Personal Story of Viktorija Ni (USA)

When did you start learning chess?

By the age of 3 I could set up all the pieces on the board. That was pretty much until my mother have tried to bring me to the Riga chess school when I was 5 years old. I lost 2-3 games to the older boys, and told my mom that I will never return to this place. By the age of 7 of course I returned there, and won again 3 games or so against older boys.. I felt much better and that's how I started to go to the chess lessons 3-4 times a week.

Who was your main teacher(s)?

My mother was my main chess teacher until I was 12 or so, even if I had different coaches by that time. She is still best person of mine who knows very well when I need to be pushed to study more, or when I need just to forget at all about chess :) My other coaches were always giving chess to me as it is a sport - 5 hours game, science - you need to learn a lot of things to get better, and art - because one can perform really beautiful combinations or play great games.

Who was your chess idol?

When I was young I guess it was Michael Tal, who is the 8th World Champion. It is connected to the place where I was born - Riga, as he was born and raised here too as well.

Can you describe the positive impact chess has on your life and wellbeing?

Chess is special to me because most of the part of my life I am playing chess. It gave me a lot of benefits - such as travelling around the world, making friends around the world, getting to know new cultures, as well it helps to discipline me with doing some sport more regularly, it also has some impact on my everyday life because thanks to chess most of the times I can imagine what to I need to do, put some priorities and complete all what is needed, and leave the other things until later. Lastly it is mostly special for me because when I was younger, I could see my mother more often than other kids my age. Now when I am much older, I am realizing very much what she did, and very thankful to her for doing such a thing for me. My mother - Polina, who is expert in chess as well, holding master degree gave up her good position in the bank, and switched to the chess teacher - more flexible profession, which allowed her to travel with me around the globe, teach other kids, organize international events and just support me and help me to be the person who I am now.

Benefits for me was getting lots of connections around the world and meeting very interesting people, getting to know different cultures, and getting more mature by realizing that I can accomplish anything I want by working hard on something I really like. It helped to disciplined myself in other things in my life. Also, as I started to travel very young and seeing other places and people, I was getting more mature, and realized much early that things are not just black and white, there are other people in the world, and it was always interesting to get to know more about countries, (learn just a few simple words) I was about to visit, just to develop my imagination as well.

What can you recommend children?

Lastly, I would recommend to kids to try chess out because it gives completely different perspectives and they can get mature and see different things much earlier. But even if something happens not the way they want, and they not always succeed in the games, they shouldn't really give it up, because it takes years to be a some tournament success.


Viktorija Ni is one of the top female American chess players with the title of women's international Master since 2010. Her mother, Polina Ni, taught chess to her when she was seven years old.