Sun Herald, May 6

The name of Genna Sosonko will not be well-known to Australian readers.

Some may remember the Dutch GM as a second for Jeroen Piket at the 1988 World Junior Championships in Adelaide. Fewer will know that he is Holland's most successful Olympiad player, losing only five games in 12 Olympiads.

However Sosonko was not always Dutch; the first 29 years of his life were spent in the USSR, a period ended by his defection to the West in 1972.

Those 29 years meeting and working with legendary players such as Mikhail Tal and Viktor Korchnoi and unheralded geniuses such as Alvis Vitolins have now been turned into a book, 'Russian Silhouettes' - a book which already looks a certainty to take the Chess Book of the Year prize for 2001.

In a series of beautifully written personal portraits, Sosonko tells of the lives of some of the players who helped the USSR dominate world chess from WWII until the present day. A chessplayer's life in the USSR was a privileged one but nonetheless subject to extraordinary restrictions on movement and speech which are barely imaginable to a younger generation. A personal decision such as declining to join the Communist Party could have serious consequences for a player's career.

Since secrecy was paramount in the USSR, much of what Sosonko writes about this lost world is unfamiliar, both in the West and in Russia. One might also have expected Sosonko to show some malice towards the system which forced him to leave his homeland but Sosonko, while hardly nostalgic, manages to show how inspired individuals need not always be dragged down by the system and much in his book is positive. Perhaps even more importantly, every word in 'Russian Silhouettes' rings true.

This week's game comes from the final of a Zurich tournament celebrating the 70th birthday of one of the all-time greats, Korchnoi. Garry Kasparov spoiled the party by beating Korchnoi in the quarter-finals but then lost to his nemesis Vladimir Kramnik in the final.

Click here to see the game