Gennady Kuzmin, 1946-2020
Gennady Kuzmin. Photo: Russian Chess Federation.

Gennady Kuzmin, 1946-2020

Marignon
Marignon
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29 | Chess Players

GM Gennady Kuzmin, a very strong Soviet grandmaster in the early 1970s and a coach of Women's World Champion Maia Chiburdanidze, died on Feb. 28 at the age of 74 in his home in Lugansk, Ukraine.

The sad news was confirmed by the Ukrainian Chess Federation. Details about his death aren't known, but in recent years he suffered from a protracted severe illness.

Gennady Pavlovich Kuzmin was born on Jan. 19, 1946 in the Miariinsk, Kemerovo region but lived almost all his life in Lugansk. He learned the rules of chess from other children in the street when he was seven years old. The young Kuzmin was excited by this new game and soon found himself in the local Pioneers Palace, where he learned everything that "every Soviet schoolboy knows" and more. 

His first major success came in 1963 when he became the Soviet junior champion and was awarded the Master title. In 1965 he qualified for his first Soviet championship (scoring +3, -8, =8), but the chess stage in the USSR was so competitive that he could make it again only in 1972. Altogether from 1965 to 1990, he took part in 10 top-level Soviet Championships.

In 1969 Kuzmin won the championship of Ukraine. It is interesting that his second and last Ukrainian gold came 30 years later in 1999. He was second after GM Mikhail Tal at a strong "GMs vs. Masters" tournament in Sochi in 1970 and made his international debut and received his first GM norm in Zinnowitz, German Democratic Republic, in 1971.

In 1972 Kuzmin finally qualified for the Soviet Championship and immediately took bronze (+6, -2, =13, behind Tal and GM Vladimir Tukmakov). 

The championship was also a zonal tournament, so next year Kuzmin played in the Leningrad Interzonal, where he came seventh among 18 participants, winning his second norm and GM title.

Kuzmin's best shape continued in the star-studded Soviet Championship of 1973 in Moscow, where he scored +5, -1, =11 and shared second place with GMs Anatoly Karpov, Tigran Petrosian, Lev Polugaevsky and Viktor Kortchnoi.

Sveshnikov said in 2007:  "I betrayed my pet variation, chose the Paulsen and was slaughtered by Kuzmin."

Finally, in January 1974, Kuzmin shared first in Hastings with GMs Tal, Laszlo Szabo and Jan Timman. His rating reached its peak 2600 in May 1974, when Kuzmin shared places 15-19 with GMs Vassily Smyslov, Vlastimil Hort and Jan Smejkal in the biannual FIDE world ranking.

At the 1974 Chess Olympiad in Nice, France, Kuzmin won both team and individual Olympic gold, scoring +10, =5 on board six for the Soviet team.

Unfortunately, his promising career had already reached its pinnacle. Kuzmin did not have comparable results in the next two years, but in 1976 he was eligible to play in the Biel Interzonal by rating. However, the Soviet Chess Federation chose to replace him for another player. This selection was called by some contemporaries a major disappointment for Kuzmin, who lost determination in his career as a sportsman.

He played in the 1979 Riga Interzonal (+5, -4, =8) and, in the next 30 years of tournament play, took first in Reggio Emilia 1977, Kladovo 1980, Dortmund 1981, Cappelle-la-Grande 1994 and won twice, in 1979 and 1981, the Soviet Team Championships with the Ukrainian team.

However, throughout the 1980s, his life's focus gradually switched to coaching. In the years 1984-1993, Kuzmin was the head coach of Women's World Champion GM Maia Chiburdanidze, assisting her with preparation for several championship matches. 

In 1991, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kuzmin received the title of Honored Trainer of the USSR, and a year later he became Honored Coach of Ukraine.

Later he worked with the Ukrainian women and youth teams and raised many young talents in his home in Lugansk, including GMs Alexander Areshchenko, Valery Aveskulov, Artur Frolov and Gennady Ginsburg. Under Kuzmin's coaching Areshchenko became World U14 champion in 2000 and U18 European champion in 2000 and 2001.

Kuzmin was among the coaches of the legendary Kramatorsk chess school that raised GMs Sergey Karjakin, Ruslan Ponomariov and Kateryna Lagno. In 2002, he was on the team of Ponomariov at the FIDE Championship match, where the young talent defeated GM Vassily Ivanchuk.

Kuzmin is warmly remembered by many players, who left responses to a Facebook post from GM Alexander Moiseenko about Kuzmin's passing. We've translated some of them into English:

GM Zahar Efimenko:

Let this genius player go into heaven. I hold only good memories about him. He could find an idea in any position. He generated ideas fast as a machine and was a very positive person!

GM Alexander Areshchenko:

He was a genius player, a good coach and a very nice person. 

GM Viktor Moskalenko:

We were friends, Gena and me. What a brilliant, highly original player and excellent coach! An amazing creative personality, who's given all his love to chess. A fine, sensitive soul. He was among the liveliest people I've ever known. I cherish the memory of this hero of our time.    

In an email to Chess.com, Kateryna Lagno said:

I knew Gennady Pavlovich from the Kramatorsk school. He was never officially my coach, but still we spent a lot of time analyzing and playing blitz together. I was lucky to work with him during that time when you didn't have the computers, so had to analyze everything yourself. He tried to explain many important things with simple words and examples. His understanding of many different kind of positions and his feeling of counter play was incredibly deep. I am very grateful for his work and his experience that he gave me during that time. My deepest condolences to his family.

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