Person of day - 11 OCTOBER 2021
Ruslan Ponomariov became one of the leaders of a golden generation of young Ukrainian chess players who led their country to victories in the Olympics and other pre-eminent tournaments under the leadership of Vassily Ivanchuk.
Ruslan was born on 11th October 1983 in Horlivka, in the Donetsk region. His youth was spent at the Kramatorsk chess school, which educated many future grandmasters. The young chess player won juniors’ tournaments with ease around the world and in 1996, he performed very well at the world U18 championship. During the Old World tournament in Slovakia, the favourites could not comprehend why some kid sat at the first board. They were even more surprised to find out that the 13-year-old Ponomariov had a rating of 2550. In that tournament, the Ukrainian wunderkind won 8 points out of 9.
Ruslan Ponomariov led the junior Ukrainian team to victories at Olympiads and in 1998, and he became a grandmaster after he won the world U18 championship. At that time, he was the youngest grandmaster in the world. In that same year, Ruslan achieved his first milestone in adult chess: he came first at the zonal Ukrainian tournament and won an invitation to FIDE’s knockout world championship.
In Las Vegas, Ponomariov easily overcame Al-Modiahki but lost to Veselin Topalov in the second round. Topalov was one of the favourites of the tournament with whom Ruslan would work closely in the future. By that time, the graduate of Kramatorsk’s chess school was one of the strongest chess players in Ukraine. The young grandmaster won the Ukrainian team championship with Danko Donbass, played in the European Cup and made his debut for the adults’ national team.
Alas, FIDE’s 2000 knockout world championship only brought disappointment to Ruslan: he lost to an unknown Vietnamese chess player Dao Thien Hai. But that was the calm before the storm. Soon after, Ponomariov played against Viktor Korchnoi in a friendly match and a 4:4 against a chess legend chastised the young talent.
In 2001, Ponomariov came to Moscow with his trainer Gennady Kuzmin to play in another FIDE world championship. Ruslan knocked out Sergei Tiviakov, Kirill Georgiev, Alexander Morozevich, Evgeny Bareev and Peter Svidler before defeating his compatriot Vassily Ivanchuk in an additional match. Aged 18, Ruslan Ponomariov became the youngest world champion in the world, beating Garry Kasparov’s record. Two years later, after the Prague Agreements to unite the chess world, Ruslan was set to play Garry the Thirteenth, but the match never took place for political reasons.
He is a recognised master of sport of Ukraine and a recipient of the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, III Category. Ruslan Ponomariov won two chess Olympiads and took medals in the Tournament of Nations and world team championships. He is a vice-champion of Europe and a winner of the super tournament in Dortmund in 2010.
After losing the FIDE world champion’s title in 2005, he qualified for the final of the World Cup and the candidates’ matches, where he lost to Sergey Rublevsky. In 2009, Ponomariov once again qualified for the final of the World Cup, but in the end, the invitation to the candidates’ tournament was won by the winner of the Khanty-Mansiysk marathon, Boris Gelfand.
He is married to Spanish translator Ines Goni and the couple have a son.