Women’s champions

‘My philosophy professor recently said during a lecture: “Free time is man’s greatest value. It is one of the measures of spiritual wealth”. I couldn’t disagree more. I believe the more free time a person has, the more time that person spends being idle and not developing spiritually. Personal development actually takes place when you’re engaged in some sort of activity’.

Yulia Zhuravskaya

International master, eight-time winner at world championships and winner at the 2016 European Championship among girls in the under 19 age group


03.06.16 00:00

Yulia Zhuravskaya is in her first year at the Institute of Economics, Management and Environmental Studies of Siberian Federal University. She is majoring in government and municipal management, but is not sure that she will take a job in this field. She would love to remain connected to draughts for the rest of her life, but does not know if that option is in the cards.

‘I think I have a universal major: I will be able to find work as an economist or public servant’, she says.

Even today, she is a very business-like young lady, which she makes no effort to hide:

‘I have classmates who only go to university and don’t do anything else at all. And yet they get bad marks! For me, university is just one of my many pursuits and it’s not even the most important one. And I get good marks! I think that if a person has a lot of things going on, he/she doesn’t have time to be lazy and such people are more successful’, Yulia says.


Q: Yulia, are you a careerist?

A: No! But a career is also important, above all because of finances. I view work as a means to earn money.


Yulia is also aware of another ‘imminent threat’.

‘I’m already 19’, she says, ‘and relatively soon I’ll have to start a family. I think this is a bigger problem: children and the family require a lot of time. And that’s more serious than combining draughts with studies or work’.

Q: I hesitate to ask, but are these plans already set in stone?

A: Not yet.

Q: But you feel that such a fate is imminent?

A: I would really like for it to be imminent!


In addition to draughts, Yulia goes to the gym two to three times a week, but her athletic activities are not confined to the gym, where she does regular exercises to stay in shape.  She attributes her physical fitness to draughts as well:

‘I find it difficult to even sit through one round, which lasts three hours. I think if you took people from the outside and sat them down for a few hours to play, they would be exhausted and start sweating as if they had just completed a race. You have to be in good physical shape for three hours of brainstorming. So, overall, it’s beneficial for draughts as well’.

Q: How do you spend your free time?

A: Honestly, I can’t recall having any free time recently. I have my studies in the morning, then driving lessons followed by the gym and then draughts training (four times a week without fail), English in the evening, and that’s generally the end of the day.

Q: But everybody manages to find at least a little free time.

A: I spend it away from sports, hanging out with friends. But most of the time I just want to lie down and go to sleep.

Yulia also enjoys playing backgammon. She usually plays in the evening at home with her parents. She says the most important thing is that it’s something other than draughts: her mom isn’t very good, her dad is better, although he never wins, and everyone has equal chances in backgammon. That is what makes it interesting, she says.


Q: Is that how it’s always been? Only draughts?

A: Of course not. I’ve been playing draughts since first grade and swimming since the second grade. My mom is a master of sport in swimming.

Q: Perhaps she wanted you to follow in her footsteps?

A: No, my parents never forced me to do anything. They support all my endeavours.

Q: Every whim?

A: Good endeavours! That doesn’t apply to night clubs.


Yulia makes no bones about it: her goal in draughts is to become the world champion among women.

‘No, that’s not right’, Yulia corrects herself. ‘Not to become the world champion among women, but to continuously be the world champion among women’.

However, Yulia understands that she is not a robot and can’t always finish first. But her minimum plank is still high: to consistently remain in the top three at the very least.

Yulia also believes it is important for all people to start taking draughts seriously as a true sport. She wants draughts to become a more popular sport and for competition to increase.

‘You watch’, Yulia explains, ‘I’ll become champion of the world and Europe once, twice, three times – and I’ll get bored if it’s easy. It’s interesting when there are numerous serious competitors and when victories require every last bit of strength you have!’


Yulia tells what she describes as a curious story.

She met a young man one day. They stayed in touch, but it was around the same time as the Russian and European championships in which Yulia was taking part. She decided not to tell the boy about draughts. When she was training with her coach, she said that she was eating dinner. Before leaving for the Russian championship, she lied and said she was going to see her best friend. When she went to the European championship, she claimed she was going to visit relatives.

Upon returning to Krasnoyarsk, the young man asked, ‘Yulia, when are you finally going to admit that you play draughts?’

Yulia confesses, ‘I was embarrassed’.

She says she feels even more uncomfortable when strangers learn about her trophies:

‘I start getting ridiculous questions about my achievements and number of medals. They get mad if you don’t reply, but then if you start listing them, they say, ‘You’re so full of yourself!’


Text: Lev Godovannik

Photos from Yulia Zhuravskaya’s personal archive


May 2016, Krasnoyarsk



International master, eight-time winner at world championships and winner at the 2016 European Championship among girls in the under 19 age group

Yulia Zhuravskaya was born on 18 May 1997 in Krasnoyarsk;

She began playing draughts in the first grade with coach Sergey Ryabinin;

She first became world champion in 2007 in Berlin in the under 10 age group;

She has been training with coach Mikhail Shuster since 2009;

In 2012, she became world youth champion in the under 23 age group after which she was granted the title of an international master of sport;

This was followed by numerous victories and top-three finishes at Russian, European and world championships in different age categories;

In 2015, she finished sixth at the adult world championship in draughts-64;

In 2015, she graduated from ‘Universe’ High School 1 and enrolled in Siberian Federal University with a major in government and municipal management;

In 2016, she became champion of Russia and Europe among girls in the under 19 age group.