Person of day   -  3 DECEMBER 2023



Miguel Illescas Córdoba was born on 3rd December 1965 in Barcelona. At a young age, Miguel already impressed his Spanish compatriots, who were not blessed with chess tradition, and won the Catalonian championship at the age of 12. In 1985, he became a master and made his debut for the Spanish national team at the Olympiad in Dubai. In the 1980s, many first-class competitions took place in Spain and at a super-tournament in Linares in 1988, Illescas became a grandmaster, losing only to the winner, Jan Timman.

That same year, there was a rapid chess match-tournament in Madrid between the USSR team (Kasparov, Belyavky, Gurevich, Psakhis, Sokolov, Dolmatov, Chernin, Azmaiparashvili) and World team (Korchnoi, Andersson, Portisch, Speelman, Ljubojević, Hjartarson, Nogueiras, host Illescas). The Soviet grandmasters won with a minimal victory of 32,5:31,5. Illescas looked formidable in his matches against the fearsome guests, winning notable victories against Mikhail Gurevich and Lev Psakhis.

At the initiative of their own newfound grandmaster, the Spanish, for the first time, put forward a very strong club for the European Champions’ Cup, but in the 1/16 finals the Catalonian team lost to the Tigran Petrosian Club by a score of 3:9- Miguel took two draws against Yuri Balashov.

Miguel Illescas was a participant of the World Cup in 1988-1989 and qualified for the inter-zonal tournament in 1990. At the start of the 1990s, he entered the chess elite- in a match tournmanet between Spain and the USSR in 1991, he took a “half-century” against Dorfman, Vladimirov, Dreev, Polugaevsky, Elvest and Yepishin. His rating reached the mark of 2620, which enabled the Spaniard to break into the top 20 players in the world. In 1193, Miguel won the European zonal tournament and came second in Wijk aan Zee, after Anatoly Karpov. That year, the tournament was carried out with an experimental knockout system, and en route to the final, the Spanish grandmaster knocked out Tukmakov, Gelfand, Piket, Hodgson and Olli. His match with Karpov was rigorous, but the king of FIDE took the upper hand: 2,5:1,5

In preparation for another inter-zonal tournament, he played training matched against Ljubomir Ljuboevic (4:4) and Vladimir Kramnik (1,5:4,5). Bound to the Russian by bonds of friendship, Illescas would become one of Karpov’s assistants in matches against Kasparov, Leko and Topalov.

 “Even when in 2000 Kramnik won against Kasparov, I had the impression that, if necessary, Vladimir could have added more and more! The final part of his battle with Leko required maximum concentration and organisation from him. Kramnik’s performance in the last five matches was beyond all praise. Leko, on the other hand, drew out the match to the final game. But his nerves were on edge: this was proven by a highly uncertain game in the endspiel of the 14th match and the sudden offer of a draw in the 12th match…

What can I say now, when everything is over? I am extremely happy- a weight has passed from my shoulders. I have known Vladimir for 10 years, and I am not only his trainer, but also a good friend. It would have been unfair if he had lost that match. Yes, Leko showed that he was a fantastic player, but I don’t think his performance proved that he was better than Kramnik.” (M.Illescas)

In the 1990s, Alexey Shirov moved to Spain, then the star of Francisco Valejo rose and Miguel Illescas lost his leadership of national chess. Nonetheless, in the 1990s and 2000s he won the Spanish championship 8 times.