21 November 2017

He Was a Very Bright Person in Chess and in Life

Grandmaster Urii Eliseev’s friends pay tribute to his memory

Almost a year ago, life of one of the most talented and outstanding chess players of his generation, Urii Eliseev, was tragically cut short (29.07.1996 - 26.11.2016).  Premature, absurd:  parkour ... . He was a champion of Russia and World in his age groups and won the U16 Olympiad as part of the Russian junior team.  In 2012, the grandmaster received the Caissa award in the “Opening of the Year” nomination.  In 2015, he won the Moscow Championship among men, a year later - the main tournament of the Moscow Open 2016 festival.

Starting these days in Moscow in the T. Petrosian chess club is a tournament dedicated to the memory of Urii Eliseev, initiated by one of his friends, Daniil Dubov.  The competition is held in two cycles to a time control of one and a half hours per game coupled with a 30-second increment per move, starting with move one.  Game days are:  November 15-19 and 21-25 .  Cycle one features grandmasters Vladislav Artemiev, Vladimir Fedoseev, Maxim Matlakov, Daniil Dubov, Alexander Predke and Mikhail Antipov; the lineup of the second will be announced later.

With the Memorial about to start, we asked the participants to share their memories of Urii.


Daniil Dubov:

- I do not even remember when we met, but we started communicating closely beginning with the summer of 2013.  On the eve of Spartakiad, the junior team of Moscow had a brief training session organized in Podolsk, where I was preparing for the World Cup in the company of Vasily Vladimirovich Gagarin. I shared a room with Urii, who would work almost all day, which amused me then. At a certain moment he pointed to an error in the line that I considered my main opening at the time, we got down to playing it out and and since then we would cooperate and communicate almost continuously.

He was probably the most versatile and gifted person I knew:  he sang well, wrote poems, loved Russian and knew it very well, had an incredible memory - I remember once going on a train, we had nothing to do, and he cited half Eugene Onegin from memory.  Given time, he could probably have read the whole thing.

We would always help each other at tournaments in preparation for the upcoming games; there was no mistake about his incredible analytic talent.  It was not infrequent that a night analysis preceding the game would give me some interesting ideas; I would work through a couple of lines and send it to him, and in the morning the sprout would grow into a huge tree of lines, which (I double checked it on more than one occasion) would contain no errors.  This produced a powerful impression:  he did not cut off his analysis where many would do so.  In general, an urge for excellence was in him,  be it poetry, a chess game or music - he would always go for it again if an opportunity to improve presented itself to him.  This is very well illustrated by his best games, featuring  powerful opening serves, accurate calculation of lines, followed by a precise conversion.

All this would not matter at all, if he were not a good man and a devoted friend:  we could always rely on him.  He was prepared for anything and everything for the sake of friends; I recall not a single case of his refusing to come to someones help.  We had a funny ritual:  after he spent his night time analyzing something that could come about in my game, I would always say thank you next morning, and he would every time return a new pleasantry.

Like many very gifted people, he could be absolutely unbearable in everyday life:  He was always inclined towards some action - playing, talking, thinking - probably all his friends must have faced it. Any sort of inaction was absolutely against his nature - no travel, waiting or dinner time could do without intellectual games.  I remember once walking and playing words at the Higher League in Kaliningrad.  I found myself carried away by staring at the water, saying Let me enjoy the view!”  “OK.  Some 10 seconds later:  Well, have you had enough of it?  Shall we play on?

There came a moment when his fanatical love for chess transferred to me, at least in part.  We could practice and play blitz all day long, absolutely committing all other things to oblivion:  food, business, calls, relatives - all this would cease to exist in the meanwhile. 

Urii was a very bright person in chess and in life, and I hope that our tournament is going to be worthy of his Memory.

The U16 World Youth Chess Olympiad (2011)
Vladimir Fedoseev:

- When I met Yuri, I immediately realized that there could be no other person like him.  His manner of communication, behavior, and circle of interests were in such contrast with anything I was habitual to - it seemed as though he wanted to be different in everything.  Of course, it found its way into chess as well, allowing him to create unique, inhuman things!  The explanation is very simple:  Urii trained differently from anyone else, he could often impress by being familiar with the games of ordinary chess players rated 2500 and below; he played a lot against the computer.  Disregarding the classical knowledge in chess and life, he had his way in everything.

It goes without saying that his relatives, friends, a coach tried to talk him out of his dangerous hobbies, but this is where his other quality manifested itself:  a willingness to go on and stick to his ideas till the end, regardless of opinions voiced by others often through mockery, disregard, and antagonism, I think of it as his special courage, perseverance, which helped him walk to the end, and which was worthy of respect.  These features were inherent to him, being an unfortunate cause of his premature death.  He slipped down while performing a basic trick that he had honed so many times before...  We lost one of the most incredible chessplayers of our generation.  Although I would often clash with Urii, largely because I believed his disregard of life norms and dogmas to be blown out of proportion, I recognized his unique gift and ideas nonetheless.  I do hope that wherever Urii is now he has everything that he lacked on Earth.  Rest in peace, Urii!

The U16 World Youth Chess Olympiad (2011)

Vladislav Artemiev:

- As far as I remember, I met Urii in September 2012.  It was in Istanbul, Turkey, where the U16 childrens chess Olympiad was underway.  We won that Olympiad, by the way, but it rather branded on my memory through the atmosphere that reigned in our team.  We got on well from the word go, and, even if I cannot claim that we became friends, we had a good level of communication. An immediate impression was that he stood out among his peers. Already in 2012 he displayed a keen interested in classical literature and various types of music; he also wrote own poems, coupled with his fondness of the Russian language and its very deep knowledge, expressed in his constant use of some rare turns of speech . In general, he was an enormously erudite person.  He also had an excellent sense of humor.  I do not recall ever seeing him in a bad mood.

As for the chess component, Urii was a pronounced white-colored player; I found it enough depressing to challenge him as Black.  Urii was an excellent analyst.  Besides, his calculation technique was excellent, which was also true about his sense of dynamics and imagination.  He was less enthusiastic about dry positions bordering on endgames, but very dangerous in dynamic setups.

I will remember Urii as an extremely intelligent person. Honestly, I have never met such erudite people either before or afterwards.

The U16 World Youth Chess Olympiad (2012)

Alexandr Predke:

- The thing is, I knew Urii over chess better than outside it. Despite our two-year disparity, it was rather infrequent for us to compete at various youth events. Our communication was basically limited to post-mortems. However, on arriving one day of November 2015 on same plane to snowy Khanty-Mansiysk for one the of the Russian Cup stages, we found out that there were no unshared hotel rooms, and Urii suggested to share one.  We got along nicely from the very beginning. We never lacked subjects to discuss, interrupting only to prepare for the upcoming game, which was done in a quiet, independent manner, everyone sitting on his bed with a laptop - a habitual life of a tournament chess players. However, in mid tournament my pc gave a blue screen, and the time of our conversations increased by hours.  In general, no need in lengthy preparations makes a tournament more fun.  We turned our attention to TV to find out that they show some good movies!

Every day after the round we would stop at a cafe to have a bite and go over the recent games.  It seemed to me that Uriis play was aimed at clarity and precision from the opening to as far as it goes.  He often treaded his narrow opening lines, always true to himself, probably trying to prove his opponent that it was he who should better change his views on life.

Urii was unlike anyone I have known. He composed poems, had a great passion for the Russian language, while his erudition was impressive.  The tournament seems to have given me an opportunity to know Urii as a kind and sympathetic person who loves chess for its beauty and competitive aspect.  Having delivered a series of victories at the finish, he ended up taking third in one of the strongest opens of Russia.  I needed to go home after the rapid event, and Urii stayed on for the Russian Cup.  I remember feeling sad about having to leave, but at the same time being sincerely happy for the chance to get to know each other better.

The Russian Championship (2012) In 2016 Ivan Bukavshin also passed away...

Mikhail Antipov:

- Our first encounter with Urii over the board was at the U10 Moscow Championship in 2005.  Basically, we communicated more in our childhood years, regularly participating in same tournaments, attending Bareev school’s training sessions, where we shared rooms on multiple occasions.  Besides, Urii and I co-participated in the Dvorkovich Cup.  Since seeing each other was basically confined to chess events, I did not have time to get to know him better, unfortunately.  However, I remember him as an interesting and cheerful person.

Maxim Matlakov:

- I was not closely familiar with Urii since our life paths did not cross - so it’s hard for me to say anything about his personal qualities. Our communication was basically limited to post mortems at tournaments. Nevertheless, I take it as a serious and accurate indicator of a person’s personality, his merits as an athlete.

Once we played a game that simply defies forgetting. It was the ultimate round of the 2016 Higher League, with nothing else but victory giving any of us a chance to qualify into the Superfinal.  He caught me on a home prep (I embraced myself for the potential of such developments before the game, knowing Eliseev’s excellent knowledge of the opening theory! I remember being impressed by the Eliseev - Sjugirov game that displayed a powerful opening prep and an offensive carried out in keeping with the best traditions. The game can be safely called a masterpiece of modern chess!) and, having gained a substantial edge, Urii blundered a couple of moves before the time control. My position turned into a winning one all of a sudden...Errors are known to never come alone, and Urii followed it by blundering a rook on move 42... On double-checking of all lines and considering it an ordinary blunder (which is not so infrequent for tournament games when a position turns upside down), I walked into an ingenuous trap.  After a series of rapid moves I suddenly realize that I get checkmated in a “winning” line following my opponent’s underpromotion into a knight! I was lucky to get away in one piece, and the game ended in a draw.

Following the initial post-mortem and further detailed home analysis, I often caught myself thinking that one needs to have a phenomenal imagination to come across an idea like this! I do not know about other players, but Urii took only 5 minutes to come up with a flawless calculation, which, of course, attests to his great talent.

Going over this fascinating and dramatic game afterwards, I came to the conclusion that Urii was a very interesting and erudite person with an out-of-the-ordinary view of things.

Urii had a propensity towards romanticism in chess. I think he was one of those people who, when carried away by some idea, do everything to bring it about. It sometimes cost him the games, giving birth to masterpieces instead.

In my opinion, the love of chess and commitment to working were one of primary qualities that allowed Eliseev to achieve great success. How wonderful that he was a chess player and how sad that he is no longer with us ...  

Pictures by Vladimir Barsky, Eteri Kublashvili and Dmitry Kryakvin