In memoriam Evgeni Vasiukov (1933-2018)

by Dagobert Kohlmeyer
5/27/2018 – On May 10, 2018, Evgeni Vasiukov died in Moscow. In his prime, he was one of the best players in the world and amongst other things he won the prestigious Moscow Championship no less than six times. Later he was a renowned coach, second, and organiser and achieved a number of successes in senior tournaments. An obituary by DAGOBERT KOHLMEYER.

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Evgeni Vasiukov (1933-2018)

The Russian Grandmaster loved life, chess, and "papyrosy", strong Russian cigarettes. The news that he had died on May 10, 2018, at the age of 85 hurt. With him another witness of Soviet and Russian chess passed away.

The first time I heard his name was in 1962, during a Lasker Memorial Tournament in East Berlin. The Muscovite won in great style — against Wolfgang Uhlmann, East Germany's number one, he played a brilliant game.


Evgeni Vasiukov learnt to play chess relatively late, after World War II, at the age of 15. He was born in the region of Tula but after the outbreak of WWII had to flee from the advancing German troops when he was eight years old. His father died at the Battle of the Kursk Bulge.

"On my 20th birthday (March 5, 1953) Stalin died," Vasiukov once told me. "Throughout the night and at freezing temperatures, we were standing in the long queue outside of the Mausoleum on the Red Square. Next to me was Boris Gruzman, my friend from school and chess, who now lives in Berlin."

Evgeni Vasiukov at the tournament in Leningrad 1974

After having learnt the basic rules of chess Vasiukov progressed quickly. In 1954 he became Soviet Master of Sports and in 1961 he became Grandmaster. In 1955 he won the Moscow Championship, again and again showing his flair for tactics. He later won the Championship of the Soviet capital another five times. Vasiukov was an impressively quick thinker, and since the 1950s was considered as one of the best Soviet blitz players. Six times he became Moscow blitz champion.

When the 15-year old Bobby Fischer was visiting Moscow in 1958 and was playing blitz in the Central Chess Club of Moscow, no one, not even Tigran Petrosian, could beat the young American in blitz — except for Vasiukov!

Four years later Vasiukov again caused problems for Fischer. Vasiukov was an excellent theoretician and trainer and had hit upon a new idea in the Pirc which Viktor Kortschnoi successfully tried against Fischer at the Candidates Tournament 1962 in Curacao. As chess history would have it four decades later Vasiukov and Fischer met again in secrecy in Budapest where the eccentric American lived incognito in exile!

Spassky and Vasiukov

Drinking vodka with Spassky (on the left)

In the course of his career, Vasiukov won more than 50 chess events and played in eleven Soviet Championships. He achieved his best tournament result in Manila 1974 — he won ahead of Petrosian, Larsen, Portisch, and Gligoric.

He also won tournaments in Reykjavik, Athens, Varna, Berlin, and other cities.

Vasiukov was also a renowned and popular second who helped players such as Viktor Kortschnoi, Anatoli Karpov, Michail Tal, Efim Geller, and others. In his long career as a coach, he helped no less than ten national teams at chess olympiads, among them Hungary, Turkey and Peru. After turning 60, Vasiukovs schedule became less intense but till the end of his life, he regularly played in senior tournaments. In 1995 he became World Senior Champion, and with teams from Moscow or Russia he had a number of successes at European Team and World Team Championships.

Since 2003 Vasiukov had been director of the commission of veterans of the Russian Chess Federation, which he was guiding with extraordinary energy and a selfless love for chess. Thanks to his efforts every year dozens of tournaments with hundreds of participants were played. Vasiukov also developed a system for handicap tournaments which amateurs and professionals both like.

Grandmaster Evgeni Sveshnikov said: "Evgeni Andreyevich did so much for veteran chess in the USSR that we all have to bow him." At the meetings of grandmasters +75 which, for a couple of years, took place in Dresden, Vasiukov was a popular and regular guest (see photo below). Other regular guests were Mark Taimanov and Lothar Schmid who are also no longer alive.

Andreas Dückstein, Burkhard Malich, Wolfgang Uhlmann, Mark Taimanov, Lothar Schmid, Evgeni Vasiukow, Fridrik Olafsson

Andreas Dückstein, Burkhard Malich, Wolfgang Uhlmann, Mark Taimanov, Lothar Schmid, Evgeni Vasiukow, Fridrik Olafsson

But Vasiukov was not only a strong grandmaster and organiser but also wrote books and articles for chess magazines and newspapers. He also worked as a commentator for World Championship matches.

Evgeni Vasiukov with "papyrosy"

The chess world will miss Evgeni Vasiukov but he secured his place in chess history.

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer

Dagobert Kohlmeyer is one of the best known German chess journalists. For more than 25 years Kohlmeyer, who lives in Berlin, has been travelling all over the world to report about and to capture impressions of Chess Olympiads, World Championships, and top tournaments.


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