Russian chess grandmaster Yuri Averbakh dies at 100

Well-known Russians appear to be passing away at an alarming rate.

Chess24 reports that one of the most recent passings was Yuri Averbakh, the Russian chess grandmaster, who died over the weekend, in Moscow, at the age of 100. 

Averbakh’s passing was confirmed on Saturday by both FIDE and the Russian Chess Federation. The death comes about three months after his 100 birthday. He was the oldest living chess grandmaster.

Whether Averbakh’s death was caused by something other than old age is unclear. In 2021, he did contract and recover from COVID-19.

Who was he?

In chess circles, Averbakh was a preeminent figure. Born in Kaluga on February 8, 1922, Averbakh would go on to become one of the Soviet Union’s strongest chess players, winning the highly sought-after USSR Chess Championship in 1954.

Seemingly, the only thing that Averbakh wasn’t able to accomplish in the chess world was a world championship victory. He did participate in the 1953 Candidates Tournament, which is the qualifying tournament for the champion.

Other than failing to achieve a world championship title, though, Averbakh was extremely accomplished. reports that Averbakh, besides being the world’s oldest grandmaster, was a chess “trainer, international arbiter, chess composer, endgame theoretician, writer, historian, [and] honorary member of FIDE.”

The site also reports that “Averbakh was one of the few strong players who managed to simultaneously reach significant heights in chess theory, literature, journalism, history, and chess politics.”

Another Russian loss

Averbakh’s death comes close on the heels of the death of Maria Ivanovna Gusakova, the Soviet-born cross-country skier. Gusakova died on Sunday, May 8, 2022, at the age of 91.

The height of Gusakova’s career was in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, with her international debut taking place in 1958 at the World Championships where she placed tenth. Gusakova would go on to compete in multiple Olympics. She managed to win a number of Olympic medals including a gold medal in 1960, a silver medal in 1960, and a bronze medal in 1964.

Gusakova was also particularly successful in the Soviet Union. There she won six national titles, including in 1958, two in 1960, in 1961, 1962, and 1966.

The cause of Gusakova’s death has not been reported.

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