“Odessa, like our whole country, lives and struggles. Despite everything, we do not stop our life: we work, study, help each other and win.” Amid bombs and fears, chess continues to be played in the town overlooking the Black Sea. Recounting this sporting endurance is the head of the Ukrainian region’s chess federation, Vadym Morokhovsky, with a video on his Facebook profile.

In contrast, the president of the city’s chess association, Igor Gorbunov, explained to the Ukrainian website Novyny.live how now, in Odessa, the places used for games are increasingly the shelters and other underground rooms used to shelter from bombs. The only places to feel, in part, safer.

One example is the Agricultural University, located across the street from the chess club, which has provided its basement for this purpose. Taking in children, setting up the pieces and overseeing that everything runs safely. Almost every day. This is the mission of teachers and parents.

“For almost seven months, or at least until there was no possibility of going to the shelters, the coaches worked with the children exclusively online. If more than 250 children were trained in our school before the war, now a maximum of 70 children come in,” Gorbunov explained.

In September, according to the Ukrainian website, five tournaments were held in Odessa among children aged 6 to 14. These are important tournaments because they serve the young players to keep their level of competitiveness high. The Ukrainian championships, national and regional, are of course suspended. Organizing them online is not possible because of logistical difficulties but also because of anti-cheating rules, i.e., those that limit the possibility of cheating by resorting to chess engine suggestions.

Also changing are playing habits. If the anti-cheating alarm sounds during competitions, in fact, games are stopped at that precise moment. Pictures are taken of positions so that once the situation normalizes, it can be resumed as best as possible. The eyes of the boys, between breaks, thus return, each time, to reflect on positions, tactics and strategies. All while waiting for the chessboards to see the light of day again as well.

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