Nyzhnyk: I will not let you down!

This is a behind the scene story about a chess hero!

Nyzhnyk: I will not let you down!

A week ago, Grandmaster Illia Nyzhnyk became very ill around the end of the semester. Clare Brown (SPICE Office Manager) and I had to take him to the doctors several times. We almost had to take him even to the hospital. It was that serious!

At the end, the doctors prescribed a bunch of medicine. If his body responded to the medication, there is a slight chance that he could play. If not, we would have to shuffle our lineups if he’s not able to travel with the team. We had various team meetings to inform team members so they could do extra preparation for new board assignments.

Several friends of mine who are doctors told me that it would normally take 1-3 weeks for Illia to be OK. At the best case scenario, he would miss the PanAm InterCollegiate Championships.

However, Illia had other ideas. He told us that he would not let us down, and he will give everything he has to make sure that Webster makes the Final Four.

We all know that Illia is a true team player and a fighter. But we already resigned to the idea that he could be healthy enough to travel on a long bus ride and play in this grueling championship.

While his teammates were training and preparing, Illia was resting and sleeping, and heavily medicated. I would get up much earlier than usual to make him fresh homemade chicken soup then bring it to him, and teammates helped him other ways including doing his laundry.

On the morning of December 26 when we departed Webster University, Illia said he was OK to travel with us. But he slept a lot on the bus and we can all see that he was still in bad shape. When we arrived at the hotel 11 hours later, he went to the room and could not join the rest of the team for dinner.

At this point, in spite of being in bad shape, he said he was ready to play (Just like the song Centerfield by John Fogerty: "Put me in coach, I'm ready to play, today!"). Knowing that he was not at his best, we had to officially reshuffle the lineups and hope that he could hold his board. We could not possibly expect to have Illia play well with his condition.

We only turned in our final rosters right before the deadline to submit our lineups. We waited as long as we could to see if Illia’s condition would improve.

But true to his words, in spite of being ill and heavily medicated, not only Illia held his board, he had one of best performances on our team. He scored 4 wins and 2 draws, and his overall play was fantastic.

Sometimes when people see the overall results of Webster University, they do not realize that it does take a heroic performance like Illia, and so much teamwork to achieve our goals. In the next few days, I will highlight many more heroes of our team, and what they had to overcome to ensure Webster’s victory!

Today on New Year’s Eve, I have to take Illia back to the doctor for a checkup as he is still not fully healthy. A hero steps up to the plate and performs to help his team win when they need him the most. This is Illia Nyzhnyk!

The best part of this is Illia does not think that he is a hero. He believes that he is just doing his job for his team! This is our Illia!

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