A Match That Lasts The Whole Life: Anand vs Ivanchuk
Viswanathan Anand at Hoogoven in 1989. Photo: Rob Bogaerts/Dutch National Archive.

A Match That Lasts The Whole Life: Anand vs Ivanchuk

| 33 | Fun & Trivia

The World Junior Championship 1987 was a very special event for me. Since it took place in Baguio City (Philippines), it was my first opportunity to travel outside of the "iron curtain" and see the world's top junior players. In those prehistoric times, young players were not spoiled with an abundance of tournaments, so the whole world's junior elite took part in the championship. I knew for sure that a future world champion (or even champions) was playing in the beautiful convention center, and I even could predict who they were. The easiest candidate for the future world title to predict was Viswanathan Anand.

Viswanathan Anand
Anand in 1992. Photo: Gerhard Hund/Wikimedia.

During our training camp before the world championship, we studied the games of our future opponents. Long before computers and databases changed the way chess players study chess, we had a bunch of folders with Xerox copies of our opponent's games. I still have some of them Of all the foreign opponents, Anand looked like the most dangerous one. We heard all kinds of legends about the speed of his play. Our coaches were showing a game from the previous World Junior Championship where Anand beat the Soviet representative, future super-GM Bareev, and spent about 15 minutes for the whole game!

Yes, White's play was very logical and strong, but how it was humanely possible to play such a beautiful game in just 15 minutes? During the World Junior Championship in 1987, Anand kept playing very fast. In fact, I was telling everyone that I pushed Anand into severe time trouble because he spent 40 minutes in our game. (The time control was 40 moves in two hours, then 20 moves in one hour, and then the game would be adjourned.

When it was Ivanchuk's turn to play Anand, I told him that he should do anything he can to avoid time trouble. "You get into a time trouble, you are a toast!", was my final advice.

Ivanchuk didn't get into time trouble, yet he was gradually outplayed and eventually lost the game:

After the game, he accused me of giving him very bad advice. "I played too fast, and that's why I lost," he said. One way or another, the tournament was practically decided at that point. Nevertheless, in the last round at some point, I had a theoretical chance to catch Anand. He was losing against GM Gad Rechlis from Israel. Ivanchuk offered a draw to GM Pavel Blatny, and I had a very promising attack against GM Simen Agdestein (the future coach of Magnus Carlsen). For a couple of minutes, my thoughts were occupied with math: If Anand loses, Blatny agrees a draw, and I win, there would be a three-way tie for first, and since we all played top players, who knows who would have a better tie break? Pretty soon I got a blunt dose of reality: Anand survived, Blatny rejected Ivanchuk's draw offer and lost, and my beautiful-looking attack unexpectedly fizzled out. As a result, Anand became the new World Junior Champion, Ivanchuk was second, and I got the bronze medal. Unfortunately, I missed a historic chance to appear in the same picture as Anand, which I mentioned in my old article.

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While I was pretty happy about my result being just slightly behind these two geniuses, Ivanchuk was disappointed by his performance. The loss against Anand clearly bothered him. To make things worse, the very next year he lost a beautiful miniature to Anand. Can you find Black's final shot?

The next duel between these two superstars took place in the famous Linares tournament. That was probably Ivanchuk's best performance ever. Not only did he convincingly win the super tournament, but he also beat the world champion, Kasparov.  Anand was one of numerous Ivanchuk's victims. Find a textbook break that demolished White's position.

By that time the whole chess world was well aware of the unique talent of both players, and therefore a match between Anand and Ivanchuk took place next year in Linares. It was another major disappointment for Ivanchuk. Not only did he lose the match, but the quality of Anand's play was also better. The next game is a true strategic masterpiece. Can you find a remarkable sequence of Black moves?

Vassily Ivanchuk
"What can you do against such brilliance?" - Ivanchuk presumably. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

That's simply unbelievable! Black broke all known positional rules: He damaged his kingside pawn structure, gave White an outside passed h-pawn, and traded his "good" bishop for his opponent's "bad" bishop. Despite this, his grand plan came to fruition: He got his central passed pawns and won the game!

Many years after this match, Ivanchuk mentioned in one of his interviews that he sees every new game vs. Anand as a continuation of their match. I saw firsthand Ivanchuk's reaction after his loss to Anand in their first game. It seems to me that for Ivanchuk, every new game versus Anand is a continuation of their rivalry that started in 1987.

To be continued...

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