The eccentric Ukrainian has been one of the world’s best loved and strongest grandmasters. He broke into the world Top 10 as a 19-year-old, winning the Linares Supertournament in 1989, and followed that achievement with an even more impressive victory in the same tournament two years later, where he inflicted the only defeat on second-placed Garry Kasparov. At the time it seemed Ivanchuk was Kasparov’s natural heir, but despite numerous tournament successes he’s always fallen short in World Championship events. The nearest miss so far was his loss in the 2002 FIDE World Championship final match to compatriot Ruslan Ponomariov.
Ivanchuk has a universal style of play characterised by great depth and a readiness to play a huge range of openings – something that required fanatical devotion to chess before computers transformed the speed at which new information could be assimilated. Ivanchuk’s Achilles’ heel is his temperament, with nerves often getting the better of him at crucial moments. The level of his play can also vary erratically, making the graph of his rating performance look something like a rollercoaster.
Ivanchuk’s love of chess didn't dim when he turned 40 and he remained one of the most active elite grandmasters. Although an extraordinary five losses on time ended any hopes of success at the London 2013 Candidates Tournament, he still made an impression, winning his mini-matches against both the players who tied for first place, Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik.
His achievements include winning the World Chess Olympiad twice with the USSR team and twice with Ukraine, with the 2010 victory in Khanty-Mansiysk also seeing Vasyl pick up individual gold on top board. He won the 2007 World Blitz Championship and his swan song (so far) was winning the 2016 World Rapid Championship at the age of 47 after beating Carlsen, Mamedyarov and Anand along the way. His old foe Garry sang his praises:
Ivanchuk was so busy playing checkers, a major passion in the later stages of his career, that he almost missed the prize-giving!
For more on the Ukrainian chess legend check out Vlad Tkachiev's article Is Ivanchuk a Genius?
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