Special hopes were pinned on Igor Ivanov in the USSR. The young talent declared himself at the end of the 70s, beginning a rapid ascent to the Olympus of chess. However, it turned out that the athlete himself did not connect his future with the Soviet Union, dreaming of building a career abroad … And he took the opportunity to escape during one of his business trips.
The chess player threw himself into the arms of a foreign policeman straight from the plane.
Igor was born in post-war Leningrad. His mother taught the future grandmaster to play chess when he was only five years old. Ivanov’s talent soon became apparent. The boy instantly grasped the principles of the game, showed fantastic memory and ingenuity. The first book in the life of an athlete was a chess textbook, and at the age of eight his parents gave him to the section, where they immediately saw a perspective in him.
In parallel with chess, Ivanov went to a piano music school, where he also had a good reputation. The athlete’s mother dreamed that her son would become a professional musician, but she did not have time to send Igor – the woman died when the guy was only 14 years old, leaving him an orphan.
Photo source: FIDE
Ivanov has already finished his studies at the boarding school, while continuing to play chess on his own. After leaving school, the young man entered the Leningrad State University Mathematics Faculty, but soon dropped out of the university for the sake of a sports career. Even then, Igor was known among the students as an intellectual rebel: the guy read a lot and was not afraid to criticize the Soviet government. Even then, the chess player was considering the option of fleeing the country, seeing no future for himself in the Union.
Leaving his studies, Ivanov moved first to Tajikistan, and then to Uzbekistan, beginning to actively compete in national competitions. Already in 1979, Igor beat world champion Anatoly Karpov in the Spartakiad, having behind him several victories in other all-Union competitions. The following year, the brilliant 33-year-old chess player was allowed to go on a long business trip for the first time in his career: he was supposed to take part in the Capablanca memorial tournament in Cuba. This trip turned out to be fateful for the athlete.
Ivanov immediately realized that he had received a unique opportunity to leave the USSR forever. While drunk, Igor even let his friends in Moscow know about the plans, from where the plane was supposed to fly to Cuba, but they did not take his words seriously, especially since his wife was waiting for the chess player in their homeland. The athlete also told Yuri Razuvaev, who was sent on the same business trip, about his desire to escape from him, but the athlete, who sympathized with the dissidents, did not want to hand over his colleague.
The anti-Soviet conversations, however, did not go unnoticed by his entourage. However, someone called the Soviet embassy in Cuba, conveying information about Ivanov, but even there they did not attach much importance to the matter … As it turned out, to no avail.
Igor realized his plan on the way to the USSR. The plane, which was heading from Cuba to Moscow, had to stop to refuel in Canada. When the ship landed, Ivanov took advantage of the inattention of the accompanying officers and jumped overboard with a pocket chess under his arm. The chess player quickly found the police at the Newfoundland airport and declared that he was asking for political asylum. Employees of the Canadian authorities made sure that Igor was acting deliberately and agreed to help him.
The plane went to the USSR without Ivanov, and the Canadian side soon decided to give the Soviet chess player a new citizenship. However, the end point of the athlete’s journey is the neighboring country – the United States. Having settled in Montreal, he began to actively travel to tournaments in the United States, after which he remained there to live forever.
Photo Source: Getty Images
Overseas, the Soviet-Canadian chess player won one competition after another, while leading a wild life. Ivanov became addicted to alcohol at home and completely ceased to restrain himself after the escape from him. Igor received solid prize money for his victories, for which he was able to spend several thousand dollars on drinks during the night.
It was due to alcohol abuse that Ivanov began to lose shape over time, so in the late 90s he focused on training. By this time, Igor had moved to Utah, where he lived in a small house with his new wife, Elizabeth. In 2005, a 58-year-old chess player was diagnosed with a serious oncological disease: he bravely fought cancer, and at some point it seemed that the disease began to recede, but six months after receiving the diagnosis, the athlete passed away. Grandmaster status was granted to a prominent chess player shortly before his death.