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Chess Players Fall Prey to Russian Thugs

December 13, 1994

MOSCOW (AP) _ The world’s top chess players came to Moscow armed with intricate strategies and exceptional intellect. Perhaps they should have brought guns instead.

Americans and other top-ranking participants in the 31st Chess Olympiad in Moscow have fallen victim to attacks, muggings, and threats from Russia’s criminals.

The Macedonian team has been hit hardest since the competition began Dec. 2.

The first attack against the team occurred after several of the players went to a currency exchange office across the street from their hotel. As the team’s 56-year-old captain, Lazar Jancev, handed $7,000 to the cashier, five men entered the office, held down the security guards and seized the money.

In the second attack, Jancev was beaten unconscious and robbed of $2,500 by a group of street urchins outside his hotel, players said. He was taken to a hospital and released later that day.

Both incidents were reported to police, but none of the attackers has been found.

The president of the Russian Chess Federation, Andrei Makarov, and Russia’s long-time world chess champion Garry Kasparov offered to compensate the Macedonians for their losses.

The U.S. team, whose top players are all Russian-Americans, has also fallen prey to Russian thugs.

Muggers stole $700 from Alexander Yermolinsky, the top player for the U.S. team. The thieves threatened to kill him if he did not return the next day with $70,000, although they did not follow up on it.

Burglars also stole $100 and a camera from the hotel room of another U.S. team member, Alexander Shabalov.

Members of other teams said they receive threatening phone calls at all hours, and some reported loud banging on their doors in the middle of the night.

The violence comes amid increasing media reports about violence against Russian sports stars, especially those earning high salaries in the West.

The crime wave against the chess players may also be attributed to the location of the competition. The Olympiad is being held at Moscow’s Cosmos Hotel, near an area known for frequent muggings.

The hotel has stepped up security in the past week in response to the attacks.

The Olympiad is playing host to a record 122 national sides competing in the men’s event and 78 countries in the women’s section.

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