6 May 2020

Standing by Those Who Put Their Health and Life at Stake

Participants of the Play For Russia charity tournament give interviews to the editors of the CFR website

As the world goes through a global health crisis, chess stands out as a unique sport that has successfully resurfaced online to bring together professionals, amateurs, and fans around the world. Besides, chess can serve as an excellent platform for charity and collaboration. 

At the initiative of the strongest Russian GMs, the Chess Federation of Russia and the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation will co-support the first online charity tournament titled Play for RussiaThe event is scheduled on May 12-14.

The prize pool will be shared among regional hospitals and health workers fighting the COVID-19 epidemic. Each participant, representing one of the federal subjects of our country, will determine the form of support for health institutions of their choice, depending on institutions’ particular needs. The entire prize fund is distributed equally among the regions, regardless of the final standings.

Going into the tournament, the participants were offered three questions to answer:


1. How important is this tournament at present time?

2. Have your determined the recipients of your support?

3. What are your takeaways from the self-isolation?


Vladimir Kramnik (Krasnodar Krai)

1. The sooner we start to help, the better. We all witness an unfortunate situation of a fairly large number of doctors contract infection because of an acute shortage of protective overalls, masks, and other equipment. However, we have found an opportunity to buy the required items. Given a large deficit everywhere, it is not often a question of funds as the inability to purchase everything health institutions need. 

However, we have found channels, and people are helping us, and I hope we will be able to get everything needed in sufficient quantities. Protective equipment for doctors is of paramount importance. As there is no time to lose, we will do our best to acquire and distribute them before the start of the tournament. So we are working on it now.

2. In general, yes; at the same time, a lot will depend on the total amount of donations. I have two medical institutions send me their requests as to what exactly they need and in what quantities. I will help these two anyway, and if there is any money left, I’ll try to help yet another institution. 

3. With a chess player's way of life being self-isolation to a certain degree, it must be somewhat easier for us to go through a lockout for that reason. Now I spend a lot of time with my children and my family, because when things run their normal course this is not so often the case. I try to make the best of this time to broaden my horizons as I listen to a lot of interesting lectures on the Internet. 

Finally, I have come around to looking into various long-shelved activities and points of interests for which I have never had time before. If it does not last too long, which is likely to be the case, I would even classify it as a positive experience. I feel that I spent this self-isolation time to my advantage. 



Alexander Grischuk (Moscow): 

1. I think you should always help people when it is in your power. 

2. I feel the urge to help the homeless, which explains my choice of a charity organization titled Nochlezhka (Doss-house).

3. Nothing.



Sergey Karjakin (Crimea):

1. It is of great importance! At present, everyone should do everything in their power to stop a pandemic from spreading. At the very minimum, everyone not bound to go to work should stay home or switch into "remote" mode. As a maximum– one should do something for those in need. I mean hospitals, in the first place. Those who want to join us can rest assured that their donations will reach the intended recipients.

2. Yes, my native Crimea has two hospitals that work with coronavirus patients, one of them being a Children's Hospital at that. I am glad that many years since moving to Moscow I can give back to my native region!

3. I read a lot, play chess, and spend time with my children. Compared to the last year, when I used to be at home for a month and a half at best, the current isolation, however sad it may be, has nevertheless provided me with a unique opportunity to be with my family, which I am very happy about!



Evgeny Tomashevsky (Saratov region):

1. It seems an all-around wonderful initiative, regardless of time and current circumstances, be it a coronavirus or some other issue. The very idea of doing something together and being part of the solution when worst comes to worst sounds inspiring. It felt like a natural thing to do when Vladimir Borisovich voiced it.

As for the purely medical aspect of the matter, it is difficult for me to judge as I am not an expert. Still, I want to believe that this contribution will be timely and to the point. But for Vladimir Kramnik, I do not think we would have ever got together for that project. His energy is a driving mechanism behind this process. 

I don’t want to say big words about what kind of support this is going to be: you need to provide it in the first place, see how everything goes, and only then talk about the outcome. Nevertheless, the very idea of ​​doing something useful together is very inspiring.

2. I have begun to monitor the situation in our region from the very first days of hearing about this idea. There is all the more reason for this as I have access to such data. Right now, I am busy deciding how exactly the purchased assets will be distributed. This is not as simple a process as it might seem, but there is still some time before the event. Anyway, being part of this project, I think to have a complete picture of what I would like to see, how and whom to support by the start of the competition. 

3. When I read this question for the first time, the immediate answer that came to my mind was: “Nothing.” I can’t say that I use self-isolation as a way to learn something new because I have not set any big-scale goals in front of myself.

However, I have more time for self-development and gaining deeper insight into some hobbies of mine. It applies to chess, intellectual games, and other interests. Now I can go to a deeper level of learning. When you have more time at your disposal, you can channel it, for example, to your chess opening repertoire or challenging yourself with questions from the trivia game “Your Game”), for which I simply haven't had time before. 

Otherwise, my life has not changed so fundamentally. However, there is a substantial lack of sports activities (be it playing football or going to the gym, among other things), as well as face-to-face communication with my parents and friends. Overall, my daily routine has remained about the same, so I won’t claim any big changes for me, or that I have taken away anything substantial from it. 



Alexander Riazantsev (Ural and Siberia):

1. Should this tournament raise funds to support medical workers, then, of course, I believe the event to be timely. Our country, like the whole world, is facing a new challenge in the form of COVID-19, and only together we can effectively cope with it by combining our efforts and sharing responsibility. I want to express my gratitude to health workers who work round the clock, putting at stake their lives and health for our sake.

2. I plan to transfer the tournament donations to health institutions of two federal districts – Siberia and the Urals. They are City Hospital No.5 of Barnaul and Central City Clinical Hospital No.24 of Yekaterinburg.

3. Being on self-isolation, I continue to work on chess. It’s good that our sport goes well with the online form of training. I also broaden my horizons by listening to lectures and reading books.


Peter Svidler (St. Petersburg):

1. The situation in the country in general and in my city in particular is aggravating day by day. Therefore, I am very happy about the opportunity to provide effective and targeted aid to those at the forefront risking health and life to help us all out.

2. I plan to channel support to City Polyclinic No.51 and the Consultative and Diagnostic Center for Children. 

3. Staying together on a 24/7 basis has become something of a first-hand experience for the four members of my family. I recall no such amount of close communication between family members for the entire span of 18 years since the birth of my children, which now feels like such a long time ago. It probably used to be before my sons came of school age. However, now that the boys make up shopping lists and go to the food store themselves, it gives me a free hand to do what I need.



Ernesto Inarkiev (Caucasus):

1. I think, the COVID-19 invasion into Russia has caught many people off guard. Having never witnessed a problem of this magnitude, we would somehow refuse to take it for what it was. Now the question what to do next has come to the forefront. Major sporting events are known to bring fans and spectators together, and it is a proper thing to funnel efforts to help medical workers who know no rest in combating this threat. As never before, this present day sends out a clear message that what will happen tomorrow depends on every one of us. It is extremely important to support each other and act together, and I hope that Play for Russia tournament will serve as an example of such proper collaboration.

2. Yes, these health institutions are in Ingushetia and Dagestan. 

In Dagestan, it is the Republican Clinical Hospital of Emergency Medicine in the city of Makhachkala. In Ingushetia, we collaborate with the Republican Ministry of Health. The rapidly changing situation will guide us in determining the institutions to receive support as the date of resources transfer gets closer.

Even though state and charity organizations do a lot of work at present, every penny counts with the situation being so unpredictable. I hope this tournament will become the spotlight of attention from chess fans, who will co-support our doctors through the tournament.

3. I have mastered a thing or two, to my surprise. These are my top 3: give injections, bake beets, do an hour-long intensive sports workout at home. There is no need to mention something as trivial as wearing a mask in public places, or applying for an E-pass.


Ian Nepomniachtchi (Bryansk region):

1. Charity is always relevant and important, all the more so at the present moment. We have both desire and opportunity to help our country, and as there is simply no staying uninvolved in a situation like this. 

2. As soon as we approved the dates and it became clear that the tournament would take place, I contacted the Bryansk Oblast administration to discuss the details of aid distribution. Bryansk Oblast has 13 hospitals in need of personal protective equipment for medical workers. I keep in touch with the Department of Health for more efficient allocation of resources.

The event is co-supported by the Timchenko Foundation, the Ramax group of companies, and Gazprombank (Switzerland). Match TV channel, a mass media partner, will provide live broadcasting of the GM matchups. The tournament host is one of the most popular gaming platforms Lichess.org.

The current donation pool amounts to five million one hundred and fifty thousand RUR. 

We continue to raise donations for the prize fund. We kindly ask all chess fans and everyone who cares to consider supporting us with donations.

Click here to learn more about the tournament and donations 

Photos by Lennart Ootes and Eteri Kublashvili