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Karpov Leads Illinois Triple Threat Print E-mail
By Betsy Dynako   
March 18, 2008
Triple Threat: GMs Anatoly Karpov, Alexander Onischuk and Yury Shulman. In the background is WFM Palina Churun, the only simul winner. Photo Betsy Dynako

Chicago knows how to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  The river is died green, a parade marches through town, and there isn’t a single empty beer tent or bar.  But Chicago wasn’t the only busy place in Illinois this St. Patty’s weekend. On the East end of Glenview, Illinois, K-8 players were battling over the boards for the state chess championship.  Meanwhile on the other side of Glenview, Mikhail Korenman’s Chess for Peace hosted a Russian-American student match and a simul featuring former World Champion Anatoly Karpov, GM Alexander Onischuk and GM Yury Shulman.


On Friday night 60 boards were laid out for a tandem simul with Grandmasters Anatoly Karpov, Alexander Onischuk and Yury Shulman.  It is hard to know how the three GMs could see well enough to play with the constant barrage of camera flashes, or how they could concentrate with the non-stop autograph requests and talking.  But of course, they were able to carry on in conditions that would make many players cry.


The challengers were made up of people who were as young as kindergarten and as experienced as grandfathers.  As the night wore on most of the players were defeated one by one.  A few challengers managed to end their games with a draw but only one player walked away with a win.

WFM Palina Churun of Belarus, who is currently living in Wisconsin where she goes to school and teaches scholastic chess, defeated the three GMs. 

WFM Palina Churun

When I spoke to Palina while her game was still in the opening she told me she should have prepared for the game.  But the game still held a happy ending for Palina. After she refused a draw offer from Onishuck a clock was added to the game. Churun wanted to win all the more and she ignored the pressure of the clock. Look for the game and Palina's thoughts on it later this week on Chess Life Online.

 Spectators were glued to the game and overjoyed to see one of the two females playing in the simul win.  One of those cheering on Churun said the victory just goes to prove that a woman can be just as competitive as a man over the board.

Russian-American student match

Dr. Mikhail Korenman brought together 29 teenagers from Russian, Poland and America for a cultural chess exchange as part of his Chess for Peace program. 

Participants in the Russian-American exchange match

According to NTD Michael Zacate (also Betsy Dynako's father-ed.), "Eight of the Russian students (had) the equivalent of an expert rating and the other two would be considered Class C players. Unfortunately the strongest Illinois players did not participate in the event. The highest rated USA player was 1655 followed by 1355 and 1205. But Illinois high school players are famous for being under rated as suggested by their scoring 15.5 points against the Russian students. The top USA performance was turned in by Kamil Kapica (a freshman student at Vernon Hills HS recently arrived from Poland) who 4 points with his wins in rounds 3, 4, 5 all being against Russian experts. Particularly fascinating to witness was his time pressure win against Alena Sazonova in round 5."

Kamil Kapica

After 26 moves, Kamil had seven pawns, rook, knight and bishop against five pawns, two rooks and bishop. However, he only had 27 seconds against over two minutes. Using his pawns and king to pressure his opponent and move within the delay, Kamil used a pawn fork to win the Bishop and then escorted a pawn to victory.

 Kapica was excited to play the Russian players because of their high level of play.  He said when he lived in Poland he often traveled to tournaments to play Russian students.  Kapica feels, “Russia is the best chess nation."   

 Here is another win for the American squad: 
Plans are underway for repeating this event, and giving USA students a chance to test their own skills overseas.

Participants in the Russian-American exchange match

Tatiana Stefanishina was visiting America for the first time.  She was hoping to get in site seeing after the matches ended. She said that the American players  weren’t bad. Stefanishina finished 4/6 saying “I will have found memories of this trip." Vadim Churaev had the same score and while he enjoyed playing in the tournament he was really hoping to go shopping for clothes.  

Tatiana Stefanishina

Dinner and a Show

On Saturday night,  Karpov gave a presentation following the meal titled “Known and Unknown Story of the Fisher-Karpov Match”.  Before he sat down for the evening's banquet, we had an opportunity to talk. 


He said he supported the scholastic tournament because it offered a unique opportunity for the players. He feels chess offers children lessons that they don’t learn in school or with other sports, such as discipline. I asked Karpov if he had accomplished everything he wanted to in the chess world.  His response, “I still play, just not as often.  I do not like the system of World Championship the way it is now.  I hope they improve.  Then it is another story.”     As it stands he feels that the champion is unfairly favored over any and all challengers.  When I asked about any specific future chess goals he only said that he still finds pleasure in playing.

Onischuk and Karpov playing blitz

Since Karpov was mum about the future I asked about the past.  I wanted to know if he had any regrets about his career, if he would do some things differently.  “Probably yes,” he said. I pressed a bit more and he finally continued,  “There were some things that I wouldn’t repeat, especially the situation with Kasparov.  I made a big mistake to (agree) to play the match in Russia.  Now I wouldn’t accept any more, at that moment I shouldn’t have accepted… the organization was not bad. But..in relation to official rules, the free behavior of the officials…. This would not happen in any other country, only in the Soviet Union could this be possible and essentially it changed the history of chess.”

History is history and this weekend is part of it now.  Chess fans met their idol.   Teens met teens from other countries and battled over the chessboard.  Trophies were awarded and everyone headed home.  Of course the story doesn’t end there because there is still history to be made.  As Karpov said, “I have an active life.”