Keeping the Ukrainian team in good spirits during the Chess Olympiad is a challenge: Sulypa | Chess News
“Putting this photo on social media was my way of announcing that I will do anything for my country. I learned shooting in school when I was a kid. However, my job was to stop and to search passing vehicles and we were not involved in any combat. Our role was to spot spies,” Oleksandr told TOI. Players such as Kirill Shevchenko – who are part of the Olympiad team — had to hide in the subway with thousands of people before leaving the capital. The team will meet in Warsaw, Poland, before departing for India ahead of the tournament.
Oleksandr, who has participated in many Olympiads in the past as a player and as a captain, concedes that this edition of the tournament will be the most difficult. “We have a solid team that is capable of playing good chess. The challenge for me is to keep my team mentally tuned because as soon as we check our cell phones — news about Ukraine makes us sad and worried. Keeping my team in a good headspace will be a challenge,” Oleksandr pointed out.
He conceded that there were apprehensions among Ukrainian players about whether or not to participate in the Olympiad. “Some players did not want to participate in the Olympiads. However, I was very clear — being part of this event is important because sport should always act as a unifier,” revealed Oleksandr.
Chess community support: While the Russian general manager Sergei Karjakin — Magnus Carlsen’s 2016 World Championship challenger — openly supported Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Oleksandr revealed how many others opposed Vladimir Putin’s decision. “Karjakin expressed his opinion but I think it was crazy. There are a lot of Russian players who supported us. Many chess players from all over the world sent us their best wishes and we are very grateful to them” , did he declare.
The 10th-seeded Ukrainian Open team includes grandmasters Anton Korobov, Kirill Shevchenko, Andrei Volokitin, Onyshchuk Volodymyr and Yuriv Kuzubov. With all of them outside of Ukraine at the moment, online training has become the norm. “The majority of our players are spread across Europe. We try to meet online every day and keep our spirits up. Some of them are currently participating in tournaments and this should give them enough practice before the Olympiad,” said Oleksandr. The women’s team, meanwhile, is ranked second and includes sisters Anna and Mariya Muzychuk, Anna UsheninaYulia Osmak and Nataliya Buksa.
Favorites from USA and India: For Oleksandr, the Indian hosts and the top seeds in the open category — United States — are the teams to beat. “Both are great units. It will be a big demand for other teams because there is a lot of depth in the American and Indian teams,” Oleksandr said.