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Ukraine has won the European Championship in Chess for teams for the first time. The country has been home to many great players since the Soviet Union.

Ukraine are European Champions. At least when it comes to team chess, where the team just secured their first gold victory ever. The team was led by grandmaster Anton Korobov on first board who had an amazing tournament, playing above his rating, meaning that he played better at the tournament than on average.

The Ukrainian grandmaster Andrei Volokitin also had a strong tournament on the second board. The team ended the tournament in style with both top players beating their Armenian opponents. The Armenians were slightly weakened, as they played for the first time without the super grandmaster Levon Aronian on the first board, as he has moved to America.

A solid and easily accessible analysis of Korobov’s last game can be found here:

Russian dominance

In the women tournament, Russia dominated leaving little excitement in the tournament. Ukraine got a fourth place. This year, the men’s tournament was more interesting. For the entire tournament, however, one French player stole most of the thunder. The just 18-year-old Iranian born Alireza Firouzja has been playing like a super computer all tournament.

As the tournament concluded, he became the youngest player in the world to bypass the 2800 rating mark. He is now breathing current world champion Magnus Carlsen on the neck and shows more than just great promise. Carlsen will defend his world championship title starting from today, as he is met by the Russian grandmaster Ian Nepomniatchi in Dubai. will be broadcasting the first game of the match, which can be found here. The match starts at 16:30 Dubai time, though there are many hours of chess left before a winner of the world championship will be found.

The chess culture of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union countries have always been famous for chess. Many – actually most – world champions came from the Soviet Union. Chess was a very popular past time activity in the USSR, and it remains so today in the post-Soviet space.

During the Cold War, the chess rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union was heavily dominated by the Soviets. From 1948 and until Bobby Fischer challenged Boris Spassky in 1971, all world champions were from the Soviet Union.

After 1975, the world championship was returned to the Soviet Union, as Anatoliy Karpov took the title. He was sitting comfortably on that title for years, only challenged by Viktor Korchnoi – a Swiss/Soviet grandmaster – and later Gary Kasparov, who was of course also from the Soviet Union.

In 1985 Kasparov took the title from Karpov, which he then defended against Karpov for eight consecutive years. Since then, Kramnik, Karpov and a third Russian dominated international chess, and it was not until 2007 when Vishy Anand from India won, that the post Soviet hegemony was broken.

Later, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen took the title. He is defending his title this year against the very strong grandmaster Ian Nepomniatchi – a Russian grandmaster, who has previously beaten Carlsen several times in different formats. In that way, it is no surprise that chess has had a central place in Soviet culture.