Ups & Downs for Ukrainian Chess
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Ukraine has been the epicenter of international news since its President was replaced and Crimea taken over by Russia. The first signs of the turmoil affecting the chess scene are there: the strong Sberbank rapid tournament, scheduled for May, has been cancelled while the Lviv Regional Chess Federation has proposed to declare Anatoly Karpov, Sergey Karjakin and Alisa Galliamova persona non grata. There is also positive news: a Ukrainian chess charity has won a national award.
None of our readers will have missed the developments in Ukraine in the past few months. Its President Yanukovich was impeached in February, illegaly in the eyes of Russia, who took control over Crimea. Since this is a chess website, international politics will not be discussed (except on one day of the year) and consequently, political debates in the comments section are discouraged. There are much better places for that.
However, it cannot be denied that the chess scene in the Ukraine has been hit too by the turmoil in the country. This week the organizers of the Sberbank rapid tournament in Kiev had to cancel their event for this year due to the political situation.
It's a big blow for chess in Ukraine, since the Sberbank tournament has been the strongest event of the year for a while. The participants in the top group for this year would have been Michael Adams, Vishy Anand, Pavel Eljanov, Sergey Karjakin, Anatoly Karpov, Alexander Moiseenko, Ruslan Ponomariov, Veselin Topalov and Loek van Wely. Last year Karjakin won the tournament ahead of Topalov.
The tournament was doing well. During the press conference in 2013, GM Alexander Areschenko praised the organizers and said he really liked it that famous chess players were in the same hall as a children's tournament, which was attended by about 180 children under the age of 16: “Young children running around, watching us play – it's great.”
Persona non grata
Earlier this week it was reported that the Lviv Regional Chess Federation (LRCF) has proposed to declare persona non grata Anatoly Karpov, Sergey Karjakin, Alisa Galliamova and other players who openly support the annexation of Crimea by Russia. In a letter on its website the following was written:
“The seizure of Crimea by the modern vandals provoked a fair indignation of the world community. The outstanding chess players Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik have expressed their indignation with the fact together with the civilized world. We support the attitude of the grandmaster Mikhail Golubev of Odessa and the initiatives like "chess on Maidan" organised by him, and we are also very thankful to Garry Kasparov for his support of Ukraine. We also support the letter of Ukrainian chess players “for sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine” and we are surprised to know that some of the GMs who are planning to play at the Russian Team Championship in April didn't sign the petition.”
The letter refers to GM Mikhail Golubev, who has had a chess TV show in Odessa since November 2012 called Shkola Chempionov (“Champions School”). In the 34th edition he strongly opposed to the participation of Karjakin and Karpov at the Sberbank tournament because these players openly supported Russia's actions in Crimea:
Meanwhile Karjakin has responded to Soviet Sport about the initiative of the Lviv Regional Chess Federation.
“I have always felt in that Crimea is Russian. I have a clear position with this issue. All my many friends and relatives are in solidarity with me. I want to stress that I have an excellent relationship with all Ukrainian chess players. I do not want to quarrel with anyone. I will still be friends with them.”
Chess for Children
Luckily there is also positive news coming from the Ukrainian chess scene. This morning Chess.com received a press release about the All-Ukrainian Charity Foundation Chess for Children, which was declared Social Initiative of the Year at the national award ceremony Sport Stars 2013 in Ukraine.
The ceremony took place on Sunday, April 6th at the National Olympic Area in Kiev - on what was the first International Day of Sport for Development and Peace in Ukraine. This festive day was launched at the General Assembly of the United Nations on August 23rd, 2013. To celebrate this day in April 2014, the Sport Committee of Ukraine organized the festive ceremony “Sport Stars of the Year” for awarding the best sport personalities in 2013.
The winner in the Social Initiative of the Year section was Chess for Children, a charity founded in Ukraine in November 2012 by WIM Olena Boytsun. The primary purpose of the foundation is “to discover the potential of every child through engaging children into a game of chess and to promote chess and healthy lifestyle in the society.”
In 2013 the foundation ran 7 projects and implemented 20 events all over Ukraine. An example is the project Chess Ukraine, which supports establishing new chess clubs and schools all over Ukraine as well as providing consultations, chess equipment and literature.
The greatest attention is attracted by a new modern chess club and chess school for children in Krivoy Rog. It was launched in 2013 with the support of the “Chess for Children” foundation and currently the school has more than 200 children. At the local art square near the club the highest in the world 5 meter tall chess marble piece is situated.
Another example is the Literary Chess project which develops and distributes free books to children with the rules of the game of chess, made in an entertaining style, in order to engage children to play chess. In 2013 the foundation took part at the Lviv Book Forum and the Frankfurter Book Exhibition with the presentation of the book Babish Gilzi plays chess by Olena Boytsun.