World chess body taps Latvian ex-minister as chief

Riga (AFP) –


The FIDE world governing body for professional chess has tapped grandmaster Dana Reizniece-Ozola, an MP and Latvia's former finance minister, as its new managing director.

While still serving a finance minister, she made international headlines in 2016 by beating the world women's number one Hou Yifan of China in a chess match at the FIDE chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Now 39, Reizniece-Ozola has said that her passion for chess helped her to cope with the stresses of politics.

"I have decided to lay down my mandate (as a deputy) in parliament so that I can devote all my time and energy to the work of FIDE," Reizniece-Ozola confirmed on Facebook Monday.

Reizniece's responsibilities will include "administrative and financial matters, as well as the functioning of most of the commissions, including chess in education -- an area she sees as a top priority," FIDE said in a statement.

Reizniece-Ozola was just 15 when she first won the national women's championship of Latvia in adult competition.

On two occasions, she ranked as European youth champion and became a grandmaster at age 19.

In 2016, Reizniece-Ozola made headlines all over the world when she defeated the reigning World Champion Hou Yifan at the Baku Chess Olympiad.

Although serving as Latvia's finance minister at the time, she skipped a meeting of her EU counterparts to continue playing.

A year later, Reizniece-Ozola was one of four candidates shortlisted to replace Jeroen Dijsselbloem as Eurogroup chief -- and the only woman. But she did not get the position.

A member of Latvia's centre-right Greens and Farmers Union political party, Reizniece-Ozola had even been tipped by some as a possible prime minister after elections in 2018.

As well as chess and politics, she also has a longstanding interest in space.

She lists among her qualifications the title of executive MBA from the International Space University in France and training at the NASA Space and Rocket Center in the USA.