23 June 2018

Lest We Forget

The Viktor Kupreichik Memorial starts in Minsk. Report by Eteri Kublashvili

It is the second year in a row that Minsk hosts large-scale competitions. Same as the previous summer, the capital of Belarus is running the world rapid and blitz championships for U8, 10 and 12 boys and girls.  

This time running in parallel with the children’s tournament is yet another event - the Viktor Kupreichik Memorial (back in 2017 the European Men’s Championship was underway in Minsk). A legendary Byelorussian chess player and outstanding master of attack passed away last spring in his 68th year. Victor Davidovich’s niece, Anastasia Sorokina, a person in charge of the Belorussian Chess Federation, organized a tournament in his memory assisted by her well-coordinated and well-knit team.  

Grandmasters, masters and journalists responded readily to the invitation and headed for Minsk. All tournaments are being played in the Palace of Sports, and the participants stay in the Belarus Hotel, same as before. Organizers and arbiters demonstrate seamless and professional performance, whereas the points of friction, if any, are resolved immediately as they arise.  

The first Viktor Kupreichik Memorial features two sections: a round robin for Kupreichik’s friends and colleagues, and an open section for the rest of the world. 

Participating in the tournament of friends and colleagues are Rafael Vaganian (Armenia), Vladimir Tukmakov, Valery Zhidkov (both from Ukraine), Evgeny Sveshnikov, Yury Balashov, Valery Chekhov, Nukhim Rashkovsky (all from Russia), Viacheslav Dydyshko, Andrey Kovalev, Vladimir Veremeichik, Valery Smirnov, Evgeny Mochalov and Vladimir Oblamski (all from Belarus). 

The list of the open section contestants is topped by Anton Korobov (Ukraine), Dmitry Andreikin (Russia), Rauf Mamedov (Azerbaijan), Vladislav Kovalev, Aleksej Aleksandrov (both from Belarus). Natalia Zhukova (Ukraine) is the highest rated female player. Men of letters are represented by Maxim Notkin and Vladimir Barsky (both from Russia). The overall number of players exceeds 100. 

Giving speeches at the opening ceremony were the chairman of the BSF and tournament director Anastasia Sorokina, a close friend of Viktor Kupreichik, grandmaster Yuri Balashov, and an international arbiter, Merited Coach of the USSR, Anatoly Bykhovsky. 

Anastasia Sorokina stressed it being a milestone event for her, her family and the Belorussian chess in general. She thanked everybody who came to Minsk to honor this event. “A man lives as long as the last person who remembers him. Viktor Davidovich’s death is a huge loss not only for his family and friends, but for the entire chess world since entire generations of players used his games to study chess. This tournament is important for me not only as chairman of the Belorussian Chess Federation, but also as Viktor Kupreichik's niece. It seems to me that this event running in parallel with the children's world rapid and blitz championships is going to serve as an additional incentive for the beginner players from various countries. Let each game be as uncompromising as Victor Davidovich’s style. May the best man win.”  

Yuri Balashov recalled what a unique player Viktor Kupreichik was. “There was no guessing his next move on many occasions. His over-the-board decisions were so unorthodox from time to time. It was not in him to fight back from worse positions, and he would invariably resort to material sacrificing to take the initiative over. Unfortunately, Viktor never achieved the sportive success he deserved. However, his games belong to the treasury of chess art. I thank the Belorussian Chess Federation for having organized this tournament with such an impressive lineup. All of us played each other and Victor several dozen games. I hope we are in for a spectacular tournament full of uncompromising fight.  

Anatoly Bykhovsky dwelled upon one of Viktor Kupreichik’s games. “Viktor was a remarkable person, friend and chessplayer. He deserves many kind words to be said about him, but he is best characterized by a game I would like to bring to our memory now It was played in 1970, almost 50 years ago. Back then there appeared in the Soviet Union a whole group of talented young chess players, some of whom have come to Minsk for this event. It was extremely hard for these young chess players to break into the top, ruled by Botvinnik, Keres, Smyslov, Petrosian, Tal, Spassky, Stein, and Korchnoi. For the young to break through they came up with an idea of organizing a tournament in Sochi, with seven grandmasters opposed by seven masters. One of those who had never faced a heavyweight over the board before was Viktor Kupreichik. One evening I was taking a walk with Misha Tal, who addressed me, saying, “I am playing Kupreichik tomorrow, but I am still in the dark about the opening to choose against him. I tend towards Ruy Lopez.” I dared him into going for it with the Sicilian. Tal took up the gauntlet, and the following day saw his complete whitewashing. The game won by Victor has entered the gold fund of chess and was published everywhere. Tribute must be paid to the noblest Tal, who commented the game for a chess magazine.” 

Here is this game itself: 


A movie about Viktor Kupreichik was shown at the opening ceremony. Archival photos and videos were shown to Vysotsky's "Fastidious Horses", whom the grandmaster was so fond of. 

Five rounds were played during the first game day in the round-robin, and four in the open section.

With 3.5 out of 4 the round-robin is led by Andrei Kovalev, a tournament in which each participant sits out a round due to the odd number of players. With 3.5 out of 5 are Valery Chekhov and Yuri Balashov. 3 out of 4 is with Nukhim Rashkovsky, and 3 out of 5 with Viacheslav Dydyshko.

The open section has had four rounds. Going with the unblemished score are the favorites Dmitry Andreikin (Russia), Anton Korobov (Ukraine), Nikita Meshkovs (Latvia), as well as the young Viachaslau Zarubitski (Belarus).  

June 22, as on day one, the participants of the round-robin are playing 5 rounds, and 4 of the open.