An appeal to readers

by Nagesh Havanur
3/4/2022 – The world is witnessing a catastrophe in Ukraine. Many of us are also anxious over the safety and well-being of chess players in the war-torn land. News on their current situation is coming in, but it is not enough to address all our concerns about them. We would be better placed to offer sympathy and help to players in Ukraine if we share information on their plight. It is in this spirit that our columnist has made the appeal to readers here.

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ChessBase is not into politics and it does not pass judgment on governments and nation states. But then, above politics there is humanity.

 An Appeal to Readers by Nagesh Havanur

A tragedy has unfolded in Ukraine. The stories of suffering, loss and death therein have left us numb. Amidst the grief and misery there are also tales of courage, kindness and hope.  So, all is not lost for humanity. Meanwhile many of us have asked the same question, “What about our friends, chess players in Ukraine? Where are they? What has happened to them?” That is not easy to know.  Lines of communication are cut and, more importantly, many are on the move, seeking safety for their families even as they have become refugees in neighbouring lands. Others are fighting on the front, when they are defending their homes, street after street. 

All the more reason why we have to find our friends and tell them, “You are not alone. We are with you.” To speak those words to them, we need to know where they are and if they are safe. So this is an earnest appeal to readers to offer information through the Comments column here.

Some of you may wonder, “There are so many of them, GMs, IMs, not to mention organizers, coaches and their wards. How can we reach them all?” That’s right. Let us start with some well-known names, and then the circle can widen to include as many chess players in Ukraine as possible.

Here is a tentative list:

  • Vasyl Ivanchuk
  • Anton Korobov
  • Andrei Volotkin
  • Pavel Eljanov
  • Muzychuk sisters
  • Anna Ushenina
  • Natalia Zhukova
  • Irina Gaponenko

(sorry, many good players are not yet on the list)

What we know so far:

GM Oleksandr Sulypa has become the symbol of resistance. He serves in the army.

  • Pavel Eljanov has moved to Lviv with his old mother mainly “to calm her down” as he put it.  Otherwise he is conducting a spirited public campaign in defence of his country. His former wife takes care of their daughter in Kharkiv.
  • Young Kyrill Shevchenko has moved away from Kyiv after spending days in a bomb shelter along with many others.
  • Alexander Moiseenko is still in Kharkiv and he continues to remain in his flat.
  • What about Igor Kovalenko?  His admirers may ask. "I am in Kyiv, and I will be in Kyiv," the grandmaster has said. Among other things he is busy helping the elderly who cannot leave their hometown.
  • As of now, we have information on three female grandmasters.
  • Natalia Zhukova is in Odessa in the Southern part of Ukraine. She lends moral support to soldiers and is active on the media front (Face Book).
  • Frederic Friedel has located the Muzychuk sisters Anna and Mariya, who managed to slip out of the country. He has invited them to say in his house for as long as is necessary.

Two Composers Survive:

  • Vladislav Tarasiuk, the well-known composer of endgame studies, resides in a suburb of Kharkiv. As of now, his family is safe. However, he has to attend to duty in the hospital. Check out his work and you will like it.
  • Sergey Didukh is a stormy petrel among modern composers. Never afraid to call a spade a spade, he delighted and antagonized both friends and peers. His blog bore the imprint of his combative personality and it was a regular wrestling arena for composers. With the onset of war it has shut down: He is mercifully alive.
  • Sad news: Alexey Valentinovich Druzhinets, arbiter and children’s chess coach died of injuries on 2nd March, 2022.

What we have yet to know

As of now, I have yet to receive any news of Vasyl Ivanchuk, Anton Korobov, Andrei Volotkin, Anna Ushenina and Irina Gaponenko among others.
It is here that I bank on the goodwill of readers here. Do share your information on these grandmasters and other players here.


One word of caution: Do not mention contact numbers and addresses of players in distress here. It would compromise their safety and security. 
Among others both the French Chess Federation and European Chess Union have offered assistance to players in need of help. They are two possible avenues to send such confidential information.

Helping hands

At the social media end Pavel Eljanov, Oleksandr Prohorov, and Natalia Zhukova are active and they do offer helpful information. The Ukraine Chess Federation has barely survived and still made a brave attempt to stand by its members.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all individuals and institutions offering help to our Ukrainian friends. Remember that there are about one million refugees from Ukraine and chess players there are a very small community scattered by the winds of war. How and where they can be found is only the first of the challenges. It would take a lot more to help them to rebuild their lives.

The chess world owes a debt to Ukraine for nurturing great minds from Boleslavsky to Ivanchuk. Here is one way of repaying the same.



Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for more than three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.


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