Boris Gulko turns 75!

by André Schulz
2/10/2022 – In the 1970s Boris Gulko was one of the best players in the USSR and the world, and he is one of the few players who has a positive score against Kasparov. In 1976, after Kortschnoi had fled the USSR, Gulko refused to sign a critical statement against Kortschnoi, and as a result Gulko was targeted by the authorities. For seven years, Gulko fought to emigrate from the Soviet Union, and in 1986 he moved to the USA, where he continued his chess career. On 9 February 2022 Gulko celebrated his 75th birthday. | Photo: Les Glassman

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There are very few players in the world who can claim to have a positive record against Garry Kasparov. Gulko is one of them. He has a life-time score of 3:1 (draws not counting) against Kasparov.

Gulko was born on 9 February 1947, in Erfurt, East Germany. His father Franz Gulko was a soldier in the Red Army and stationed in Erfurt after the Second World War. At the beginning of the 1960s, Boris Gulko began playing tournament chess, and in 1967 he won the World Student Championship with the Soviet team.

Young Boris Gulko


In 1975 he became an International Master, and only one year later, in 1976, he became a Grandmaster.

In the 1970s Gulko played in a number of strong tournaments, and usually was among the top players.

In 1975, at the 43rd USSR Championship in Yerevan, Gulko shared second place – behind Tigran Petrosian, who won the tournament with 10.0/15 – with Oleg Romanishin, Mihail Tal and Rafael Vaganjan. By winning the 1975 zonal tournament in Vilnius, Gulko qualified for the 1976 Interzonal Tournament in Biel, where, however, he finished on a disappointing 15th place in a 20-player field.

Earlier that year, at the International Tournament 1976 in Yerevan, Gulko had finished second behind Romanishin, and then went on to win the Capablanca Memorial in Havana.

In 1977 Gulko won the 45th USSR Championship, together with Josif Dorfman, after a six-game play-off had ended in a draw.

At the 1976 USSR Team Championship in Tbilisi, Gulko met Anna Akhsharumova whom he later married. In 1979 their son David was born.

Gulko and Dorfmann | Photo:

After his success in the USSR Championship 1977, Gulko was part of the Soviet team at the Chess Olympiad 1978 in Buenos Aires, the only Olympiad after World War II, in which the Soviet team took part and did not win gold. In Buenos Aires the Soviets finished "only" second behind Hungary.

In 1976, Gulko had refused to sign a statement in which the leading Soviet players publicly criticised Viktor Kortschnoi for fleeing the Soviet Union and was subsequently under surveillance by the authorities. He was also systematically obstructed by the federation's leadership, in particular Viktor Baturinsky, and, despite being a Soviet national champion, was largely left out of consideration to play in foreign tournaments.

One of the few international tournaments in which Gulko was allowed to participate was Niksic 1978. He shared first place with Jan Timman, in front of a first-class field, and this tournament win is one of the highlights of Gulko's long career.

At the Olympiad in Buenos Aires, Gulko only played five games (+1, =2, -2). He felt badly treated and suspected that he was observed by the KGB. During the Olympiad Gulko decided to leave the USSR.

After the Olympiad, Gulko and his wife Anna Akhsharumova, the 1976 USSR Women's Champion, applied to emigrate to Israel, but their application was rejected. For the next seven years Gulko and his wife fought for their departure. Three times they went on a hunger strike, and for a time they demonstrated daily on a public square in Moscow. The couple was also arrested daily, and had to spend several hours at the police station afterwards. "It was the hardest time of my life," Gulko said later.

In 1981 Gulko again played in the final of the USSR Championship. He finished 16th in an 18-player field, but won against the young Kasparov, who in the end shared first place with Lev Psakhis. Gulko later won two more times against Kasparov, in 1982 and in 1990.

Gulko and Kasparov






In the period of glasnost and after international protests, Gulko and Akhsharumova were finally allowed to emigrate to Israel in 1986. But after participating in the US Open 1986, the couple finally moved to the USA and settled down in Fair Lawn (New Jersey).

The Gulko family, Chess Life Januar/1987

Anna Akhsharumova, who had become USSR Women's Champion again in 1984, also managed to win the US Women's Championship in 1987. However, she gave up her chess career in 1997 to work as a programmer.

In 1987 Gulko won the tournament in Biel and at the Olympiad 1988 in Saloniki he played for the first time for the USA. Between 1988 and 2004, Gulko played a total of nine times for the USA in Olympiads, winning silver twice and bronze once with the team. Gulko was also a member of the US team at the 1993, 1997 and 2005 World Team Championships, winning gold with the team in 1993 and silver in 1997.

In 1993 Gulko finished third in the PCA Qualifier in Groningen and qualified for the PCA Candidates Matches. But in the quarter-finals, played at the Trump Tower in New York, Gulko lost to Nigel Short after a play-off.




In 1994 Gulko won the US Championship, a success which he repeated in 1999. Gulko is thus the only player to have been both Champion of the USSR and Champion of the USA.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gulko was successful in a number of tournaments. He won in Bern in 1994, in Las Palmas in 1996, the US Open in 1998 together with Judit Polgar, and in Malmö 2001 together with Timman.

Gulko also played in the 2000 FIDE World Knockout Championships in Moscow but in 2004 he protested and refused to play in the FIDE World Knockout Championship in Libya.

Boris Gulko, 2013 in Prague | Photo: Prague Chess

After a long break from tournament chess, Gulko took part in the Israli Team Championship 2020, where he played two games.

Since 2004, Gulko has also been working as a coach and also writes regularly for the magazine Ewrejskij. Together with Joel Sneed he published the three volume training series Lessons with a Grandmaster.

On 9 February 2022 Gulko celebrated his 75th birthday.


Grandmaster Chef: Boris Gulko

André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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