10-year-old world champion, checkers, and the help for the Ukrainian Armed Forces: how a girl in Kyiv raises money for the army with street checkers games
Valeria Yezhova came up with a solution to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The girl offers everyone on the street to play with her for a charitable contribution, which she then sends to the military. Rubryka also decided to join in, play checkers, and talk with the girl.
Viktor Kovalenko, Kyiv Chess Federation vice-president, told about the initiative of ten-year-old Lera Yezhova. Today, the girl played for the fourth time, and the place to play was not chosen by chance. It happened not far from her own house, next to a supermarket. It is always crowded there, and people are willing to help and play checkers with the young player.
Today, I, a reporter of Rubryka, am among those willing to play. Once upon a time, I was also fond of chess, but I have no illusions: after a 30-year break, I am unlikely to win against the world champion. And indeed, at the end of the game, Lera skillfully drives me into a trap that I don't even notice at first.
After the game, Lera says she has been playing for four years. She says she had never played before but decided to try it and really liked it.
"I am currently studying at the Kyiv Palace for Children and Youth. I have the first adult rank. I have already played in the world and European championships and won the Kyiv championship three years in a row. And I am also the world champion among children under ten years old. The championship was held last year in Turkey," says the girl, placing checkers on the boards and adding: "Soon, on August 1, there will be a European championship, but it is very expensive, so I don't know if I will go."
Now the girl is gaining points to become a candidate for master of sports: "I want to gain points as soon as possible, but I don't know how it will be. Now there are quite a lot of tournaments in Kyiv, but recently there were two tournaments in honor of Children's Day. I try to participate in all of them: the more tournaments, the better. Everyone can lose. Although, of course, it is not very pleasant to lose, so you need to train more. Checkers develop the brain, so my mental state improved after I started playing checkers. Besides, it's an interesting game."
Today, everyone helps the Ukrainian Armed Forces: both adults and children. And if adults donate and volunteer, children should be more inventive in their ways of helping. Some sell their toys, some donate birthday money to the army, and some play the violin or give their savings for their dream gadgets. Lera decided to help and do what she does best — play checkers:
"I wanted to help our army, and my mother and I started thinking about how and what we could do. And we decided that since I play checkers quite well, we should do it this way. Today I am playing for the fourth time; I collected more than 6,000 hryvnias in three days. Many people simply give money to help, without playing. But many people also play checkers because it is interesting. I won all the games. I hope no one is going easy on me," says the girl with a smile.
Her mother, Lyubov, is standing next to the girl. She adds to her daughter's story: "But we didn't think it would be so successful. I said, Lera, you should not have very high hopes because I do not know how people will accept this idea. But everything went very well."
Lera signed up for checkers four years ago exclusively on her initiative:
"Checkers greatly help children in their development, perseverance, patience, develop logic, thinking. My youngest daughter is very hyperactive, and we also offered her to play checkers so that she would calm down a little, because, in checkers, you have to control your emotions and sit. It also helps to concentrate," says the woman.
This year, the Ukrainian checkers championship for children of Lera's age category was to be held on March 2. Due to the full-scale russia's invasion, it was canceled. Now, the family is thinking about the upcoming European Championship: "It will be in Turkey," says Lyubov Yezhova. "But I don't know if we will go or not. The road is long and expensive, because we can take the plane only from Europe, and the tickets are expensive. We are still considering it. Our dad wants her to go, but we'll see. There are online tournaments. Lera played in a tournament dedicated to Children's Protection Day and took first place. There were also older children, born before 2006."
Now Lera plays like this, helping the Ukrainian Armed Forces. But at the same time, according to her mother, it is also good training, experience, and game practice. One of the charitable foundations already offered to make this practice more convenient: "One girl, her name is Olena Wright, saw photos on Facebook and wrote that her charitable foundation could buy a table and two chairs. They were brought here today."
The girl's coach is Viktor Yuriyovych. He talks about Lera and her successes with pride: "To be honest, it was not clear that Lera would become a champion. It is quite difficult to see. But there are such indicators: if a child wants to play, they play a lot. She likes checkers. For example, Lera cried a lot when she lost. It is a sign that the child will continue to play. Here we also need the parents' help to take them to tournaments, and the coach must be of the appropriate level. The coach must also be a good player."
Viktor himself is a master of sports and develops training programs. He says he started playing quite late, when he was 14, later than his student. Then there were five years of intense play, the army, a year of coaching, and a long break from checkers. "I returned to coaching again in 2017. I also play. Sometimes, I even win something, but I'm more of a coach than a player," the man shares.
Because of the quarantine and the war, many of Viktor's group left. Now there are twenty children left in the group who play in tournaments and have ranks. He says it is getting more complicated: "Newbies can't hang around now. They need to attend continuously for at least a year without breaks. Then they settle down, get a rank and become interested. Online learning is no substitute for this. Beginners need to play live to get a feel for the game. Therefore, unfortunately, there are practically no newcomers now."
Viktor is currently looking for a new place for his group. The children practice free of charge, but not everyone can easily get to the Central Palace. Some simply cannot make it to training.
Extracurricular activities, socializing with peers, and developing hobbies are what children especially need now, during a full-scale invasion, when their childhood has changed so dramatically. And Lera Yezhova proves that everyone can do what they love and help the Armed Forces, even at the age of ten.