Discovering Queens: An Interview with Ivie Urieto

As chess continues to gain momentum in Africa, several noteworthy organisations and individuals emerge as driving forces behind this advancement. 

Today, we got the rarest privilege to talk to a young queen – unarguably the youngest chess promoter in the world, a witty chess promoter and enthusiast from Nigeria.

Let’s meet the amazing Ivie Urieto!

Tell us about yourself, and what does chess mean to you?

I am 9 years old, and I am a professional chess player from Edo state. To me, chess is a teacher of life’s lessons. It has taught me to be patient, have foresight and take consequences for my actions. It is not just a board game, it reflects the challenges and choices we make in our daily lives.

When did you discover your love for chess, and what motivates you to continue playing?

I discovered my love for chess when I saw my father play it, thrilled by his composure whilst playing, I immediately liked it, and was fascinated by the way the pieces moved.

What motivates me to keep playing chess is the constant opportunity for improvement, my dad is always ready to provide me new materials and pays my coaches. I also look forward to every chess game I play, they are huge learning points, whether I win or I lose.

Why do you believe chess is important, especially for kids?

Chess is important because it reflects the intellectual challenges faced by humanity. It can help kids build strategy, improve problem solving skills, aid adaptability and flexibility of the mind, help with long term planning, learning from mistakes, and improve cognitive development.

Chess can also help kids improve their academic performance, build patience and concentration. Kids also get to learn good sportsmanship and social skills, I strongly recommend chess!

Chess can be pretty complex, what has kept you going?

Through my chess journey, I have encountered different challenges that have tested my perseverance and commitment to the game. But the urge to keep improving keeps me going.

One significant thing was dealing with losses. When you lose a game, it is always very hard to endure it, some people always cry.

Have you lost a chess game that made you cry?

No, but it was painful, it’s always painful. I have had quite a number of losses, especially when playing against adults. But the most painful losses are when I lose to fellow kids. I can understand it when I lose to some adults, sometimes it’s hard to defeat them, but, you see, when I lose to my mates, it pains me more. I aim to win all my games, adults and kids alike. 

What challenges have you faced in your chess journey?

There are so many challenges I face. From not having enough support to travel for tournaments within and outside Nigeria, to finance and sponsorship. 

Lagos is where most of the chess tournaments take place in Nigeria, sometimes it can be challenging for me to travel there all the way from Abuja. 

How do you overcome these challenges and still advocate for chess? 

Yeah, so, for me, I don’t really think about the challenges that much. I just keep playing chess, solving chess puzzles, and participating in tournaments as much as I can. I keep doing the work, if anybody sees me in a tournament and they want to help, that would be fine.

How did you become an ambassador for The Gift of Chess?

A small back story…  I started playing chess at the age of 4, and at the age of 6 I went for my first tournament where I won the junior category convincingly. 

My dad then posted about this win, and it went viral. The Gift of Chess commented on the viral post – I don’t remember what they said about it though, but  they collected my Dad’s  contact and started chatting with him, then they now made me their ambassador in Nigeria!

So what’s your proudest achievements in chess and advocacy?

On the 1st of January, 2024, I received an award for promoting chess in Abuja from Mama Africa Carnival. I had the privilege to speak to the attendees about chess and after my speech, I was awarded, it felt good.

You have supportive parents, how has their support helped you in your chess career?

My parents are my biggest supporters, and they have created an enabling environment to help me through my life and  chess journey.

When you play chess over the board, there is only so much cheer and support they can give me when I am already seated over the board. But when I play online, they support me any way they like, even when I lose, they keep on supporting me, that I should take it as a game and not take it as a serious matter. And when I am done with the online tournament, I now go back to analyse the games.

Who are your chess coaches and how have they influenced your growth as a player?

I have quite a number of coaches, I have some from outside the country and some from Nigeria. From India, I have Coach Akshay Shegaonkar, from the United States, I have Miss Stacia  Melinda. I also have FM Abimbola Osunfuyi as a coach. And oh, the amazing WFM Perpetual.

Can you share some insights into your training routine? What roles do your coaches play in shaping your approach to chess?

Okay, so they introduce me to some new openings, make me solve lots of puzzles, and at the end, my homework is usually to watch some videos about chess. For coach Abimbola, he gives me homework on Chessable. I keep to the routine of my training on a daily basis. Whenever I get bored and have nothing to do, I train.

How do you balance your time between chess, school, and all other advocacy activities?

So, you know, school is technical and chess is also technical, so I have a timetable that separates them. The timetable tells me when to do school work, and when chess work starts, and when to end it. 

My Mum is usually at home with me, because my Dad goes to work, she makes sure I follow the timetable, telling me when it’s time to stop doing one activity and move to the next activity. This way, I keep the balance with all these activities.

Sometimes, after following my school and chess timetable, I still feel bored, and if I don’t feel like doing more chess or school work, I just do other activities like drawing, painting, and playing scrabble.

What one advice from your parents has helped you the most?

To never give up. That’s something they always say, that I should just keep doing what I’m doing.

Tell us some chess players that inspire you?

Okay, from Nigeria, I would go with Deborah Quickpen and Tanitoluwa Adewumi. They are Nigerian and young, just like me.

I also am inspired by Praggnanandhaa from India, he is young and he is one of the best players in the world.

So, are there specific roles that you aim to achieve in the coming years?

So, I want to be a Grandmaster before the age of 15, or exactly at the age of 15.

Awesome! What advice do you have for other kids that might be interested in learning chess?

I will just say that if it is not Chess they want to learn, they should not give up on whatever it is  they are doing, they should not say that, because they failed at what they are doing, they don’t  want to do it again. And for chess, they should just study hard and never give up.

How can parents and educators encourage their children to pick up chess?

If their parents don’t know how to play chess and they feel getting a coach is too expensive, they can encourage their kids to just watch YouTube videos on how to play chess. And the parents should not discourage their kids in what they are learning or what they want to be in future.

Aside from chess, what other fun stuff do you do ?

I like playing scrabble too. I also enjoy painting and  drawing, but the last time I drew myself, it didn’t come out well 😜. 

What is your favourite chess piece?

My favourite chess piece is the knight.

If you could play a chess game with any chess player, present or past, who would it be?

I will go with Tanitoluwa Adewumi. I am sure one day I will meet him.

What do you think about the Promoting Queens initiative?

Hmm… Okay so, I looked at your website, it’s beautiful. I like that you are focusing on girls. I also hope Promoting Queens can get more girls involved in chess and organise many prized, girls-only tournaments. 

You can support the Promoting Queens movement here

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