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Huebner - Portisch Candidates Semifinal Match

Robert Huebner6.5/11(+2 -0 =9)[games]
Lajos Portisch4.5/11(+0 -2 =9)[games] Chess Event Description
Huebner - Portisch Candidates Semifinal (1980)

Hübner qualified for this match from the Rio de Janeiro Interzonal (1979) and the Hübner - Adorjan Candidates Quarterfinal (1980). Portisch qualified from the Rio de Janeiro Interzonal (1979) and the Portisch - Spassky Candidates Quarterfinal (1980). The other semifinal match was the Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates Semifinal (1980). In both matches, the winner would be the first to achieve 6.5 points. If 6-6, then two more games, and if still equal, two more games. If equal after 16 games the winner would be the one with most black wins. (1) The matches were held in order to select a challenger for Anatoly Karpov, the World Champion.

The playing venue was the convention center of Hotel Alexander (2) in Abano Terme, (3) near Padua, Italy. The FIDE president Fridrik Olafsson had offered the match to be played in Iceland, but the players settled on Abano Terme who had offered 30,000 Dutch guilders in prize money. (4) In preparation for the match, Hübner had taken a leave from the Köln University where he was a teacher in classical philology. (5) His delegation consisted of Gudmundur Sigurjonsson and Vlastimil Hort, and the chess patron and millionaire Wilfried Hilgert (6) was the team leader. (7) Portisch came with a larger delegation. (7) Neither of the two had played in any major event since the quarterfinals.

Gino Piccinin (8) (IA since 1964) was the arbiter. (9) Hübner asked for a postponement before Game 4. (10) Portisch requested a postponement before Games 9 and 10. (11, 12) However, he lost both those games. And also the match, after the draw in Game 11.

Hotel Alexander, Abano Terme, Italy, 2-24 August 1980

Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 1 GM Hübner 2600 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 6½ 2 GM Portisch 2655 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 4½

Hübner advanced to the Korchnoi - Hübner Candidates Final (1980).

The book Campionato del mondo di scacchi: semifinale del torneo dei candidati Hübner-Portisch (13) (48 p., 1980, match program?) has not been consulted.


(1) Harry Golombek in The Times, 18 August 1980, p. 14.
(3) Wikipedia article: Abano Terme.
(4) Limburgsch Dagblad, 9 July 1980, p. 19.
(5) Tidskrift för Schack, vol. 86 (1980), p. 210.
(6) Wikipedia article: Wilfried Hilgert.
(7) Der Spiegel, 52/1980, p. 160.
(8) Wikipedia article: Gino Piccinin.
(9) Richmond Times Dispatch, 22 August 1980, p. 28.
(10) El Mundo Deportivo, 7 August 1980, p. 28.
(11) Leeuwarder Courant, 18 August 1980, p. 19.
(12) Het Vrije Volk, 21 August 1980, p. 15.

Original collections: Game Collection: WCC Index (Huebner-Portisch 1980) by User: nescio2 and Game Collection: Hübner - Portisch Candidates Semifinal 1980 by User: Tabanus. Game dates are from El Mundo Deportivo ( and Dutch newspapers at

 page 1 of 1; one game  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Portisch vs Huebner 0-1491980Huebner - Portisch Candidates SemifinalA14 English

Kibitzer's Corner
May-23-18  Olavi: This is one of the most interesting candidates' matches there was, undeservedly rather neglected. Hübner's ingenuity in defence was perhaps the deciding factor, although it came down to one move or two, as it should be.
Jun-12-18  Howard: Portisch was heavily favored to win this match, and quality of his play may have reflected that. Not only did he botch a won position in Game 11, but he probably should have won Game 5, as well.

See Game 5 for an interesting discussion as to how this game was "linked" to a game in the Korchnoi-Polugaevsky match !

Premium Chessgames Member
  lost in space: Yes, he was favored heavyly, also because Hübner was the lucky winner in the quarterfinals against Adorjan....and Portisch was seen as stronger as Adorjan (both are Hungarians).

Hübner won against both: in both case the match was narrow. I was thinking at that time that Hübner had nerves out of steel.

LOL, and then came his match against Kortchnoi and in a later cycle against Smyslov. I should have warned when locking at his match against Petrosian....

Jun-13-18  Howard: Hubner was never actually known for having "nerves of steel". In fact, in the April, 1983 issue of CL&R, his "bad nerves" were cited as a reason why the much-older Smyslov was viewed as having a decent chance to beat him in their Candidates match.

Which, in fact, is exactly what happened albeit it took literally the spin of a wheel to decide the match.

As far as his 1971 match against Iron Tigran, Huebner's bad nerves probably played a role. He resigned the match despite being down by just one point with three games left to go. Granted, Petrosian would have had an extra White, but that was no reason for Hubner to throw in the towel just yet.

Huebner was probably rattled by the fact that he'd turned an almost completely won position in Game 7 into a loss.

Jun-13-18  Howard: Not only that, if Portisch had won the match, then he--not Huebner--would have advanced to play Korchnoi in the Candidates final. Ya think, however, that Portisch would have prematurely resigned the match like Huebner did ?!

Not likely !

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