On the top of the Ukrainian chess capital

7/28/2013 – Lviv (or Lvov) is not the capital of Ukraine – that's Kiev – but it is certainly the great center of chess in a country that is very proficient in the game. Last week Lviv celebrated an International Chess Day, with a blitz tournament on the tower of City Hall, a dizzying 65 meters high, where losing a piece can have a very literal meaning. The winner was GM Yuri Vovk, who sent us his impressions of the event.

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On the top of the Ukrainian chess capital

– or the first and the last flight of Pegasus

By GM Yuri Vovk

Every well-educated man knows the names of the capital of countries (at least of the most advanced of them). Each such a capital has lots of governmental institutions and other important features that make it different from normal cities. But first of all the status of capital city is guaranteed by the law. Each of us heard about the music, culture, football “capitals of a country” (or the world). Such high and sonorous titles are sometimes much more valuable compared to the formal ones, as they were undoubtedly earned by virtue of indisputable achievements and not just by the decision of a government. This story is about such an informal capital – the chess capital of Ukraine, city of Lviv. More precisely, this story is about the celebration of the International Chess Day in this beautiful city...


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Lviv is a city in western Ukraine, once a major population center of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, the Habsburg Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. In Ukrainian it is spelled L’viv, in Polish: Lwów, in German Lemberg and in English Lvov. It is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine.

A short foreword to the skeptics: If you still doubt the supremacy of Lviv, please show evidence for your doubts. More than thirty living male and female GMs are from our city, or became strong players when living in it. This is an important note, as for example Shtein, Ivanchuk and Dorfman were not born in Lviv, but had their main chess career here. On the other hand Vitali Golod was born in Lviv but became a GM after moving to Israel. The biographies of Lviv chess players are really captivating, but let us go on.

The Ukrainian 2013 male champion, Yuriy Kryvoruchko, is from Lviv, the Ukrainian 2013 female champion Mariya Muzychuk is from Lviv region. Even the U20 World Champion Alexander Ipatov (who represents the Turkish Chess Federation) lives in Lviv anyway! That all was said to prove that the International Chess Day is a special event for our city! And this year it was extremely special!

View of the historic Old Town of Lviv – source Wiki

Lviv is a beautiful old city, with lots of “must see” places. But there are two spots in our city where you can enjoy the all the sightseeing simultaneously: the High Castle (Vysokyi Zamok in transliteration) and ...

... the Tower of the City Hall (Vezha Mis'koyi Rady in transliteration).

The first is much higher but also much harder to climb; the second, 65 meters above the ground, gives a perfect panorama –and it's much easier to lift the chess equipment up there.

So that was our decision: to make a blitz tournament on the Tower of The City Council and in this way to celebrate the International Chess Day. We express our gratitude to the officers of the City Council, who were so kind as to close the Tower for tourists throughout the time of our event. Also it would have been hardly possible to conduct the event without the help of a new president of the Lviv Regional Chess Federation Taras Kernytskyi. There was only one drawback: due to economic reasons (the 20th of July was a Saturday, so lots of tourists to come and pay to enter the Tower) we had to play on 19th of July. But it couldn't take the pleasure away. Just facts now: six male GM's to play a double round robin event with a time control of three minutes + two seconds increment per move – at 65 meters height. It is worth mentioning that the Tower is an open air space so it's not the same as looking down from your safe and cozy flat on the 15th floor.

Despite the fact tournament was a friendly one, most of players had clear intentions to show their best. Ten rounds of aggressive battles took place the course of two hours. Here are the final standings:

Second place for GM Yaroslav Zherebukh

Yaroslav Zherebukh playing Lviv businessman GM Margeir Pétursson

I bet you wonder what famous Icelandic Grandmaster Margeir Petursson is doing here? But, as I said before, players from Lviv have captivating biographies. Margeir, a strong Icelandic player, switched to business after leaving professional chess, and the businessman path led him... to Lviv. Now he is at the high office in the one of a banks of Lviv and lives here permanently. Charming story, isn't it?

The President of the Lviv Regional Chess Federation Taras Kernytskyi, the Mayor
of the city of Lviv Andriy Sadovyi and the winner of the event GM Yuri Vovk

But our celebration was not only the matter of a GM blitz. After a 65 meter descent we were “back to the earth” and proud to end the celebrations with the prize giving ceremony for the all participants of the youth tournament that took place the same morning. It's so nice to get a medal from a GM (or even more – a national champion) when you are just ten years old. You feel happy and it really lifts you up and makes you eager to achieve the highest chess results in a future.

Ukrainian Champion Yuriy Kryvoruchko provides cups and medals to the participants of the children event

The final point of celebration was the simultaneous exhibition on ten boards held by GM Yuri Vovk

And now let me suggest you two interesting puzzles from the games of the winner.

Black played 1...Nxc5?! which is not the best move (1...Qxc5+ or 1...Rxf1+ are probably stronger). But it is not losing because after 2.Rxf6! Nxe6+ 3.Kh1 Black has the beautiful 3...Qd8!!, regaining the rook and getting equal chances in the endgame.

1...c4! 2.Bxc4 and Black is better as 2...Qa4! 3.Bb5 leads to a white disaster after 3...Qxe4.

The end... “The end?” you ask. “But where is Pegasus mentioned in the title?” Okay, dear readers, it is time for a fairy tale (based on actual events).

The first and the last flight of Pegasus

Once upon a time it was a chess fight between GM Mikhalchishin and GM Vovk on the edge of the high Tower. That fight was very tough and took a lot of nerves from both sides. GM Mikhalchishin made an incautious motion of his hand in a zeitnot rush... and both opponents heard the sound of a falling chess piece. But as they were both short of time they had no time to check the details.

After the end of the fight the warriors were putting pieces back to the initial positions. But Mikhalchishin's knight was missing on the board! They searched the field of the battle but were not able to find it. Then chess warriors understood what had happened. Driven by Mikhalchishin's magic hand, the chess piece became a horse with the ability to fly! Nobody knows where the newborn Pegasus now is. Somebody says its new wings were too weak to fly, and the poor animal fell down the 65 meters height and died. Other say its flight was successful and Pegasus serves Caissa now somewhere in a distant place that nobody can get to. We don't know the truth... But what we know for sure chess legend about the first and the last flight of Pegasus will live forever.

If you are a chess lover don't hesitate to visit Lviv on the 19th and 20th of July 2014. You will have a lot of fun, and maybe we will even find the knight then!

Yuri Vovk, born 11 November 1988, is a Ukrainian chess player who was trained by Vladimir Grabinsky, coach of the Ukrainian youth team. He became a Grandmaster in 2008, at the age of 20. His major success has been the victory In February 2009 of the colossal 610-player Cappelle-la-Grande Open in France, ahead of 106 GMs and 76 IMs, with 7.5 points out of 9. Yuri achieved his maximum Elo rating in April 2013, with 2608 points. He is the older brother of GM Andrey Vovk.


Topics Lviv
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