Linares, Linares... I-van-chuk!

by ChessBase
3/31/2003 – Instability and weak nerves have been playing tricks on Vassily Ivanchuk ever since his youth. If he were able to control himself, many experts think he would have become world champion. In the Supertorneo he took the first prize here three times. Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam describes this remarkable personality in our illustrated book review.

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Linares, Linares! I-van-chuk!  

Second part of the book review by Nadja Wittmann

This year was my first trip to the Supertorneo "Cuidad de Linares" in Linares. ChessBase asked me to do a series of photo reports, and in order to prepare for the tournament I read the book "Linares! Linares!" by Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, the editor of New in Chess magazine. That was the perfect briefing and I arrived in Linares fully equipped with all the information needed to feel immediately at home. And best of all: Dirk Jan turned up at the tournament and took me around, showing me all the places and people he had written about.


One of my favourite stories in his marvelous book is the one about a Ukranian GM who has played in the Supertorneo a number of times. Before we come to Dirk Jan's story we wander around the hotel lobby. It is like no other hotel lobby in the world.

Each tournament gets its own corner and its own display, DJ explains.

The long corridor leading to the restaurant has the most pictures

This group shows Anand, Bareev, Beliavsky, Gelfand, Illescas, Ivanchuk, Kamsky, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Lautier, Polgar, Shirov and Topalov.

After this little tour of the hotel lobby let us turn to Dirk Jan's narrative on Vassily Ivanchuk, who's room from earlier years I happened to occupy during my stay.

As he walks back, the door opens and Vassily Ivanchuk enters the restaurant. Drowsily he looks around, somewhat dazed, as though he has just woken up. He puts his hands deep into his trouser pockets and  yawns without opening his mouth. What further plans he has is not yet clear. He lets his eyes wander round mistily, gives a nod in my direction without recognizing me, and takes a step forward. Behind him, Alexander Sulypa follows quietly. The waggish look in his eyes is permanently apologizing for the behaviour of his friend.

Ivanchuk gives the impression that he is heading for the section of the restaurant where he has been having his meals for the past two weeks. But halfway there, he suddenly seems to change his mind. With an abrupt movement, he swerves off and makes straight for Kasparov’s table. Approvingly, he looks at this excellent table, which, strangely enough, he hadn’t noticed before and with a second-rate actor’s emphatic nod he moves the chair back and sits down.

Sulypa doesn’t know very well how to handle the situation. He has walked on uncertainly to their regular table. Laughing with embarrassment, he whispers to Ivanchuk to join him. To no avail. The staff are more resolute. Determinedly, one of the waitresses comes in and addresses the disobedient guest severely: “Ivanchuk, this is Kasparov’s table!” Her words have little effect. Keeping her at bay with a soothing gesture, Ivanchuk adopts a concentrated attitude suggesting that he intends to experience sitting on Kasparov’s chair to the full. His trance is interrupted by Diego, who steps up to him with an expression on his face that indicates this has gone far enough. Authoritatively, he commands: “Come on, Ivanchuk, this is Kasparov’s table. Now go and sit at your own table.” Ivanchuk realizes that he will have to say something now and, turning partly to Diego, partly to the guests in the restaurant, he implores: “Please let me sit here for five minutes to absorb Kasparov’s spirit.”

Diego turns round and goes away, shaking his head. From their giggling and the looks they're exchanging, it is clear that the other guests are enjoying all this. We don't have to wait long. The door swings open and Klara Kasparova comes in, as if she has been waiting off stage for her cue. She takes in the situation with astonishing speed. She has barely set foot in the restaurant before she puts her hand over her eyes and, peering around as if she were spying like an Indian, she walks up to Ivanchuk with threatening steps. He looks up at her imploringly and softly repeats his plea. Klara Kasparova listens to him and then takes an unexpected decision. Putting her hand on his shoulder in a motherly gesture, she whispers into his ear and then quietly sits at another table. It soon turns out that she has once again perfectly anticipated her son's state of mind. Kasparov is hardly surprised when he finds Ivanchuk sitting on his chair and he joins his mother without further ado. After the situation is explained to him, he speaks a few words to Ivanchuk, laughing kindly, and then concentrates on the menu

Instability and weak nerves have been playing tricks on Ivanchuk ever since his youth. If he were able to control himself, many experts would tip him as a world champion because of his brilliant insight into the game. Ivanchuk tried everything in his efforts to calm down. The first time I was in Linares, he used to relax during his meals by softly singing sweet Ukrainian folk songs. Dreamily humming, he used to sit there, turned in upon himself, withdrawn into a world of his own. At another time, he was in the small park next to the hotel around midnight, howling like a wolf in an attempt to get over a lost game. He took the first prize here three times.

Ivanchuk’s victories have earned him an unbelievable popularity with the Linarese. People greet him everywhere with a brief and warm ‘Ivanchuk!’ The warmth they feel at his unaffected behaviour out-weighs their admiration for the distant Kasparov. Ivanchuk doesn’t push his way haughtily through the crowd of noisy children thronging at the bottom of the hotel stairs every day begging the  players for a signature in their programme booklets. He always stops to sign a few. In the year of his third tournament victory, he invited these young admirers to join him in eating the cake that the restaurant kitchen had prepared for him.

Ivanchuk has developed a special ritual for approaching his games against Kasparov in Linares. He lunches out before the start of the round, because he is afraid that his concentration will be upset if the focus of his every thought is having lunch in person next to him. His best memory is the one he retains of the tournament that was held two years ago, when he withdrew to the Chinese restaurant next door.

He had hardly been seated at the Ciudad Feliz when Yuri Vasilyev, a Russian reporter who covers every tournament with Kasparov among the competitors, came in after him with a prying look on his face. He wanted to know what Ivanchuk was having for lunch. Ivanchuk told him that he had ordered mushroom soup – a dish of which the Russian name sounds like the French ‘champignon.’ It seemed the right choice, he said, because within a few hours he would be playing against the champion – which in Russian is pronounced as ‘shampion.’ These ‘champignons,’ Ivanchuk went on, were after all the only mushrooms that could be cultivated. The same went for world champions. That was why, he explained to the baffled Vasilyev, he was having  ‘champignon’ soup now. The ‘shampion’ himself he would have for dessert. Rarely did a prediction prove to be more correct. Kasparov won the tournament that year, but that afternoon he suffered his only defeat.

The man himself, Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, GM Peter Svidler

"Chuk, chuk. I-van-chuk!," Ljubo repeats, fixing his gaze on the monitor. "Topalov may as well resign. He is totally lost. Tótállý lost. I-van-chuk. Fu Manchu, Fu Manchu." The laughter caused by Ljubo's new association stops when the result of the game suddenly appears on the electronic demonstration board. Everyone in the room begins to shout at the same time. Topalov has resigned. Ivanchuk, who was hopelessly struggling with his form, played a game that may come in for the brillancy prize.

Satisfied, I get up to go downstairs and see whether they are going to have a post-mortem. It does not seem likely, but you never know. In the back of the press room I come across Peter Svidler, who is standing there with a thoughtful look on his face. "So Ivanchuk has won."

"Yes, God can rest easy. His chair is still working."

"Yes, God's power is great. But he's not the only one who will be satisfied. The inhabitants of Villanueva will also uncork a few bottles tonight."

"The inhabitants of Villanueva?"

"Yes. Didn't I tell you? On the second rest day, I went to a corrida with Ivanchuk in Villanueva, some fifty miles from here. Hmm, thoughtless of me, for it is a fine story, even though it made me face the brutal fact that I am still a total unknown in the region. Anyway, at the moment when the torero, or whatever the man is called, killed the first bull, we got up from our seats to applaud him. And you know what? Suddenly someone in the crowd recognizes Vassily and starts yelling enthusiastically 'I-van-chuk!' And before we know it, more and more people take up this yell until the whole arena is cheering him. What's more, even the bullfighters joined in. One of them dedicated his bull to Vassily with due respect.

Anand, Piket, Dreev, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Kasparov, Kramnik, Nikolic, Polgar, Adams, Topalov, Shirov

Most of the pictures, like the one above, bear autographs of the players

Anand, Ivanchuk, Kasparov, Kramnik, Shirov, Svidler, Topalov

Anand, Adams, Ivanchuk, Kasparov, Kramnik, Leko, Svidler, Topalov

The enigmatic Brazilian GM Henrick Mecking

Guess who the player on this picture is, many years and a few kilos ago. Correct: Peter Svidler, who played in and won the open in the early Nineties.


All pictures by Nadja Woisin. Other picture reports from Linares:

Published by New In Chess, 2001, English, paperback, 128 pages,
ISBN: 90.56911.077.9. Price: € 15.84

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