05 March 2014

Ukrainian Chess Players

These days Ukraine is on everyone's mind. The happenings of the past few weeks reminded me of a long note I once received from the same correspondent who featured in the post 1985 Montpellier Candidates Reserve. It was sent to me just after the sixth round of the 2001-02 FIDE Knockout Matches, when a pair of Ukrainians, GMs Ivanchuk and Ponomoriov, qualified for the last round FIDE title match.
Now we will have the first Ukrainian World Champion. Before former Ukrainian players Bogolijbov (relocated to Germany) and Bronstein (relocated to Russia) played matches with Alechin, Euwe (for FIDE title) and Botvinnik. Some coverage of Ukrainian chess see below.

I've done some editing to the text, but the facts are stated as I received them.

Two comments. First, "politics". As you maybe know Vasily Ivanchuk is from Lvov (West Ukraine) and Ruslan Ponomoriov (I think he is a Russian native, just due to name, I do not know) is from Kramatorsk near Donetsk (East Ukraine)

Really there is a big difference between East and West Ukraine, like maybe Serbia and Crotia from former Yugoslavia due to history (East Ukraine belonged mainly to Russian Empire - Soviet Union, West Ukraine to Austrian Empire and after to Poland (Lvov), Hungary and Slovakia (Uzgorod), Romania (Chernovsu) and only after 1945 to USSR); religion (Orthodox East / Catholic West) and other cultural things; really there is some tension between East and West part of Ukraine. Some people, like Alexander Solzhenitsyn do not think that is one nation (do not say it to Ukrainian, especially West Ukrainian people!).

But certainly, from the "chess" point of view West Ukrainian Ivanchuk and young Ponomoriov belongs to Soviet Chess School. They said about this in interview "there is not Ukrainian chess school, there is Soviet chess school".

Second. It is always hard to divide former Soviet chessplayers to different countries. By place of the birth? But sometimes a person was born at Ukraine, but the whole life was in Belorus or Russia or anything else, or several times relocated during life. By nationality? But many Russians were born in the Ukraine, and Ukrainians in Russia, and many players were Jews. But I try to write a summary about Ukrainian players.

First some pre-WWII names.

Old Russia and Soviet Union. First of all I want to mention that many Ukrainian players often emigrate to America and relocate to Moscow. Before 1917 Revolution I can point to Sam Lipschutz from Uzgorod, one of the best the USA players in 1890s who beat Delmar (1890) and Showalter (1892) and was sixth on the big international tournament in New York; and Oscar Chajes from Odessa who beat, for example, Capablanca in New York tournament at 1916.

Some great Ukrainian players:
  • Osip Bernstein from Zitomir, who was the second on all Russian championships in 1903 and 1912, winner of many competitions, later he relocated to Moscow, and after 1917 to France, he played until 1950s, very strong player,

  • Efim Bogoljubow from Kiev, very famous player, played two matches with Alechin for World Champion Title, after revolution was in Germany, USSR Champion (1924, 1925)

  • Boris Verlinsky from Odessa, the first Ukrainian Champion (1909/10), winner of Capablanca on the Moscow tournament 1925, USSR Champion (1929), the first grossmeister of the USSR, relocated to Moscow in the middle of 1920s

  • Fedor Duz-Hotimirsky [Dus-Chotimirsky, Duz-Khotimirsky] from Kiev also relocated to Moscow in 1907. On the International Tournament in Peterburg in 1909 beat two winners: Lasker and Rubenstein! He played many years and died in 1965. He was 3-5 in 1923 and 3-4 in 1927 at the USSR Championships

  • Alexander Evenson from Kiev was very talented but was killed during the Civil War. On the blitz tournament in Peterburg in 1914 he was second after Capablanca, but before Lasker, Alechin et al.

  • Fedor Bogaturchuk from Kiev was the USSR Champion in 1927; also he had a good records from other USSR tournaments 3-5 from 1923; 3-4 from 1924; 3-6 from 1931; 3-4 from 1935; his score against Botwinnik from International tournaments and USSR Championship was +3=1! During the Second War he collaborated with German administration and immigrate to Canada.

  • Alexander Konstantinopolsky from Kiev was very good player - second place at the USSR Championship in 1937, all his family was killed. He left the Ukraine after War, as two other great players David Bronstein and Isaak Boleslavsky, they were extremely strong players in 1940-50s.

Then some post-WWII accomplishments.

Ukrainian chessplayer achievements; in 1945-91 years.

Winners of the World Team Competions:
- Alexandr Belyavsky (from Lvov, now Sloveniya) 85, 89
- Alexandr Chernin (from Kharkov, now Hungary) 85
- Michael Gurevich (from Kharkov, now Belgium) 89

Winners of the Olympics Competions:
- Isaak Boleslavsky (left Ukraine after 1941) 52
- David Bronstein (left Ukraine after 1941) 52, 54,56, 58
- Leonid Stein (from Lvov, died early in 1973) 64, 66
- Vladimir Savon (from Kharkov) 72
- Gennady Kuzmin (from Lugansk, now coach of Ruslan Ponomoriov)
- Efim Geller (from Odessa) 52, 54, 56, 62, 68, 70, 80
- Vladimir Tukmakov (from Odessa) 84
- Alexandr Belyavsky 82, 84, 88, 90
- Vasily Ivanchuk 88, 90
- Oleg Romaninishin had played in 1978 in Buenos Aires, when USSR was second,
- Lev Alburt form Odessa had played for the USA
- The Ukrainian were the first board in 1984 (Belyavsky) and 1990 (Ivanchuk)

In the "Matches of Century" (Belgrad 1970, London 1984) played Stein and Geller (1970), Romanishin and Tukmakov (1984)

In the USSR-USA matches (1945-1955) played Boleslavsky, Bronstein, Geller and Salo Flohr, who was originally from Ukraine.

Winners of European Team Competitions:
- Bronstein 57, 65
- Boleslavsky 57, 65
- Stein 65, 70
- Kuzmin 73
- Iosif Dorfman (from Lvov, now in France) 77
- Geller 61, 70, 73, 77, 80, 83
- Romanishin 77, 80, 83
- Tukmakov 73, 83, 89
- Vyacheslav Eingorn (from Odessa) 89
- Gurevich 89
- Belyavsky 83, 89

Ukrainian Players - the USSR Champions in 1945-91:
- Belyavsky 90, 87, 80, 74, second in 89
- Gurevich 85
- Geller 55, 79; plus six times in first three
- Dorfman 77
- Savon 71 (3-5 in 72)
- Stein 66, 65, 63 (2 in 66; 3 in 70; 3-4 in 61)
- Bronstein, who was living in Moscow won twice in 48 and 49 and five times in 45-65 was 2nd or 3rd

Following Ukraine players were throug first three winners:
- Eingorn (89, 87, 86, 84)
- Vladimir Malanyuk (from Sevastopol, 86)
- Konstantin Lerner (from Odessa, 84, 86)
- Chernin (1-3 in 85, lost tie-break)
- Tukmakov (was second in 70, 72 and 83)
- Romanishin (75, 80, 81)
- Kuzmin (73)
- Igor Platonov (from Kiev, 67)
- Isaak Lipnisky (from Kiev, 50)
- Isaak Boleslavsky, former three times Ukraine Champion (38, 39 and 40) was second in 45 and 47 and third in 44 but he already had left the Ukraine.

We must remember couch Victor Kart from Lvov: he grew in Lvov four strong grossmeisters: Belyavky, Romanishin, Adrian Mihalchishin (now in Sloveniya) and Marta Shul-Litinskaya, very strong women player (concerning women players also we must underline Lidiya Semenova from Kiev, who played final candidate match in 1984)

Also I want mention about USSR Team Championatships, which the Ukraine won three times:
- 1979 (Romanishin, Belyavsky, Kuzmin, Tukmakov, Dorfman, Mihalchishin, Semen Palatnik from Odessa, Savon, Litinskaya, Semenova);
- 1981 (the same team only Lerner instead off Palatnik); and
- 1986 (Young team: Ivanchuk, Igor Novikov, Alexandr Shneider, Alexandr Huzman (now in Israel) Yury Kruppa)

What else?

European Youth Champions (up to 20):
- Michael Steinberg (1967/68), very talanted guy who died very early,
- Romanishin (1972/73)
- Chernin (1979/80)
- Ivanchuk (1985/86)

World Youth Champions (up to 20):
- Belyavsky (1973)
- Ilya Gurevich (USA, former from Kiev) also was world younth Champion.

As you can see Ukrainian chess has very good tradition, and now we are waiting for the first Ukrainian World Champion.

Why wait 12 years to post this? At the time I received it, external circumstances were unfavorable. I learned much from reading it the first time and even more while preparing this post.

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