Mauricio Marrujo is only 11 years old, but he does not look like them. His voice, warm and serious, together with his wide vocabulary, make him look older. He is sitting in front of his computer and looking at the camera as if he were scrutinizing something; it looks concentrated. Then, he opens a link that connects him to an online chess game and begins to move pieces from one place to another: apparently, it is a type of training for professional chess players.
For Chilean chess players, especially young people, the surname Marrujo is known. Since 2018 he has won 5 national tournaments and 3 Pan American tournaments. Winning is his thing. In the circle, Mauricio has a reputation for being relentless in everything that has to do with chess. He takes it seriously, too seriously, because it is not a hobby: for him, chess is his present, his past and most importantly, his future. His life revolves around horses, pawns, rooks, bishops and of course, long days of training in computer simulators. It is not surprising that he has caught the attention of the best chess player in Chile, Cristóbal Henríquez, who after playing a game with him decided to recommend him to the Foundation for Youth Talent (FundacEK), an institution that supports children and young people in the development of their talents. Henríquez sensed that Marrujo could be Chile’s next great chess player and wanted him to receive as much help as possible.
A gesture of camaraderie that is missed in other disciplines.
“Mauricio is very good at tactical, looking for attacks, he also defends the games very well,” explains Henríquez. He adds: “He has a lot of energy when he plays, he doesn’t want to lose a match, he doesn’t settle for a draw. He is always looking for victory. That kind of thing you don’t see in every player. He has a lot of potential, but he still has a lot of work to do.”
What do you remember about your beginnings in chess?
When I was 5 or almost 6 years old, I found it on the computer and started playing against the computer. Then I enrolled in an academy, and that’s where I really got to know chess, because before I only played because my mom took me to play.
-What attracted you?
-One of the main reasons is because chess goes out of the ordinary and imitates war. At first glance, it can be interpreted as such.
-How was the process of growing up with chess?
-I had it as a hobby, until at one point, there was a national tournament, in Venezuela, there was a tournament in Puerto la Cruz, which I won, and what I remember about that tournament is that I had lost the first round. If it’s not for a friend who beat him, he didn’t win that tournament. That was the first close experience with what real-world tournaments were. I used to play tournaments because it was a hobby.
-When did you go to live in Chile?
-I arrived on January 24, 2017.
-Do you have a good memory?
-Does that help you to play chess?
-Tell me how your arrival in Chile was.
-We left Venezuela because the situation was not very promising, and as the country is today, it corroborates it, and that is why we came to Chile. When I arrived in Santiago, I went to the Plaza de Armas to play chess, it was no tournament, in the square you go and there are people playing games. I remember that at that time I met the coach of a friend, Don Mauri, and the next day I participated in a tournament at Club Chile. Then I signed up for that club and stayed for a year.
-Which club do you currently play for?
-I am currently at the club La Florida, since 2019. However, with the pandemic, everything that was done vanished, now we do nothing. It is not the same to do online tournaments.
-How does your professional life work in chess?
-I have a teacher named Sandro Mareco, chess grandmaster. My mom is the one who signs me up for the tournaments. I represent Chile. My daily routine consists of playing 2 hours in chess games; that in addition to training, which I do not have very defined, because I do what I have to do, without measuring the hours so much.
-Why do you like to play chess so much?
-The day I stop liking it, maybe I will leave it. I like it because, let’s see, what I like is the fact of playing the games, sitting down, striving, and playing the games. You face a rival who is not going to want you to beat him. It also becomes a custom.
What do you think has been your most significant achievement in chess?
-When I won the 2018 Pan American. The 5 nationals I played I also won; the first one I won in 2018.
-How did you meet Cristóbal Henríquez, the number 1 player of the national chess?
-I think qUe was simultaneously in an Entel tower, where we played a game, and he beat me. Cristóbal seems to me a good person, an excellent player and I think he will spend a long time being the first in Chile, in ranking. I understand that he recommended me in the Foundation for Youth Talent, who support me in my talent, financing for example my tutorials with Sandro Mareco.
-Do you have a favorite piece?
-The horse, obviously, because it is good for the bullet; that is a chess joke, the bullet is a modality that consists mostly of trying not to be killed.
-And the piece that you like the least?
-What would you most like to achieve in your discipline?
-To be a world champion, although first, I would like to finish my studies, those of the school, and then dedicate myself to chess 100%
-Do you think there is a lack of incentives in Chile to play chess?
-In Chile there is a lack of support, support for national champions, in other federations they take them to international tournaments, in chess that does not happen.
-What would you highlight about chess as a sport? What makes it unique?
-I consider chess to be a very complete sport, and that is why it is very complex, and that is the essence. It’s not like checkers: if you seriously play checkers, you’re going to beat everyone, but chess isn’t, because it’s not yet refuted, it’s not that you can memorize a pattern of moves and beat everyone, that doesn’t exist, and hopefully it’s never going to exist, because the day that exists, the sport is going to be ruined. I want that if someone finds the formula, that they do not make it known, because it takes away the essence. The essence of chess is knowing that there is no recipe. That’s the good thing, that doesn’t exist.
-What generates you to represent Chile in international tournaments?
I represent Chile because I live in Chile, and I really feel good about representing Chile.
What positive things has chess given you?
-Chess has helped me to meet friends I have today, such as Cristóbal Henríquez, although I would also like many more children to start playing chess, and that there is more support for everyone.