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'Cool' mission for Russia's teenage chess queen

Kostenyuk aims to make it "cool" to play chess  

By CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A Russian teenage chess champion is on a mission to update the game's image from brainy to "cool."

Seventeen-year-old Alexandra Kostenyuk became the youngest women's chess grandmaster when she gained the honour at the age of 14.

She recently came second at the women's world championship.

"I like that I can win -- I can be better than somebody -- I think it's cool," she enthuses.

Her book -- "How I became a grandmaster at the age 14" -- is full of her personal history, advice on the game and her own poetry.

CNN's Jill Dougherty talks to Alexandra Kostenyuk, Russia's 17-year-old chess grandmaster (February 25)

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She began playing chess at the age of five, when it soon became clear she was a whiz.

Now most weekends she can be found at her local Moscow chess club where many of the country's top chess players hang out.

Asked if she could beat everybody in the room, Kostenyuk replies: "I will try."

She believes chess is becoming a more visual and active sport, like the five-minute blitz games. And she has been inspired by golf legend Tiger Woods by taking a vigorous approach to training -- running and swimming to keep in shape.

It's far from the image of middle-aged men sitting for hours at a chess board, frozen in concentration as they figure out their next move.

Kostenyuk wants the game to become as popular as tennis or basketball -- and if it takes becoming the game's sex symbol then Kostenyuk is ready.


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