Karjakin and Esipenko pay tribute to their coach Yury Dokhoian (1964-2021)

Renowned Russian chess coach Yury Dokhoian was buried today in the Nikolo-Khovanskoye cemetery near Moscow after dying from COVID-19 on July 1st at the age of just 56. Sergey Karjakin, who was coached by Dokhoian from 2009-2020, and 18-year-old Andrey Esipenko, his latest protégé, attended the funeral. Yury was a strong chess player, but was best known as Garry Kasparov’s second for the last decade of his career, before going on to coach the Kosintseva sisters and head the Russian women’s and men’s teams.

Yury Rafaelovich Dokhoian was born on 26th October 1964 in a small village in Altai Krai, a region of Siberian Russia nestled between Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Chess talent was a ladder in the Soviet Union, however, and Yury was enrolled in a chess school in Moscow before going on to become a strong grandmaster. He reached the world Top 40 and won tournaments that included the Wijk aan Zee B Group in 1989.

Michal Krasenkow shared a photo of himself with Yury from the Soviet Team Championship in 1988

The defining moment of his chess career, however, was being invited to be part of the team of Garry Kasparov. From 1995 until Garry’s retirement in 2005, Yury would become a constant companion of the 13th World Champion, working tirelessly to hone what was already the best opening repertoire in world chess.

When Garry retired, Yury switched to coaching a pair of sisters, Nadezhda and Tatiana Kosintseva, who would go on to become the driving force behind the success of the Russian women’s chess team. They were also from the periphery — the far north city of Arkhangelsk — and paid tribute to their coach after his untimely death.

We began working with Yuri in 2005, when he arrived for a training session with us in snow-covered Arkhangelsk in winter, not fearing the -30 degrees cold. From that moment on, our perception of chess began to change drastically. Yuri opened up a whole new fascinating world for us, one whose existence we didn’t even suspect.

It’s impossible to convey the scale of our coach’s personality in words. He was a man who put his whole soul into his students, and you couldn’t help but respond.

And what training sessions we had! It was impossible not to get infected by Yuri’s chess energy, his desire to find hitherto unappreciated piece harmony and logical beauty in the positions we were analysing.

We’re proud and unspeakably grateful to Yury for all the years he devoted to our chess development. Thank you very much, Yury, for your faith in us and for everything you taught us.

We’ll never forget the priceless experience of the Olympiads and other events when you would tirelessly analyse positions for us late at night, skipping lunch in order to show us one more interesting idea, and then still find the energy to stand behind our backs for 5-6 hours, observing how we played our sometimes unpredictable women’s chess.

Thank you for all the team and individual events won, but above all thank you for showing us what a Teacher should be, or as we called you — Sensei!

It was great luck to get to work with you. Rest in Peace…

Dokhoian became the head coach of the Russian women’s team from 2006-2011, with their gold in the 2010 Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk standing out — the Russian team won all 11 matches to clinch victory by a full four match points, with the Kosintseva sisters taking individual gold on the top two boards.

Yury was then taken onto the men’s team, and if he couldn’t quite work the same magic he came incredibly close to achieving the Holy Grail of Olympiad gold in 2012, when Russia missed out to Armenia only on tiebreaks. The team’s one loss in that event was to the USA, when Hikaru Nakamura beat Vladimir Kramnik and Gata Kamsky defeated Alexander Grischuk.

As well as team coaching, Yury was a much sought-after individual coach. He’s coached the current World Championship challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi, but most notably the 2016 challenger Sergey Karjakin. Sergey paid tribute to his coach:

Yury Rafaelovich Dokhoian (1964-2021)

He was very kind, but in chess he was demanding both of himself and his students. He was ready to work 24/7 if he believed in his protege and saw a desire to improve! 

He was very responsive and always ready to come to your aid. He was a wise man, who you could ask for advice at any moment. It’s not for nothing that the Russian team to a man called him Sensei. Yury and I worked together from 2009 and I owe many of my successes to him personally! Our last training camp took place in 2020. The pandemic had already begun, and we joked that it was the last chess training camp on the planet before the whole world would shut down in quarantine…

Yury Rafaelovich, I’ll really miss you!

Rest in Peace…

In the last couple of years Dokhoian had switched to coaching the most promising young Russian chess player, 19-year-old 2716-rated Andrey Esipenko. At the age of 18 in January this year Esipenko famously beat World Champion Magnus Carlsen in their first classical game.

In an alternative universe in which the pandemic didn’t strike, who knows how far Dokhoian and Esipenko might have gone together, but we’re now not going to find out. Andrey also paid tribute to his coach.

Today my coach and older colleague, Yury Rafaelovich Dokhoian passed away….

Hard-working, kind, cheerful – that’s how I’ll recall Yury. It’s a great pity that we didn’t manage to spend more time together, but I’m proud to have been your student for two years. You’ll really be missed…

Rest in peace…

Sergey and Andrey were both present as Yury was buried in the Nikolo-Khovanskoye cemetery near Moscow today.

We’d like to express our condolences to all Yury’s students, friends and family. May he rest in peace.

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