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Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates Quarterfinal Match

Lev Polugaevsky6.5/12(+1 -0 =11)[games]
Henrique Mecking5.5/12(+0 -1 =11)[games] Chess Event Description
Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates Quarterfinal (1977)

The players had qualified for this match from the Manila Interzonal (1976). The other quarterfinals were Korchnoi - Petrosian Candidates Quarterfinal (1977), Portisch - Larsen Candidates Quarterfinal (1977), and Spassky - Hort Candidates Quarterfinal (1977). Each quarterfinal match was best of 12 games, with the first to 6.5 points to be the winner. If after 12 games neither player had attained the necessary points, two more games would be played. If there was still no winner the procedure would be repeated until there was one. (1, 2) No provision had been made if there never was a winner, but then presumably the matches would have to be decided by natural causes. (1) The matches were held in order to find a challenger for Anatoly Karpov, the World Champion.

Mr. Fugi Fuchs was president of the organizing committee. (3) The playing venue was the Arts and Convention Centre (which was demolished and rebuilt in the 1990s) in Lucerne, Switzerland. (3) Mecking installed himself in Hotel Schweizerhof (4) (a walk on a bridge away) already on 9 February, in order to acclimatize. (5) His delegation consisted of Abaete Valverde (friend), Dr. Luiz Tavares Da Silva, and Sergio Mariotti (second). (3) Expenses were paid, (6) and Mecking was also provided with an Alfa Romeo car - with his name on it. (3) Polugaevsky came as late as 24 February and set up in Hotel Monopol. (7, 8) He brought with him his wife, Vitaly Tseshkovsky (1st second), Vladimir Bagirov (2nd second), and Victor Davidovich Baturinsky (delegation leader). (5) The venue featured large electronic boards, (3) to help fans follow the other quarterfinals that were held almost simultaneously. It was ready to host the most attractive match since the Spassky - Fischer World Championship Match (1972). "The new duel East vs West, a new confrontation USSR vs America." (5)

The tension was certainly high. The Soviet delegation challenged the appointment of Alex Crisovan (9) as the Chief Arbiter because he was not a formal IA (International Arbiter). (5) He would be replaced by IA Hans Suri, organizer of the Biel chess festivals. (5, 10) FIDE confirmed this (5) but when the match started (and until its end) the arbiter was Crisovan. It seemed that things had been sorted out in a meeting between Crisovan and Baturinsky. (3) Assistant arbiter was Suri, and/or Christian Mani. Playing time was set for 3-8 pm. (10) In Game 1 (which was possibly the most interesting game of the match), Polugaevsky sacrificed a knight for two pawns, exposed Mecking's king, and had a winning position. But he did not find 37.Nf5+, and the day after, Mecking found a clever way to draw. He left the table to applause from about 500 spectators. Polugaevsky sat behind, shaking his head. (11)

Game 2 was postponed two days. Mecking had stomach pain, and Polugaevsky also had to consult a doctor as he was plagued by an abscess of the back, which caused a great deal of pain, and possibly needed an operation. (12) It is not easy to know what happened in the game (and later games) and the following should be taken with a grain of salt. Mecking had a winning position three times (23.f4, 24.f4, 40.Rxd4) but was also in time trouble. Before the time control, Polugaevsky put the pieces on the edge of the squares, and every time Mecking had to put the piece in the middle and say j'adoube. (3) Polugaevsky complained to Crisovan that Mecking touched the pieces irregularly, and Mecking got a warning from Crisovan with his flag up and his time running. (3, 13) The words uttered by Crisovan were apparently "last time" (that he could put the piece back to the middle), but Mecking interpreted this as "you lost" and then did not know how to react. (3) The game was adjourned, with excuses from Crisovan. (3) Mecking was worse because of his last move (42.Rf1). The game could not be resumed the next day because of a concert. (14) The day after that, Polugaevsky was able to press home the advantage. An unverified comment claimed that the adjourned position was analysed by a computer sending lines from Moscow (a novelty then). (15)

Game 3 was postponed because Mecking had a nervous breakdown. (16) He was certainly nervous! On 6 March he took a trip to the mountain Pilatus. Here he saw the snow for the first time in his life, and this appeared to calm him down. (17) After Game 3 (which ended in a draw), his second Mariotti was "fired" and left for Italy. (18) He was replaced by IM Werner Hug. The quarterfinalist Bent Larsen commented, "Who would pick Hug as a second?" (19) Hug was only temporarily employed, however. After Game 4 (also a draw) Mecking appointed instead his old friend Juan Manuel Bellon Lopez, and Heinz Wirthensohn was also in the picture. "We are curious how long he can last with Bellon", the organizing committee wondered. (20) Bellon had received a phone call from the organizer Jorge Puig Laborda to arrive immediately, and stayed for the rest of the match. (3) Three more draws followed.

Before Game 8 (another draw), Mecking filed (via Valverde) a protest against Crisovan: In time trouble, Polugaevsky was intentionally not placing the pieces in the middle of the squares and if he did not intervene the next time, he would ask for another arbiter. (21) Game 9 was also a draw. Polugaevsky asked for a postponement of Game 10 because of nervousness and headache. (22) After that game was drawn, Mecking asked for postponement of Game 11 because of toothache. (23) He now also realized his threat and made a formal complaint against Crisovan. He wanted him "out of office" (24) but FIDE in Amsterdam found it impossible under the rules to remove him. The only possibility for an arbiter to leave would be if that person resigned voluntarily, but Crisovan said, "I took a job on and I want to see it to the end". (3, 25) There followed two more draws, and Polugaevsky won the match.

Lucerne, Switzerland, 26 February - 2 April 1977

Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 1 GM Polugaevsky 2620 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 6½ 2 GM Mecking 2635 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 5½

Polugaevsky advanced to the Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates Semifinal (1977).

Mecking did not play any more top level chess in 1977. He made an appearance at Hoogovens (1978), and then did not play, withdrawing after two games in the Rio de Janeiro Interzonal (1979). It turned out that he suffered from myasthenia gravis. His illness was so severe that he did not play during the 1980s. He was able to recover somewhat with matches against Predrag Nikolic (in 1991) and Yasser Seirawan (in 1992). (26) In July 2012, his rating again passed 2600.


1) Harry Golombek in The Times, 19 February 1977, p. 9.
2) Tidskrift för Schack, vol. 83/2, p. 46.
3) Juan Manuel Bellon in Jaque, May 1977, pp. 8-19:
4) Photo of Hotel Schweizerhof:
5) Nouvelliste et Feuille d'Avis du Valais, 24 February 1977, p. 2:
6) De Telegraaf, 5 March 1977, p. 39.
7) Nouvelliste et Feuille d'Avis du Valais, 26 February 1977, p. 2.
8) Photo of Hotel Monopol:
9) Wikipedia article: Alex Crisovan.
10) Gazette de Lausanne, 25 February 1977, p. 6.
11) Amigoe, 28 February 1977, p. 6.
12) Het Vrije Volk, 1 March 1977, p. 11.
13) De Telegraaf, 3 March 1977, p. 19.
14) Het Vrije Volk, 4 March 1977, p. 27.
15) Kibitz by User: vonKrolock 21 May 2009 in
16) Het Vrije Volk, 7 March 1977, p. 22.
17) Het Vrije Volk, 8 March 1977 p. 7.
18) De Telegraaf, 9 March 1977, p. 17.
19) De Telegraaf, 10 March 1977, p. 23.
20) De Telegraaf, 12 March 1977, p. 43.
21) Het Vrije Volk, 21 March 1977, p. 19.
22) Het Vrije Volk, 24 March 1977, p. 11.
23) Het Vrije Volk, 29 March 1977, p. 9.
24) Het Vrije Volk, 30 March 1977, p. 11.
25) De Waarheid, 30 March 1977, p. 6.
26) Wikipedia article: Henrique Mecking.

Original collections: Game Collection: WCC Index (Polugaevsky-Mecking 1977) by User: nescio and Game Collection: Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates Quarterfinal by User: Tabanus.

 page 1 of 1; 12 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Polugaevsky vs Mecking ½-½481977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalD43 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
2. Mecking vs Polugaevsky 0-1631977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalE52 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with ...b6
3. Polugaevsky vs Mecking ½-½421977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalA77 Benoni, Classical, 9...Re8, 10.Nd2
4. Mecking vs Polugaevsky ½-½211977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalE53 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3
5. Polugaevsky vs Mecking ½-½301977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalD87 Grunfeld, Exchange
6. Mecking vs Polugaevsky ½-½541977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalB67 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer Attack, 7...a6 Defense, 8...Bd7
7. Polugaevsky vs Mecking ½-½401977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalA15 English
8. Mecking vs Polugaevsky ½-½641977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalB67 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer Attack, 7...a6 Defense, 8...Bd7
9. Polugaevsky vs Mecking ½-½511977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalE19 Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 9.Qxc3
10. Mecking vs Polugaevsky ½-½491977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalE17 Queen's Indian
11. Polugaevsky vs Mecking ½-½541977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalE17 Queen's Indian
12. Mecking vs Polugaevsky ½-½431977Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates QuarterfinalA17 English
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Whenever I read an account of a 1970s match I am amazed, but a little saddened, that modern GMs are so well-behaved.
Dec-28-14  ughaibu: Topalov?
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: The exception that proves the rule.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: The seventies were also good for such tomfoolery in tennis: Connors, Nastase et al. Examples were legion.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: I think the presence of ex KGB Baturinsky in his delegation had more to do with Polugaevsky's nervousness than any of Mecking's oddities.

All the top Soviet GM's had witnessed what happened to Taimanov when he failed to get a game from Fischer, and Baturinsky was especially harsh in his recorded criticisms and subsequent measures.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Wonder what Baturinsky thought of Taimanov's well-known method of qualifying from Palma......
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: <Game 2 was postponed two days. Mecking had stomach pain and Polugaevsky also had to consult a doctor as he was plagued by an abscess of the back which caused a great deal of pain, and possibly needed an operation. It's not easy to know exactly what happened in the game (and later games) and the following should be taken with a grain of salt.>

Game 2 was the only decisive game. OK, I see what happened here. All you innocent pedestrians, Move along!

May-28-16  offramp: <Tabanus>, that is another brilliant and enlightening introduction to a match. Your prefaces are always fascinating reads.

Thanks very much!

May-28-16  Howard: Agreed !

Remind me to contribute a few introductions of my own...when I get time. I still read up on 70's and 80's chess. Those were the good ol' days!

Oct-23-17  offramp: Ratings before this match started: Mecking 2635, Polu 2620. So it was bound to be close.
Oct-23-17  Petrosianic: Yeah, ratings are always indicative, except when they're not.
Oct-23-17  Howard: Just noticed something I NEVER had known---according to, the ONLY event Mecking played in during 1976 was the Manila interzonal.

And his first-place finish was apparently good enough to place him 4th in the world on the January, 1977 FIDE list ?! Hard to believe, frankly.

As for his chances against Polugavesky, Kavalek stated back in 1977 that Mecking was considered a favorite "to win the whole thing" (that is, becoming the Candidates finalist). Now, I find THAT hard to believe!

In other words, Mecking was favored to win the Candidates completion over Spassky ?! Korchnoi?! Portisch ?!

Oct-23-17  SChesshevsky: Based on minimal info, Korchnoi's review of his Atlanta match with Mecking and the YouTube video of Polgar - Mecking 2012 and maybe a handful of other Mecking games, it seems that the consensus around mid to late 70's was that Mecking certainty had the talent to be a WC contender.

But his weaknesses were somewhat intangible. Mainly an attraction for complications but with sometimes inaccurate assessments compounded by weak nerves.

I doubt the Soviet shenanigans here were coincidental and actually may have won the match. Head games 1 - Over the board talent 0 ?

Oct-23-17  Marmot PFL: Mecking always seemed over-cautious to me against top level players, hence the very high number of draws in this match.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Petrosian had a different view, as he discussed in (I believe) an interview mentioned by Dvoretsky in one of his works.

It was Petrosian's opinion that Mecking's Achilles' heel, even as a top-class GM, lay in positional struggles, citing Black's play in Petrosian vs Mecking, 1971 as proof.

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