Chess Social Initiative of the Year in Ukraine

by Olena Boytsun
4/18/2014 – "When I look back at my childhood I realize how bright it was – because of chess." Ukrainian WIM Olena Boytsun decided it was her mission to help children to discover the game and experience the same emotions and feelings. She founded an Ukrainian Foundation called “Chess for Children”, which has been named "Social Initiative of the Year". A really outstanding chess initiative.

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Chess nominate Social Initiative of the Year in Ukraine

By Olena Boytsun

Ukraine is a well-known country in the chess community, but recently it became the centre of attention of the world not because of the achievements of Ukrainian chess players. We are the centre of attention in the media all over the world. It took me some time to decide whether to write this article. It just didn't feel right, because the situation in the country was so difficult. People are under huge stress every day, everyone, including children. Ukraine was always a peaceful beautiful country.

But than in April 2014 I got an invitation from the Sport Committee of Ukraine to attend the ceremony "Sport stars of the Year" that was connected to the International Day for Peace and Development and the project "United Ukraine" by the Sport Committee. I was told that my charity "Chess for Children" was nominated Social Initiative of the Year. I looked back at all the good moments we had had during our work, all the smiles of the children, all great projects and events, and I decided to put thoughts together and still to write a report for ChessBase, hoping that this will bring positive thoughts to readers.

Ukrainian foundation Chess for Children

When I look back at my childhood, I realize how bright it was – because of chess. It was fair and wonderful world filled with emotions and feelings: sad ones in case something failed, joyful, once you taste the victory or the beauty of a solution to a chess quiz. In order for more children could discover their potential by engaging in a game of chess, in November 2012 I went about founding the All-Ukrainian Charity Foundation “Chess for Children”.

On the 6th of April 2014 the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace was celebrated for the first time in Ukraine. The Day was launched at the General Assembly of the United Nations on the 23rd of August 2013. To celebrate this day the Sport Committee of Ukraine organized a festive ceremony “Sport Stars of the Year” to award the best sport personalities in 2013. Honorary guests of the ceremony were the President of the Sport Committee of Ukraine Ilya Shevlyak, the First Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport Andrei Vyshnyak, the President of the National Paralympic Committee Valery Sushkevych, Vice-President of the National Olympic Committee Viktor Korzh, famous athletes and sport managers. The ceremony took place at the National Olympic Area in Kyiv.

Participants of the first seminar “Chess in Schools” in Ukraine, December 2012

In the nomination “Social Initiative of the Year" the winner was my All-Ukrainian Charity Foundation "Chess for Children". The primary purpose of the Foundation activity is to discover the potential of every child through engaging children into a game of chess and to promote chess and healthy lifestyle in the society. In 2013 the Foundation ran seven projects and implemented 20 events all over Ukraine. I would like to take the opportunity and to describe in short some of these activities.

Evgeniy Sozonov Award

The project “Evgeniy Sozonov Award” is the private national annual award that was established by the Foundation in 2013 with the aim of supporting talented children aged between 10 to 15 years old, who show good results in both chess and school studies. This project is very important to me, because the candidate to the master Evgeniy Sozonov (1936-2011) was my grandfather and my first trainer in chess. Not only did my grandfather teach me how to play chess, he showed me how interesting and big this world is, how important it is to study and to learn more. That is why I decided to establish the stipend named after my grandfather.

In 2013 the Award was provided for the first time, and the winner was Karina Skorobagatko (above, 13 years, Kyiv). Karina is a smart and friendly girl who shows outstanding results at a school and in chess, likes dancing, learning English and German. She also has three younger brothers. In total 38 applications from all over Ukraine were received.

Olena Boytsun provides an award to Karina Skorobagadko at the “Tovarish”
chess club in Kyiv, January 2014

First female advanced chess match

In order to announce the establishment of the Evgeniy Sozonov Award and to popularize chess in Ukraine in April 2013 we, together with the 12th Women World Champion GM Anna Ushenina, played the first female advanced chess match. The match ended in a draw, was broadcast live on and attracted a lot of interest from the community and press.

Chess Ukraine project

The project “Chess Ukraine” supports establishing new chess clubs and schools all over Ukraine, as well as providing consultations, chess equipment and literature, etc. The cooperation with the regional centers in order to develop children’s chess in the regions is also part of the project activities. The Dnipropetrovsk region is my native region, and so it was easier to start the program there.

Chess Day in Kyiv, July 2013

Quiz on Chess Day in Krivoy Rog, July 2013

The greatest attention is attracted by a new modern chess club and chess school for children in Krivoy Rog in Dnipropetrovsk region. It was launched in 2013 with the support of the UCF "Chess for Children”. Currently, the school has more than 200 children. The Foundation operates all over Ukraine.

In front of the chess club in Krivoy Rog we see the world's tallest (5m) marble chess piece

Six-year-old Veronika Veremiuk, champion of Kyiv among boys under eight

Chess Holiday project

The “Chess Holiday” project suggests that the Foundation organizes entertaining festivals and events for popularization of chess in the community. For example, in July 2013 together with the Ukrainian Chess Federation and the Sport Committee of Ukraine the Chess Day Celebration took place. During the event young chess players had a chance to show their knowledge of the game of chess by solving quizzes and chess problems, playing blitz games and so on. All together in 2013 the Foundation “Chess for Children” organized eight chess holidays in Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipropetrovsk and Krivoy Rog.

Olena Boytsun gives a lesson to the Rybachiki brothers on Chess Day in Kyiv

Chess Competitions project

The project “Chess Competitions” aims at organizing and supporting chess competitions among children in Ukraine as well as providing possibilities for participation in tournaments. In September 2013 in Dnipropetrovsk the chess tournament “Cup of the UCF – Chess for Children” took place, which became part of the International chess festival “Dnipropetrovsk Autumn” in memory of GM Aleksander Moroz, who was my main trainer in chess. Our childrens’ tournament brought together 125 participants, 14 years old and younger, from all over Ukraine. Many of them are already strong players. The winners of the event as well as winners in many different categories received prizes and gifts from the Foundation, for example, tablets and e-books.

The playing hall of the children's tournament “Cup of the UCF Chess for Children”

Winners of the “Cup of the UCF Chess for Children”, September 2013In November 2013 96 players from Ukraine competed in the Ukrainian National Championship among children chess schools and clubs. The winning teams brought for their schools valuable gifts, including laptops and digital cameras.

Director of the Dominanta School in Kyiv, Svitlana Ufimtseva and chess teacher
Tatiana Lazareva shows their chess club treasures to Olena Boytsun

A participant of a chess event at the Dominanta School in Kyiv

Literary chess project

The "Literary chess" project of the Foundation develops and distributes free books to children with the rules of the game of chess, made in an entertaining style, in order to engage children to play chess.

Since I was in school, I have been writing short stories about funny and charismatic friends – Babish Gilzi, Mryazka, Zyubarik, Mambik and others. They live normal lives like any child, despite the fact that charming Mryazka, for example, has four legs and can clap with her ears, Zyubarik is pyramided and Babysh Gilzi is green. Now all of them became characters of the series of my books for children. One of the books is called “Babish Gilzi plays chess” and is a fiction book, where the basic chess rules are incorporated.

Gilzi and Karluzlik try to understand how to move a knight –
a picture from the book “Babish Gilzi plays chess” by Olena Boytsun

Gilzi and his friends telling Dugumda (the girl on the right) about chess

All seven children characters of my children books (two female and five male) are different in character and appearance, so a child always picks one as its favorite. I believe that a good fairy tale with bright pictures is the best way to get children to learn something new.

After the event for children at the Lviv Book Fair “Babish Gilzi plays chess”

I am glad that we were able to implement all the projects described above in Ukraine and that we were called “Social Initiative of the Year” by the Sport Committee of Ukraine. I would like to thank all our partners, colleagues, friends, trainers, parents and young chess players, with whom we cooperated.

I would like also to thank everybody, who has read this article. It was not easy for me to write it, while currently Ukraine is at the headlines of world news. I believe that my country will be prosperous, united and developed, where every child will have happy childhood with the possibilities to study, read good books and play chess with the friends. And we will try to do our best for it.

Olena Boytsun

WIM Olena Boytsun is the Founder and President of the All-Ukrainian Charity Foundation “Chess for Children”. An economist by education – Dnipropetrovsk National University (2002), Oxford University (2006) – Olena is a member of the Kyiv Hub of the Global Shapers community of the World Economic Forum (Davos), a network that unites young people, who have a great potential for future leadership roles in society.

Olena is an author of a fiction novel “In Oxford” (2010) and series of books for children “Babish Gilzi and his friends”. She is a council of the FIDE Events Commission. Olena was awarded the State order of Olga of the third rank in Ukraine (2013).

WIM Olena Boytsun is the Founder and President of the All-Ukrainian Charity Foundation “Chess for Children”. Economist by education – Dnipropetrovsk National University (2002), Oxford University (2006) – Olena is a member of the Kyiv Hub of the Global Shapers community of the World Economic Forum (Davos).


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