Person of day   -  8 AUGUST 2020

LEONID YUDASIN

LEONID YUDASIN

Leonid Yudasin was born on 8thAugust 1959 in Leningrad in an intellectual family of engineers. He was introduced to chess by his father, who was a good chess and checkers player. Meanwhile, his first trainer was the renowned master Georgy Lisitsin, who told Leonid’s parents that their son was a capable, promising player and who sent the young man to the legendary Pioneers’ Palace, which offered the best conditions to nurture young talent in the whole city.  

In the Pioneers’ Palace, Yudasin trained with Alexander Cherepkov- an experienced mentor. He progressed slowly but surely: by 17, he was playing at the level of a candidate for master of sports and at 19, he became a master at a tournament of the Burevestnik Sports Society. Alas, Yudasin’s progress was hindered by non-sporting factors. 

“I first truly faced anti-Semitism and discrimination when I studied at Leningrad’s Polytechnic University. To divert the attention of university students and overseeing institutions, the corrupt faculty came up with some mythical Zionist conspiracy and placed me at its head. I didn’t even know what Zionism was back then and I had no desire to apologize for something I didn’t know about.  

My exclusion from university and the subsequent, demeaning tour around the offices of security services, my service in the military and a short, enforced stay in a madhouse opened my eyes to the country where I lived and to the type of person I had to become. If it wasn’t for the help of Dmitry Vasilyev- a true Russian intellectual- and Vladimir Zak- an amazing man and trainer who represented chess players in the city- I could have easily been sent to jail.” (L. Yudasin)

Leonid did graduate from Leningrad’s Polytechnic University eventually. In 1981, the 22-year-old sensationally qualified for the final of the Soviet championship. Success at international tournaments in Minsk and Budapest in 1982 gave him the title of international master. In 1984, the master won the Leningrad championship and triumphed at the European Cup with team Labour. Soon enough, Leonid Yudasin qualified for the Premier League of the Soviet championship once again. 

One of Leonid’s greatest successes was victory at the Soviet Rapid Cup in 1988. Yudasin won 8 points out of 11 and defeated Vladimir Malaniuk, Zurab Azmaiparashvili, Rafael Vaganian and Vladimir Tukmakov, but this was only enough to split 1stplace with Mikhail Krasenkow. However, Yudasin won the additional match 2:1 to take first place. 

The growth of a strong chess player went on. Leonid Yudasin shared 1-4 places with Dreev, Shirov, and Lputian at the 1990 zonal tournament having qualified for the inter-zonal tournament, where he shared 5-11 places and became a candidate. A young chess player became a grandmaster. In 1990 USSR championship, Yudasin split 1-4 places with Beliavsky, Bareev, and Vyzmanavin but became second due to inferior tie-break. 

In light of this performance, Yudasin was included in the Olympic team of 1990 as a reserve. He went on to win 7 points out of 9 and made an enormous contribution to the Soviet victory. In the 1/8 final of the candidates’ matches, the draw pitted Leonid against Vassily Ivanchuk, who was one of the favorites- the match finished with a decisive victory for Ivanchuk with a score of 4,5:0,5. Three years later, Yudasin qualified for FIDE’s candidates’ matches after he split 2ndplace at the qualifiers in Biel. However, he lost in the 1/8 finals once again, this time to Vladimir Kramnik 2,5:4,5. 

After the collapse of the USSR, Yudasin emigrated to the US and then became an Israeli citizen. He regularly played for Israel at Olympiads and he represented Beersheba and Elitzur (a religious team which was disqualified from matches for refusal to play on the Sabbath) at the European Cups. Yudasin won multiple Israeli championships and played in several Olympiads. 

Despite being an Israeli citizen, Leonid Yudasin has spent most of his time in the States. He trained Irina Krush- a leader of American chess- and Maurice Ashley- a grandmaster and brilliant commentator. 

Since the start of the 1990s, Yudasin has led a religious lifestyle based on Jewish Orthodoxy. He is the author of renowned articled on Judaism and his religious pursuits led Yudasin to write a historical-philosophical text titled A Thousand-Year-Old Chess Myth

“I was never merely a machine that moved pieces on a chess board. Even when I was a professional who devoted day and night to chess, I always considered openings, middlegames and endgames alongside philosophy, the social significance of chess and determine what they mean for me and for humanity in general. You can now buy a book- A Thousand-Year-Old Chess Myth- which I was writing for five years. I studied and analyzed chess from historical, psychological and mathematical points of view…It took me 18 months just to gather all the material.” (L. Yudasin)

The international grandmaster often writes articles and gives lectures, where he talks about current tournaments and debates futuristic trends that could determine the fate of the chess world. 

“Nowadays, it is not necessary to burden brain cells as much, since a computer will do most of the work for you. The overall level of chess has risen enormously over the last decade, but chess knowledge has been devalued. The system of qualification has become outdated. Strife and quarrels persist, which exhausts existing players and deters potential ones. The chess Olympus is being stormed by the Chinese, while Chinese women are already dominant. Chinese chess players- both men and women- are human computers, capable of emotionless calculation.” (L. Yudasin)