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Grigory Sanakoev RIP

An appreciation by Tim Harding

G.K. SanakoevThe 12th Correspondence Chess World Champion, Grigory Konstantinovich Sanakoev, died last month in Voronezh, Russia, where he lived all his life. He was born on 17 April 1935.

We had the pleasure of meeting grandmaster Sanakoev during two ICCF Congresses at least. At the first of these, Bad Neuenahr 1996, we were able to conduct an interview with him (with the help of CC-GM Sergey Grodzensky as interpreter and GM Alex Baburin who listened to the tape recording and checked our text). The resulting article was published in issue 4/1997 of Chess Mail magazine and some extracts appear below.

We also met Mr. Sanakoev at the 2000 ICCF Congress in Daytona, Florida, where we were able to win our game against him in the ICCF Blitz tournament. It was clear that five-minute chess was not his forte but he took his defeat graciously.

Sanakoev in 1996

After finishing second to the famous GM Vladimir Simagin in the 6th Soviet CC Championship (1963-65), Sanakoev qualified for the final of the 6th World Championship (1968-71) in which his score of 8.5/15 earned him joint fiufth to seventh places. He was also awarded the correspondence IM title in 1971.

Sanakoev worked as a journalist and unlike some of his rivals was never a chess professional. By finishing second in a world championship semifinal tournament, he earned another shot at the sumnmit and began play in the 10th World Championship Final in 1979, which continued until 1984. Here Sanakoev finished in joint third place, which both earned him the grandmaster title and another place in a final.

The 12th World Championship Final, played from 1985-1990 saw Sanakoev reach his goal at last, hence the title of his subsequent book Treytya Popytka (The Third Attempt) in which he told the story of his career up to that point. This book, one of the best ever written about correspondence chess, was first published in Russian in 1995 and contains 49 games including the last to finish in the world championship, his win against Sterud which, in our interview, he called his most important victory. "I won it in a very delicate and neat endgame.".

A German translation, Der Dritte Versuch, appeared in 1997, published by Schachverlag Kania. It includes ten further games played by Sanakoev in the early 1990s. Finally, the English edition from Gambit Publications was released in 1999 under the title World Champion at the Third Attempt. The translation was by John Sugden with some analytical corrections by GM John Nunn and also has 59 games.

Mr. Sanakoev concluded our interview by saying:

A chess player must love correspondence chess the way he loves his child. To earn the child's love, you must love it first. That's the only way to succeed.

The image below is of the letter Mr Sanakoev sent us in 1997 with an autographed copy of the first edition of his book.

Letter from Sanakoev