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Varese Interzonal Playoff Tournament

Tigran V Petrosian4.5/8(+1 -0 =7)[games]
Lajos Portisch4/8(+1 -1 =6)[games]
Mikhail Tal3.5/8(+0 -1 =7)[games] Chess Event Description
Varese Interzonal Playoff (1976)

Bent Larsen had won the Biel Interzonal (1976), with Petrosian, Portisch and Tal in shared second place. But only three players from Biel could advance to the 1977 Candidates matches, and a playoff was needed. This was twice delayed because Petrosian and Portisch were ailing, and when it finally took place it was hoped that it would end before the FIDE Congress in Haifa (6-9 November 1976) and the draw for the Candidates. (1) The venue was Villa Mirabello (2) in Varese, (3) about 55 km north of Milan (Italy), near the Swiss border.

Varese, Italy, 9-24 October 1976

Elo 1234 1234 1234 1 GM Petrosian 2635 **** 1½½½ ½½½½ 4½ 2 GM Portisch 2625 0½½½ **** ½1½½ 4 3 GM Tal 2615 ½½½½ ½0½½ **** 3½

Tal was eliminated, and Petrosian, Portisch and Larsen joined Henrique Mecking, Lev Polugaevsky and Vlastimil Hort from the Manila Interzonal (1976) for play against Boris Spassky (who in the capacity of losing semifinalist in 1974 replaced ex-World Champion Robert James Fischer) and Viktor Korchnoi (the loser of the Karpov - Korchnoi Candidates Final (1974)) in the next year's Candidates matches:

Korchnoi - Petrosian Candidates Quarterfinal (1977)
Portisch - Larsen Candidates Quarterfinal (1977)
Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates Quarterfinal (1977)
Spassky - Hort Candidates Quarterfinal (1977)

Of the players from Biel, only Portisch reached the semifinal: Spassky - Portisch Candidates Semifinal (1977).

Tournament book: Sakkvilágbajnokság 1976: Manila, Biel, Varese, by Janos Flesch. Sport, Budapest 1979. 391 pp.

(1) De Telegraaf, 5 October 1976, p. 19.
(2) Photo:
(3) Wikipedia article: Varese.

Original collections: Game Collection: Interzonals 1976: play-off by User: capybara and Game Collection: Varese Interzonal Playoff 1976 by User: Tabanus. Round dates and pairings are from El Mundo Deportivo and the newspapers at

 page 1 of 1; 12 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Tal vs Petrosian  ½-½181976Varese Interzonal PlayoffE11 Bogo-Indian Defense
2. Portisch vs Tal  ½-½351976Varese Interzonal PlayoffA15 English
3. Petrosian vs Portisch 1-0491976Varese Interzonal PlayoffA46 Queen's Pawn Game
4. Petrosian vs Tal  ½-½181976Varese Interzonal PlayoffE17 Queen's Indian
5. Tal vs Portisch 0-1401976Varese Interzonal PlayoffB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
6. Portisch vs Petrosian  ½-½301976Varese Interzonal PlayoffA40 Queen's Pawn Game
7. Tal vs Petrosian  ½-½201976Varese Interzonal PlayoffC07 French, Tarrasch
8. Portisch vs Tal  ½-½201976Varese Interzonal PlayoffA14 English
9. Petrosian vs Portisch  ½-½111976Varese Interzonal PlayoffE15 Queen's Indian
10. Petrosian vs Tal ½-½171976Varese Interzonal PlayoffA26 English
11. Tal vs Portisch  ½-½641976Varese Interzonal PlayoffC95 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Breyer
12. Portisch vs Petrosian  ½-½131976Varese Interzonal PlayoffE17 Queen's Indian
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: The average moves per game was 27, and there were only two decisive games out of the twelve games played. Just cautious play, or did the poor health of Petrosian and Portisch mean that they were susceptible to taking quick draws?
Nov-15-15  Howard: Some argued at the time that Petrosian and Tal were using a "Curacao-like" strategy.

Need one say more ?

Nov-15-15  Lt.Surena: "Curacao-like" strategy??

Petrosian and Tal had already reached the pinnacle. Tal in 61. Petrosian twice in a row in 63 and 66. As a matter of fact, Tigran was very relieved by his loss of the World Championship title in 69.

The "Curacao" allegation was the product of a sore loser/"Russian hater"/racist man called Bobby Fischer that lost 7 games in Curacao and wanted to pin the blame on others and not himself. They could have paid off Benko under the table like they did in 1970 to get a seat at the table like the case with Bobby (1970 Interzonal). But that's a story for a different time.

Nov-15-15  Marmot PFL: Once Tal lost to Portisch his only chance was to beat him later, which he did try to do. The Petrosian-Tal games were likely prearranged draws and there was no reason for Portisch to exert himself more than necessary. Tal's health was always fragile too so it wasn't much of a fighting event.
Nov-15-15  Petrosianic: <The Petrosian-Tal games were likely prearranged draws>

Is there any reason to think so? I've never quite understood the whole idea that two GM's who are afraid of each other can't draw quickly without arranging it in advance. Is there any evidence worth making Surena go into his usual "Niagara Falls! Slowly I turn..." routine?

Dec-31-18  Olavi: The interesting thing is that Petrosian made that last draw with Portisch, ensuring that Tal is out, even though he was already sure of qualifying. And according to Portisch he proposed it before the game.

Why? Perhaps he wasn't anymore afraid of Portisch, having beaten him the previous cycle (with a 0-4 score before the match), but felt unsure about Tal, and fancied his chances of going all the way to a title match vs. Karpov, and justifiably so, in my opinion.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Petrosian's score against Tal from 1966 onwards in classical play was +2 -3 =21, with only one such game reaching the time check at move 40, and the majority being quick draws--Varese was by no means an isolated phenomenon in the history of these titans.

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