IM (1987); GM (1988); European Junior Champion (1987); Candidate (1991 & 2013); vice-World Champion (FIDE) (2001-02); European Champion (2004).
Preamble and summary
Vassily Mykhaylovych Ivanchuk was born in Kopychyntsi in Ukraine and has been amongst the world elite players for the last two decades. He has long been a world title aspirant, having twice been a Candidate (in 1990 and 2013), and has won many major tournaments including the annual Linares (4 times) and the Tal Memorial (twice). During past eleven years from 2005 onwards, he has won the Capablanca memorial (a record for their tournament history) 7 times (out of 8 appearances) in which he has participated in it, including one tied share of 1st with Le Quang Liem (before tie-breaks were applied) in 2011.
Ivanchuk was the European Junior Champion in 1987, the same year he received his IM title. His first major international result was in 1988 when he won the New York Open with 7.5/9. Also in 1988, he came equal first at the World Junior Chess Championship in Adelaide, although Joel Lautier won the title on tiebreak. 1988 also saw him win his GM title. He followed these early breakthroughs with numerous successes in a glittering career, including first place at Biel 1989, Yerevan 1989, Linares in 1989, 1991, 1995 and 2009 (shared with Alexander Grischuk), equal first (with Gata Kamsky) at the Tilburg super-tournament in 1990, then first in Munich 1994, Horgen 1995, Corus at Wijk aan Zee 1996, Belgrade 1997, Tallinn 2000, Montecatini Terme 2000 and Malmö 2003.
From 2004, he won: the 5th Individual European Chess Championship (2004), the Capablanca Memorial: Elite (2005), the Capablanca Memorial (2006) and the 42nd Capablanca Memorial (2007); the XVII Torre Memorial Knockout (2004) in Mexico, Barcelone 2005, joint first in the Canadian Open (2005), and first at the Casino de Barcelona Masters (2005), Tallin 2006, and Mérida 2006. He was runner up at the 7th European Individual Championship (2006), and subsequently won at the
Pivdenny Bank Chess Cup (2007), Aerosvit (2007) in Foros, the Montreal International (2007), the M-Tel Masters (2008) with a dominant 8/10 score and a 2959 performance rating, the
Tal Memorial (2008) with 6/9, a point ahead of the field, the
XXI Magistral Ciudad de Leon (2008) ahead of Viswanathan Anand, and the Bazna Tournament (2009).
His most notable achievement in 2009 was winning the FIDE Jermuk Grand Prix (2009) outright with 8.5/13. In 2010, Ivanchuk won the Capablanca Memorial (2010) ahead of Ian Nepomniachtchi with 7/10 and a 2839 performance and in July, he produced a rating performance of 2911 when he scored 6/7 in the 38th Greek Team Championship A Division. In the category 18 Reggio Emilia (2010) that finished on 6 January 2011, Ivanchuk scored 5/9 (+3 -2 =4) to come =3rd (5th on countback) behind Vugar Gashimov and Francisco Vallejo Pons; TPR was 2729. Ivanchuk returned to his full majestic form during the Tradewise Gibraltar (2011) event, which he won outright with 9/10 (+8 -0 =2) and a 2964 performance rating, ahead of a field that included 55 grandmasters; 9 of his opponents were grandmasters, the other an IM. He followed this up by taking out the 46th Capablanca Memorial (2011), his fifth win in this tournament, with 6.5/10, winning on tiebreak ahead of Le Quang Liem by defeating him in the final round. In October, he came =1st (2nd on blitz tiebreaker) with Magnus Carlsen at the 4th Bilbao Masters (2011), both scoring 15 points under the points system used at Bilbao (3 for the win, 1 for the draw) with 4 wins 3 losses and 3 draws and a TPR of 2818. Then in November, Ivanchuk came 3rd in the Tal Memorial (2011) with 5/9 (+2 -1 =6 and a TPR of 2815) behind Carlsen and Levon Aronian respectively. He started 2012 at the Tata Steel (2012) tournament, placing =5th with 7.5/13 (+3 -1 =9; TPR 2807) and then followed up with a couple of wins - his 6th at the annual Capablanca Memorial - at the Capablanca Memorial (2012) and a clear first with 5/6 in the inaugural (and unrated) ACP Golden Classic (2012) which showcased longer classical time limits and adjournments. He won the quadrangular double round robin Kings' Tournament (2012) held in Bucharest in a tiebreaker with Topalov to round out his 2012 campaign.
Ivanchuk started 2013 with his final warm-up before the World Championship Candidates (2013) at the Tradewise Gibraltar (2013), scoring 7.5/10 to share 5th place, a half point behind the four co-leaders. He led for most of the Tradewise Gibraltar (2014) and was first on normal tiebreak, however, as first place at Gibraltar is decided by blitz when there is more than one leader on points, Ivanchuk came in third behind the winner Ivan Cheparinov and runner up Nikita Vitiugov. His traditional happy hunting ground in Cuba was disastrous at the 49th Capablanca Memorial (2014) when he came in last with 4/10. He bounced back at the 9th Edmonton International (2014) where he won decisively with 8/9, a half point ahead of Filipino wunderkind Wesley So with whom he drew in their individual encounter. In January 2015, he participated in the Tata Steel (2015), and finished a ratings-boosting 6th with a score of 7.5/13 after leading the event in its early stages. In June, he played in the 10th Edmonton International (2015) in Canada, and placed =2nd behind Pentala Harikrishna and alongside Surya Shekhar Ganguly and Wang Hao.
In match play he won the Ivanchuk - Leko Match (2009) by 3.5-2.5 (+1 =5). Ivanchuk played a combined rapid/blitz match against Anish Giri at the 26th Leon Masters 2013; he lost both the 45 minute (G45) 2-game match with 1 loss and 1 draw and the 4-game G20 rapid match with 3 losses and 1 draw. However, he decisively won the blitz (G5) portion of the match by 7.5-2.5 (+6 -1 =3). Giri was declared the winner of the match as the slower games were given greater weighting than the blitz games.
One of the foremost rapid players of the age, Ivanchuk has won the World Blitz Cup (2007), the Tal Memorial (Blitz) (2008), the Amber Tournament (Rapid) (2010) (with Carlsen) – also joint 1st with Carlsen overall in Amber 2010; a 3 way tie for first at Keres Memorial Rapid (2006) with Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Anatoly Karpov. In rapid match play he defeated David Navara by 5.5-2.5 (+4 -1 =3) in the Cez Trophy (2009) and Peter Leko in Ivanchuk - Leko Rapid Match (2007) by 7.5-6.5 (+3 -2 =9). Ivanchuk immediately followed up his Olympiad triumph in 2010 by winning the final of the 9th Cap d'Agde in France when he defeated Hikaru Nakamura in the final. At the Bazna King's Tournament (2011), he scored 4/10 but won the Latvian Railway Rapid (2014), spreadeagling the field with an amazing 13/14, 3 points clear of runner-up Vladimir Malakhov. He played in the Mind Games staged in Beijing in December 2014, and scored a strong 17/30 to place =5th and boost his blitz rating by nearly 70 points.
Ivanchuk has played in fourteen Olympiads up to and including Chess Olympiad (2014), and won four team gold medals: in 1988 and 1990 playing for the Soviet Union, and in 2004 and 2010, playing for Ukraine. In the 2010 event, he also won individual gold for the top board, scoring 8/10 with a 2890 rating performance, while in 2012 he helped his team to a bronze medal. He has played in eight World Team Championships starting in 1989 and most recently in the FIDE World Team Championship (2015), when he scored team and individual silver for board 2. In total, he has scored 3 individual golds, 2 individual silver and 1 individual bronze, as well as helping his team to 2 golds, 2 silvers and 2 bronzes. His first effort in the World Team Championships was as part of the Soviet team in 1989, but subsequently he has played for Ukraine.
Ivanchuk's entry to the World Championship cycle began in grand style when he came equal first with Boris Gelfand, scoring 9/13 at the 1990 Manila Interzonal, a half point ahead of equal third placed Anand and Nigel Short, and qualified for the Candidates cycle. He decisively won the first match, a best-of-eight, against Leonid Yudasin by 4.5-0.5, but lost the second match to Artur Yusupov in the tiebreaker games, 1.5-0.5, after drawing the main match 4-4. Then came the split between FIDE and the Kasparov-led PCA. His next attempt was at the Biel Interzonal (he did not compete in the PCA cycle) where he scored 8/13 to place =10th with five others; unfortunately for him, the only player from this group to qualify for the Candidates was Anand, who came 10th on count back, Ivanchuk coming 14th.
Ivanchuk’s next opportunity came with the 1998 World Championship knockout matches held in Groningen to choose a challenger for Karpov. Ivanchuk was seeded into the second round but lost that match to the US’s Yasser Seirawan. Seeded into the second round of the FIDE World Championship Knockout Tournament (1999), he made a clean sweep of his games against Matthias Wahls and Sergei Shipov but then lost his match against Liviu Dieter Nisipeanu in the fourth round rapid game tiebreaker. He fared even worse the following year at the FIDE World Championship Knockout Tournament (2000) in New Delhi and Tehran, where, again seeded into the second round, he lost to Jaan Ehlvest. Then at the FIDE World Championship Knockout Tournament (2001), he defeated Baatr Shovunov, Bartlomiej Macieja, Emil Sutovsky, Ye Jiangchuan, Joel Lautier and Viswanathan Anand in the preliminary rounds to reach the final against Ruslan Ponomariov; Ivanchuk lost the first game of this match, drew the next three, before losing the 5th game and drawing the 6th and 7th games to go down by 4.5-2.5. Following this close miss, Ivanchuk competed in the FIDE World Championship Knockout Tournament (2004), winning in the first two rounds against Adlane Arab and Pentala Harikrishna before losing to the eventual winner Rustam Kasimdzhanov.
The breakdown of unification talks, and FIDE’s reorganization of the World Championship cycle saw the cessation of the World Knockout Championships. Ivanchuk was not invited to the first stage in this process, namely the FIDE World Championship Tournament (2005) won by Veselin Topalov, but participated in the FIDE World Cup (2005) where he crashed out in the second round to Ivan Cheparinov after beating Alexander Sibriaev in the first round. He fared only slightly better in the World Chess Cup (2007) where he again lost to Nisipeanu, this time in the third round after winning his earlier rounds against Pedro Aderito and Alexander Galkin. At the World Cup (2009), he easily won his first round game against Alexei Bezgodov, before again crashing and burning in the second round to Filipino prodigy Wesley So. Ivanchuk was beside himself after this loss, and announced his retirement from chess, however he recanted this soon afterwards. The World Cup (2011) has seen his most successful effort since the 2002 event, defeating South African FM Henry Robert Steel, Russian GM Evgeny Alekseev, Israeli GM Emil Sutovsky, Chinese GM Bu Xiangzhi in the first four rounds, Azeri GM Teimour Radjabov in the quarter final 25+10 rapid-game tiebreaker, and then losing to Grischuk in the semi-final 10+10 rapid game tiebreaker. He then met compatriot Ruslan Ponomariov in the playoff for third, defeating him by 2.5-1.5 to win a spot in the World Championship Candidates (2013), the first time he has won a place in the Candidates since his =1st result in the Manila Interzonal of 1990. He proved to be extremely erratic at the Candidates, finishing 7th out of 8 with 6/14 (+3 -5 =6), losing a string of game in zeitnot, and yet defeating both the eventual winner Carlsen and runner-up Kramnik.
His 2014 World championship campaign started sluggishly with a mediocre 5/11 at the first event in the 2012-2013 Grand Prix series, namely the FIDE Grand Prix London (2012), where his 7th placement earned him only 55 GP points. His 2nd event in the series, the FIDE Grand Prix Thessaloniki (2013), was disastrous, placing last with 3.5/11 and only earning the minimum 10 points. His 3rd event in the series, the FIDE Grand Prix Beijing (2013), was also disappointing, as his =9th knocked him out of contention for the top 2 Grand Prix qualifiers to the Candidates Tournament in 2014. (1)
He was, however, still eligible to play in the World Cup (2013) in August where he defeated Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the first round, US teenager, GM Ray Robson, in the second round and compatriot, GM Yuriy Kryvoruchko, in the third round. He lost to former World Champion, Russian GM Vladimir Kramnik in the Round of 16 (fourth round). Ivanchuk qualified by rating to play in the World Cup (2015) and he defeated Egyptian GM Ahmed Adly in the first round and Maxim Rodshtein in the second round before bowing out of the event in round three following his loss to Dmitry Jakovenko.
The main obstacle to Ivanchuk winning the World Championship has been considered to be his erratic temperament and the occasional tendency to lose critical games. This can be seen from his results against the super elite: although he has defeated all the World Classical and FIDE champions after Robert James Fischer, his only positive career score against this elite group has been against Alexander Khalifman.
Ratings and rankings
Ivanchuk has been rated as high as second in the world - in July 1991 when he reached 2735 behind Garry Kasparov, in July 1992 at 2720 again behind Kasparov, and in October 2007 when he reached 2787 behind Anand. His ratings card graphically demonstrates the roller coaster ride that has been his game over the last few years: http://ratings.fide.com/id.phtml?ev....
Sources and references
(1) Wikipedia article: FIDE Grand Prix 2012%E2%80%932013; live rating: http://www.2700chess.com/; Part 1 of an interview held on 27 April 2011 with Chess in translation: http://www.chessintranslation.com/2...; Part 2 of the interview is at http://www.chessintranslation.com/2...; Wikipedia article: Vassily Ivanchuk
Latest update 20 June 2016