When you travel to Elista, you usually fly to the city of Volgograd and then take a four-hour journey to the Kalmykian capital. We did this, in the opposite direction, just a few weeks ago, at the end of the Candidates Finals: at six a.m. a driver picked us up from our cottage in the City Chess and drove us to Volgograd, where we caught our flight to Moscow, Riga and Hamburg.
For the trip from Elista to Volgograd you have a two-hour journey on the M-6, and then spend two hours navigating the city to get to the airport. In our case the first part was calm and relaxed, the second somewhat harrowing, due to the traffic and lack of signs in Volgograd (our driver stopped a number of times to ask for directions). We do not know where the accident occurred, whether on the M-6 to Volgograd or in the city itself.
The road from Elista to Volgograd traverses the southern Volga steppe
During the Candidates Finals we often saw Max Sorokin, mainly in the City Chess restaurant, where he took breakfast, lunch and dinner with his charge, Sergei Rublevsky. In the above picture they share a table with the Bareev team.
Max Sorokin in the last picture I have of him (taken on June 9th, 2007 in Elista)
On behalf of the leadership of the World Chess Federation and people of the Republic of Kalmykia, and on my personal behalf, let me express my deepest condolences on the tragic death of the head of the Elista Grandmaster School, International Grandmaster Maxim Sorokin.
Maxim was famous for his amazing hard working feature and natural modesty. His huge pedagogical experience is known not only to the members of the Russian Women's team, but also to the chess players of Kalmykia and to one of the strongest chess players, Sergey Rublevsky.
He had great plans for the future and clear vision of the path to go in order to achieve high goals.
I express my sincere condolences to his family and friends, to those who had a chance to know this outstanding person.
With deep sorrow,
Head of the Republic of Kalmykia
The following articles appeared in the Internet chess magazine Chess Today. We reproduce these eulogies, which appeared in CT-2428 on July 2nd, 2007, with the kind permission of the editor, GM Alexander Baburin.
I still can't believe what happened – yesterday I learnt that Max Sorokin died in hospital, a week after a car accident in Kalmykia. Though he got serious injuries in the crash, according to reports they were not life threatening and he was recovering. But then some complications happened...
Max Sorokin, in 2006 at the Cappelle la Grande Open
Almost all my life I knew Max – we met at the Russian boys' chess championship in 1980. Then we both studied at the chess school of GM Panchenko. Later we both became professional players and coaches and often played for the same team. For years we worked together in India. Last January Max and I worked at the session of the Spassky Chess School near Cheliabinsk. I invited him to come there in June as well, but he said that students were already waiting for him in Elista.
Two years earlier, at the same Open
Max's erudition was almost legendary among his friends – it seemed that he knew everything, be it mathematics, medicine or foreign languages. He was a very generous person, who was ready to help any moment. And it seemed that he did not get tired. Sergey Rublevsky, whom Max seconded for many years, once told me: "I get up in the morning – Max is already analysing something. Either he always got up earlier than I – or he never went to bed!". I am sure members of Russia's ladies' team, which Max coached for many years, appreciated his readiness to help. Many Indian and Argentinean (Max lived there in the 1990s for a few years) will surely fondly remember working with Max too. His friends will always remember him!
It is always a shock when somebody dies tragically. I knew Maxim Sorokin since the early 1980s, if not before – we often played in the same junior tournaments and attended Grandmaster school run by Alexander Panchenko. We were not close friends, but I followed Max's career – when he went to Argentina, then to India, etc. I always thought that he was one of the most talented players of our generation – and that to some extent he did not realise himself fully as a player. Of course, not many players can reach a rating of 2599 (as Max did in 2005), but I felt that he could do even better. Maybe one reason was that working as a coach suited his character better. I remember meeting him at chess Olympiads – he was always talking about his team, its individual members and how they played.
Photos provided by Pascal Villalba of Nozai