Former World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova was introduced to chess as a 4-year-old and won the Sofia Championship aged 7. Her talent first shone on an international stage when she won the World Girls U10 Championship, while at 13 she played in her first Olympiad for the Bulgarian team. She would go on to take part in the next ten Olympiads, even playing for the men’s team in 2000. As an 18-year-old she broke into the women’s Top 10 in 1998, while victory in the 2002 European Individual Championship pushed her up to 2560 on the January 2003 rating list, far below Judit Polgar but a huge 59 points ahead of Almira Skripchenko in third place.
Those proved to be rating heights that Stefanova
struggled to maintain and has never yet surpassed, but her subsequent career
has been anything but a failure. She seems able to compose herself at the critical
moments and emerged victorious from the 64-player FIDE World Championship in
2004. In 2012 she came within a whisker of reclaiming the title, but lost out
to Anna Ushenina in a rapid showdown in the final match. Antoaneta’s memories
of rapid chess in 2012 aren’t all negative, though – earlier in the year she
won the World Rapid Championship in Georgia.
Photo: EICC 2008
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