Voice of Ukraine: FM Mariia Berdnyk

While many are writing about what is happening in Ukraine, and many are speaking out at a time when Twitter and streaming technologies are giving voice to the masses, there are still countless stories that go untold, if their topics were not invited to tell them.

online chess life wants to introduce these people to a wider audience and share their voices and stories.

At this point we would like to give the floor to FM Mariia Berdnyk.

I don’t know where to start… so I’ll start at the beginning!

My name is Mariia Berdnyk. I was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, where I have lived all my life. I’m 19.

People always ask me what my passion is, and they are usually very surprised by my answer. I am a professional chess player. I have been playing chess for over 13 years and am still working to improve my skills in this unique game.

I’m a FIDE master and a national master, and I’ve been Ukrainian women’s champion 15 times. I have won more than 40 different awards in Ukrainian championships and had the highest mark among girls in Ukraine since 2019. I took second place in the Ukrainian women’s rapid championship in 2018 and 2019; a year ago, I won it.

But my achievements do not stop at national competitions. I played a lot of European and world championships. I believe my best result was a shared third place at the World Juniors (U20) in 2019. I took third place at the rapid world championship and second place at the U16 World Olympiad in 2018. I have six WIM standards, and one IM and WGM standard each.

I had the chance to be sponsored by Pavel Kuftyrev and the GRECO company a year ago. It allowed me to get some serious training with National Olympic Coach GM Mikhail Brodsky. Things were starting to look up, but then…

On February 24, I was awakened at 5 am by a huge explosion. At first I tried to explain it, “Oh, it’s just fireworks, it doesn’t matter.” But when the booms repeated ten times, I began to realize that something was wrong.

I quickly understood from the first headlines that Russia was announcing war on Ukraine. My world fell apart at that moment. I thought that couldn’t be true, it had to be just a joke. I was wrong. The whole world got it wrong…

At first there were some problems with food and drinking water, but that was solved. But a small success does not mean that all is well.

As you read this article, my city is being wiped off the face of the earth. The Russians don’t care who they shoot or where they bomb. They don’t care whether there are military targets or not. Kharkiv’s city center, which survived World War II intact, has already been completely destroyed.

I stayed in my city for more than two weeks. I got used to the constant explosions and gunshots, as well as the lack of electricity, hot water, internet and mobile connection.

But fighter jets… they’re the worst. And they were too much for me.

My mother and I left Ukraine a week ago, and now we are near Nice in France. My father and older brother, however, are still in Kharkiv. It is true that my body is safe right now, but my soul is not. She is there, with my father and my brother, and with my people.

My next chess tournament is the Reykjavik Open in a few weeks. But I’m not sure I have enough strength to focus on it.

We live in strange times. My people fight not only for freedom, but also for existence. We will continue to fight, because we are sure to win. And when we win, we’ll rebuild our city from dust!

Here are five of FM Berdnyk’s best matches with his own annotations, including a win over GM Jorden van Foreest. See the complete set with annotations via Lichess.

US Chess, in partnership with the Kasparov Chess Foundation, has raised over $30,000 for Ukraine relief through the generous contributions of our chess communities. Thank you all for your kind support.

If you would like to contribute to the ongoing relief efforts, US Chess recommends making a donation through the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council.

Gens una sumus (We are one family).

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