A Ukranian top talent in Hamburg

by ChessBase
5/3/2022 – "There were few moments in the course of a conversation that leave one speechless – if our profession did not require us to ask questions," writes Björn Jensen, reporter of Hamburg's major daily newspaper. He visited Tykhon Cherniaiev, the 12-year-old chess supertalent from Ukraine, who fled his country and is now staying in Hamburg, Germany, where he is attending school and pursuing his chess career. | Photo of Tykhon with his coach GM Dorian Rogozenco by Michael Rauhe/FUNKE Foto Services.

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After fleeing the war, twelve-year-old chess talent Tykhon Cherniaiev has found a new home at the elite School of Sport

By Björn Jensen

Hamburg. When Tykhon Cherniaiev, in his still childlike effervescence, tells us how he tries to make his father laugh in the daily telephone conversations, one has to pause for a moment. A twelve-year-old who does everything he can to pass his cheerfulness on to his father, who is helping to stop the Russian invasion in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city – it is deeply touching.

The boy arrived in Hamburg on March 8, accompanied by his mother, grandmother and sister, who is five years younger than him. After a six-day harrowing and exhausting escape from the war, a flight he had himself organised for the family, with the help of his contacts from all over the world. It ended in a two-room flat in Hamburg. Tykhon Cherniaiev has a talent that stands out among his others.

Chess talent, known from internet stream 

The Ukrainian is one of the world's greatest chess talents in the U12 age group. He was the blitz and rapid chess world champion under ten  – and therefore already generated interest in Hamburg before Russia unleashed its war of aggression. Rainer Woisin, the managing director of the Hamburg-based company ChessBase, which develops chess software and maintains a chess database, says: "We became aware of Tykhon because he has been running an internet stream for several years. We had already done several small film projects with him".

When the situation in Kharkiv escalated at the beginning of March, ChessBase offered this top talent and his family the use of their office flat in Hamburg. "I didn't know anything about the city, but I'm very happy to be here," Tykhon says in excellent English, a language he taught himself through online chats with chess and gaming partners around the world. The support he has received since arriving in Hamburg is "just great".

Chess fan brings Tykhon to elite school

In fact, a whole network has come together to offer the war refugee opportunities to develop his chess career. Through the connection between Woisin and the chess-loving school headmaster Björn Lengwenus, Tykhon has been given a place in class six at an elite sports school. 

There, for the first time in his life, he is studying together with fellow students. Because of his strict training schedule he only had remote schooling in Ukraine. "It was unusual at first, but I'm getting used to it and like it," he says. The teachers translate large parts of the lessons into English, and he is also receiving language support in German.

Young talent inspires former national coach

Especially important, however, is the integration of chess training into lesson time. He works six hours a week together with former national coach Dorian Rogozenco, who was contacted by the elite school. Rogozenco comes from Moldova and speaks Russian with Tykhon. They train another six hours in the afternoon. In addition, there are some hours every day on the laptop, where the highly gifted player, who was enrolled in the chess club by his father at the age of three and a half, works voluntarily. "He is very motivated, and almost does too much," says grandmaster Rogozenco.

Special care will be taken to ensure that Tykhon’s talent is not drained, says Christian Andresen, sports coordinator at the elite school, which has taken in another Ukrainian athlete, U-15 basketball player Anja Didchuk. "He is really an exceptional kid who is very well received in his class and inspires us all with his nature," he says. 

The chess talent should be able to return home

Tykhon, who is already a member of the Hamburg Sports Club, is in discussion with the German Chess Federation regarding a sponsorship program, who are urgently looking for more sponsors. He could already compete for Germany at the European U-12 Team Championships in the summer, since it is possible to change federations in chess without having to change citizenship.

In this context, it is particularly important for all parties to emphasize that this is in no way about taking advantage of the plight of Ukraine or grabbing a super talent. "It is solely about guaranteeing the best possible assistance," says Rainer Woisin. All sides would be happy if Tykhon Cherniaiev will be able to his homeland after the end of the war. Until then, however, he will do everything in his power to pursue his dream of "becoming a grandmaster and the best" – and bring a laugh to the face of his father.

You can read the story (in German) in the Hamburger Abendblatt

If you have comments on this story, or wish to assist this lad in achieving his goals, please contact us here: Feedback and support. We are looking for donations for his professional training and tournament participation!

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