Chess in the steely heart of Siberia

by ChessBase
8/28/2003 – What kind of associations do you have when you hear the word "Siberia". Most people from different parts of the world think it is an exotically cold region. Mikhail Emeliano shows us Siberia from different side – the steel city of Novokuznetsk, where Dostoyevsky lived and where today there is an active chess community.

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Novokuznetsk – the workers' city

The city Novokuznetsk is situated in west Siberia. It is a historical, geographical, and economic centre of the South Kuzbass, where about two million people live on the territory limited by a circle of 60 to 70 km radius.

Russians came to this place early in the 17th century. The main reason for that was a unique combination of natural resources concentrated in one and the same place. People found there clean water, timber, high-quality coal, iron ore and very picturesque nature. In 1618 was founded Kuznetskii stockaded town. In 1622 the Kuznetsky stockaded town was named Kuznetsk town directly governed from Moscow. Was built a stone fortress that lasted out up to date.

The Kuznetsk fortress

The Kuznetsk is the place where the world famous writer F.M. Dostoyevsky fell in love with the widow M.D. Isayeva. This was the highly dramatic love story with the happy end when they got married in 1857 at the Odigitrievakaya Church in Kuznetsk.

An orthodox temple

F.M. Dostoyevsky Literature Memorial Museum

Novokuznetsk began to develop in 30s when the Kuznetsk Metallurgical Combinat was being built. Poet V. Mayakovsky dedicated the poem to that great construction.

I know the city will here arise
I know the gardens will blossom in it many times
Since people of Soviet Country
Decided to do this and fruitfully tries

One more metallurgical giant was built in 60s – ZAPSIB (West-Siberian Metallurgical Combinat). Most citizens work in metallurgical and mining industries.

Kuznetsk Metallurgical Plant

Life is not jus work

But the life of Novokuznetsk is not limited by work. There are the theatres, museums, universities (the main of them is Siberian State Industrial University) in the city.

The Drama Theatre

Night in Novokuznetsk

People in Novokuznetsk like sport very much. The local team "Metallurg" plays in Russian Super League. Chess playing is also one of the most popular kinds of sport here. Each of the six city regions has the filial of chess school. There are more than 1500 children playing chess in Novokuznetsk.

Traditionally Novokuznetsk holds men and women international tournaments with IM norm and summer chess festival where chess players from Russia and past USSR countries use to play. In the last of such tournaments, which was held from 1 to 9 August, GM Serik Temirbaev (KAZ) took first place.

Teachers of Siberian State Industrial University have been giving chess lessons for more than 30 years. In 2002 GM Sergei Iskusnyh, IM Dmitrij Sitnikov and WIM Ksenya Rybenko played for student Russian team consisted of six participants in the World University Chess Championship in Mongolia. They took second place. Many times the team of Novokuznetsk took part in the Highest League of Russian Championship among clubs.

GM Sergei Iskusnyh

At the moment there are one GM, six IMs and two WIMs in Novokuznetsk. The most famous of them are GM Sergei Iskusnyh and WIM Ksenya Rybenko, who is already been known by the visitors of ChessBase site. She is also famous as the most beautiful Russian woman chess player of 2002.

WIM Ksenya Rybenko

Correspondence chess are popular enough in the city as well. The "Novokuznetsk" team is successfully playing in the ICCF Champion League (e-mail) and Team Final of Russian Championship.

There are not so many big cities which can say about great popularity of chess among their people. So remember that Siberia is not only an industrial region but also the place where people like and "understand" chess.

Mikhail Emelianov

See also: Ksenya Rybenko – A star rising in the east

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