Diana Mirza represented Ireland in the u17 World Schools Chess Championships held in Iasi Romania from April 21st to May 1st and she had a spectacular tournament. She started as 3rd seed of 26 but with a strong field game points would be at a premium. She started as favourite in round 1 against a 1528 from Sri Lanka but playing black against any junior can be a banana skin, but she came through with flying colours to get off to a perfect start. Round two saw her pitted against another girl from Sri Lanka; Zainab Saumy with a rating of 1814 which on paper should be a more difficult game. It turned out to be so as Diana playing with White only managed a draw, the result left Diana in 4th place but kept her within just half a point of the early pace setters.
Disaster struck in round 3 as Diana faced Russian Zlata Vlasova with black. The 1815 getting the better of the match to leave Diana on 1.5/3. The result left her in 11th place and a point and a half behind the outright leader Susan Mammadova. Diana then went on a fantastic run winning the next 2 games in a row against Alina Manitcaia 1502 and Andrada-Ioana Hrib 1830 setting up a massive game in round 6 against Susan. To make matters worse she was given another black her 4th of the 6 games. Diana managed to come through and win the game putting her on 4.5/6 leaving her in outright second place a half point behind top seed Arnash Bauyrzhan, a 2050 from Kazakhstan. A tough game resulted in a draw and left the tournament finely balanced as 4 players were now separated by half a point with 2 games to play.
Round 7 saw the top players playing against each other so points would have to be dropped somewhere. On paper Diana had a favourable draw playing a 1574 but obviously anyone on 5/7 would be difficult opposition. Diana getting white had a great chance against her 3rd Sri Lankan of the tournament and managed to win putting her on 6/8. With draws or loses to all the other contenders, Diana's win left her a half point clear of second place with only 1 game to play.
A win in the final round would guarantee the title and a draw could well be enough depending on tiebreak but a loss would see her opponent Anna Krzysztynska from Poland leap frog over her and take the title. An all Romanian clash on board 3 saw Andreea-Cristina Nastase beat Andreea-Briana Stanciu which ended her chance of catching Diana so If board 2 ended in a draw then Diana knew a draw for herself would be enough. Diana took control of her game and looked to have secured a win going into a rook ending 2 pawns up however rook endings can be hard to win and in a difficult position she played what looked to be a winning move only to be hit by a rook sacrifice that forced a stalemate. As painful as I am sure it felt at the time it is a useful concept that she will never forget. So it all came down to board 2 which ended in a win for Susan over Arnash, this result meant the tie break went in Diana's favour and as Diana beat Susan in their head to head game too, Diana made a worthy Champion.
So again a massive congratulations to Diana on becoming Ireland's first World Schools Champion and on getting the WFM title to boot. We are all very proud of her and she is an inspiration to junior players all around the country.