Vladislav Tarasiuk: Portrait of a composer

by Nagesh Havanur
8/12/2020 – Vladislav Tarasiuk is known as an immunologist in medical circles in Kharkov, Ukraine. However, the chess world knows him as a composer. Recently Tarasiuk authored an endgame study, Noah’s Ark, and aptly dedicated it to the Health workers and medical professionals combating the pandemic all over the world. In an interview with Tarasiuk, our columnist Prof. Nagesh Havanur lets the composer speak for himself.

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A chess composer speaks

I first came across the name of Vladislav Tarasiuk through Sergiy Didukh’s site, a regular arena for creative combat among composers.

I was fascinated to see him exchange blow for blow with fellow composers in friendly, but sharp exchanges. When he published his famous Noah’s Ark endgame study I was curious to know more about it and contacted him.  He was friendly and open to my “cross-examination”. Over the last months I have asked him a number of questions on his life, career and chess composition. Not only has he answered these questions, but also volunteered some information on his own. All that appears here in the form of a virtual “interview”.

NSH: Can you tell me something about your background?

Tarasiuk: My father, Vladimir Arsentiyevich, was a builder by profession; my mother, Valentina Mikhailovna, was a primary school teacher. 

I was born on March 9, 1968 in Kharkov, Ukraine. That date is a bit of a coincidence. When I was a teenager, I used to flatter myself thinking that I shared it with Taras Schevchenko (Ukranian poet), Yuri Gagarin and even Bobby Fischer!

How were you drawn to chess?

When I was six, my father taught me the rules of the game. Every evening I would look forward to his return so that we could sit and “play”.

How did it become a serious interest?

That happened literally by an accident!

At the end of 1981, my friend Kolya met with a misfortune. One day he did not find the keys to his apartment, and he got this “bright” idea of climbing down from the neighbor’s balcony and letting himself into the flat through the window, and he fell off the third floor! Thank God, he survived, but a pelvic fracture confined him to bed for a couple of months. I began to visit him (we studied in the same class and sat at the same desk). It turned out that Kolya also knew how to play. So, thanks to these battles at the bedside of an injured friend, I was drawn to chess again. 

Apart from playing with my friend I began to take interest in solving problems.

Vladislav Tarasiuk

14-year-old Tarasiuk (1982)

How did you commence work as a composer?

I am an optimist by nature and I believe in a successful combination of circumstances. So it happened then, in May 1984. The magazine, “64 Chess Review” (64 шахматное обозрение) carried an announcement of a composition tourney.

This was sponsored by our own Kharkov newspaper, “Lenins’ka zmina”. I sent two problems and looked forward to a positive result. Next year the newspaper published the results of the competition and the following entry received Special Hon. Mention. Thus began my journey in chess composition!

[You can try to solve the problem on your own first, and then see the answer — second entry on the list!]


You were only 16 when you composed this problem. That’s commendable. But today the engines spoil the fun by pointing out a prosaic dual with 1.Re7!

I know. The other day I prepared an amended version that eliminates the dual.


You did even better next year with a two-mover. While the first move is obvious, the lines leading to mate thereafter are beautiful.


I composed very few problems, six in all. Thereafter, I took to endgame studies as they are closer to practical play. The first of them was published in 1985. 


That first endgame study still occupies a cherished place in Tarasiuk’s memory even today.

Vladislav Tarasiuk

How did this transition from problems to endgame studies come about?

In 1985 I met Vladimir Samilo. He was the  judge who had awarded Special Hon. Mention to my five-move problem entry in the Chess Competition for Peace. He was Chairman of the Kharkov City Commission on Chess Composition at the time. He became my mentor on endgame studies. I valued his opinion then and I hold it in high regard even now. 

Vladislav Tarasiuk, Vladimir Samilo

With Vladimir Samilo, his first mentor

Thanks to his initiative, I participated in the Chess Composing Festival in 1990 in Odessa. There for the first time I met many eminent composers, whose names I had seen only in newspapers and magazines — Valentin Rudenko, Yuri Gordian, Anatoly Kuznetsov and many others... 

How many endgame studies have you composed so far and with what results?

I have published about 400 studies, with 100 of them winning prizes and many earning Hon. Mention.

Are there any notable achievements that you have cherished over the years?

I did win the World Championship in composing in 1997. Thereafter, I was runner-up in 2001, 2013 and 2017. I have been a member of the Ukrainian team, and we won the 2018 World Cup.

Recently I was awarded the title of Hon. Master of Sports in Ukraine for my work in chess composition.

It is not easy to pick and choose the best among your endgame studies. I like this work that won the First Place on the occasion of the 18th Ukraine Chess Championship, 2016.


OK. What about fellow composers? Who do you like among peers of your own generation?

Sergiy DidukhIt would be unfair to mention some and overlook others. Yet I consider Oleg Pervakov and Sergiy Didukh [pictured, right] to be two geniuses! Sergiy in particular influenced my work. First of all, he taught me such a quality as perseverance in search of chess truth. His theoretical and critical articles on his own blog and his personal advice through correspondence encouraged me to implement difficult ideas in recent years. Thanks to him, my passion for composing, which was rather a hobby for me earlier, has transformed into a more significant occupation that has filled my life with new sensations and meanings... 

Vladislav Tarasiuk, Oleg Pervakov

Tarasiuk with Oleg Pervakov

You mentioned Didukh’s chess arena. But you all fight there like some hungry lions!

No, not like hungry lions. It’s more like a boxing ring. On occasion, I also wear boxing gloves. We all have creative disagreements, and we all learn from one another. 

Would you tell us more about your parents? 

I mentioned that my father taught me chess when I was six. Years later he still enjoyed playing with me.

Vladislav Tarasiuk

Tarasiuk playing with his father (1997)

My mother enjoyed checkers, and she encouraged me to participate in tournaments. Indeed, there was a lot of interest in checkers in our school class. We formed a team and occupied an honourable 5th place in a composing tourney in checkers in our town.

Did all this solving and composing activity in checkers help later in chess?

Yes, it did. It’s all about seeing novel geometric designs over the board and finding creative solutions for them.

Would you recommend checkers to chess players today?

Not to everyone. Chess itself takes a lot of time. It’s a question of personal inclination.

What is family life like today?

I have a very caring and patient wife, Alla. She and I have been together for 21 years, and she still endures my hobby — chess composition. She supports me always and in everything. We have two children, Anton and Eugenia. Anton is studying in the university. Eugenia is studying in a school. She says, she wants to become a teacher in a school!

Do you help your wife in the kitchen? 

Yes, I help her in the kitchen. I enjoy preparing dishes, especially with “chess pieces”. All of them can be tasted and relished!

Vladislav Tarasiuk

Tarasiuk with wife, Alla, and children, Anton and Eugenia

What about your future plans?

I can only say this about my future plans: Let the desire to find a chess miracle remain forever in my heart!


Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for more than three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.


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