Viktor Korchnoi Passes Away

Viktor Korchnoi Passes Away
By Arvind Aaron

Viktor Korchnoi, known more as a Soviet defector who played in two World Championship matches of 1978 and 1981 has passed away aged 85.

Born March 23, 1931 at St Petersburg (then known as Leningrad) in Russia died on June 6, 2016 at Wohlen, Switzerland. He is survived by his wife and son Igor.

Korchnoi was one of the strongest chess players who never won the world chess title. The 1974 Candidates Finals against Karpov became a title match as Fischer refused to play the 1975 match. Korchnoi defected from the Soviet Union in 1976 while playing in a tournament in the Netherlands.

When he faced Anatoly Karpov, age was against him. He was 20 years older and lost the three matches by narrow margins. The 1981 margin (6-2 for Karpov) at Merano in Switzerland was the biggest Karpov could achieve. To come through the Candidates Cycle more than three times is already a big achievement.

In the next cycle, Korchnoi beat Kasparov in the very first game with black pieces in the Candidates Semifinals at London 1983 but lost the match overall and his opponent went on to unseat Karpov.

Korchnoi played two training matches against ‘friend’ David Bronstein in 1970 that was revealed in the book Secret Notes of Bronstein in 2007. Korchnoi also was close with Karpov and played such a match in 1971.

Here are the individual decisive career scores of Korchnoi (draws not counting) against world champions:

Korchnoi beat Mikhail Tal 13-4
Korchnoi beat Tigran Petrosian 12-10
Korchnoi beat Magnus Carlsen 1-0
Korchnoi drew Mikhail Botvinnik 1-1
Korchnoi drew Robert James Fischer 2-2

Korchnoi lost to Anand 0-8
Korchnoi lost to Kramnik 0-6
Korchnoi lost to Kasparov 1-16
Korchnoi lost to Vassily Smyslov 3-5
Korchnoi lost to Anatoly Karpov 14-31

Korchnoi was active even playing a veteran match against Uhlmann two years ago from a wheel chair. His peak rating was 2695. During early years of his defection, Soviet players avoided events in which he played. Korchnoi’s high rating was at risk and FIDE under its morally right President Max Euwe brought special laws to protect it. Under this, Korchnoi would not lose rating if he won a tournament clearly.

One of the world’s most interesting player is gone. Korchnoi was outspoken. He suffered the most from the USSR Chess Federation post defection. When he defected, they did not let his wife and son to join him. When he found another partner in Petra, then they let them go!

Korchnoi won six team gold medals in the Chess Olympiad for the USSR in 1960, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972 and 1974. He also won individual gold medals twice and individual bronze medals thrice. Later, he also played the Chess Olympiad for Switzerland.

Korchnoi had been the World Senior Champion of 2006. He has played in the Goodricke Open, Kolkata in 2000

Korchnoi won the very tough Soviet Championship five times in 1960, 1962, 1964, 1965 and 1970. He has won almost every tournament in the West. The chess world has lost a great competitor.