Another Chess Year to Come - Welcome 2024

Another Chess Year to Come - Welcome 2024


Central Kyiv park gathers chess players all year long (2017)

While the new year approached with violence in some areas of the world, I thought it was a good idea to reflect on this horrific war in Ukraine with an example to share because the war in Ukraine also changed the lives of chess players. Like many Russian grandmasters, some now live abroad to pursue their “trade.” The general rule is that all men between 18 and 60 cannot leave the country, but the Ukrainian Sports Ministry allowed them to play. Thanks to this exception, many top Ukrainian players have been able to participate in tournaments abroad.

In this context, reflecting on the ongoing war in Ukraine and its profound impact on chess players is crucial. Despite the hardships, the stories of resilience within the chess community shine as beacons of hope.

Igor Kovalenko - in the trenches

Igor Kovalenko (34) is one of the strongest grandmasters in his country. The regular player of the Viernheim chess club in Germany has been serving in the army since April 2022, for which the aspiring priest of the Jewish Messianic community in Kyiv has volunteered and is fighting the enemy “unmanned aerial vehicles” in the Donetsk region. He and his comrades-in-arms are deeply entrenched in the positions at the front. “Like moles…” he reported to the chess journalist Conrad Schormann. The chess pro and clergyman has learned to use an axe, pickaxe, and shovel and is preparing to spend a few years in the woods - including this Christmas. Above all, his view of life has changed: “The concern about being a grandmaster, which moved me before the war, now seems ridiculous to me.” Despite all this, with usually only three hours of sleep, the game of chess is still important to him “as a bridge to a normal life.” Even if only online.

And this is his online blitz game on December 12, 2023

And on the same day, an excellent game with Black.

Artem Sachuk - A Chess Figure Lost, But Not Forgotten

Artem Sachuk, a renowned chess player and vice president of Ukraine’s Chess Federation, has been killed in action while defending his country against Russia’s unprovoked invasion, the federation announced on November 26.

“Ukrainian volunteer soldier Artem Sachuk died in the war of liberation against the Russian occupiers - a famous chess figure, candidate for master of sports, vice president of the Chess Federation of Ukraine, organizer of many all-Ukrainian and international competitions. Eternal memory,” the Chess Federation of Ukraine announced on its Facebook page.

According to Suspilne, the information about the death of Artem Sachuk from Zhytomyr was confirmed in the Zhytomyr City United TCC and SP. They also said that they are currently investigating the circumstances of his death.

In September, Artem Sachuk reported being in the army for 1.5 years.

In October, Minister of Youth and Sports Vadym Gutzait announced that 361 Ukrainian athletes and coaches died in the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Here is an interesting game from Ukrainian Summer Youth Games 2002, where both White and Black missed a win:

Unity and Resilience in the Chess Community

The chess community is a testament to resilience and unity in the face of global challenges. Despite the adversities, initiatives, and events within the chess world have exemplified the strength and support that binds this community together.

The shared passion for chess has transcended borders and differences, fostering a sense of camaraderie that goes beyond the chessboard. Players, organizers, and enthusiasts have come together to showcase the unwavering spirit of the chess community.

Let’s celebrate the stories of individuals like Igor Kovalenko, who, amidst the chaos of war, finds solace and normalcy in the game of chess. His dedication reflects chess’s profound impact, serving as a bridge to a semblance of a regular life even in the most challenging times.

As we remember the loss of Artem Sachuk, a chess figure who gave his life defending his country, let us honor his memory by recognizing the strength that chess instills in its practitioners.

The positive message is clear: Chess not only endures but thrives, providing a space for unity, support, and resilience. Together, the chess community continues to inspire, reminding us that even in the darkest times, the game’s power can shine a light of hope and solidarity.

Amici Sumus

I’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s post. Feel free to share your favorite chess strategy or ask any questions.

Check out week 1 and 2 puzzle and games of the week

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