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Korchnoi - Petrosian Candidates Semifinal 1974
Compiled by WCC Editing Project

Petrosian qualified for this match from the Petrosian - Portisch Candidates Quarterfinal (1974), and Korchnoi qualified from the Korchnoi - Mecking Candidates Quarterfinal (1974). The other semifinal match was the Karpov - Spassky Candidates Semifinal (1974). In both matches victory would go to the player who first won 4 games, or who was in the lead after 20 games.<Harry Golombek in The Times 16 April 1974 p. 14, with no mention of what would happen in case of 10-10.> The matches were held in order to select a challenger for world champion Robert James Fischer.

Semifinals 1974: If tied at 10-10, the outcome would be decided by the drawing of lots. Final: If tied at 12-12, then drawing of lots (Kazic p. 16).

-<seconds> Viacheslav Osnos, Mikhail S Tseitlin (Korchnoi) <Chess is My Life, p.100>

Odessa, Ukraine, 12-24 April 1974

Elo* 1 2 3 4 5 Pts 1 GM Korchnoi 2650 1 ˝ 1 0 1 3˝ 2 GM Petrosian 2640 0 ˝ 0 1 0 1˝



Victor Korchnoi, "Chess is My Life" Ken Neat, transl. (Arco, 1978)

(p.98) "Now in prospect was a match with Petrosian, who in an excrutiating struggle had beaten Portisch, an opponent whom he had always found difficult. On this occasion he had apparently exerted himself to the limit, which is in principle foreign to him. My match had also not been easy, but I sensed that on this occasion Petrosian was more exhausted than I was. I was well acquainted with his play, with his strengths and weaknesses; the trouble was that his weaknesses happened to coincide with my weaknesses, and his strengths with my strengths. But I reflected that I was stronger than him in a competitive sense, more of a fighter.

I did not repeat my mistake of 1971. I flatly refused to play in Moscow, where I had been drawn to for that previous match. In his estate on the outskirts of Moscow, Petrosian lives like a prince, with all conceivable comforts, whereas I would have had to take refuge in a hotel, with the usual poor Soviet service. On our joint agreement, the match was arranged to be held in Odessa.

The other match being played was between Spassky and Karpov. It was clear to me that at that time Spassky would be unable to win a match against Karpov, especially since Karpov- the rising star- enjoyed universal support, whereas Spassky was now a social misfit, and, in his own words, was forced during the match to adopt 'all-round defence'.

Prior to the matches, Petrosian declared in the press that n his opinion the winner of the Candidates' cycle would be one of the other pair. Such hypocrisy provoked me into protesting, and I declared that the winner of our match would win the Candidates' cycle. My reasons for saying this were purely to do with chess. Both Petrosian and I were superior to Karpov in our understanding, and in particular our experience of the game, and, all other things being (p.99) equal, should have been able to beat him. In passing, I emphasized that, as regards erudition and knowledge of opening theory, I was superior to Karpov, Petrosian and Spassky taken together! I wasn't far from the truth, but at that time I had no idea what forces I would have to measure my knowledge against in the near future.

It was expected that, on the pattern of my previous match with Petrosian, we would have to battle to the limit of twenty games. But things turned out differently. As was later revealed, Petrosian prepared for the match in collaboration with Karpov. But those openings, good for Karpov, proved not to suit Petrosian's style, since he is not inclined to go in for a fight from the first moves, nor to look from the very start for the best, and sometimes the only moves. The opening in the first game came as a surprise to me, but I played calmly, obtained slightly the better chances, and, most important, a fairly clear plan by which to strengthen my position. Petrosian became nervous, made several mistakes, came under an attack, and in the end did not manage to resign in time, and was mated.

During this first game a dispute arose. In recent years Petrosian had acquired the terrible habit of twitching his legs under the table, usually beginning this about an hour before the time control. The playing conditions were good, but play took place in the centre of the stage in an old theatre, on a revolving circle, as I discovered later. While my clock was going and I was thinking over my next move, Petrosian would sit in his place and cause the table to shake all over. 'It's impossible to play like this; shall we sit at separate tables?' I said to him. This was probably a mistake on my part, and I should have directly notified the controller. But we were on friendly terms, and when it was my turn to move I didn't feel inclined to get up and go over to the controller. Petrosian stopped shaking the table, but after the game wrote a statement to the controller about my behaviour. (I found out about this later.)

The second game ended in a draw after a tense, strategic struggle. It finished an hour before the end of the five-hour session, so that Petrosian did not have time to use his underground (or more precisely, 'undertable') weapon. In the third game Petrosian repeated the opening from the first game. This time I was prepared, being familiar not only with the system, but also with the manner in which Petrosian played it. Everything happened within the space of the first fifteen minutes. I sacrificed a pawn, set up (p.100) strong pressure, then won back the sacrificed material, and by exchanging queens went into an ending where I was now a pawn up. Without difficulty I broke the bemused Petrosian's resistance, and won this game too. Petrosian requested a postponement,so as to come to his senses a little. In the following game he played for a win in his usual style. In an almost symmetrical position, I did not succeed in equalizing,and Petrosian gained a big advantage. We both ran short of time, but here too he proved to be the stronger, and converted his advantage into a win.

During the time scramble I found it difficult to sit at the table. Petrosian was rocking it, and causing it to shake by the rapid twitching of his leg. I went over to the controller to complain, but he merely shrugged his shoulders- what could he do to help? After the game I wrote a statement to the control team, to the effect that, despite repeated requests, Petrosian was continuing to behave in an unsporting manner,and was disturbing my play. At the same time I also pointed out the fact that there was a large group of Armenians in the hall, who were displying slogans, and shouting out encouragement to Petrosian, and I asked for something to be done about this too.

In the fifth game Petrosian changed his opening scheme, but fortunately I was well prepared for this new variation. My second, Tsietlin, had predicted this very opening, and the positin after fifteen moves had already been reached on our board the day before the game. I gained a slight positional advantage. An hour before the end of play, with the time scramble approaching, Petrosian sat solidily at the board and, when it was my turn to move, began shaking the table. What was I to do? I had already used up all the accepted ways of curtailing his behaviour. I gained the impression... that if earlier Petrosian had been shaking the table subconsciously, by habit, he now realized how much this disturbed me, and with the connivance of the controller wanted to utilize his opportunity. 'Stop shaking the table, you're disturbing me', I said to him. Petrosian made out that he hadn't heard what I said. 'We're not in a bazaar' he replied. On seeing the commotion, the controller rushed up. 'Calm down, calm down,' he said. Petrosian seated himself more comfortably, and again began shaking the table. What was I to do? I was playing a match for the world championship, and I was in a trap! My clock (p.101) was going, and Petrosian would not allow me to play. Then I uttered the sacred and at the same time naive words: 'This is your last chance!' Petrosian caught this... On the other hand, I gained the chance to continue playing, under normal conditions.

The position at that point was not yet won for me, but I played it excellently. I made several subtle moves, and took play into an ending with an extra pawn, and despite some serious time trouble, adjourned the game with a big material advantage.

Petrosian did not turn up for the resumption. Instead, he wrote a statement demanding that the result of the match be annulled (I should remind the reader of the score- 3-1 with one game drawn), and that he should be awarded a win on the grounds that *I* was stopping *him* playing! It was an unusual situation. The match was being held under the auspices of FIDE, and no one, neither Brezhnev nor Euwe, could annul the result, never mind a FIDE congress. Petrosian utilized every possible opportunity. He phoned Euwe, but he was enjoying a safari in Africa. He sent a 290-word telegram to the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party,the ruling Organ of the Soviet Union, and, in anticipation of a reply, forced me to take a postponement. The matter became an object of investigation byan arbitration committee under the chairmanship of the Mayor of Odessa; from Moscow came the Chairman of the All-Union Controller's Team, and from Leningrad they also sent an official representative of the Sports Organization to help. A meeting was arranged, to which we were both invited. Petrosian demanded an apology from me. Since, by speaking to my opponent during the game, I had broken one of the letters of the chess code, I said that I was prepared to apologize. "Apologize?' cried Petrosian, 'but who is going to return my lost points?'

After some thought, he said: 'He spoke to me so loudly that people in the hall also heard; he should also apologize in public!' I was asked whether I was prepared to do this. It wasn't clear to me what was implied, whether I had to repent with a microphone in my hand, or whether to report on my behaviour to a newspaper. I said 'All right, I can apologize in public, but the question arises, to whom do I have to apologize. The fact is that Petrosian's appearances in the Soviet Union are invariably accompanied by demonstrations by persons of Armenian nationality, and what (p.102) interests me is, what part does Petrosian play in the organization of these mobs.' Petrosian almost choked with rage. 'That's all', he said. 'He has insulted me, he has insulted my people. I won't play against him any more.'

That was indeed all. Petrosian wrote out a new statement, in which he accused me of chauvinism. It is unlikely, in making such a statement, that he remembered one important detail; my wife who, incidentally, was present at the match, is herself Armenian.

I was persuaded to write a letter of apology to Petrosian. Faintheartedly, I agreed- but of course, this hd no effect.

While awaiting the decision from the Central Committee, Petrosian lay in hospital, complaining about his kidneys, but refusing to be examined. When a negative reply arrived from Moscow, he came out of hospital and wrote a final statement, to the effect that he was resigning the match on health grounds.

Afterwards, the top sports authorities attempted to reconcile us. The question arose as to whether we could participate in the same team in the coming Olympiad in Nice, or whether only one of us would play. Petrosian was gloomy, and only in the presence of the committee chairman did he manage to raise a conciliatory smile- just so that he wouldn't be thrown out of the USSR team. It was no longer the Odessa feud that was tormenting him. I had become for ever his sworn enemy, like Spassky and Fischer before me, for having beaten him.


Alexander Galyas:

-<Alexander Galyas, "GROSS-SCANDAL" Originally published July 20 2013 in “Porto-Franco.” In "Sport Weekend Online- Shahmaty" 22 July 2013>

Finally, they fell out when Korchnoi refused to go to Buenos Aires to help Petrosian in his match with Fischer. His refusal, he argued that it "is not always pleasant to look at passive play T. Petrosian, and even more so - bear responsibility for it." According to some sources, the failure Korchnoi sounded much more expressive: "When I see what disgusting and vile moves makes Petrosyan, I can not be his second."

Place to play unanimously elected Ukrainian theater room, which seats more than 1,100 spectators. Black Sea Shipping Company allocated to accommodate the guests one of the best hotels in the city - between voyages base sailors from was on the doorstep to Arcadia - the favorite destinations of Odessa residents and visitors. Director of the hotel offered to settle the grandmasters in the "suites", one - on the second floor, the other - on the third. But this proposal was abandoned: these rooms were one above the other, so that in theory could be a situation where the "lower" participant could complain that the "upper" prevents him (loud knocking his feet, and so on. N.) Eventually settled GMs in different wings of one floor; Of course, in a completely non-equivalent

Korchnoi has at his press conference was set up very aggressively, "It's hard to play chess with a man who does not do anything at the board, and does not make it demonstratively. I sometimes just unnerving ... But the defeat Petrosian match Fischer should affect the match with me negatively. And we played the last time in Moscow - "on the field" Petrosyan. Now a neutral field. So things have changed in my favor. "

And then something happened that all shocked: Petrosyan received the mat. Even the Korchnoi to such an extent was stunned to submit to him the possibility that the opponent has warned: "Do you mate!" (So he had to give up). But Petrosian, who by that time had big problems with hearing (he wore hearing aids), did not react, so that Korchnoi had no choice but to complete the game as a decisive move.

At Petrossian at the time had a habit at the end of the party, when increasing tension, shake a leg. He involuntarily touched the opponent's legs. In the first game Korchnoi limited to just the comments and then began to respond to "kick." Buffet went shaking and serious competition threatens to turn into a farce. Almost after each game GMs written statements to the judicial board, accusing rival in "unsportsmanlike conduct." The organizing committee for a long time puzzled how to get out of the situation, while E. Gorbachev offered to put under the table partition. But the match is already rolling down ... The Jury of Appeal in session almost daily. The mayor of the city, who, as chairman of the committee was part of it, loudly cursing the day and hour when he gave consent to the match. In all the years of his work in the executive committee, he did not get as many calls of the Central Committee, as in those days. Each of the contestants were "above" their fans, they looked to for support (Petrosyan - in the Communist Party of Armenia, Korchnoi - the Leningrad Regional Party Committee), also had to take the rap from Odessa. The end came on April 25 in the fifth game, which was played when the score was 2: 1 in favor of Korchnoi. "I got some advantage in the opening - describes grandmaster this episode. - Petrosyan again began shaking table. Now it seemed to me that he was doing it on purpose - prevent me from thinking about the course! "Do not shake the table, you are disturbing me," - I said. "Yes, we are not in the market", - he said. And continued their dirty work. And then I said sacramental phrase: "You catch your last chance!" This phrase was the most recent. More - until his death - we have not talked. " The party had to be postponed, but Petrosyan doigryvanie not come. Score 3: 1 in favor of Korchnoi, who left to win enough to win only one game. Realizing that he did not have the slightest chance, T. Petrosyan wrote a letter demanding to cancel the match, as rival prevented him from playing. He sent a telegram to the enormous size of the CPSU, and then to Odessa literally rushed Euwe and Baturin. "Not to wash dirty linen in public," the sixth installment decided to move, persuaded Korchnoi take a timeout. Statement Petrosyan considered several hours. The conversation was in a raised voice. "Along the way I asked the question, - writes V. Korchnoi. - Speeches Petrosian in the USSR was accompanied by performances of Armenians, and I was wondering - what is the role itself Petrosyan in organizing these gatherings. ""Everything - cried Petrosyan. - He insulted me, he insulted my people. With him I do not play ... "Pending the decision of the CPSU Central Committee, he came down to the hospital ...".

Anecdotally EPISODE
To find out how seriously ill former world champion, was sent to the regional hospital Peyhelya. "When I walked into the room, - says Edward V. - then froze. It was not the present-day VIP ward, and most common, with 12 beds, 11 of which were empty, even without mattresses, one grid, and on the 12th lay Petrosyan. "Then the chief doctor, who was (I wonder whether by accident?) Armenian, led the visitor into his office and makes a pile of stones, which supposedly came from the kidneys to his patient. Who witnessed these events Tukmakov convinced that the "disease" Petrosian was nothing more than a plausible excuse. "He quickly realized that he was prepared poorly and lost the match - said GM - and because he needed to focus on the conflict. Perhaps Petrosyan cherished the hope that in this way will be able to either move the match or continue it later in a more favorable environment for yourself. Incidentally, Korchnoi would never do that. And not just because he is a fighter by nature. Just Petrosian in their status in the Soviet hierarchy could afford it, and Korchnoi - no. " But the hopes of former champion was not to be fulfilled. Apparently, from the Central Committee of the CPSU to his appeal came a negative response. And on May 2 in the newspaper "Evening Odessa" appeared a short message: "semi-final match ended with a score of 3: 1 in favor of Korchnoi.

This is due to the refusal Petrossian continue the competition due to illness. This was officially announced to correspondents of press, radio and television chief referee of the match, the referee of the international category Krapil Boris. "


"Petrosian had just recovered from a lung inflammation and was not in his best form.

In fact I guessed right about Petrosian's openings. The day before each game I analysed them with my coach Viacheslav Osnos. We had predicted the pawn sac in the 3rd game, and the 5th game we had on our board up to the 15th move. Objectively P is better than me in the middle game, but this could not compensate for his opening play. When he overlooked the mate in the 1st game and I announced mate and he still saw nothing, then I understood he was exhausted." <Tidskrift för Schack June/July 1974 p. 130>


Kazic: from <Mikhail Botvinnik, Alexander Matanovic and Bozidar Kazic, "Candidates' Matches 1974" Chess Informant 1st edition July 3, 1974>


Kazic: "A poll organized by a newspaper i Odessa questioned: how many draws? Some replied 16, others 18. Petrosian had before the match been bed-ridden by pneumonia. The match opened officially 11 April in the "October Revolution" Hall of the Ukrainian Music and Drama Theatre. Euwe had planned to watch K-S in Leningrad and arrive the next day for the opening of the match in Odessa, but he saw neither for Karpov unexpectedly postponed his first game and due to poor weather conditions the plane could not go to Odessa the next day."

Kazic: "Chief arbiter was <Boris Krapil> of Moscow (IA since 1965) who certainly had no idea of the difficult task awaiting him. Before the match, 41 games since 1946, 7:4 to Petrosian with 30 draws."

Kazic: "From the very beginning, Korchnoi volatilely set out on the attack. He played to win at any cost. This aggressiveness seemed to confuse his opponent."

Kazic: "The end of the match in Odessa evolved under a certain veil of secrecy, according to some reporters. TASS's brief statement says nothing of what went on behind the scenes in the turbulent dispute which arose among the players. After the 5th round Petrosian and later Korchnoi asked for a time out. Both actually needed to gain in time and to have the possibility of reaching a compromise through negotiation."

Kazic: ""The dispute began in the very first game", says Korchnoi. "Petrosian has a habit of tapping his feet during he game. The floor of the stage was poorly nailed, for this was an old theatre, and the tapping transmitted to the chess table. During the game I drew attention to this. In response to my directly approaching him duriing the game he lodged a written complaint with the referee". --- "Petrosian laughed at K's version of the story. In his opinion the dispute was a more serious matter. 'I could not imagine such a lack of consideration ... there were insults'"

Kazic: "Immediately after the lightning war in Odessa, Korchnoi rushed to Leningrad where he arrived in time to see the last game of the match between Karpov and Spassky."

Bozidar Kazic wrote the chapter "Tempest on the Black Sea coast" (pp. 94-97) in the book "Candidates' Matches 1974" which was written by Mikhail Botvinnik, Aleksandar Matanovic, Bozidar Kazic and Mikhail M Yudovich Sr. (Centar za unapredivanje saha/US Chess Federation, Belgrade 1974). The four are listed as authors of the book, and Kazic as editor of it.


Game 4 (scheduled Friday 19 Jan): postponed by Petrosian, Tass said he "pleaded indisposition" <Augusta Chronicle 20 April 1974 p. 20>

Game 5: Petrosian surrendered as soon as he saw the sealed move. 2<Kazic, p. 96>

Game 6 (never played): postponed 26/4 because Korchnoi was unwell <The Times 27 April 1974 p. 6>. Postponed again 29/4 because Petrosian was unwell <The Times April 30 p. 18>. Petrosian withdrew 30/4 because of illness <The Times 1 May 1974 p. 8>



Winning the Mecking, I went to Petrossian. He fought for the throne of Chess with Botvinnik, Spassky, but against me, being often unable to cope over the board, weaving wiles - dating back to 1960. Product age, causing the Soviet system, Petrosian, using their high chess position and with the support of a strong Armenian lobby in the ruling circles, was able to work miracles, suppressing his enemies (some of which I have spoken; looking ahead, one can not forget that he was the initiator of the infamous "letter" of the Soviet grandmasters, published in September 1976 years- shortly after my flight, see. p. 56).

Our Candidates match was held in April in Odessa. Naturally, he was held in an atmosphere of great nervous tension. Hastily mounted to the top of the game platform on which we played was not a masterpiece of architectural art - he shook with every movement. And Petrosyan had a habit in moments of excitement shake legs under the table ... culminated in the 5th game. Twice during the deliberation of his turn, I turned to the enemy, urging him to calm down and give me a chance to think. Addressed first in a polite, and then, and harshly.

This game I won. Score 3: 1 (with one draw) in my favor. Petrosyan stopped playing. He turned up on to be recognized as the winner of the match on the grounds that I broke the rules. There have been several meetings with high officials, including the mayor of Odessa. At the last meeting Petrosyan demanded that I publicly apologized for his unsportsmanlike conduct.

And now, as I write these lines, I'm sure unsportsmanlike behaved exactly Petrosyan. But the pressure is then on I was serious, I quote further piece from his book "Chess - My Life" (where this story is set out in more detail):

"They asked me if I would apologize publicly. It was not clear to me what this means: Do I have to repent with a microphone in his hand, or say about their behavior in the newspaper? I said, "Well, I apologize publicly, but in this context the question arises: to whom I apologize? The fact that the speech Petrosian in the Soviet Union accompanied by demonstrations of persons of Armenian origin, and I'm interested in the role played by himself Petrosyan in organizing these gatherings! "His throat Petrosian something bubbled. "Everything - he said - he insulted me, he insulted my people. With him I do not play ... "

It was. Petrosian went to the hospital, but refused to be examined. And then, on the pretext of ill-health, and all passed the match.

Recalls the chief judge of the match Boris Krapil:

"The sixth game was rescheduled for April 29, but that morning it was announced that Petrosyan was urgently hospitalized with acute exacerbation of renal disease ... April 30 T.Petrosyan asked the panel of judges with a statement in which he pointed out that in view of the serious disease he could not continue the match ... In a conversation with me after the fight, he mentioned that the attack was for him a completely unexpected. Or maybe it was the first symptom of the fatal disease, which is so early (in 1984 godu.- Ed.) Interrupted his life "(" 64 »№ 15, 1990).

<Viktor Korchnoi, "Antishahmaty. Scrapbook villain. Returning defector" p.11 (online edition)>

Korchnoi advanced to the Karpov - Korchnoi Candidates Final (1974).

*FIDE Rating List July 1973.

1) Harry Golombek in The Times 16 April 1974 p. 14, with no mention of what would happen in case of 10-10.

Original collections:Game Collection: WCC Index (Korchnoi-Petrosian 1974) by User: Hesam7 and Game Collection: 0 by User: Tabanus. Game dates are from Dutch and American newspapers and The Times.

Korchnoi vs Petrosian, 1974 
(A17) English, 36 moves, 1-0

Petrosian vs Korchnoi, 1974
(D03) Torre Attack (Tartakower Variation), 31 moves, 1/2-1/2

Korchnoi vs Petrosian, 1974 
(A17) English, 51 moves, 1-0

Petrosian vs Korchnoi, 1974 
(D79) Neo-Grunfeld, 6.O-O, Main line, 39 moves, 1-0

Korchnoi vs Petrosian, 1974 
(B39) Sicilian, Accelerated Fianchetto, Breyer Variation, 43 moves, 1-0

5 games

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