Andreea Navrotescu, international women's chess Grand Master

Interview with andreea navrotescu, international women's chess grand master

"Is chess a sport? That's a laugh!" What if you're wrong about this rigorous discipline? Beyond strategy, chess requires true physical preparation to keep on going throughout each match and tournament. 

Although chess falls into the category of sports known as "mental sports", they require excellent physical fitness to be able to be practised at a high level. Interview with Andreea Navrotescu, age 25, officially international women's chess Grand Master since last April.

Andreea Navrotescu, international women's chess Grand Master

Andreea navrotescu in a few words

Who is she?
Andreea Navrotescu, age 25, has been a professional chess player since 2018, when she completed a bilingual degree in English and Spanish culture. She started to play at the age of five, taught by her father who was also an international chess master. Last April at the tournament in Belgrade, she completed her third international tournament and walked away with the title of women's international Grand Master*.

Her record
2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015: she won the title of French youth chess champion
2012: bronze medal in the European championship, under 16 category
2016: silver medal in the fifth board in the Baku chess Olympiad
2019: third in the individual French championships
2022: first place in Women’s Day in Belgrade (Serbia), her third international tournament which earned her the title of women's international Grand Master

*To earn this title, you need to complete three international performances at 2400 Elo - the international chess ranking system - and this, against players with the same title.

According to you, is chess a sport? 

Yes, it's a sport, but it's also a game. It depends on your individual perspective, but in the eyes of the law, chess has been delegated as a sport since last March, and by the Ministry of Sports since 2005.

Do you have a routine in terms of mental and physical preparation? 

For the past several months, I've taken my physical preparation very seriously. Matches can last for four to five hours each, and that requires a very high level of endurance to last until the end. You need unwavering concentration, not letting anything slip by, and you need it for hours. Endurance helps to achieve that. For the past three or four months, I've been doing cardio four to five times a week at the gym - 45 minutes on the cross trainer, to be more specific - and I noticed that this work has improved my results and my ability to concentration.

However, although accessories - athletic ones, among others - are essential for high-level chess, the discipline's low visibility makes it hard to find sponsors… So it's sometimes hard to fund this equipment. I think we'd need to affiliate ourselves with marketing campaigns for the luxury brands that play with the chess world in their advertising. Why not incorporate professional players in these campaigns?

Does diet factor into your preparation?

There aren't enough studies on the connection between nutrition and mental performance, but according to what I've read personally, it's important not to eat simple sugars before a match, because otherwise you'll quickly reach your glycemic peak and then fall off, creating additional fatigue.

What is the hardest thing about tournaments? 

Physically, it's the preparation just before a match. We have databases that we use to try and anticipate our opponent's game. Then if you add the length of the match, you can be physically pushed to the limit. Over the course of the match, you are allowed to get up and take a breather, but matches are often at mealtimes or just afterwards. In spite of that, you need to stay constantly alert without ever letting down your guard. One mistake, and you've lost!

This summer, between tournaments, I only spent two weeks at home. I'm still young and I can handle travel well, so I leave for tournaments at least every two weeks. Tournaments are generally spaced out over the course of a week, and organisers compress the matches as much as possible to prevent participants from needing to take too much time off work, which means that you sometimes might have two matches per day.

Do you make a living from professional chess? 

I can't say that I'm making a lot of money, but yes, I essentially live off of professional chess. The freedom to do what you love is priceless, and I'm pretty frugal! Out of inertia or by default, I just decided to devote myself fully to chess. I don't need to beat myself up every day to be the best version of myself at work. I love winning, travelling, and being free, so this is the perfect lifestyle for me at the moment.

What's it like to be a woman in the professional chess world? 

It's a delicate subject, because the proportion of women in chess is just 20% in France, and 10% in the world, which makes us a minority. So let's just say that it's not a great start! However, you can see an avant-garde approach in the chess world. To encourage young girls, there are 100% women's tournaments and titles to help create role models for younger players. In the long term, we're aiming to be fully co-ed, but for the moment, we don't have the numbers to get there.

In a world where you're looked at for your appearance rather than your chess moves, we try to support each other even when we're constantly pitted against one another.

Your greatest moment of joy in chess? 

It was in 2017, when I had my first performance as women's Grand Master. I remember it well, because I didn't think I was capable! In the last part of the tournament, I played against a Grand Master who was much better ranked than me, so I just needed to face her and at least achieve a draw. I went there, and in the end, I realised that I'd done it, and I cried for joy. I'd never thought I'd be able to achieve such a thing. It teaches a life lesson: you never know how strong you are until you realise the extent of your strength.

How do you get good at chess? 

You need patience, first of all, and you have to understand that some people spend their entire lives trying to master this game. So it's obviously not something you can learn in two weeks! I think that you get good simply by enjoying practising, whether that's in a training setting to work on skills, or over a drink with friends. All the beauty of chess is that just when you think you understand the game, you realise that in fact, you don't know a thing!

Andreea Navrotescu, international women's chess Grand Master

One last word for those wanting to start learning chess? 

We have an image of this sport being inaccessible and elitist, but I think that's a false prejudice. You can have fun with it, no matter the level. Don't get discouraged, don't tell yourself it isn't for you - you never know, you might awaken a passion!

Andreea Navrotescu, international women's chess Grand Master

Val leroy

Journalist - web editor

Society journalist, social media enthusiast (Twitter fever, you know) and sports fan. In my free time, you can find me on a pole or under the hip thrust bar, depending on the day.