Real-life ‘Queen’s Gambit’: Argentine crowned youth chess champion

Candela Belén Francisco Guecamburu, who grew up in Pilar, is the nation’s first woman to hold the title of Grandmaster

In the 2020 mini-series The Queen’s Gambit, Anglo-Argentine actress Anya Taylor-Joy plays a child chess prodigy who conquers her personal demons to win a major tournament in Moscow. Now, Argentina has a real-life world champion: Candela Belén Francisco Guecamburu, 17, who just won the International Chess Federation’s World Junior Chess Championship in Mexico.

The Buenos Aires native defeated Bulgaria’s Beloslava Krasteva to become the first woman Grandmaster from Argentina. Three Argentine men have held the title, including Oscar Panno in Copenhagen (1953), Carlos Bielicki in Münchenstein (1959), and Pablo Zarnicki in Buenos Aires (1992). Francisco finished the tournament undefeated. 

On Sunday, President Alberto Fernández took to X (formerly Twitter) to congratulate Francisco on her “historic” triumph and recognize her as a source of “national pride.”

The final matchup of this year’s World Cup had its share of drama, as Krasteva was one of the top players in the tournament and a champion in Bulgaria. In her 39th move, Francisco sacrificed her queen, while Krasteva refused to lay down her own — a decision that would ultimately cost her 13 moves later.

Krasteva entered the 11th and final match with 8.5 points out of a possible 10. Francisco equaled that total with her win and clinched the tournament on a tiebreaker, edging out Krasteva and the United States’ Carissa Yip.

Players that Francisco bested on her way to the title include Sofia Mayorga (Costa Rica), Svitlana Demchenko (Canada), Ingrid Skaslien (Norway), and Mariam Mkrtchyan (Armenia).

This is the second triumph for Francisco in as many years after winning the American Continental Women’s Championship in Havana, Cuba, in May 2022. 

Francisco, who grew up in Pilar, Buenos Aires province, has been competing in tournaments since she was nine. In 2021, she was one of a select few invited to attend a master class with Viswanathan Anand, the 1988 Grandmaster and one of the greatest chess players of the 21st century.

The Queen’s Gambit, created by Scott Frank and Allan Scott, can be streamed on Netflix.

—with information from Télam


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald