World champion among girls aged 10 and under in 2016 and European champion among girls aged 23 and under in 2016
Republic of Belarus
Vera Khvashchinskaya, the European champion among girls aged 23 and under, likes going to the movies and prefers disaster movies about the end of the world such as 2012. Movies that ‘take my breath away’, she says.
Vera describes her daily routine as follows. She wakes up around noon, has breakfast and ‘relaxes’ until training starts (sometime around 3:00-4:00 p.m.). Vera is reluctant to say how she ‘relaxes’. It primarily consists of house chores such as washing the dishes and cleaning up, but she says she doesn’t enjoy it at all and that she’s definitely not ‘housewife’ material.
‘But what if you end up being the lady of the house?’
‘I’m ashamed to say, but it would be a nightmare!’
However, Vera is confident that if she gets married, she will start being a good housewife and will even learn how to cook. But this isn’t something that will be happening in the near future anyway. Vera doesn’t have a boyfriend and thus is not learning how to cook yet.
At present, Vera lives with her parents and younger brother, who never ‘took a fancy’ to draughts, she says. He plays the guitar and is into computer games. Vera says she can’t stand computer games and only uses the computer for draughts training and social networks.
Vera says shopping is another way she ‘relaxes’ prior to the start of training. She says she likes to spoil herself with all kinds of interesting things such as clothes and cosmetics ‘in order to look pretty!’
‘How do the boys you meet react to the fact that you’re a champion?’
‘At first they react to the fact that I am a draughts champion. Guys don’t understand that it’s interesting. They initially don’t think of it as a sport. But once I start telling them about the world championship and European championship, they start taking draughts seriously. And me too, probably.’
‘Do they ever try to play you in a game?’
‘Very rarely. Boys don’t like to lose!’
‘Would it make a difference to you if a guy plays draughts or not?’
‘No, it wouldn’t. That’s definitely not important.’
Vera is radically different from the majority of draughts players in that she can’t stand mathematics.
‘I was never interested and never will be even though the other draughts players are astonished!’ she exclaims.
Vera also doesn’t think she has the kind of highly developed memory that is stereotypically attributed to draughts and chess players along with a penchant for maths. She says it’s easy for her to remember any draughts combination no matter how long it takes, yet she can’t memorise more than 5-6 mathematical formulas at a time.
Despite this, the young champion chose one of the most ‘mathematical’ professions: she is studying in the sociology department at Mogilev State University.
‘But please don’t think that I’m planning to become a sociologist’, she laughs. ‘I enrolled in what I thought would be easier because I didn’t know what I wanted to do!’
Vera makes no secret of the fact that she still doesn’t know what she wants to do. So she attends the university by correspondence and studies draughts full-time.
‘What’s your reply to the traditional grown-up question “what do you want to be when you grow up”?’
‘I don’t know. I live for today and love playing draughts’.
‘So you think they will be a part of your future?’
‘I don’t know. Honestly!’
‘Perhaps you’ll become a coach?’
‘I wouldn’t rule it out’.
Draughts appeared in Vera’s life ‘like everyone else’: as a child she played with her grandfather for chocolate and then at a school club. She also recalls the school had a chess club, but she didn’t like it. The game didn’t feel quite ‘right’ and it was a different group of people.
‘Meanwhile, there were more kids in the draughts club and it was a lot of fun!’
Unlike her peers, young Vera didn’t try to get into a music school or ballet club. In addition, she says she didn’t play draughts for the sake of sport but as a way to spend her time after school – out of educational considerations, so to say.
‘At age ten, I became world champion and I loved winning so much! So much! I still love it!’
Vera hopes to turn in a solid performance at the Belarusian championship among women in May and then at the European championship in Tbilisi. Both are serious competitions and she will be facing adult opponents instead of children.
Despite her championship titles, Vera does not fit the conventional cliché of a ‘tomboy’. She admits that she doesn’t devote proper attention to her physical fitness and doesn’t dispute the fact that such fitness is also important for her ability to concentrate for a long time during draughts tournaments. She also jokes about the corresponding declarations from draughts officials:
‘I agree. I don’t do any of that myself, but I share the opinion…’
Vera acknowledges that draughts wouldn’t be as interesting if there were no trips or tournaments. She likes new places and interacting with people.
Vera’s non-draughts interests are typical: walks with friends around Bobruisk, movies, concerts. But she doesn’t talk about this aspect of her life. She doesn’t like to say where she is going and who she is meeting with. The rest of her time is for draughts, but she’s not a draughts junkie. Vera studies with a coach or on the computer five days a week for three to four hours a day and makes no secret of the fact that gets sick of it on a regular basis.
‘And what do you do then?’
‘I take a break from draughts until I get bored.
‘And when does boredom set it?’
‘It depends on how tired I am. But definitely within a month’.
‘And what type of recreation do you prefer: kayaking, horseback riding?’
‘No, no, no. The sea, sun and no draughts at all!’
Text: Lev Godovannik
Photos: Sergey Nikolayev
Saint Peterburg, April 2016
Silver medallist at the 2014 European Championship in Russian draughts (rapid draughts) and bronze medallist in blitz draughts; three-time champion (2013, 2014 and 2015) and two-time medallist (2010 and 2012) of the Republic of Belarus in Russian draughts; three-time silver medallist of the Championship of the Republic of Belarus in international draughts (2011 and 2014); top winner at the 2016 European Youth Championship.
Vera Khvashchinskaya was born on 24 January 1996 in Bobruisk, Belarus.
In 2004, she began playing draughts with coach Nikolay Kadesnikov.
In 2006, she became world champion among girls aged 10 and under. Over the next few years, she was a champion and medallist at world and European youth championships in different age categories.
In 2011, she was granted the title of Master of Sport of the Republic of Belarus.
In 2013, she graduated from High School No. 28 in Bobruisk and enrolled at Kuleshov Mogilev State University with a major in sociology.
In 2013, she was granted the title of International Master.
Vera is the champion of Belarus in Russian draughts among women (2013, 2014 and 2015).
In 2014, she was a silver medallist at the European championship in Russian draughts among women (rapid draughts) and a bronze medallist in blitz draughts.
In 2015, she became champion of the world and Europe in Russian draughts among girls aged 19 and under.
In 2016, she became champion of Europe among girls aged 23 and under.