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The Russia Draughts Foundation for the Advancement of Draughts held a master class led by world draughts champion Sergey Belosheyev for patients of Russia’s first children’s hospice in Saint Petersburg on 11 April, the Foundation told the Lenta.ru online newspaper.
The charity event was organised by the Foundation in the run-up to the European Youth Championship that will take place in Saint Petersburg from 20-29 April.
Russian Draughts Foundation Executive Board Chairman Alexander Gaydukov says he hopes the efforts that the Foundation has put into developing the sport of draughts can produce a real difference. ‘Draughts are an ancient sport, and the European championship will feature children that are around the same age as those who played today with Sergey Belosheyev, our grandmaster from Yevpatoria who became a Russian citizen following the annexation of Crimea. In my opinion, there is nothing better than lifting the spirits of children who are suffering from serious illnesses’, Gaydukov said.
In the fireplace room at the Saint Petersburg Children’s Hospice, virtually everyone wanted a chance to play the world champion in a game of draughts, including the young patients and their relatives as well as hospice workers and even journalists. The grandmaster did not turn anyone down. Sergey Belosheyev initially held a master class as he spoke about interesting positions and openings in draughts from his twenty-year career and the experiences of some of the great Soviet grandmasters. He said the Soviet Union had a particularly strong draughts school back in the 1960s and also separately noted the special beauty of draughts-64.
The young patients were receptive to the grandmaster’s explanations. Many of them played interesting games with him, and some of them even managed to defeat Sergey thanks to the tips he gave them. One of his opponents, 14-year-old Anatoly, who suffers from a severe form of cancer, even talked his parents into postponing an operation planned for the day of the master class so that he could face the grandmaster. Sergey had high praise for the young man’s performance based on the match results.
Children’s Hospice Director Alexander Tkachenko believes the event was not only entertaining for the children, but had a beneficial therapeutic effect on them as well. ‘I have encountered numerous situations where children with an incurable diagnosis have gone on to live much longer than the doctors predicted after finding a hobby that distracts them from thinking about the disease and the endless treatment. Personally, I see a therapeutic effect in Sergey Belosheyev’s visit. The kids were eagerly expecting him, he managed to pique their interest, and I assure you that thinking about draughts helps them’, Tkachenko noted.
At the end of their meeting, the grandmaster took pictures with each young tournament participant and gave them a set of draughts and an autographed draughts board. ‘I really wanted to boost the children’s morale and I’m glad that I was able to do that, the grandmaster said.
The Russian Draughts Foundation also noted that the grandmaster’s protégé, 14-year-old Dmitry Gudarov from Ufa, will be among the 200 athletes who are to attend the European championship, where the youngest age group will be 10-12 year-olds.