Ethnic Korean Chess Grandmaster Comes Home

    November 28, 2008 07:33

    Alexey Kim
    A third-generation ethnic Korean who is one of the world's top chess players will represent Korea in an international chess competition held in the country of his grandfather.

    Alexey Kim, a 22-year-old chess grandmaster, the highest level recognized by the World Chess Federation, currently lives in Moscow with an Uzbek passport. But in terms of playing chess, Kim belongs to the Korean Federation. The sad history of ethnic Koreans in former Soviet Russia contributes to Kim's playing for the Korean Federation.

    His grandfather, Nikolay Vladimirovich Kim, was a first-generation ethnic Korean forcefully moved by Stalin from the Maritime Province of Siberia to Uzbekistan in 1937, where he suffered homesickness. When his grandson reached the age of four, Nikolay began teaching Alexey chess. Alexey emerged as a world-class player after winning the Moscow Junior Championship at the age of 11. "Be a chess player representing the Koreans" were the last words Nikolay said to young Alexey.

    Alexey became a grandmaster in 2004. Of 300 million chess players worldwide, only about 1,000 have obtained the prestigious title. When a grandmaster changes their federation, they must pay a sizable sum to the World Chess Federation, but that did not prevent Alexey doing so. As his grandfather's wish, he paid a W2 million (US$1=W1,502) fee to play for Korea in 2006. He will compete in the First Hi Seoul Korea Open Chess tournament, to be held in Olympic Park from Sunday until Dec. 6.

    Alexey, currently in his final year of majoring in chess in Moscow, visited Korea three years ago. He said, in broken Korean, his favorite food is "kimchi soup made by my mom."

    It is hoped that Alexey's inclusion among the 20 players of Team Korea, not traditionally a powerhouse in the chess world, should improve its record somewhat.

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