Person of day   -  15 FEBRUARY 2021

ABRAM KHASIN

ABRAM KHASIN

Abram Khasin was born in Zaporozhye, but his parents soon moved to Kiev. There, Khasin began to play chess: he taught himself to play and he joined the Pioneers’ Palace, where Bronstein and other famous chess players trained, at the late age of 16. Very soon, the young man was playing at the level of a state champion, then a regional champion. At the semi-final of Kiev, Khasin became a candidate for sports master and in 1941 he qualified for the final. That city championship remained unfinished because the War started.  

Along with his family, Khasin was evacuated but he went to the front as a volunteer. In December 1942, after a severe wound in Stalingrad, the soldier from the mortar division had both legs amputated. He survived in hospital after suffering from wounds, frostbites, pneumonia, blood infection and other illnesses. After the war, Khasin, who spent his whole life on prosthetics, graduated from the institute of foreign languages and went to work in a school as a teacher of English.

He continued to play chess and became one of the country’s strongest grandmasters. In 1964, he was awarded the title of international master- a rarity in those times. Khasin often participated in Moscow’s championships and performed well, winning medals; he qualified for the final USSR championship five times. Khasin often beat the strongest grandmasters of that time, but after a while he stopped performing and focused on his vocation- pedagogy.

A recognised trainer of the USSR since 1968, Abram Khasin taught chess in the Central Chess Club, the Pioneers’ Palace and the chess faculty of a sports school that was attended by talented children from all over the country. Among his pupils there are many notable grandmasters: Olga Rubtsova, Elena Fatalibekova, Yuri Razuvaev, Boris Gulko and Evgeny Bareev. His performances were replaced by the successes of his students and his participation in correspondence chess, where he achieved a lot- he played for the Soviet team in several Olympiads and won large tournaments.

Since 2002, Abram Khasin has lived in Germany’s Essen with his family. Multiple living students around the world- starting with those whom he taught English after the War- remember him with respect and affection.

Oleg Basilashvili: “When I studied at school, for a while English was taught by girls who just finished teacher’s colleges. Naturally, God knows what went on in lessons. No one learned anything, everyone screamed, danced and amused themselves at the expense of these girls. In their place came a man, in a worn jacket with a cane and a round, plump face. His name was Abram Iosifovich Khasin.

He began to ask everyone questions about the subject. Obviously, no one knew anything. And in the first lesson he gave everyone the lowest grade. This went on for a month. Everyone got these lowest grades in huge numbers. Over time, his lessons quietened down. Some people began to do homework and answer questions. There were occasional provocations from our side. Once, someone brought an erotic magazine to class and we placed it on Abram Iosifovich’s table. He took the journal and looked at it for 45 minutes in silence, after which he said: “There will be a test tomorrow on the material we were supposed to cover today.” We realised: we’ve messed about and that was enough: it was time to study.

Later, we found out that our teacher had no legs, that he was a soldier from the front and a Soviet chess champion. We were astounded! Our respect for him grew to such an extent that I can call this modest man a hero of my time. Heroes are not those who hold sledgehammers on posters and they’re not in films, even ones which were conceived creatively. One needs to look for heroes and recognise them in real life.”