Reports | October 04, 2011 15:06

Ivanchuk and wife robbed in Sao Paulo (UPDATE)

Ivanchuk and wife robbed in Sao Paulo

Just outside their hotel in Sao Paulo, Vassily Ivanchuk and his wife were robbed yesterday. "The robbers were armed with a gun", Leontxo Garcia told us on the phone, "and took two suitcases." The Spanish journalist had contact via email with Ivanchuk, who is leading the Grand Slam Masters Final at halft-time. In the Brazilian part of the Masters Final, the participants stayed in hotel Meliá Sao Paulo.

Ivanchuk and his wife during the Amber tournament in 2009

Earlier today, in his daily column for El País, Garcia wrote:

What had been a great success for the Masters Final in Sao Paulo on Sunday, was marred by an unfortunate event. Ivanchuk and his wife were robbed at gunpoint when, twenty meters from the hotel, they were about to enter a taxi that would take them to the airport.

Somehow the stolen bags included the passport of Ivanchuk's wife, and so the couple suddenly had problems leaving Brazil. Communicating with Leontxo Garcia, the super grandmaster's first reaction was that he didn't want to continue his tournament if his wife couldn't be with him from Thursday on. On that day play resumes in Bilbao.

On the phone, Garcia said to us:

Now the situation is under control. The authorities issued a 'salvoconducto' [emergency travelling pass - CV]. They will fly together to Munich, from where his wife will return home and apply for a new passport. Ivanchuk will arrive in Bilbao on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Ivanchuk is scheduled to play White against Hikaru Nakamura. The American grandmaster tweeted today:

Quite disappointed to hear the news from São Paulo about Ivanchuk being robbed. Hopefully we can postpone the game till the 9th.

It's possible that the robbers somehow knew who they were dealing with; maybe they thought that the tournament was over, and Ivanchuk had collected his prize money. It seems more likely that the robbery was a case of extremely bad luck. Garcia:

They have been very unlucky. The area is one of the best and safest of Sau Paulo, with a, for Brazilian standards, high level of security. I have been walking around at nights and haven't seen any signs of danger during the whole week.

UPDATE: We were told by a journalist present in Sao Paulo that the organizers wanted to stress that Ivanchuk and his wife were not left to their own devices to find a taxi. The robbery actually took place in the hotel's driveway, in a taxi the hotel scheduled for his departure. This actually suggests that the robbers had access to their departure information. In the mean time Ivanchuk has told Leontxo Garcia that he doesn't want to postpone his game against Nakamura; he prefers Thursday, 'without privileges'.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


noyb's picture

My heart goes out to Chucky and his wife. A sad event to be certain, but they are alive and unharmed and that is a blessing. I hope that the organizers in Bilbao will make a special effort to make the Ivanchuks welcome in Spain!

brabo's picture

What about the portable and preparations stored on it? I hope that he has a backup system.

Brecht's picture

he has it stored on the harddrive in his brain, just as Capablanca and Fischer that didn't even used PC's...

David Korn's picture

My heartfelt sorrow and well wishes to GM Ivanchuk and his wife.

There is not mention in the press about Rabajov's room being robbed in San Luis, in 20057 was it, (not sure of the date or tournament, please correct me if I am wrong).

He was so upset, he left with his fathering, feeling the need to withdraw.

I am not saying Latin America is worse than other places, not having traveled internationally in a long time, and then only in East Asia. Just noting the great disturbance in a sport where the mind needs the least amount of drain in other areas, for maximum focus.

Again, my heart goes out to GM Ivanchuk who, we recall, was very upset was it, two years ago, saying he would leave chess and the chess world said now.

We love you Vassily. dk

ebutaljib's picture

It was in 2007 and it was in Morelia, Mexico.

David Korn's picture

2005... and the the chess world said no.

chandler's picture

carlsen/anand wants to win real bad; playing on chucky's nerves. pretty sure the stuff will be returned once chucky finishes at the bottom -;)

Septimus's picture

Yep. Also in the news, thugs kidnap all other participants except Carlsen and Anand. ;)

S3's picture

Is it me, or is Nakamura's tweet a bit tasteless sounding like he only cares about the continuation of their game?
But kudos to the Brazilians for getting them a salvoconducto at once.

Carl Lumma's picture

I think it's just you.

Septimus's picture

He (S3) is right. It is worded a bit odd. Then again, you can't really read too much into a tweet. I'm sure Naka was trying to be positive, hoping that the incident would not have affected Chucky in any way.

Tonyh's picture

I think his tweet is actually understanding. This is a professional event, large prize fund supported by sponsors. As the saying goe: "The show must go on." A delay of the game is a very professional and kind offer. If he withdraws from the tournament I would also understand. Seems to me that the Latin leg of this event is having problems 2007 and 2011 2 out of 5 years players were robbed. Not a good track record.

Mauricio Valdes's picture

Welcome to the third world!
I remember Radjabov being robbed (not at gun point) in Morelia (Mexico) in a Morelia-Linares event a few years ago!
Teimour refused to play in the event and Ivachuk had to fill in for the Azeri!
Now we witness a similar circumstance.
It is just a SHAME... Chucky is having a great moment since the World Cup!

Anonymous's picture

It seems that the tournament directors have learnt very little from what happened I think to Teimour Radjabov was it? 3 or 4 years ago in Mexico World Championship

Chris's picture

It has nth to the country, more to the competition.

Knallo's picture

What should they have done?

Septimus's picture

What do you want them (organizers) to do? Hire John Rambo?

john's picture

Chucky and his wife were not hurt, that is the main thing. I can understand it is a big shock and will affect his tournament, but I'm just happy to hear they only lost their bags and not their lives.

biffmeatstick's picture

Nakamura lives in one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. I keep expecting to some day hear about him being robbed. Hopefully the crime stats don't apply to his neighborhood.

pat j's picture

That is totally lame. But I am 100% super happy that they were unharmed. It sucks, but at least they only lost material stuff.

Zeblakob's picture

"Ivanchuk refuses to continue the tournament in Bilbao on Thursday, if he is not with his wife."
That is how the man with cojones should react, agree.

Susan's picture

What an awful experience for GM and Mrs Ivanchuk. One should not be so quick to blame Sao Paulo. I know of four titled players who were robbed at gunpoint several years ago in one of the nicest sections of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, there is a post traumatic stress syndrome that can cause many physical and mental problems. If Ivanchuk continues to play in Bilbao, I hope he has someone to talk with to help him understand that what he is feeling is normal. This may allow him to continue his brilliant play and win the tournament as he certainly should.

chessdrummer's picture

Well... unfortunately, the robbers go where the money is. They go to well-to-do sections these days. No sense in robbing poor folks who don't have anything. That's their logic.

RealityCheck's picture

It's more likely GM Ivanchuk suffered "post traumatic stress syndrom" after his unnecessary loss to GM Carlsen. Not that being robbed at gun point is any consolation. But it's certainly not the end of the world.

RealityCheck's picture


The last thing Mr. and Mrs. Ivanchuk need is this lame american pop psychology. What Chuky needs is a good contact at the Ukranian state department that will issue his wife a new passport asap. That will allow her to be In Bilbao by thursday to continue supporting her husband.

Anonymous's picture

This is completely unacceptable. With the kind of money and sponsors that back a tournament at this level, the organizers should be able to pony up for armed guards.
Anybody getting the kind of press these players do needs some kind of security escort nowadays - unless we are talking about the town of Mayberry.

Thomas's picture

Sad, but indeed it could have been worse: In 1990, Artur Yusupov (then a world-top player) surprised burglars in his apartment in Moscow, was shot and barely survived. He then emigrated to Germany which he represents ever since.

It can happen anywhere, but it would really surprise me if something similar happened in Wijk aan Zee ... .

Mikamesch's picture

@RealityCheck. Your commentary is showing lack of imagination. A gun point is an extreme situation! It's connected with loosing your life, or the life of the one you love or even worse. Just think about it: You are walking along the road and suddenly a handful of people come up stopping you by point a gun on you. Give them everything you got and they'll leave you alone, hopefully. Never try to be a hero.

So think here: Ivanchuck is a hero at the board. That's what we love about him. But fortunately he's also wise enough in real life to let go of his stuff to save his and his wife's lifes. That's real life decisions. And i'm glad, that they're both alive and unharmed.
Lets hope it doesn't affect his performance in bilbao.

jou's picture

Lololol I think it was a good experience. Feeling safe is just an illusion.

Johnny's picture

This would be absolutely terrifying especially since the language barrier means there was no one to say, "Give us your stuff or we'll kill you". Instead the robbers would have to show their weapons as well as their intent to kill using unspoken body language. On a dark night, and with one's wife, this would be absolutely terrifying. I am happy at least the Ivanchuks were not physically harmed. Also I think Nakamura's offer to postpone their game is very classy and gentlemanly.

adam's picture

as far as i remember, ivanchuk speaks fluent spanish
nevertheless, it's a sad story and i am happy to hear that they are unharmed and he is willing to play on--i wish him all the best! lost stuff are just stuff that can be purchased again

Knallo's picture

Portuguese is spoken in Sao Paulo.

voyteck's picture

"as far as i remember, ivanchuk speaks fluent spanish"

As far as I know, Spanish is not the dominating language in Brazil, it's Portuguese. Of course, they can be similar enough to be mutually understandable.

adam's picture

brazilian potuguese, if anyone wanted nitpick. my guess is that it's about as far from spanish as slovak from czech or british english from american, although i am not into linguistics. in any case, i think they understood pretty well a sentence such as "gimme ur f'kin wallet"...

Nima's picture

Glad to hear that they are safe. I agree with Anonymous - the organizers should ensure security at places such as the playing hall, the hotel, and transport to and from the venue.

Pablo's picture

I think there is a bit of overreaction here. This kind of things can happen to anyone in anyplace. Organizers can't secure absolutely all the places. Probably Ivanchuk was just in the city or just taking a taxi. Nonsense to talk about Latin America. I live in a big city in Argentina and I feel perfectly safe living here.

Of course, by the way, that is a shame what happened and a very bad luck. But, in the other side, the robbers who have a gun doesn't shot freely. They just use the guy to keep the work; I mean, to steal money and other things. I'm pretty sure this kind of stuff happens every day in every big city.

I feel sorry for Ivanchuk but also with all the people who pass this same situation. It happen at least a few thousand times every day. Or maybe more than ten thousands time a day. It's a shame, of course, but it's in relation with the economic system that we accept every day.

Poor Ivanchuk, of course. But the situation is a lot harder to asses.

Septimus's picture

Yes, disparaging other countries regarding security is rubbish. Visit my neck of the woods in good ol' USA and park your car on E.Washington St. I can guarantee you that within 20min your car will be stripped clean and resting on bricks.

Barone Von Conspiracy's picture

Nobody is saying if the suitcases contained Ivanchuk's chess material (databases, analysis and, especially, repertoire).
Let's see if any of his next opponents, in the second half of the tournament, will be suspiciously well prepared against him...

jhoravi's picture

Why Ivanchuk the tournament leader? Robbers must be hired by one of his tournament rivals. But the command was to steal chuckys passport. Good thing they mistakenly took the wife's one :)

foo's picture

Paco Vallejo did it ;)

aron vargas's picture

it's saddening. my suggestion is to give them security personnels. they are the geniuses of our chessworld. provide them the best security and start it in spain right now so that similar cases wont happen again.

Septimus's picture

What is a bit strange is that none of the organizers were seeing them off. I'm not sure what the norm is, but even at our university, somebody always drops the guest off at the airport (usually accompanied by students of the research group). I suppose different people do things differently, but perhaps a crowd would have deterred the gang-bangers.

konicol's picture

glad they are ok, no harmed done. but still the robbers should be caught.

Peter Doggers's picture

Update: We were told by a journalist present in Sao Paulo that the organizers wanted to stress that Ivanchuk and his wife were not left to their own devices to find a taxi. The robbery actually took place in the hotel's driveway, in a taxi the hotel scheduled for his departure. This actually suggests that the robbers had access to their departure information. In the mean time Ivanchuk has told Leontxo Garcia that he doesn't want to postpone his game against Nakamura; he prefers Thursday, 'without privileges'.

Jonathan's picture

I guess Ivanchuk will play the Kalashnikov in the remaining games...

Raj's picture

I hope this does not affect Ivanchuk's performance in the remainder games - I wish him the best to this tournament. He is one of the most talented chess players I have seen in the modern era.

DMiA's picture

Was his Real Madrid horrible tracksuit in the suitcase ? I hope so.

jan van der marel's picture

Sad event, of course, but I wonder: does Ivanchuk always have ten thousands of dollars on him? What were the robbers aiming at?

Szoker's picture

He and his wife stayed in a good hotel, and he probably had his suit on him, plus the watch and the suitcase, he looked like some rich businessman, that's why they robbed him, probably.

Anonymous's picture

Nakas offer was very cool; good on him. Chuckys decline of the offer is even more cool. Well done, both of them.


Latest articles