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ChessMaine Interviews: A Conversation with Maggie Bryan

04.11.06 Meet Maggie Bryan, Girls State Champion, as she talks about her recent win at the State Scholastic Championships for Girls, analyzes her most memorable game from that tournament, shares her insight on how to improve and gives us her perspective on girls in chess.

ChessMaine: Congratulations on winning the 2006 State Championship for Girls.

Maggie Bryan: Thank you.

CM: Can you tell us how you got started in chess?

MB: I guess my dad just started teaching me when I was around 4.

CM: You started young.

MB: But I wasn’t very good until 4th or 5th grade.

CM: Is chess a pastime for you or do you have serious aspirations?

MB: Chess is definitely a hobby, I’m just not that serious about it.

CM: Can you describe a few of your most memorable tournaments?

MB: Probably my most memorable tournament was, actually the all-girls tournament just recently because it was the first tournament where I won all four games.

CM: In what ways do you prepare for tournaments?

MB: I don’t actually play that much when I’m not playing in tournaments. I play a little on the computer and once in a while I play my dad and go to the chess club. Right before a tournament I try to cram in some last minute chess knowledge. I read chess books.

CM: Are there certain books that you have benefited from?

MB: I think I like Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess the best and the Winning Chess books by Yasser Seirawan.

CM: Which of your opponents gave you the most trouble in the all girls tournament and why?

MB: Probably Megan Southard.

CM: Round 1?

MB: Round 2. Because even though she was a knight behind she still had a pawn that was advanced to the sixth rank and I was having trouble stopping it. In the end I finally managed to trade a rook and knight for her rook and then I managed to get my h-pawn down.

CM: Could you choose one of your best games from this tournament and describe what you were thinking and feeling as the game progressed? We can go over the game on the laptop.

MB: My game against Goldie Garcia, she was White.

Readers can follow this game by opening up the board in a separate window from the Games link.

CM: Fourth Round and you both have three points.

MB: Yeah.

CM: So this is for the…

MB: Championship. So she did the normal king’s pawn and I responded with the Scandinavian which is what I have been doing for most of the tournaments. And then she went 2. f3 and I was kind of surprised at that because usually you just take it.

CM: Right.

MB: So I just took the pawn and she took it back. Then I moved my king pawn out, 3…e5. Then she went 4. c3 which I didn’t really understand. So I moved my queen out (4…Qh4+) and said “check” then either she would have moved her king up and I would have taken the pawn and she would have been in trouble because she would have had only one move and I think it would have been checkmate pretty soon, so she moved the pawn up (5.g3) to threaten the queen. Then I took the e-pawn said “check" and forked the rook.

CM: Double attack.

MB: And by then it was basically over, but she tried to close me in with the knight (7. Nf3). So I brought the Bishop out (7…Bh3). She brought the queen out and took the pawn (8. Qxe5+) but I wasn’t that worried about that because I was threatening checkmate. So she brought the queen back (9. Qe2) and I decided I should just do a trade (9…Qxf1+)

CM: That’s interesting. You let her have the g7 pawn threatening your rook because you have mate on f1.

MB: Yeah. So by then we just exchanged pieces and I was a whole rook ahead and it was basically over.

CM: So you won that one in the opening.

MB: Yeah.

CM: In the middle game did you feel like you just had to hold on?

MB: I was trying to trade off pieces because that’s what I usually do anyways. Then she made another mistake right here. I castled (12…O-O-O) and moved my rook up (14…Rd5) to threaten her bishop. Then she moved her bishop back (15. Bd2), I moved my knight out (15…Nf6) and she moved a pawn to threaten my rook (16. c4) which gave me a free pawn (16…Rxd4). So by then it was basically over.

CM: You were feeling pretty confident at this point.

MB: Yeah.

CM: Let’s take it all the way to the end because you had a nice checkmate. With the pawn forking king and rook then mate with the rook. Let’s take a look at that.

MB: So I took the pawn (25…Nxh2) and her king went to g2 (26. Kg2). So I brought my rook down and said “check” (26…Re2+) and protected the knight. She moved (27. Kh3) and I took the a2 pawn (27…Rxa2). She move her g-pawn forward (28. g4) which probably wasn’t the best idea because I could fork the bishop but by then I had a mating combination (28…Re3+ 29. Kh4 g5+ 30. Kh5 Rh3++).

CM: Great, a nice ending, thanks. Because of your results in this tournament you are eligible to participate in the Susan Polgar National Invitational Tournament for Girls later this year in Chicago. Are you planning on playing in this tournament?

MB: I was planning on going at first, my parents and I were both pretty sure I was going but it turns out that it’s at the same time as all these other things I’m doing like the State Track Meet and this writing camp in Bar Harbor is all on the same week.

CM: Yes, there are always a lot of conflicts and it is a whole week commitment.

MB: Yeah, like one game a day.

CM: How is it being a young woman in a sport in which there are primarily males?

MB: I think it’s more of an advantage than anything because they are sort of underestimating you, they are not expecting you to win.

CM: Really, you get that perception?

MB: Yes, and that gives me more of a competitive drive to win.

CM: What do you think is needed to encourage more girls to get involved in chess?

MB: I think they are doing a pretty good job right now. Mostly girls want awards for their class. More top female awards is good and different classes because they want to feel more confident about themselves. With separate classes it’s more likely that they will get an award.

CM: Which phase of the game do you feel is your strongest?

MB: I’m not really sure. I break off from book moves after like the 4th move. It’s probably the endgame.

CM: Do you consider yourself mainly a tactical, positional or universal player?

MB: More of a tactical player. I’m not really going by the book. After a few moves I just look for pins and skewers and anything else in combinations.

CM: Yes, most of chess at our level is tactics. If you spend time on other phases of the game but miss taking a hanging piece or leave a piece hanging that won’t get you too far.
Can you describe your school chess club and any other chess clubs you may play at?

MB: I’m one of the older people in the chess club because the older kids don’t show up. So there’s a lot of younger kids but there are a few people I can play competitively.

CM: Do you find competitive games in other places besides home and at school?

MB: Occasionally I go to Mr. Paperback in Ellsworth but not very often.

CM: How do you find competition?

MB: I play on the computer a lot and I don’t know if that’s the best for my game because I start moving too fast and at the end I’m almost playing blitz. I don’t know if that’s good for my game. I think that should change, I should do more work studying tactics.

CM: What advice would you give aspiring players?

MB: Play a lot, study and observe the board. I don’t study that much so…

CM: What are your other interests?

MB: I love playing sports, running, track and field, I want to try the pentathalon at some point. I do a lot of writing, I recently got something published in an international magazine.

CM: Wow.

MB: I like the spelling and vocabulary bee I’m not that big on geography though.

CM: Thanks for the interview it was a pleasure talking with you.

MB: Thank you.

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