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2 September 2017

The Ostankino Opening

A festive event in the review of Eteri Kublashvili 

August 29 came up big with Ostankino celebrating a Day (It was rather a night, judging by the time of day) of Chess. The event was supported by the Charity Fund "Change a Life", dealing with orphan problems in Russia. Eight gifted kids from foster families played in a simul given by a vice-world champion Sergey Karjakin. The evening program also featured a match between a legendary Yuri Lvovich Averbakh and a talented Misha Osipov.

However, first things first.

The main voice of chess on radio and TV, Elmira Mirzoeva - one of the organizers and co-host of the program - does a great job of drawing attention to our sport through Ostankino. She continues the work of her father Nazim by regularly holding tournaments in the TV center’s chess club. Not only does the grandmaster prepare interesting and objective reports and programs instructive for laypeople, nor do they make the professionals’ eyebrows raise at that. Besides, Elmira is not in the habit of travelling the slippery path of excessive "praise and slander”, practiced by certain mass media houses nowadays.

The evening program was co-hosted with Elmira by the Russia's leading sports commentator Dmitry Guberniev. It is not the first time in recent years that Dmitry has to communicate with the chess people, so that prior to the start of the official part he even warmed up a little by challenging two participants of the upcoming simul. “In for Karjakin’s warmup," - a phrase coined by the Russian Chess Federation chess museum’s curator Dmitry Oleynikov as a signature to some imaginary picture.  One of the opponents of a well-known host was a boy named Artemy, whose wit and confidence was by no means inferior to that of his counterpart. Even the Ostankino Defence, as Guberniev labelled his opening choice, was unable to help him escape the defeat.

Then the guests of honor arrived into the hall: the 10th World Champion Boris Spassky, the oldest world grandmaster Yuri Lvovich Averbakh, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation and President of the Russian Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Sergey Karjakin. The latter was wearing a stylish hairstyle.

When opening the evening program, Guberniev recalled the words of Mikhail Tal about the head full of sun, noting that with so many chess stars around he felt as if same experience was happening to him as well.  He compared Karjakin to the Formula 1 pilot for the many sponsorship patches on Sergey’s suit.

Alexander Zhukov emphasized the uniqueness of chess as one of those rare types of sport that allow a 95-year-old play a preschooler, and in which women often fight men on an equal footing. 

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov noted that Russia had always been an example of proper chess development, recalling his plan to bring up the number of chess players to a billion people. “To chess all ages yield surrender,” was summed up by FIDE President.

Change a Life fund CEO, Yana Leonova, thanked everyone for assistance in organizing the event.

Before the simul started, Sergey Karjakin expressed hope that the simul experience of playing against grandmaster might serve a turning point in the children’s chess careers.

Children failed to be of a real challenge to the famous chess player, who demonstrated many textbook sacrifices and combinations. Meanwhile, Sergey pointed to the already famous boy Artemy, who, incidentally, rose to the occasion of answering the vice world champion’s urge to find a winning move in the simul’s last game.

Running parallel to the simul was a game between a 95-year-old Averbakh and 4-year-old Osipov. There is no denying that playing chess is already hard on Yuri Lvovich because of his poor sight problems. Experience, knowledge, memory, and striking clarity of mind were of no help to him when it came to defending the Sicilian setup as Black: a couple of blunders were his undoing in this encounter. Misha was in his usual strict and uncompromising manner, refusing to sign peace. “I stood better, how could have I agreed to a draw?” - said he after the game. He also reminded all those present that any position requires making strongest moves, which forms basis for the desired outcome.

During the evening, both Yuri Lvovich and Boris Vasilyevich had multiple opportunities to speak out and share their memories. Thus, the 10th world champion even had time to set up the board and tell about the puzzle tracing back to Charles XII.

A tandem chess match was the last event on the program. The Karjakin / Osipov team challenged that of Zhukov / Averbakh. It was not a conventional type of game as we know it, but the one carried out to a sophisticated system: teammates were seated at different tables, so that each move was followed by a player announcing and his team-mate producing the move on his board. Just as in the simul, Sergey pulled off a clever sacrifice (at first Misha did not see the point, but then "caught up") and outfoxed his opponents.

The program was wrapped up by Dmitry Guberniev wishing Sergey Karjakin good luck at the World Cup starting September 2 in Tbilisi. The guests were unwilling to disperse, lingering in the corridors of Ostankino for more communication for quite a while yet.

While on the way home, a taxi driver turned on Pink Floyd, which was a perfect finishing touch to everything that had happened before.

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