Chess Olympiad 2022: Seeking right moves amid testing times

Concerns and conflicts in their minds, foreign players set for the Chennai challenge.

Published: 28th July 2022 09:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th July 2022 06:59 PM   |  A+A-

Indian grand Master Viswanathan Anand carries the olympaid torch via Napier Bridge to reach Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor stadium. (Photo | Ashwin Prasath, EPS)

Indian grand Master Viswanathan Anand carries the olympaid torch via Napier Bridge to reach Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor stadium. (Photo | Ashwin Prasath, EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  Kirill Shevchenko hid in a subway to escape Russian missiles in February. His family and he have since relocated to Germany. Shevchenko will be in Chennai, representing Ukraine. Alina Kashlinskaya, one among 44 Russian chess players to sign a 'stop the war' letter before sending it to Vladimir Putin, quit the federation.

At the Olympiad, she will represent Poland in the women's section (her husband, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, is part of the men's team). On Twitter, Carissa Yip, has been posting crucial resources on what next after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Yip, 18, like millions of other women across the US, focussed her efforts on urging people to donate for abortion funding.

She will be a part of the US women's team. Sachini Ranasinghe had to rely on a mobile phone-turned Wi-Fi hotspot during multiple online training sessions because of power cuts in Sri Lanka.

Ricko Depaune, down with Covid-19 just a month ago as Nauru faced its first wave, chugged on, meeting teammates for online sessions.

A Covid-19 lockdown meant he couldn't see his teammates for the last month. In Chennai, he will be on Board 1.

As the coastal tourist town of Mahabalipuram gets ready to welcome royalty for the game's biggest showpiece the Olympiad is chess' equivalent of the World Cup the first paragraph is a grim reminder of the human cost of 2022.

Civil war, conflict, a court judgment, invasion, Covid-19... societies across the world are facing significant challenges and some of the biggest chess names on the planet have not been spared.

In a grim, moving portrayal of what it was to escape Kyiv, Shevchenko painted a vivid picture in an interview with the 'Perpetual Chess Podcast'.

"The first day we just were sitting, maybe like we had some fear. Of course we didn't sleep at all. The next day we decided to leave Kiev because, about half kilometre from me, we heard about again an explosion and the rocket hit the house (...) that was really scary because we were very lucky that rocket doesn't hit our house, because it would be not possible to be alive after that. (...) we decided, "okay, we have to leave Kyiv."

In another part of Ukraine, Oleksandr Sulypa, Open team captain, took a gun to stand guard next to a heavily barricaded road.

While that was going on in Ukraine, some of the leading Russian players were brave enough to put their names next to a letter condemning the government's actions. One of them, Kashlinskaya, will be wearing a Pole jersey.

"I have been living in Poland for seven years already, also last year I got Polish citizenship. So, my decision was very natural," Kashlinskaya, one of the highest-rated active women's players, told this daily.

"Also, I have a lot of friends in the Polish chess community, so the integration to the team was not a problem for me."  

Ranasinghe acknowledges the problems her country is going through at the moment. "There is a crisis going on but we are doing okay as a team I guess," she told this newspaper before leaving for the Olympiad.

"During the power cut, we make our phones into hotspots for Wi-Fi. (When we have power), we charge our laptops. We have power cuts for 2.5 to 3 hours a day."

Even if parts of the country were facing 10-hour power cuts because of a shortage of resources, her situation was marginally better as she stayed next to a hospital.

Depaune thanked his lucky stars when he managed his bout of Covid-19 without going to a hospital. Even then, he was convinced that Nauru would miss the Olympiad bus because of the lockdown.

Depaune, who doubles up as general secretary of the Nauru Chess Federation, had told this daily: "(...) when the lockdown commenced, I thought we wouldn't make it to Chennai. But the government helped us. Securing a visa to Australia is quite hard but we have got it."

Afghanistan, another country that's seen better days, is sending a team. One of its members, Sepehr Sakhawaty, posted a poignant post on Instagram that reflected his feeling.

"I feel proud to fight for pride for my beloved country and beautiful flag despite the current difficult situation." 


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