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Chess Chat: Q&A with Sofia Doroshenko, Female Captain of the Leyden Chess Team in Illinois

Sofia Doroshenko at the chessboard.

Daily Chess Club Member Sofia Doroshenko hails from Chicago and is currently an 18-year-old senior in high school who hopes to major in English. Sofia plans to achieve a Woman Candidate Master title to help increase outreach in under-resourced communities and further the movement to improve chess literacy and excellence amongst women. This title will put her on the path to Woman Grandmaster while also allowing her to conduct lectures and simuls in order to create many girls’ clubs and fundraise for them. In her spare time, she unwinds through high school wrestling, analyzing Norse Mythology, and playing the cello.

Below is my interview with Sofia Doroshenko. As always, my questions are in bold and my guest’s answers are in standard font.

What got you into chess?

I started chess at 3 years old when my grandfather used to bait me with a dollar for solving chess puzzles. After he passed away, I stopped playing, but I made a return in high school when I wandered into the chess club after school freshman year. I met the Captain who helped me improve my chess skills, and I slowly climbed the boards to reach Board 1. I am extremely thankful to him for taking the time to help me when I was a beginner, and when I reached a more advanced stage.

Who were your main chess influences growing up?

Alireza Firouzja has influenced me since he’s 17 and at 2700 which is really inspiring as a younger person. I often watch his games, and I hope I can reach WGM by 19, at least.

What has been your worst chess mistake which has given you the biggest lesson?

When I went to a chess conference for school sophomore year, I had the mindset that all my opponents were better prepared and more skilled than me. This resulted in many losses because I felt as if they would win no matter what I did. I soon realized that chess is a psychological game as well as an intellectual one. As state approached, I changed my mindset to try to be more sure of myself which helped me to almost go undefeated with one loss out of seven rounds.

Sofia Doroshenko is also a competitive wrestler.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in chess?

I feel as if my greatest achievement is being the only female high school captain in Illinois. Many women are intimidated out of chess or aren’t given as many resources, and I am very happy that I stayed motivated despite the challenges.

(Since publishing this article, we have become aware of other female chess team captains in Illinois. Please see the blog post titled “A Learning Moment” for this correction.)

How do you stay motivated to work so hard at improving in chess?

If I don’t feel motivated on a certain day to work on my chess skills, I imagine all the future opponents that I will miss out on thrashing if I don’t practice.

Speaking in terms of chess, what do you hope to achieve during the next couple of years?

I hope to be able to fundraise enough money to compete in tournaments in order to achieve a female chess title. After receiving the title, I hope to run simuls and clubs to encourage more girls to be engaged in chess. Eventually, I want to reach a WGM and GM title.

What is the biggest challenge to achieving that goal?

Mostly money. Because of this issue, I have only been able to be involved in school chess events. If given the chance, I would love to achieve this goal and surpass it to one day earn a female grandmaster title.

Sofia Doroshenko with her High School chess team.

How has chess affected your decision making process off the board?

Chess has definitely made me more willing to take risks. If the risk’s rewards outweigh the disadvantage, I will often take it. In real life, this leaves me with new experiences while on the chess board, it may sometimes lead to an amazing position.

Could you please leave us with a favorite piece of chess wisdom to conclude this interview?

Consider all the possibilities on all the sides of the board, then conclude on the most reasonable yet dominating move.

Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Chris Torres served as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy from 2005-2020 and currently is recognized as a correspondence chess master with the United States Chess Federation. Since 1998 Chris Torres has taught 6 individual national champions as well as led multiple school teams to win national championship titles. In addition, Chris Torres has directed and taught at 10 different schools which have been California State Champions at chess. In 2011 and 2012, several former and current students of Chris Torres have been selected to represent the United States at the World Youth Chess Championships. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

2 thoughts on “Chess Chat: Q&A with Sofia Doroshenko, Female Captain of the Leyden Chess Team in Illinois

  1. Hello, there are other female chess captains in other Chicago high schools. My daughter is the captain of BHS chess team. My daughter’s team tied for first in IL high school chess championship and they finished in second place due to tiebreaker. I think even the captain of the winning team is a female chess player. It would be great if you could change the tile of your post.

    1. I apologize. I will gladly post a correction with additional names of Female Illinois Chess Team Captains if you could please email or PM them to me. (Dailychessmusings@gmail.com)
      Thank you for correcting me in this issue and I appreciate your help in fixing it.

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