by Bill Wall
Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk (born April 23, 1984 in Perm, Russia) became the European Women's Chess Champion in 2004 and the Russian Women's Chess Champion in 2005.
In 2008, she won the Women's World Championship and held the title until 2010.
Her peak Elo rating was 2543 in September 2014. She is currently rated 2529 as of February 2015 and is ranked No. 16 in the world for women.
In her book, Diary of a Chess Queen, Alexandra chronicles her rise to the top of the women's chess world in this autobiographical work. Drawing from her personal diaries kept during her youth, Alexandra takes the reader from the very beginning of her chess career in Russia to the pinnacle of success in women's chess.
The book is broken up into 11 chapters. Chapter 1 is entitled "Those Wonderful Childhood Years." Chapter 2 describes Elista, the City of Chess. Chapter 3 is entitled "School Days." Chapter 4 is "Kremlin Breakdown." Chapter 5 is called "After the Applause Died Down." Chapter 6 is "The Conquest of Europe," Chapter 7 is "Russian Gold." Chapter 8 is entitled "Career anf Family." Chapter 9 is called "Return." Chapter 10 is entitled "Nalchik - The Ascent of Olympus." Chapter 11 is "Being World Champion." An introduction by 12th world chess champion Anatoly Karpov is also included.
Alexandra describes her first acquaintance with chess. On April 23, 1989, she received a chess set and pieces for her 5th birthday. Her dad, Konstantin Vladimirovich Kosteniuk, then began to teach her how to play chess. She played in her first tournament in the fall of 1990, only scoring 2 out of 8. The next year, in 1991, she scored 6 out of 8, and was awarded the title of Moscow Champion among girls under 10.
In 1992, she scored a perfect 9 out of 9 in the Moscow Championship for girls under 10.
It is interesting to note the hard dedication, and sacrifice the family made for Alexandra to play chess. Her dad gave her his full support, including resigning his Army commission to spend more time supporting her daughter and looking for financial assistance. They were able to find people who supported and aided Alexandra and her family. She has a little sister, Oxana, who is a Woman FIDE master herself.
Reading through the chapters, you can see the evolution of a small, shy girl who sometimes had to hustle chess to earn enough money for her chess tournaments, to an international star - a chess queen.
In 1998, at the age of 14, she was awarded the title of Woman Grandmaster.
In 2000, at the age of 16, she was awarded the title of International Master.
In 2001, at the age of 17, she reached the final of the World Women's Chess Championship, but was defeated by Zhu Chen of China.
In 2004, Alexandra won the European women's championship by winning the tournament in Dresden, Germany. She was also awarded the International Grandmaster title, becoming the 10th woman to be awarded the World Chess Federation's (FIDE) highest title.
In 2005, she won the Russian Women's Championship with 7 wins, 4 draws, and no losses.
In 2006, she became the first Chess960 (Fischer random) women's world champion. She defended her title and won it again in 2008.
In September 2008, she won the Women's World Chess Championship after defeating Hou Yifan of China by the score of 2.5 to 1.5. She was the 14th Women's World Chess Champion.
The book should be of great interest to any chess player, especially the girl chess players interested in how world class chess players start out and how hard they have to work. Alexandra brings new insights in how to go about studying chess and what chess training and practices works or not. At the very beginning, there was an emphasis on blindfold training, playing over many of the elementary positions and solving problems blindfolded.
Alexandra's writing is easily accessible to players of every skill level. Her annotations to her games are good, with the right amount of variations and explanations per game. Alexandra does a good job of promoting chess and making it fun, not boring. What's interesting is that she is able to balance chess with family, health and fitness and a hectic travel schedule. In her simuls, she is easily accessible for autographs and pictures. She has appeared in a Russian film, has done product promotions, and has appeared in several fashion magazines.
The book contains over 100 pictures of Alexandra, from the days playing in the Under-10 Moscow Championship to winning the world women's championship title. There are also 64 annotated games and dozens and dozens of diagrams to go along with the games. A complete tournament and match record is included at the end of the book. A list of opponents and list of openings is also included for all the games that appear in the book. There is also a collection of color photos that occupy an insert in the center of the book.
The book was published in January, 2010 in paperback from Mongoose Press. There are 244 pages, About 1/3 of the book is text, mostly from here diaries. The remaining 2/3 of the book is devoted to her 64 games and analysis. The book sells for $24.95.
In 2010, Kosteniuk was eliminated in the third round by Ruan Lufei in the Women’s World Chess Championship, held in Turkey.
In 2013, she became the first woman to win the men’s Swiss Chess Championship. She has dual Swiss-Russian citizenship.