Afifa Saburi
College of Arts & Science

The Mizzou Chess Team is quickly becoming one of the best collegiate chess programs in the United States. Two founding members of the MU Chess Team have made a significant impact on the program since 2019.  

Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova, a junior at MU, is officially a U.S. Federation chess player and represents her home country Uzbekistan on the Mizzou Chess Team. 

Recently, Tokhirjonova placed second in the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, her first U.S. national championship. Not only did she take home silver, she also placed ahead of four previous U.S. women national champions. 

“Placing second was amazing,” Tokhirjonova said. “I didn’t know what to expect since it was my first U.S. national championship but winning gave me the confidence that I could do better in the future.” 

Another member of the chess team, MU graduate student and Russian native Grigory Oparin, won his first collegiate title by placing first in the U.S. Collegiate Blitz Championship. 

Blitz chess games are three to five minutes per game, compared to classical games which are 90 minutes and rapid games which are 15 minutes. This faster pace limits the players ability to calculate each possible move, and instead requires them to use their intuition. 

“I must have a pretty good intuition,” said Oparin, who is also the team captain. 

In addition to blitz chess, Oparin also competes in rapid and classical categories. Recently, Oparin traveled to the 2021 International Chess Federation (FIDE) Grand Swiss competition in Riga, Latvia. Oparin placed third qualifying him for the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix competition held in Germany from February to March of the coming year. 

“I think this competition was my biggest success in my career,” he said. 

Both Tokhirjonova and Oparin are grandmasters, the highest title awarded to a chess player by the FIDE.  

In spring of 2021, the chess team secured a major victory by placing first in the International Chess Federation’s World University Blitz Cup. This event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the team overcame digital obstacles and managed to secure a win. 

You can read more about the MU Chess Team here: