For this match, Spassky qualified from the Spassky - Hort Candidates Quarterfinal (1977) which ended in Iceland in April. Portisch qualified from the Portisch - Larsen Candidates Quarterfinal (1977) which ended in the Netherlands in March. The other semifinal match was the Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates Semifinal (1977). Each match was 16 games, first to 8,5 would be the winner. If after 16 games there was no winner two more games would be played. If still there was no winner then two more games would be played, and this process would then be repeated until there was a winner.1, 2 The matches were held in order to select a challenger for Anatoly Karpov, the World Champion.
Partly based on the success with the tournament Geneva (1977), the Spassky-Portisch encounter was also held in Hôtel Méditerranée and organized by the Swiss Chess Federation. The organizers had put up a prize fund of 25,000 Swiss francs, five-eighths going to the winner and the rest to the loser.1 Spassky started with his wife Marina as official second.3 He had played no games after the quarterfinal match. Portisch hired Gyozo Victor Forintos as his only second.2 After the quarterfinal, Portisch had played 7 games in the European Team Championship (Moscow 13-24 April). Game 1 and most other games started at 2 pm (as reported by the Journal de Genève). FIDE (World Chess Federation) had appointed Harry Golombek as chief arbiter.1, 4 His assistant was Gerry Walsh.5
The players (picture and video): http://binaryapi.ap.org/f0266fbfb3e... and http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/S...
The playing room rarely had more than about 60 or 70 spectators at any one time. A grave calm and silence generally prevailed during playing time. This was only occasionally broken by a small group of two or three spectators who, in their enthusiasm, committed the double sin of discussing the position loudly. Fortunately they were invariably weak players, so that their conversation, which was rapidly suppressed by an arbiter or a steward, was of no help to either player.6 After 11 games the players had 5.5 points each. Portisch had twice taken the lead, but Spassky equalized, each time after he had requested a postponement (of games 5 and 9).7, 8 Spassky played game 9 in his old world championship style, and he got tumultous applause from the spectators.9 Game 11 (scheduled 31 July) was postponed till 5 August on Portisch's request.10 He had asked for a double time out for a short trip to Hungary.11 The reason was not clear, but was put down to homesickness, caused by constantly playing abroad.12 At the request of Spassky, following the example of the other quarterfinal in Évian-les-Bains, the organizers spent the available time installing a new ringtone to signal the players whose turn it was to play. However, Golombek banned the installation based on FIDE regulations. According to him, no one, let alone the referee himself, had the right to help one of the players during the game. In fact, the system in use in Evian was irregular.3
On the day after game 11 (a short draw), former world champion Vasily Smyslov arrived. Spassky stated that "my official second is and will remain my wife Marina" but that "I am very happy to see Smyslov in Geneva".3, 13 Game 12 (scheduled 7 August) was postponed till 9 August on Spassky's third (and last available) time out.14 On 9 August, as late as at 11:15 am, Portisch also asked for his third postponement till 12 August. This was supposedly a psychological move by Portisch, who was reportedly not actually sick, but wanted an equal number of postponements for both players.15 In game 12, Portisch looked certain to win by move 50 but Spassky salvaged the draw. Portisch said he "threw victory away".16
Smyslov's presence17 may have helped because Spassky now won games 13 and 14. When Portisch offered a draw at 5:55 pm in game 15, the match was lost for him.18, 19
Hôtel Méditerranée, Geneva, Switzerland, 3 July - 19 August 1977
Spassky advanced to the Korchnoi - Spassky Candidates Final (1977). His victory also qualified him for the Portisch - Spassky Candidates Quarterfinal (1980).
Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 Pts
1 GM Spassky 2610 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 8½
2 GM Portisch 2625 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 6½
1) Golombek in The Times 18 June 1977 p. 12. 2) Journal de Genève 1 July 1977 p. 11. 3) Journal de Genève 5 August 1977 p. 8. 4) De Telegraaf 10 August 1977 p. 17. 5) Journal de Genève 23 August 1977 p. 14. 6) Golombek in The Times 23 July 1977 p. 10. 7) De Telegraaf 13 July 1977 p. 17. 8) Leeuwarder courant 25 July 1977 p. 19. 9) The Times 27 July 1977 p. 7. 10) For a week's rest according to Golombek in British Chess Magazine Oct. 1977 pp. 459-460. 11) Amigoe 1 August 1977 p. 6. 12) De Telegraaf 5 August 1977 p. 19. 13) Journal de Genève 10 August 1977 p. 9. 14) Amigoe 8 August 1977 p. 6. 15) De Telegraaf 10 August 1977 p. 17. 16) The Times 15 August 1977 p. 4. 17) De Telegraaf 8 August 1977 p. 15: he was a reporter for the chess magazine "64". 18) The Times 17 August 1977 p. 5. 19) Journal de Genève 20 August 1977 p. 17.
Original collections: Game Collection: WCC Index (Spassky-Portisch 1977) by User: nescio and Game Collection: Spassky - Portisch Candidates Semifinal 1977 by User: Tabanus. Thanks to User: WCC Editing Project and User: Paint My Dragon for help with the language and suggestion of sources.