Grandmaster Chef: Boris Gulko

by Mike Walder
2/20/2021 – Grandmaster Boris Gulko is the only player to have won both the USSR and USA Chess Championships. He has been a candidate for World Champion. In his honor, I will prepare a recipe I hope he would enjoy and annotate the game Gulko – Mikhalchishin from the 1981 Soviet First League Championship. | Photo: Les Glassman

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An accomplished GM

Boris GulkoBoris Gulko is a grandmaster, author and certified FIDE Senior Trainer who, at 30 years of age, won the USSR Championship in 1977 ahead of three world champions. He lost seven years of what could have been his best years of chess for being a “refusenik” before emigrating with his family to the United States, where Boris twice won the U.S. Championship, in 1994 and 1999. He played in the candidates in 1995 and 2000 and qualified to play at the 2004 World Chess Championship in Libya, but withdrew because of antisemitic remarks made by the organizer.

Boris has an impressive three win, one loss, and four draw record against Garry Kasparov. His result in Niksic 1978, where he and Jan Timman shared first 1½ points ahead of a very strong field put him in the spotlight.


Boris has written several books and was a regular columnist about things other than chess. Boris’ Lessons with a Grandmaster series is both entertaining and informative.

Boris is now living in Jerusalem with his wife WGM Anna Akhsharumova (also a USSR and U.S. Women’s Champion and part of the 1990 U.S. Olympic Women’s Team).

For more about his life, I recommend watching Les Glassman Interviewing Boris Gulko.

The Recipe

For Boris, I will make the Russian Salmon Pie, Kulebyaka.

Kulebyaka by Mike Walder


  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • ½ pound chopped mushrooms
  • ½ head green cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  •  salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound skinless salmon fillet
  • 2 sheets homemade or store-bought puff pastry
  • 2 cups cooked basmati rice
  • 3 eggs, two hard-boiled, the other beaten
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (substitute feta)
  • ½ cup fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • optional dollops of sour cream to taste (substitute plain yogurt or crème fraiche)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook salmon 5 minutes per side; remove to a plate and let cool. Flake salmon into large chunks and set aside.
  3. Add butter to the oil; reduce to medium-low heat. Add onion and turmeric, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender  (about 8 minutes). Stir in mushrooms, cabbage and lemon juice; increase heat to medium. Cover pan and cook 5 minutes; uncover, toss and cook 3 more minutes. Remove vegetables from pan, season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
  4. Set a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll out until it is large enough to fit a 9 inch deep dish pie plate. Transfer pastry to pie plate, allowing extra dough to drape over edge.
  5. Spread basmati rice over bottom of pastry. Peel and chop the hard-boiled eggs, then add to pie, followed by flaked salmon. Sprinkle with paprika, cheese, then bread crumbs. Mound vegetable mixture on top. Sprinkle with parsley.
  6. Roll out remaining sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is large enough to cover pie. Brush rim of bottom pastry with water and place second sheet of pastry directly on top. Trim off excess dough. Use a fork to crimp the edges of the pie together and help the sheets of pastry adhere.
  7. Cut a few small slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape. Brush top of pie with beaten egg. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

Russian Salmon Pie, kulebyaka

Position after 11.e4! next to the Russian Salmon Pie

The Game

The game Gulko – Mikhalchishin from the Soviet Championship 1981 shows how a peaceful looking Catalan can suddenly develop a raging kingside attack.


The Catalan: A complete repertoire for White!

The Catalan is one of the most solid openings for White. It forms part of the large and strong fianchetto family in which White builds his strategy mainly around the bishop on g2. Grandmaster Victor Bologan covers all of Black’s replies to the Catalan, some of which can even transpose to other openings such as the Tarrasch System and the Queen’s Indian. Suffice it to say that the Catalan rules!


Mike Walder is a US Chess National Master from the San Francisco Bay area. His hobbies are gourmet cooking, drinking premium coffees, and listening to eclectic music. He teaches private chess lessons, specializing in opening preparation. You can reach Mike at


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