'The World championship is my priority'


VASSILY IVANCHUK of Ukraine who took a U-turn in his match encounters against Viswanathan Anand by unseating him in the semi-finals of the World Championships in Moscow, said afterwards it was not a revenge match but a part of the knock-out as he advanced to play for the world chess title for the first time in his career.


Ivanchuk, 32, has a good sense of humour and makes funny gestures in a natural way. Once, after defeating Anand at Monte Carlo, he came out of the hotel venue running as if in joy. He can't control his emotions. After separation from Russian Woman Grandmaster Alisa Galliamova in 1996 with whom he had a child he found another partner in 2000 and this has stabilised his life to a certain extent. In some of the testing moments of his career from 1996 to 2000, one of his parents always accompanied him for tournaments.

At the Hoogovens tournament in Wijk aan Zee in 1996 he refused to attend the opening ceremony which was held in the steel plant. His mother wore the crash helmet (Ivanchuk refused to wear it and could not come into the factory plant as one of the overhead machines was used to select the player draw numbers) given to all of us and took his draw number. Ivanchuk walked inside the tournament hall singing or humming some Ukrainian song, kept a distance with most players and also won the tournament ahead of Anand and others. And this was one of several such instances.

Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Question: Everybody thinks that Ivanchuk is a nervous person and knock-out competitions are tough for him. Your comments?

Answer: So far as I know, all chess players are nervous in such kind of tournaments. It is very difficult to recognise who is more nervous and who is less nervous. Every player shows his emotions in a different way. I don't think that I am more nervous than other chess players.

Which was your best match in Moscow? Were there any tough moments?

Most of them were tough moments, because in all my matches there was a big fight. For example, against Lautier it was a very difficult match. Only in blitz I managed to win that match. Earlier, against Macieja, it was a very interesting encounter. Even in the first round match I was in some danger in the first game.

About your semi-final victory, can one say instead of Ivanchuk won, Anand lost the match?

It was a fight in all the games. Yes, in the last game he was playing with white. Initially it was equal but then he gave me a chance. Then, I played ...f3, a very risky move. Of course he missed it completely.

How do you see Ponomariov as an opponent in the finals? Is there some pressure on you because he is young and comes from your own country?

He is a strong opponent because he has improved very well in the last few months. I don't feel any pressure playing against him because I don't feel that I am old now!

In the past you had Alexandre Sulypa as your trainer but in the last one year you are working with different people?

I still keep in touch with Alexandre Sulypa. He helped me for this world championship on the computer. He put many games for me in Chess Base and helped me prepare for this world championship.

How did you prepare for this world championship, and for how long?

I started to prepare from the middle of the year. I did not prepare only for the world championship. I tried to prepare like other chess players in general.

Ukraine now has two players fighting for the world title and it has already won the World Team Chess championship at Yerevan in October 2001.

There are a lot of chess players in Ukraine. But I hope there will be more strong tournaments like Linares or Wijk aan Zee in Ukraine.

How would you rank the Moscow event among the four venues where the knock-out events were held since Groningen 1997? Which was the best organised?

I think the organisation was good in all places.

Was there any feedback from Ukraine after you both qualified for the finals?

Yes, there was some celebration. Some people called to congratulate me.

Are you a much steady person now than before as you were able to withstand the knock-out easily?

I don't know because it depends on the situation you are in. In such systems, all chess players, even very strong ones, can lose in the first round itself. This is the fact of the system and I think each player must be ready for it.

Which was your best game?

I don't know because I haven't had enough time to analyse and see them. Of course one good game was with Macieja with Rf1+. I am not sure but it was probably my best game.

Did you follow other games in the tournament? Not much. Very little to keep pace.

In your games was there anything new which you did not do in the three previous events?

It is important for me that I have my self-confidence. After the first round, my confidence was better because I do well in general when my confidence is high. It is very important for me to maintain that.

You have won and made a mark in all major tournaments such as Linares, Wijk aan Zee, Investbanka Belgrade, besides others. Now, how important is winning or playing the FIDE finals?

I first want to finish the world championship and that is my priority.

What support is chess getting from the chess federation and the Government? Is there any change in the last one year?

There is a plan to meet the President and Prime Minister of Ukraine and ask the Government to support the chess activities. This is only a plan. There is a possibility to realise this plan in the next one year and there may be effective support from the Government.

Ukraine won the World Team Championship this year. What kind of effort went behind it? Was Ukraine really stronger than Russia?

It is difficult to say that Ukraine is stronger than Russia because the difference was only half a point. But as you may have seen Ukraine usually plays very well in team championships. In the Chess Olympiads we were in the top three. It is no big surprise that now we are the first.

Did you follow the Kramnik versus Kasparov match in Moscow?

I didn't have time to follow that match. I haven't seen all the games yet.

Last year you were in India. Did you enjoy your stay?

Yes, I liked it very much. It was an interesting visit to the Taj Mahal. I lost in the first round (laughs) but I don't have any bad feeling about India or Delhi. I still like India.

You beat Vishy now. Do you see it like a revenge for the Linares match?

I don't see this match as a revenge for Linares. I consider this match as a continuation of a match under the FIDE knock-out system, nothing more.

You have signed up for Linares 2002. Will your games against Kramnik have more importance if you win the finals?

You have to wait (laughs). I am not the champion yet.

What kind of a match are we going to see in the finals?

I don't know. I still have to think about the strategy in the match.

Is one month enough for preparation?

One month is not a big time for preparation. But of course I would prepare and try to find a way to do it.

Ukraine has a world champion for sure. What difference will it make in Ukraine?

It is difficult to say. It will be a different situation if I become world champion or if Ponomariov becomes world champion. Because different people support me and different people support him. It is hard to discuss about it now.