Limerick teenager Diana Mirza has become Ireland’s first ever chess world champion.
The 16-year-old was victorious in the World Schools Under-17 Chess Championship in Romania after nine rounds in 10 days last week.
Mirza, whose parents moved to Ireland from Romania some years ago, represented her Ireland in Baku last year as part of the women’s Fide Chess Olympiad team, and has collected silverware all along her budding career which has been very successful so far.
President Higgins was among the people who paid tribute to her remarkable achievement and achievements in her career thus far. He tweeted “My heartfelt congratulations to Diana Mirza from Limerick on winning the World Schools Chess U17 Girls Championship.”
Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland programme, Mirza revealed that her father Gabrile, a chess teacher, has been her main influence on her career.
She said “From a young age after primary school he would bring me to the school where he taught and I picked it up from there,”.”When I was 10, I beat him and he gave me €100.”
“I got better and better and he brought me to competitions.
“When I was young, to motivate me, he would tell me that if I beat him I would get €100, and if I drew I would get €50.
“When I was 10, I beat him and he gave me €100.”
On the competition itself she said “I didn’t think I was going to go close but I worked really hard before the Championship so I am just so happy. Even after they put the result up, until they called out my name I didn’t believe it,” said Diana.
“I felt so emotional. They even played anthem. It was so emotional. It was bizarre.
“I lost to Russia in the third round but my dad motivated me and explained I could still win. I started winning again, ended up playing the first seed and we drew. I was in second at this stage and then she lost in the penultimate round and that put me ahead.
“Preparing for each round is really stressful and I did a lot of work in preparation where I would study the opponent and decide what to play. The competition was really tight but it’s all down to the amount of work you put in and luck is always a factor of course.
Mirza hopes that chess will become recognised more in Ireland as at the moment not many people would even know its a sport.
She said “An unfortunate thing is that chess lacks funding in Ireland and that is a very big problem because it comes down to parents or whoever else may be able to support the players. Hopefully there will be improvements in the future here, but of course it’s incredibly hard because chess isn’t recognised as a sport in Ireland.
So what did it feel like to win the World Championships.
“But it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I am extremely proud of myself and grateful to everyone who supported me, especially my dad and of course my mom because without them I really wouldn’t have been able to be where I am or achieve anything I have achieved so far, since they have provided me with all the funding in countless amounts of times and sacrificed a lot for me.” Mirza replied.
An amazing achievement.