Amidst War, Chess Players in Odessa Still Found Time to Play Chess


    In the midst of war-torn Odessa, where the sounds of gunfire and explosions filled the air, another group of chess players found solace in the ancient game. Despite the chaos and uncertainty surrounding them, they gathered in an informal club for a tournament named Veteran Blitz, determined to keep their minds sharp and their spirits high.

    Led by the seasoned player, Igor Gorbunov, the group consisted of individuals from all walks of life. There was GM Mikhail Golubev, Maria, a young and talented player who had lost her family in the conflict, Sergei, a former soldier who had traded his rifle for a chessboard; and Elena, a wise and gentle elder who had lived through the city’s darkest moments.

    They used chess to escape from reality as they set up their boards and pieces, the outside world seemed to fade away. Deafening sounds of gunfire became a distant hum, and the smell of smoke and fear was replaced by the musty scent of old books and the excitement of competition.

    Individuals playing chess amidst war in Odessa. Photo: Igor Gorbunov

    Igor, who was the head of the club, he had played chess since childhood and had even competed in national tournaments before the war. Now, he saw the game as a way to keep hope alive, to remind his fellow citizens that even in the darkest times, beauty and strategy could still thrive.

    As they played, the group discovered that chess was not just a game, but a refuge. It was a place where they could momentarily forget about the devastation outside and focus on the detailed dance of pawns and pieces. They found comfort in the familiar rhythms of the game.

    Maria had lost so much, but in chess, she found a sense of purpose and belonging. Sergei, meanwhile, found solace in the strategic aspects of the game, seeing parallels between chess and the military tactics he had once employed.

    As the war raged on, the chess players of Odessa continued to gather, their boards and pieces a source of hope in a city torn apart. They played for themselves, for each other, and for the future they longed to rebuild.

    Surprisingly, with the presence of higher rated players, players with lower ratings led the tournament as Polishchuk Oleg took the first position at the end of the tournament with 7.5 points, with Saftiuk Pavel and Bliumberg Vladislav as the second and third with 6.5 points and 6 points respectively.
    The final ranking of the tournament

    In the midst of chaos, they found a sense of peace, a reminder that even in the darkest times, the beauty and strategy of chess could still thrive.


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