Person of day - 19 APRIL 2023
Antoaneta was born in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, and she learned to play chess at the mere age of 4. Her first trainer was her father, Andon Stefanov, a designed by profession, who believed that chess improved spatial imagination. Antoaneta proved to be a true wunderkind: she won Sofia’s women’s championship at seven, won the U10 world championship and the U14 European championship. In each case, she demonstrated an incredibly mature level of skill for a girl of her age.
When she was 13, Stefanova made her debut in adult chess at the 1992 Olympiad in Manila. A few years later, the young Antoaneta became her team’s leader and fought with some of the world’s strongest female players, like Xie Jun and Chiburdanidze; her match with the legendary Maia finished in a draw. At the present moment, the Bulgarian chess player has competed in 10 Tournaments of Nations.
In 1994, Antoaneta became a female grandmaster and played in the inter-zonal tournament, where she performed below her usual level. Due to a prolonged lack of a competitive cycle for the world championship, the strongest female players didn’t have an opportunity to compete for this title, and Stefanova’s next career step began only in 2001. In the knockout world championship in Moscow, she won in the first round, but got knocked out in the second by Peng Zhaoqin.
Misfortune did not break her and, with the support of her trainer Vladimir Georgiev, she started another rise in her career: she became the European champion in 2002, then a grandmaster and finally came second at the 2002 World Cup. But her star moment came in Elista in 2004. She consecutively defeated Tan Zhongyi, Tatiana Vasilevich, Natalia Zhukova, Nana Dzagnidze, Maia Chiburdanidze and Ekaterina Kovalevskaya and became the newly-crowned tenth world champion. In the next knockout world championship, the champion could not defend her title after dropping out in the second round.
In subsequent years, Stefanova remained among the leading players of the world, winning more than ten super-tournaments and retaining a rating of above 2500; in 2012, she made it to the final of the world championship once again, but lost to Anna Ushenina. She was successful in games against men- she defeated multiple players whose rating was above 2600.
She was the first female world champion in rapid chess in 2012. She won the European Cup with Spartak in 2009 and ABC in 2011. After she became world champion, Stefanova became an honorary citizen of Plovdiv. Antoaneta continues to play in tournaments of the highest level, delighting her supporters with her beautiful, colourful style.