When the word “genius” is uttered from the mouths of my fellow chessplayers, there are usually just a few players amongst the thousands of players throughout history whose names this word might be associated with.
There are guys like José Raúl Capablanca and Paul Morphy from the old days of chess, and in modern times the names that pop up tend to be Magnus Carlsen and…
Chessplayers in general tend to be of above average intelligence (the “average” IQ of this generation is pitifully low anyway) but guys like Vassily Ivanchuk are on a different level.
This guy is on an intellectual level that leaves him behaving almost like an alien and finding it difficult to relate with normal people.
Ivanchuk’s behaviour is known to be highly eccentric and similar to what would happen if you mixed the towering genius of Mozart, the emotional chess genius of Bobby Fischer and the mind-wandering creative genius of Einstein.
Something along those lines anyway…
During a high level tournament game Ivanchuk might be seen sitting with his eyes closed, picking his nose and thinking about a complex mathematical problem (mathematics is one of his “hobbies”) that’d caught his attention the night before.
Eventually he’ll remember where he is and “come back” to make a move.
He’s sometimes anti-social and sometimes on top of the world and talkative.
He’s sometimes prone to emotional outbursts/behaviour and sometimes distant and in his own world (a place GMs refer to as “planet Ivanchuk” 😀 )
Once when visiting a tournament as a junior, fellow Australian Max Illingworth (now GM!) crossed paths with Vassily Ivanchuk in some hallway as he walked through the playing venue.
In his awestruck state Max called to him “Hello, Vassily Ivanchuk!” (Max is a little weird too) and the Ukrainian genius (who happened to be on “planet Ivanchuk” at the time) completely ignored him.
Naturally, Max was a little disappointed that one of his heroes had snubbed him in such a way (even if not deliberately) and this disappointment showed on his face.
Max’s mother (infamous in Australian chess circles) was having none of that rudeness! 😀
“My son said hello to you!”
Vassily Ivanchuk snapped back to reality and centred himself before looking at Max, raising his hand in a little wave, and in an E.T like voice said “Hellllloooooo”. 😆 😆
Here’s former World Champion Vishy Anand speaking on Ivanchuk:
“He’s someone who is very intelligent … but you never know which mood he is going to be in. Some days he will treat you like his long-lost brother. The next day he ignores you completely.
The players have a word for him. They say he lives on “Planet Ivanchuk”. (Laughs) … I have seen him totally drunk and singing Ukrainian poetry and then the next day I have seen him give an impressive talk.
His playing style is unpredictable and highly original, making him more dangerous but sometimes leading to quick losses as well.”
In 2013 British Grandmaster Gawain Jones referred to Ivanchuk as “possibly the most talented [player] ever” and Grandmaster Judit Polgár (herself packing a genius level IQ of 170), when asked in 2012 to name chess players whom she considers geniuses, named only Ivanchuk, Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand.
Add this high praise to the fact that Chucky (his nickname in chess circles) has beaten several world champions (first beating Gary Kasparov at the age of 21 in a smooth game I’ll show soon) and speaks 6 or so languages, then there is no doubting his enormous intellect.
This game which was played in the famous Linares tournament in 1991 (which was won by then 21 year old Ivanchuk ahead of Kasparov, Karpov, Anand, Gelfand and other elite players) was actually the first Ivanchuk game I ever studied.
I remember seeing this game as a teen in a very old chess magazine and playing through the game over the chess board (I thought It’d be useful because I’d been learning to play the Sicilian from Kasparov’s games during that period).
Ivanchuk’s play seemed to me unusual and difficult to comprehend and his star move (23.c5! which clears the c4 square for his knight) was completely unexpected.
At that time I found Chucky’s play deep and incomprehensible.
The 23.c5! move together with Chucky’s subsequent powerful play dismantled Kasparov’s Najdorf Sicilian in a way that very were were ever able to.
This game hardly needs any introduction to seasoned chessplayers.
Some refer to it as “Ivanchuk’s Immortal” because of the spectacular queen sacrifice it features, and indeed I myself first seen it in a suitably named book “World’s Greatest Chess Games“ which I studied as a teen (and highly recommend for players wishing to learn from the greatest games played in history).
I can imagine Shirov’s suprise when Ivanchuk uncorked 21.Qg7!! in a line which was already trendy and heavily studied during that time.
After the queen sac and several strong moves Ivanchuk’s initiative was too much and he won material.
He then cleaned up efficiently.
So those are probably his most famous games…
What about other examples of his creative genius?
If you can understand what the hell happened in this game, let me know. 😆
Ivanchuk sacrificed his queen and did some weird shit with his remaining pieces and defeated a top Grandmaster.
All in a day’s work for this guy.
Here are some fan’s comments about this game:
One guy said “One of my all time favourite Ivanchuk games; genius at work.”
Another said “This is like chess from another world.”
And yet another said:
“I’ve never seen this game before.
You can imagine: I’m throwing my hands up in awe and frustration.
A fantasy indeed: Chucky is an alien!”
This game is also kind of ridiculous (in a good way 😉 )…
Ivanchuk brings danger to his own king with with loosening pawn moves such as …h6, …g5 and …f5, and the tactics that come from it seem to favour white.
With move 27.Rg7+ Sokolov made it clear that he was happy with a draw and sacrificed a rook, trying to give perpetual check afterwards with his other rook.
Ivanchuk wasn’t happy with a draw and played the amazingly brave 30…Kd5!! and his point becomes clear only at the moment he played 33…Ba6+ and forced Sokolov to resign.
So what do you think? Is this guy brilliant or what?
There are also amazing examples of him outplaying top positional Grandmasters in their own style which is something seemingly even more impossible than defeating Kasparov in an attacking game (as we seen above!).
Yes that’s right.
In 1991 when Karpov was almost invincible, Ivanchuk played a game against him which went like this:
Amazing. This game is worthy of close study for what is seemingly a very simple game, until we consider who is playing the black side. Wow!
Gata Kamsky is also a guy who you do not want to take on in a positional battle.
He has a technical style and is super strong in quiet positions where he needs to gradually improve his position.
In the following game, a Marshall variation of the Ruy Lopez, Ivanchuk COMPLETELY crushes Kamsky in a strategical masterpiece.
Just watch the way Chucky plays against the white knight and every time it tries to find a square, he stops it in its tracks (14…f4! and 25…h5!).
The white bishop on b2 is also completely useless.
Chucky’s bishops on the other hand are like lazers firing across the board, and his rooks threatening invasion at every moment.
If I were you, I’d study this game very carefully and add some valuable ELO to your rating.
So that’s it guys.
I hope you now have a new-found admiration for this marvel of the chess world that is Vassily Ivanchuk and keep an eye on his still active career. Restudy all of these games again over the board, I highly recommend it if you want an awesome lesson in brilliant chess.
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