Person of day - 12 MARCH 2021
Yuri was born in the city of Shadrinsk in the Kurgan Region. He grew up in a large working-class family that held chess in high regard. Yuri was taught to play by his older brother Alexander, who later became a candidate for master while his sister Tamara became a regional champion. Yuri reached the level of regional champion by 12, which was a serious achievement back then, and at 15 he became the youngest master in the country.
Even back then, his older colleagues Geller and Bagirov spoke about young Balashov’s startling level of theoretical knowledge with amazement: “He knows more theory than many grandmasters!” As was revealed in later years, Balashov was not only a specialist in debut theories. He had a good understanding of positions, he did not lose himself in combinations and he performed endgames accurately. In addition, his style was noted for coolness in difficult situations and a far-sighted, precise calculation of variants.
Yuri Balashov was one of the first students in the famous chess school of Mikhail Botvinnik, both literally and metaphorically. “By just attending lessons that were taught by Botvinnik, I gained a real understanding of how I must train myself in chess”, Balashov recalled. In 1967, he enrolled in the chess faculty of Moscow’s university of physical culture; his diploma was devoted to the art of Robert Fischer. It was not accident that Balashov was invited as a specialist on Fischer to assist Mark Taimanov in the match against the American genius; but something went astray for Soviet chess players in that contest…
Balashov’s chess path is by no means a linear rise to the pinnacles of mastery. Accustomed to dependability and precision in everything, he rose to the top slowly but surely. His successes came along with his increase of the necessary experience.
In 1970, Balashov won the championship of Moscow for the first time and came an honourable fourth in the Soviet championship. He became an international master in 1973 and played in 15 national championships. And though he never came first, he knew very few failures. In 1976, he came second after Karpov (he was the 12th world champion’s principal competitor for the whole tournament and only lost first place at the very end), in 1979 he split 3rd-4th places with Kasparov, in 1980 3rd-5th places with Romanishin and Jussupow and in 1986 he split 2nd-7th places.
There were many bright victories in the career of Balashov, a participant of four inter-zonal tournaments, a gold medallist of several large international competitions, a winner of the 1980 Olympiad and a winner of several European championships with the Soviet team. But Yuri Balashov not only proved himself as a chess player, but also as a trainer. He was second to Anatoly Karpov in three matches for the world championship, in 1978, 1981 and 1984. Calm, reserved, collected and a little phlegmatic, he was a fine addition to Karpov’s team, which he helped for several years as his friend fought for world supremacy. Karpov’s victories are partly the merit of his training team, in which Balashov played a notable part. Possessing encyclopaedic levels of knowledge, and being a creative and diverse chess player, he was able to evaluate positions correctly and suggest the most rational path towards solving the problems.
At the moment, Yuri Balashov continues to play in competitions, and the grandmaster performs successfully not just in veterans’ tournaments.
For his achievements in chess, Yuri has been awarded the Order of the Friendship of Peoples and the titles of “Recognised Trainer of the USSR” and “Recognised Trainer of FIDE”
Balashov’s wife Elena is a chess master and trainer who published several children’s’ textbooks. The Balashov family had two daughters and three sons.