From Ukraine With Love For Chess

From Ukraine With Love For Chess

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Among the many chess books that are coming out these days, quite a special one should be singled out. From Ukraine With Love For Chess, a wonderful collection of games, stories, and studies from a wide variety of top Ukrainian personalities, can (and should) be bought whether you are interested in the richness of Ukrainian chess and/or would like to contribute to the charities it supports.

Because that's the unique part of this book: the proceeds will go to two charities in Ukraine. The country is still involved in a war with Russia, which invaded them on February 24.

One charity was chosen by GM Ruslan Ponomariov: Come Back Alive, based in Kiev, which helps people on the front line with protection. GM Natalia Zhukova, politically active in her home town of Odessa, chose the other one: a local charity there called Stop War in Ukraine.

Together with publisher Remmelt Otten (New in Chess), Ponomariov explained how the book came about in a live stream hosted by GM Daniel King on his PowerPlayChess channel on Friday, June 24, exactly four months after the war started.

It all started with FM Steve Giddins, an editor and translator for New in Chess, who emailed the Dutch publisher writing: "If there's anything I can do, if I can do free translation from Russian to English to help the Ukrainian chess community, please let me know." That's how it started: in order to get more contacts in Ukraine, the publisher asked Ponomariov for help, and the 2002 FIDE World Champion eventually acted as a kind of 'general editor', although he was too modest to accept that title.

Ruslan Ponomariov
Ruslan Ponomariov helped a lot to get this book together. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

"To be honest, at some moment there was all this news about some war will start because Russia accumulated more and more troops on the board, but honestly I couldn't believe this really would happen, despite that we had all these previous conflicts in Crimea, in Donbas," said Ponomariov. His family initially wanted to stay in Kiev, and February 24 came as a shock.

"The first week I couldn't do anything. My wife gave me some time to think, she took care of the household. I had some kind of depression. What do to? I am not professional military but at the same time I felt a little bit guilty psychologically. People are fighting, people are dying. To be honest, I felt like I needed to do something."

Giddins did translations for the book free of charge, the designer studio didn't invoice for their cover of the book, the editorial team worked on the book in their spare time, and the printers gave a huge discount. The whole project lasted just a couple of months and was done in a bit of rush, so that the charities could benefit as much as possible.

Otten said on air that about 1,500 print copies ($20) have been sold already, and a few hundred digital copies ($15) as well.

Daniel King's broadcast with Otten and Ponomariov about the book.

So what does the book offer? Well, it starts with with a chapter called The Pioneers, where a group of legendary Ukrainian players are showcased: GMs Leonid Stein, Vladimir Savon, Gennady Kuzmin, Vladimir Tukmakov, and Alexander Beliavsky. A great game from each of these players is annotated.

For example, did you know the following, brilliant game by Savon? In the book, Savon's own annotations are combined with a fresh look by GM Alexander Moiseenko.

What follows is an article previously published in New in Chess Magazine, titled "Oleg Romanishin's secret training matches with Mikhail Tal." GM Oleg Romanishin was a rising star in Lviv in the mid-70s and in 1976, GM Mikhail Tal, the former world champion who was still a top 10 player, invited him for a training match because he was interested by the young man's 'tasty chess.' Romanishin gives a lovely account of growing up in the Soviet Union as a chess lover, collecting autographs of famous grandmasters when he was young, meeting Tal for the first time, and then his account of the secret matches. Great stuff.

The next chapter, called "We are Ukrainian," is another collection of players and their best games, often annotated by themselves. This time it's the 'middle generation,' consisting of GMs Vasyl Ivanchuk, Ponomariov himself, Pavel Eljanov, Zahar Efimenko, Viktor Moskalenko, Mikhail Golubev, Vladimir Baklan, and the aforementioned Moiseenko.

It's a great way of getting to know more players from this chess-minded country. For instance, have you heard of Baklan? Well, he annotates his victory against none other than GM Viktor Korchnoi:

As an in between, we have three articles from New in Chess Magazine about Ukraine's Olympiad victories in 2004 and 2010, and the victory of the women's team in 2006. The next chapter ("What's your superpower? I'm Ukrainian!") brings the 'new generation' with the best games from GMs Mykhaylo Oleksiyenko, Yuriy Kryvoruchko, Anton Korobov, Alexander Areshchenko, Andrei Volokitin, Yuriy Kuzubov, Anna Ushenina, Anna Muzychuk, Mariya Muzychuk, and Kirill Shevchenko.

The book ends with a chapter by GM Jan Timman called "Ukrainian nuggets," where Timman presents the leading study composers from Ukraine and shows some of their finest compositions.

For instance, he mentions Lazar Zalkind (1886-1945), an economist who in 1930 was accused of being part of a plot to infiltrate the Bolshevik government with pro-Mensheviks, and who was sent to the Gulag twice. Timman: "Zalkind has composted all kinds of fine studies, often based on minor promotion. I think this is his best one, composed a year before his first banishment."

Zalkind 1929. White to move and win.


Buying this book is a quite a nice way of supporting Ukraine while enjoying a great anthology of highlights of Ukrainian chess. You'll like it!