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Monday, September 5, 2016

Pawns in the Game by Fred Waitzkin

GM Boris Gulko
     An article in the December 17, 1984 issue of New York Magazine starting on page 45 makes for interesting reading.  It's about the author's trip to Moscow, along with his son Josh and Bruce Pandolfini, for the purpose of observing the world championship match and checking out the Soviet chess educational system. During the trip Waitzkin also managed a visit with dissident Boris Gulko. 
     Shortly after sharing the USSR Championship in Leningrad in 1977 with Iosif Dorfman, Gulko applied to leave the country, but permission was refused. He and his wife, Anna Akhsharumova, who is a WGM, became prominent Soviet Refuseniks. As a vehement anti-Communist, he was once arrested and beaten by KGB agents. 
     The Gulkos weren't allowed in top-level chess competition until the period of glasnost arrived, and Gulko was finally allowed to immigrate to the United States in 1986. Gulko said that those seven years were a serious blow for his chess career, but he didn't regret them.
     After moving to the U.S. he won the U.S. Championship twice, in 1994 and 1999.  He is the only chess player ever to have held both the American and Soviet championship titles. 
     Gulko was subject to anti-semitic discrimination 20 years later when he qualified to play at the 2004 World Championship in Libya, but the president of the Libyan Organizing Committee, dictator Gaddafi’s son, announced:  “We did not and will not invite the Zionist enemies to this championship.” 
     Gulko and several other Jewish players withdrew from the tournament, and Gulko in a letter to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov wrote, “I implore you not to be the first president of FIDE to preside over the first world chess championship from which Jews are excluded. Our magnificent and noble game does not deserve such a disgrace.”

More reading:
Codename: "Raul" - Karpov of the KGB - an article on Chessdotcom 
KGB allegedly club grandmaster at chess tourney 
The KGB Plays Chess - book excerpt on Amazon

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