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.


Anonymous's picture

I think Ivanchuk should have requested a one day delay. He did not make the opening ceremony and play starts tomorrow; I don't want him to get a forfeit!

aerodarts's picture

Looks like famous chess players will have to be provided a security detail to prevent this sorta off event. At the US Chess Championships you must pass through a security check prior to be allowed in to view the live games. The hotel should provide escort to the taxi....but has it come down to GM's hiring someone to protect them at all times?! I wonder, did Bobby has security when he went to Iceland to play Spassky?

ebutaljib's picture

I guess he and his wife should also wear a bulletproof vest, huh?

It was an unfortunate incident that luckily went by without any real damage. It's not organisers or anyones elses fault (except the ones who robbed him of course). These things just happen all the time and all over the world. Constantly. Don't overblow it. The important thing is that nobody got hurt.

Anonymous's picture

"I guess he and his wife should also wear a bulletproof vest, huh?"

That is entirely up to him and his wife.

"These things just happen all the time and all over the world. Constantly."

In that case it would be perfectly appropriate to take additional measures for the players security. Pro tennis waited until one of their players got stabbed by a nut-job until they started taking security seriously. Celebrities can become focal points for criminals and nut-jobs and so they need extra protection. If gawd-forbid something terrible happens then people will stop being sarcastic and dismissive of the idea of more security for the players. Let's play this like Karpov and not like Tal.

ebutaljib's picture

Yeah, yeah, yeah - they should have bodyguards following them everywhere. They should be under video survailance all the time (even under shower and in the toilet). They should use the same car and airoplane as the US President. Organisators should preventively arest all the hobos and other potential suspecious people before each tournament and lock them up in Guantanamo or something like that. Of course every organiser should have a secret police first. From now on we should be warry who is walking behind us all the time. And we shall also always sleep with one eye open. Welcome to the free and very safe world.

Thomas's picture

In the meantime there's another update at whychess (, the translation of a Russian interview Ivanchuk gave shortly after his (delayed) arrival in Bilbao. Overall it's vintage Chucky - as the interviewer Evgeny Surov says he has an "amazingly philosophical attitude to the loss", something like 'stuff happened, time to move on'.
The factual points:
- His laptop bag was between his feet and the robbers didn't notice it. His passport was also out of reach in the inside pocket of his jacket.
- His wife's passport was in her handbag, grabbed by the robbers.
- What he misses most is (not his Real Madrid training suit, but) a normal 'analogue' wooden chess set that he had carried with im to tournaments for "many, many years" ("that caused no small amazement to younger chess players").

ebutaljib's picture

He has the right attitude. It was a really unpleasant experience but it went by well (nobody got hurt). So lets move on.

Peter Doggers's picture

We just posted something brief about this interview, with a link to the English translation:

Johansen's picture

Brazil is nearly most dangerous city in the world. Brazil country is not safe for Tursten. But it is true that Brazil country is very nice and natural and exciting. The poor people love robbery , for they know how Tursten is. Robber is desperate for money. So sorry for Ivanchuk was robbery of the criminal. Important that Ivanchuk was not killed by the robber. But life is not so easy in the world today.

Anonymous's picture

Grandmaster to robbers: "Idiot, I wanted his laptop - his LAPTOP!!"

jan van der marel's picture

I suggest we make Johansen president.


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