Can You Solve A Puzzle From A Five-Time Armenian Chess Champion?

Can You Solve A Puzzle From A Five-Time Armenian Chess Champion?

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WGM Maria Gevorgyan is a five-time Armenian women's chess champion and a well-respected chess coach. Her lessons go beyond simply providing chess advice and aim to help her students improve in all aspects of their lives (but the Elo boost is nice, of course). Learn all about WGM Gevorgyan here, from her early chess beginnings to how she became a national champion and earned her title... with an illegal move along the way!

At what age were you introduced to chess, and who introduced you?

My grandfather introduced me to chess when I was three years old. Of course, I didn't follow all the rules, but I enjoyed playing. I was a very active kid, but when I had to sit down and play chess, that was my calm moment.

During wintertime, I had this chess puzzle book, and since I couldn't play outside, I was solving puzzles from it on my own and forcing all our guests to play chess with me. I was seven-and-a-half years old when I forced my family to take me to chess classes. I was eight when I qualified for the Armenian women's first league.

It's a funny story. One of the players there said, "Please take the kid off the stage. We are starting the games!" I even managed to win one game in that tournament. That was really the beginning of my chess career.

A young GM Maria Gevorgyan and her grandfather.
A young WGM Maria Gevorgyan and her grandfather.

What is your first vivid memory of chess?

I have many special memories from chess, good ones and bad ones, but there is one story that I will remember forever.

I was playing in the 2019 European Women's Chess Championship, and my opponent was IM Daulyte Deimante. At some point in the game, I castled long; we played for around 5.5 hours and were the last ones playing in the tournament. I won the game and returned to my room.

My friend came to dinner and I asked to quickly save the game in ChessBase before we went. When I got to the moment of the long castle, ChessBase whistles. I try again... it whistles again and doesn't allow me to play the move! I try it for a third time, it whistles again... I turned to my friend and started laughing very hard as I understood what happened.

I have many special memories from chess, good ones and bad ones, but there is one story that I will remember forever...
— WGM Maria Gevorgyan

Earlier in the game, I played Ra1-b1, then played back Rb1-a1, and then castled, so my castle was illegal. I texted my opponent apologizing as I didn't do it intentionally. I called my coach at that time, GM Avetik Grigoryan, to tell him what happened. He started laughing even harder and joked that I shouldn't tell anyone!

It was too late... On the way to the dinner, people started approaching me, asking what had happened. I was out of social media at that time, so I didn't see what was happening there, but apparently, people already saw it! There were videos where some were saying, "When you just learn how to play chess and don't know the castling rules," and some were mentioning the Kasparov-Dreev game (1994) where an illegal castle happened, and they continued playing without noticing, like in my game.

Also, if the game was stopped and it was mentioned that an illegal move had been played, I would have had to go back—and as I touched my king, I would have to play with my king, and it was a checkmate in one move!

In that tournament, I received my third WGM norm and got my WGM title. 

WGM Maria Gevorgyan and the Polgar sisters.
WGM Gevorgyan with chess royalty, the Polgar sisters.

Which coaches were helpful to you in your chess career, and what was the most useful knowledge they imparted to you?

I trained with several Armenian coaches. I would say that five of them had a very big impact on my chess career.

GM Arsen Yeghiazaryan had a big impact on my playing style, and I received most of the knowledge I have from him. I won a medal in the European Youth Championship with him.

When I was making a choice for myself whether to continue playing chess or not (as I got a scholarship in the USA to move there and start a career as a diplomat), GM Hrair Simonian appeared in my life. We were training chess for hours, sometimes we would train until 3 a.m. at my house. He taught me mainly practical tricks, opening lines, and so on. He helped me to win the Armenian Women's Championship.

I worked with GM Avetik Grigoryan for a short time but I think I learned training discipline and, after so many years of playing chess, I learned how to work on openings from him. Also, as I'm a chess coach now, he is the main example for me as a coach.

When I was making a choice for myself to continue playing chess or not, GM Hrair Simonian appeared in my life ... He helped me to win the Armenian Women's Championship.
— WGM Maria Gevorgyan

GM Zaven Andriasian supported me throughout my chess career and believed in me. He is an example of a hard-working chess player and, of course, a great chess coach. While being an extremely talented and successful chess player, he became a chess coach at a young age and devoted himself to it. 

My last and current chess coach is FM Hovik Khalikian, the greatest example of the fact that you don't need to be a very good chess player to be a good chess coach! The funny part about us working together is that we almost don't work on chess. He always knows what to say, and what to play. I think it's just wonderful. 

WGM Maria Gevorgyan playing the current women's world chess champion, GM Ju Wenjun.
WGM Gevorgyan playing the current women's world chess champion, GM Ju Wenjun.

What is your favorite or the best game you ever played?

Well, this is a hard choice. I have many favorite games. But for me, these are two very beautiful games with some tactics and sacrifices.  

How would you describe your approach to chess coaching?

Even in group classes, I try to show an individual approach to each student. Everyone has their playing style and comfort zone in the chess game. I try to work on the things that are out of their comfort zone because I believe that's exactly what makes them grow in chess. We set short-term and long-term goals. Consistency is the key. I direct them, but they need to understand that many things depend on them and what they do in private. 

A young WGM Maria Gevorgyan at one of her first tournaments!
A young WGM Maria Gevorgyan at one of her first tournaments!

What do you consider your responsibility as a coach and which responsibilities fall on your student?

My responsibility as a coach is, first of all, to help them unlock their full potential, not only in chess but also in life. Some students become good chess players, some don't, but it's very important for me that they get the maximum out of chess.

I try to explain to them the importance of discipline, nutrition, good sleep... And that hard work always pays off.  Currently, I am a full-time chess coach at the Abu Dhabi Chess Club; my students are mostly girls, and it's very important to make them love the game. When they love it, then it won't feel like working, but a joy.

My priority during training and tournaments is to see them happy and in a good mood. Especially when working with the girls, I understand very well that many things depend on their mood. But nothing is possible unless they want to invest their time, follow the rules of discipline, and work on chess in their own private time.

WGM Gevorgyan with one of the many trophies she has won over her chess career.
WGM Gevorgyan with one of the many trophies she has won over her career.

What is a piece of advice that you give your students that you think more chess players could benefit from?

First of all, analyze your played games without the help of the engine. Try to go as deep in the lines as possible, otherwise playing a tournament and not doing this is a waste of such good material and work.

I also try to tell my students to create problems for the opponent on each move. Even in lost positions, you never know what it will lead to, and it's not easy for human beings to solve problem after problem. 

What is your favorite teaching game that users might not have seen?

I like to show the Leko-Adams game from the 2002 Candidates Tournament. It's a very technical game and includes many small elements for learning: 

  • Center control
  • Isolated pawns
  • Should you exchange queens or not?
  • Should you keep the bishop or the knight?
  • The trouble of doubled pawns
  • Why you shouldn't push your pawns too much
  • King activity in endgames
  • Fixing the pawn structure
  • Improving the position of your pieces patiently
  • The rule of creating a second weakness
  • Regrouping your pieces
  • Using the files

What do you consider the most valuable training tool that the internet provides?

I use's classroom a lot. It is amazing that everyone can move the pieces if the coach allows it. The arrows, specifically, are my favorite tool. It's very easy to download the game after finishing it.'s classroom is truly my favorite place to work on chess.

What is the puzzle you give students that tells you the most about how they think?

I like to give this position from the Topalov-Shirov game. As kids, we are told that one shouldn't put a piece under attack by a pawn. And this is one of the limitations we receive as a child. Sometimes, we don't even consider moves like putting a piece under the attack of the pawn or another piece. Occasionally, some players think outside the box and actually go deep into the position, trying to understand the ideas and find a solution that is hidden in everything that we were told not to do.

Which under-appreciated chess book should every chess player read?

When I was growing up, we had a big book library at home. I don't know why, but we also had chess books there, even though no one was reading them.

I remember taking a green book in the Armenian language, Tigran Petrosyan by Gagik Hakobyan. It was such a joy just reading it and solving the diagrams in it. I am pretty sure the examples can be found in other books, too, but that book, in particular, was my favorite. 

To book a lesson with WGM Maria Gevorgyan, contact her via her profile

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Mick Murray

Mick is a writer and editor for and ChessKid. He enjoys playing the Caro-Kann and Italian Game to varying degrees of success. Before joining, Mick worked as a writer, editor, and content manager in Japan, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.

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