He jumped off the plane. The Russian chess player has made a sensational escape to the United States

Special hopes were pinned on Igor Ivanov in the USSR. The young talent declared himself in the late 70s, starting a rapid ascent to the chess Olympus. However, the athlete himself, as it turned out, 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 someone else’s police right from the plane.

Young rebel

Igor was born in post-war Leningrad. The future grandmaster was taught chess by his mother 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 textbook on chess, and at the age of eight his parents gave him to the section, where they immediately saw perspective in it.

In parallel with chess, Ivanov attended a piano music school, where he was also in good standing. 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 boy was only 14 years old, leaving him an orphan.

Photo source: FIDE

Ivanov finished his studies already in boarding school, while continuing to play chess on his own. After leaving school, the young man entered the mathematical faculty of Leningrad State University, but soon left the university for the sake of a sports career. Already then Igor was known among the students as a wayward intellectual: the boy 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.

After leaving his studies, Ivanov moved first to Tajikistan and then to Uzbekistan, and began to actively compete in national competitions. Already in 1979, Igor beat the world champion Anatoly Karpov in the Spartakiad, having behind him several victories in other all-Union competitions. The following year, the 33-year-old brilliant chess player was allowed 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.

Escape by plane

Ivanov quickly realized that he had received a unique opportunity to leave the USSR forever. While drunk, Igor even informed his friends in Moscow of plans, from where the plane was to fly to Cuba, but they did not take his words seriously, especially since his wife was waiting for the chess player in her homeland. The athlete also informed Yuri Razuvaev, who was sent on the same business trip, about his desire to escape, 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. Someone still called the Soviet embassy in Cuba, passing on information about Ivanov, but even there they did not attach much importance to the matter … As it turned out, in vain.

Igor fulfilled his plan on the way to the USSR. The plane, en route from Cuba to Moscow, had to stop to refuel in Canada. When the ship landed, Ivanov took advantage of the inattention of the agents accompanying him and jumped aside with the pocket chess under his arm. The chess player quickly found the police at the Newfoundland airport and declared that he was seeking political asylum. Employees of the Canadian authorities made sure that Igor was acting deliberately and agreed to help him.

Addiction to killers

The plane went to the USSR without Ivanov, and the Canadian side soon decided to grant the Soviet chess player a new citizenship. However, the final point of the athlete’s journey is a neighboring country – the United States. After settling in Montreal, he began to actively travel to tournaments in the United States, after which he lived there forever.

Photo source: Getty Images

Abroad, the Soviet-Canadian chess player won one competition after another, leading a wild life. Ivanov became addicted to alcohol at home, completely ceasing to restrain himself after his escape. Igor received solid prize money for victories, so he was able to spend several thousand dollars on drinks during the night.

It was because of alcohol abuse that Ivanov began to lose shape over time, so in the late 90s he focused on training. By that 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 courageously fought cancer, and at some point it seemed that the disease began to recede, but six months after receiving the diagnosis, the athlete died. The status of Grandmaster was awarded to an outstanding chess player shortly before his death.


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