Person of day - 13 JUNE 2023
Ivan Sokolov was born in one of the foremost chess cities of Europe, Sarajevo, where he quickly became a rising star of the Yugoslav chess. In 1986, Ivan played for his country at the juniors’ competition in the Old World championship, where he came third, behind favourites Ivanchuk and Piket. In 1987, Sokolov came first at a tournament in Portoroz and became a grandmaster. Soon after, he won the Yugoslav championship, to the amazement of his fans.
In 1988, Sokolov was included in the Olympic team of his country, but, in the last round, Ivan unexpectedly lost to an unknown Philippine, which deprived the Yugoslavs of a bronze. In the next Olympiad, Ivan Sokolov and Dragoljub Velimirović, the other player who made a mistake in 1988, could only play in the hosts’ secondary team. This was very unpleasant for the young player, since the silver medallist of the 1989 European team championship had recently won large tournaments in Stockholm, Biel, Maribor and had one of the highest ratings in Eastern Europe.
In 1992, Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia announced their independence and withdrawal from Yugoslavia. In Bosnia, the only strong grandmasters to remain were Nikolic and Sokolov, but that did not stop Predrag and Ivan from assembling a wonderful team. In 1992 in Manila, Bosnia performed ordinarily, but in 1994 in Moscow, they were the main sensation of the tournament where they finished second, behind the Russians.
Yugoslavia did not accept Bosnia and Herzegovina’s succession and the Republic was soon engulfed in war. Around that time, the super-club Bosna was created in Sarajevo and leading chess players such as Garry Kasparov began to play with Bosnians out of solidarity. In 1994, Bosna split 1stplace at the European Cup with Lyon and Sokolov defeated Anand in the decisive match. Ivan would go on to win three more gold medals with his native club.
In 1995, Ivan Sokolov left war-torn Bosnia for the Netherlands, where he immediately won the national championship. However, in the subsequent two Olympiads, he continued to play for Bosnia. Ivan would win the Dutch national championship two more times. He played in knockout world championships in 1997, 1999 and 2004.
Ivan Sokolov played his most famous game at the 1999 super-tournament in Wijk aan Zee, which Garry Kasparov won superbly. By the middle of the tournament, the champion had established a fearsome tempo and was beating opponents one by one. Suddenly, he lost a game to Ivan after forgetting to perform basic analysis and being trumped by a subtle combination. Aside from Kasparov and Anand, Sokolov defeated grandmasters such as Alexey Shirov, Veselin Topalov, Gata Kamsky, Vasily Ivanchuk, Peter Leko, Michael Adams and others.
In 2002, he played for the Dutch team at the Olympiad for the first time, where he made a sizeable contribution to the team’s sixth place. By 2004, his rating was 2706 and he was one of the best chess players in the world. At the end of the 2000s, he began to record his encyclopaedic knowledge of openings. He is the author of Nimzo-Indian Defence, Sokolov’s Best Games, Winning Chess Middlegames,Ruy Lopez Revisitedand Sacrifice and Initiative in Chess, which were published in English and German. In Russian, he published his Typical Positions in the Middlegame.
In the last few years, he has worked as trainer to the men’s UAE national team, where he has helped the country’s strongest grandmaster, Salem Saleh.