Economics junior Ivan Schitco repeated history on Nov. 15 at the 2023 European Team Chess Championship in Montenegro when he drew against world champion Magnus Carlsen for the second time. This is Schitco’s second time drawing with Carlsen, the first being in August 2022 in the Chess Olympiad.
According to Chess Results, 38 teams participated in this tournament, each country sending four to five strong players. Schitco represented Moldova for the third time and was placed on first board this year. Carlsen was first board for Norway, and the two faces off when the two countries paired in round 5. Schitco played solidly, while Carlsen blundered his 20-move calculation, resulting in Schitco offering a draw, which Carlsen accepted.
Alongside Schitco was graduate student IM Andrei Macovei, second board for Moldova. Other teammates included GM Viorel Iordachescu, GM Victor Bologon and FIDE Master Jegor Lashkin also played well, collectively gathering 9.5 of the 19 points in the tournament.
“[There] was a great team chemistry and team strategy in general, because they put me and Andrei, the young guys on the first and second boards to draw [with players]. And then they put the legends on the last board to make points, and it worked,” Schitco said.
In the same European Team Chess Championship, business administration sophomore Gergana Peycheva — from Bulgaria — claimed the title of champion under the women’s section. As board four, Peycheva won four of her games, drew three, and lost two. As a result of her contribution to the team, Bulgaria placed no. 1 out of the 32 countries in the women’s section.
Moldova played against two teams from Montenegro, where both Schitco and Macovei won their games; they also defeated Israel and Azerbaijan.
“I don’t think we’ve ever beaten Azerbaijan and in general to beat the number one seed when you’re like 26 or 27 [in standing], that’s basically a historic result,” Schitco said. “Then we also beat Israel for the first time in history.”
Schitco played the King’s Indian opening against Carlsen with the white pieces, later offering a draw since there were not many pieces on the board. Despite Carlsen’s efforts to create a tactical position with the black pieces in the opening, he accepted the draw as Schitco stopped his aggressive moves.
“When you try to win with the black pieces, it’s pretty hard, especially against a grandmaster, so you have to like jump through hoops,” Schitco said. “You have to take a lot of risks and Magnus is willing to do that.”
During the game against Carlsen, Schitco said Carlsen attempted to create a mating net, but it made the position too risky for both players.
“It got really risky at one point and luckily I managed to stay calm and found all the moves that basically neutralized his play, and then he had to settle for a draw,” Schitco said. “But overall, it was a great fighting game.”
Previous moves: 36. Kxf4, Qxg2 37. Bxg7, Kxg7
White to play. How can White prevent checkmate?
White pushes the pawn on the e file to prevent Black from playing Qf6.
Schitco prepared for all openings he thought could be dangerous, as he had a feeling that he would play against Carlsen. Out of the two games Schitco played with Carlsen in 2024, he found that the game he played in the Chess Olympiad was better, as it was a complex game with a lot of blunders and brilliancies from both sides.
“Then for the openings like King’s Indian…I was like if he plays that, then I just have to trust myself because the position is going to be better for me, so I have to play well,” Schitco said.
“I was black there and I mean, drawing Magnus with white.. I think people do that from time to time, but drawing Magnus with black when you’re 300 points lower than him… it’s really rare.”
Schitco emphasized the feeling he had when he played against the greatest player in chess history for the second time. He also knew that Carlsen wanted to defeat him because they both drew in the Chess Olympiad, so this game was more serious.
“I don’t know how many people know how good Magnus is, but it’s like playing Federer in tennis or like playing against Messi … you played with literally the best person who’s ever played chess in history, and it’s special,” Schitco said.