Shtembuliak and Zhukova are 2019 Ukrainian Champions

by Mikhail Golubev
12/21/2019 – Evgeny Shtembuliak is having a breakthrough year. The Texas Tech University student won the World Junior Championship earlier this year and has now been crowned Ukrainian Champion. The 20-year-old was first among a strong field of well established grandmasters, including Yuriy Kryvoruchko, Andrei Volokitin and Alexander Moiseenko. In the women's section, Natalia Zhukova had a better tiebreak score than Iulija Osmak, which prompted her to win her first ever national championship. MIKHAIL GOLUBEV reports. | Photos: Oleksandr Martynkov

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New Ukrainian talent

The annual Ukrainian Championships were nicely organized in the city of Lutsk, the administrative centre of Volyn Oblast. Some of the country's strongest players were absent, including, most notably, Vassily Ivanchuk, Anton Korobov (both playing in Sitges) and Ruslan Ponomariov in the Open Championship, and the Muzychuk sisters in the Women's Championship. Still, the tournaments were interesting, and the outcome in the open section can even be called sensational.

Despite having become the World Junior Champion earlier this year (I highly recommend the interview he gave to ChessBase after his victory), grandmaster Evgeny Shtembuliak — who grew up in Chornomorsk (formerly Ilyichyovsk) and is now studying at Texas Tech University — was not considered among the favourites in Lutsk. After all, most of his opponents were members of the national team!

But Shtembuliak proved his worth by winning five games, without losing any! He beat Chess Olympiad gold medallists Andrei Volokitin, Alexander Moiseenko and Pavel Eljanov; the very strong Yuriy Kuzubov; and the 2017 Ukrainian Champion, Petro Golubka. Not all games were easy for the young grandmaster, but he showed a great fighting spirit. His first win was achieved in a nice tactical way.


Ukrainian Chess Championships 2019

The playing hall during round two | Photo: Oleksandr Martynkov

Grandmaster Yuriy Kryvoruchko from Lviv, who was the highest rated Ukrainian in many rating lists already (currently Ivanchuk retains the top position among Ukrainians, while only two other players have led the list since 1991: Ponomariov and Eljanov), had generally a good tournament, scoring +4 =5. He fought for first place till the end, aiming to repeat his 2013 championship success, but his efforts turned out to only be enough for a silver medal.

Kryvoruchko's victory over Moiseenko certainly was one of the most impressive games of the tournament. Not often do we see a strong grandmaster being crushed in such a way!


Another grandmaster from Lviv, Andrei Volokitin, scored 5½/9 and finished in clear third place. Nine rounds is quite a short distance for round-robins — for Volokitin, the loss he suffered against Shtembuliak in the starting round must have been a serious blow. But he was able to recover, winning three of the eight remaining games. His dramatic encounter versus Eljanov is certainly one of the games from Lutsk that I like most.


Andrei Volokitin, Pavel Eljanov

An ultra sharp game — Andrei Volokitin v Pavel Eljanov | Photo: Oleksandr Martynkov

Some experts already opined that, after his impressive performances in the World U-20 Championship and the Ukrainian Championship, Shtembuliak should now be considered as a candidate to play in the national team. Indeed, I would certainly be happy to see one more representative of the Odessa region in the Ukrainian team.

But as of now the whole situation with the team looks uncertain. Shortly before the championship, as many as eight of the country's top players — namely, Eljanov, Ponomariov, Moiseenko, Korobov, Kryvoruchko, Areshchenko, Kuzubov and Efimenko — wrote an open letter supporting GM Vladimir Baklan's candidacy to become the new coach/captain of the team. Grandmaster Oleksandr Sulypa performed these duties for many years already, and it cannot be said that his results were bad, even if his predecessor GM Vladimir Tukmakov was more successful. So we'll see how this controversy is solved by the Ukrainian Chess Federation.

Final standings - Open

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Shtembuliak Evgeny 7,0 0,0
2 Kryvoruchko Yuriy 6,5 0,0
3 Volokitin Andrei 5,5 0,0
4 Moiseenko Alexander 4,5 0,0
5 Eljanov Pavel 4,0 1,5
6 Kuzubov Yuriy 4,0 1,0
7 Vysochin Spartak 4,0 0,5
8 Bernadskiy Vitaliy 3,5 0,5
9 Kovchan Alexander 3,5 0,5
10 Golubka Petro 2,5 0,0

All games - Open


A first for Zhukova

Regarding the Women's Championship, it would be fair to say that GM Natalia Zhukova and 2017 champion IM Iulija Osmak were significantly stronger than the rest of the field. Eventually, both scored 7/9, and Zhukova took the title thanks to her better tiebreak score.

Natalia's victory cannot be called a surprise by any means — twice in her career, she won the European Individual Championship, in addition to a number of medals, including the 2006 Olympiad gold with the Ukrainian national team. However, for many it was surprising that one of the country's best female players for over twenty years actually won the national championship for the first time!

Three players scored 5/9. Having the better tiebreak score, WIM Olena Martynkova took the bronze medal.

Olena Martynkova, Natalia Zhukova, Iulija Osmak

Olena Martynkova, Natalia Zhukova and Iulija Osmak | Photo: Oleksandr Martynkov

Final standings - Women's

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Zhukova Natalia 7,0 0,5
2 Osmak Iulija 7,0 0,5
3 Martynkova Olena 5,0 1,5
4 Berdnyk Mariia 5,0 1,0
5 Hrebenshchykova Yelyzaveta 5,0 0,5
6 Tsirulnik Maritsa 4,0 0,0
7 Doluhanova Evgeniya 3,5 0,0
8 Rakhmangulova Anastasiya 3,0 0,5
9 Dolzhykova Kateryna 3,0 0,5
10 Babiy Olga 2,5 0,0

All games - Women's



Mikhail Golubev is a Ukrainian grandmaster, chess journalist and organizer. In 1996 he won the Ukrainian national championship in Yalta.


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Mikhail Golubev Mikhail Golubev 12/22/2019 06:41
Today, after some research, I found that never before the representatives of the Odessa region (Odessa oblast) had won the men's/open and women's Ukrainian championships in the same year.
More in Rus. lang.:
Mikhail Golubev Mikhail Golubev 12/22/2019 06:23
Re Ushenina: on 19-20 Dec she played in a strong women's rapid tournament in China; alas, she took the last place:
royce campbell royce campbell 12/22/2019 12:52
Anybody know the status of Anna Ushenina? She doesnt seem to have played much lately.