Person of day   -  5 MAY 2021

NATALIA ZHUKOVA

NATALIA ZHUKOVA

Natalia Zhukova was born on 5thMay in the family of a Soviet officer in Dresden, but she spent her childhood in Ukraine, in Kakhovka. After the collapse of the USSR, Natalia quickly moved to become the foremost Ukrainian chess player. 

“My parents lived in Germany for a little- my father was a military officer. But Odessa became my hometown and I loved the sea. I am very proud to represent Odessa in the Ukrainian national team. Sadly, the state devotes little attention to chess over here. Yes, our national team performs well at competitions and tournaments, but our sport is developed against their wishes, not because of them. 

In Odessa, there is total stagnation, although the potential for promoting chess is enormous. Abroad, everyone asks why there aren’t more tournaments in Odessa, and I don’t know what to reply. Odessa used to host championships of different levels, from the international tournament of Soviet and Yugoslav teams and tournaments attended by Efim Geller- an Odessite whose name is known all over the planet- to candidates’ matches for the world championship between Tigran Petrosian and Viktor Korchnoi. Odessa’s chess and checkers club and its fantastic library were used by grandmasters of all levels to prepare for championships; Anatoly Karpov was one such user. It is sad to see Odessa, which used to be a chess capital of Ukraine and the USSR, to become so stagnant.” (N. Zhukova)

In 1994, Zhukova won the U14 world championship and a year later, she won the U16 European and world championships. In 1996, she won the Ukrainian championship. 

Shortly before NATO’s campaign against Slobodan Milosevic, she lived in Yugoslavia, where she played for the Agrouniversal women’s super club, which won multiple European Cups. Natalia entered the world elite with ease, winning supertournaments in Belgrade and Groningen in 1998. In the 1stwomen’s European championship in Batumi, she beat E. Kovalevskaya 2.5-1.5 and became the champion of the Old World. Zhukova’s second victory at a European championship came a long time later- she came first in Chakvi in 2015. 

The European championship in the Georgian city was memorable for a huge cheating scandal: the participants suspected one chess player, who confidently defeated one resident of chess Olympus with a rating above 2500 after another. Natalia Zhukova headed the initiative group in negotiations with the organizers and the online translation of the suspicious chess player was switched off: the suspect finished mid-table after several defeats. 

As a member of Ukraine’s national team, Natalia Zhukova won the 2006 Olympiad in Turin, the team world and the European championships in 2013. She is an honoured sports master of Ukraine. From 2010, Natalia has carried the prestigious title of a male grandmaster. 

“Dishonest platers get help from outside while they are at the table; they use microchips, invisible headphones and other inventions. This problem gets worse every tournament as computer technology gets better. It’s like doping in other sports: people fight against it, but new substances are invented every day which are impossible to detect. Once, they found a player surrounded with wires, who received vital information. And recently they have found a player who went to the bathroom with his phone and calculated his next move. 

The simplest way of fighting this cheating is to suppress the signal. Another question is how financially burdensome that would be for organizers of the tournament.” (N. Zhukova)