nationale ladies titles which she earned with Baden-Oos in 2003, 2004, and 2005.

Almira Skripchenko has taken part in several Chess Olympiads (with Moldova, then with France), each time playing on her team's top board. She is also a member of the ACP Board (Association of Chess Players).

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