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Georgia Chess Association


IM Boris Markovich Kogan - Class of 2024

Summary:

• Georgia’s strongest player
• won a record 9 Georgia State Championships
• 2-time Soviet junior champion
• played in 6 closed U. S. Chess Championships (1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987)
• teacher and coach of U. S. and Georgia champions
• Atlanta Chess Center annual Boris Kogan Memorial weekend Swiss tournament named for him


IM Boris Markovich Kogan (1940–1993) was the strongest chess player to make his home in the state of Georgia in the twentieth century. Born in the Republic of Ukraine, from the time Boris was 14 years old chess was his life. Initially he had a teacher, but Boris elected to study on his own. With constant study and practice he became USSR Junior Champion at 16 in 1956, which he repeated in 1957.

In 1964, Kogan attained the rank of Master, married, and moved to Lvov, Ukraine, to work as a chemical engineer—and to begin his teaching career. Some of his more famous students from that period included Alexander Beliavsky, Adrian Mikhalchishin, and Oleg Romanischin.  Beginning in 1968, Kogan became Leonid Stein’s trainer, assisting this great combination player in his great quest to be a candidate for the World Championship. That same year, Kogan took 2nd in the semi-final of the 1968 USSR Championship. Twice he came in 2nd-place in the Ukraine Championship.

Kogan was among the wave of Soviet √©migres that raised the strength of chess in the U.S. He and his family arrived in Georgia in May 1980 with $500. Kogan got a job as chess columnist for The Atlanta Journal. That month he won his first tournament: the 1980 Georgia Championship.  He was awarded the IM title in 1981 and played in six closed U. S. Chess Championships.  Kogan is the winningest Georgia State Champion, with seven consecutive wins 1980–1986, adding two more in 1988 and 1992. This is a record no one else in Georgia has come even close to matching. GM Kevin Spraggett once said that Kogan was a IM that was GM strength, but never got the title. Boris was at one time ranked 8th in the United States.

Inside Chess magazine called Kogan “the King of the South.”

Here are some of his wins from other tournaments:

1980 Atlanta October Open
1981 Georgia Congress
1981 Columbus City Championship
1981 Atlanta Championship
1981 Atlanta Summer Congress
1981 Atlanta Fall Classic
1981 Southeastern Congress
2024 GCA Hall of Fame Nominations// 15
1981 Atlanta October Open
1981 Atlanta Fall Classic
1981 National Chess Congress (Tied)
1981 6th Southern Congress (Tied)
1981 Holiday Grand Prix
1981 Qualified for the U. S. Championship
1982 13th Annual Southern Congress (Co-Champion)
1982 U. S. Class Championship
1982 Southern Open
1982 Atlanta City Championship (Co-Champion)
1982 Alabama State Championship
1982 Southern Summer Congress (Co-Champion)
1983 Georgia Open
1983 North Carolina Championship
1983 Atlanta City Championship
1984 Atlanta Open (Co-Champion)
1984 Georgia Open
1984 Georgia Congress
1984 American Chess Promotions Classic (Co-Champion)
1984 Region IV Championship
1984 Qualified for the U.S. Championship
1984 Church’s Fried Chicken Grand Prix (top U. S. finisher)
1985 Lincoln Memorial University Open (TN)
1985 Louisiana Lakes Extravaganza (LA)
1985 Atlanta Championship (Co-Champion)
1985 Atlanta September Open
1986 Southern Congress
1987 Qualified for the U.S. Championship
1991 Land of the Sky (Co-Champion)
1992 Georgia Class Championship
1992 Land of the Sky (Co-Champion)

As impressive as his chess playing was, Kogan’s greatest success was as a teacher. His forte was endgames. He once said that “Americans don’t know their endgames like they should.” For the amateur players in Georgia, Kogan was a source of wonder, delight, and friendship. When the Atlanta Chess and Game Center opened, he was often there, going over games with players. He taught Michael Gilner, Andrew Whatley, Stuart Rachels, and many more. His best student was Rachels, who, with Kogan’s guidance, raised his rating from 2100 to 2600. Rachels went on to win the U. S. Junior Championship in 1988 and U. S. Co-Champion in 1989. When Rachels had an adjourned position in the 1989 U. S. Championship, Boris helped him find the win.

Michael Gilner later recalled, “I could tell he [Kogan] almost felt as if he had won himself.” 1989 Georgia State Champion Michael Gilner recalls his own experience as Kogan’s student:  When I was a teenager, Boris usually taught me at home once per week. He always seemed confident to me. When I played well and we arrived at a complicated position, he’d remark that I had improved, and he’d have to think a while. Even when we ended up in equal endgames, I couldn’t manage a draw. Playing against him felt like playing a vice that slowly squeezed me until I made a fatal mistake. Most lessons involved poring over endgames from his notebooks. Boris was always a man who spoke concisely. We shared life events in a few sentences and moved on to chess. However, over the years I studied with him, we developed a strong bond. [Abridged from a longer text.]

After Kogan’s untimely death, the Atlanta Chess Center hosted an annual Boris Kogan Memorial weekend Swiss tournament until it closed in 2012.

Sources:

U.S. Chess.com
Chess.com
Georgia Chess magazine electronic collection.
New In Chess magazine.
Michael Gilner, personal communication.
Thad Rogers, personal communication.
Wikipedia.

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