Members · Prefs · Laboratory · Collections · Openings · Endgames · Sacrifices · History · Search Kibitzing · Kibitzer's Café · Chessforums · Tournament Index · Players · Kibitzing

Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates Semifinal Match

Viktor Korchnoi8.5/13(+5 -1 =7)[games]
Lev Polugaevsky4.5/13(+1 -5 =7)[games] Chess Event Description
Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates Semifinal (1977)

Korchnoi qualified for this match from the Korchnoi - Petrosian Candidates Quarterfinal (1977) in Il Ciocco (Italy) in early April. Polugaevsky qualified from the Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates Quarterfinal (1977) in Lucerne, Switzerland, which also ended in April. The other semifinal match was the Spassky - Portisch Candidates Semifinal (1977) in Geneva (Switzerland). Each match was of 16 games, and the first to 8,5 points 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, 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.

The playing venue was Hôtel Royal (3) in Évian-les-Bains (4) (France), a spa hotel at Lake Geneva about two hours by car from the other semifinal in Geneva. The players stayed in the hotel, Korchnoi with his seconds Raymond Keene, Michael Francis Stean and Jacob Murey, and Polugaevsky with his seconds Igor A Zaitsev and Vladimir Bagirov, and delegation leader Victor Davidovich Baturinsky. After the quarterfinals, Korchnoi had played in Montreux (1977) (2-11 April) and in the Dutch Championship in Leeuwarden (18 April - 4 May), winning both. Polugaevsky had played four games (+3 =1) in the European Team Championship in Moscow (13-24 April). Drawing of colours took place on June 30, and play was scheduled for Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3 pm. (5, 6) The chief arbiter GM Lothar Schmid was assisted by Raymond Lhoste. (7)

There had been no toilets in the playing room. These were built in two days. (5) An organizer had put up a tent for the players to rest in, but this was never used. (8) There was a discussion if the first rows in the audience should be left empty, and there was a disagreement about entry fee, which weighed heavily on Korchnoi, who had to pay his seconds. (5) Korchnoi and Polugaevsky were not on speaking terms after the former had "defected" to the West in 1976, and there was therefore a dual press conference (on 1 July). The first 25 minutes was given over to the Soviets (with Keene as fortunate observer), and then Korchnoi had his opportunity to face the press. Two unresolved issues were discussed: whether or not the players should shake hands, and which flag (if any) Korchnoi could play under. Korchnoi asked to play under the Dutch flag, but Baturinsky objected on the grounds that he had been living in the Netherlands for only 11 months and not a full year. (9) Keene and Stean suggested that he play instead under the pirate flag Jolly Roger, (10) but this was also vetoed by the Soviets. (11) In the end, it was agreed that hands would be shaken and Korchnoi could play under the hotel's own pennant. (9) Polugaevsky's flag disappeared just before Game 1 and the frantic organizers had to have a replacement sent by speedboat from Lausanne. (12)

The players (videos):

As it turned out, Korchnoi played without any flag. (12) In Game 1, the chess fans were surprised that Polugaevsky refused to shake hands with him. Apparently this was done on Baturinsky's request. (13) Game 2 was watched by Boris Spassky, who had a day off from his match against Lajos Portisch in Geneva. His sudden arrival in Evian was considered provocative, because here was this "half-dissident" face to face with the Russian leaders. Baturinsky ignored him completely. (14) Polugaevsky did shake hands in Game 3, but this proved to be of no help. The English seconds had prepared a toxic 15th move (Bh7+), increasing Korchnoi's lead to 3-0. (15) After Game 3 it was feared that on the insistence of Baturinsky, Polugaevsky would retire from the onslaught. (16) But he fell sick instead and postponed Game 4 (scheduled for 9 July) till 11 July. (16, 17) Meanwhile, Korchnoi discovered the joys of golf (16) and did physical exercises with his seconds (photo:

After two draws, Korchnoi won again (Game 6). Polugaevsky now postponed Game 7 (scheduled for 18 July) till 20 July, (18) but Korchnoi won that too: 5-0. Game 8 was won by Polugaevsky: 5-1, and now Korchnoi was "too tired" from his trip to Lucerne where he had attended a FIDE meeting during the weekend. (19) He had Game 9 postponed till 27 July. (19) After the usual formal handshake, the game was drawn in 19 moves, (20) with Spassky again among the spectators. (21) There followed three draws (games 10-12). In Game 13 (the last), Korchnoi offered draw at move 8. Polugaevsky declined, and Korchnoi offered draw again at move 21. This was accepted by a handshake. (22)

Évian-les-Bains, France, 2 July - 6 August 1977

Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 Korchnoi 2645 1 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 8½ Polugaevsky 2620 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4½

Korchnoi advanced to the Korchnoi - Spassky Candidates Final (1977/78).

Both players attended a short closing ceremony. (22) Korchnoi's sponsor Wilfried Wilhelm Hilgert (23) proffered some bottles of champagne, but this was not appreciated by the Soviet team. (24) Two days later Korchnoi gave an interview for De Telegraaf, (25) stating that Hilgert was ready to put up $3m to finance a match against Robert James Fischer. He was in contact with Fischer, and would go to USA in the next month to have negotiations for the match, which might be taking place in February. He would also be leaving Holland for West Germany, to work for Hilgert in the Cologne suburb of Porz. Hilgert wanted to build a games centre there, with a hotel, for tennis, billiards, table tennis, chess and so on. "I shall be a chess trainer there". (26)


1) Harry Golombek in The Times, 18 June 1977, p. 12.
2) Leeuwarder Courant, 4 June 1977, p. 19.
3) For a glimpse of the hotel in 1977 see
4) Wikipedia article: Évian-les-Bains.
5) Het Vrije Volk, 1 July 1977, p. 21.
6) Journal de Genève, 1 July 1977, p. 11.
7) Associated Press video:
8) Le Nouvel Observateur, 8 August 1977, p. 39:
9) De Telegraaf, 2 July 1977, p. 35.
10) Mark Weeks at
11) San Antonio Express, 4 July 1977, p. 2.
12) The Des Moines Register, 4 July 1977, p. 9.
13) Alexander Jongsma in De Telegraaf, 4 July 1977, p. 10.
14) De Telegraaf, 5 July 1977, p. 13.
15) Leeuwarder Courant, 7 July 1977, p. 11.
16) Journal de Genève, 12 July 1977, p. 13.
17) De Waarheid, 11 July 1977, p. 4.
18) Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 19 July 1977, p. 12.
19) De Telegraaf, 26 July 1977, p. 13.
20) Amigoe, 28 July 1977, p. 7.
21) The Times, 28 July 1977 p. 5.
22) Morning Star (Rockford Il), 7 August 1977, p. 2.
23) Wikipedia article: Wilfried Hilgert
24) De Telegraaf, 8 August 1977, p. 15.
25) De Telegraaf, 9 August 1977, p. 17.
26) Reuter report in The Times, 10 August 1977, p. 1.

Original collections: Game Collection: Korchnoi vs Polugaevsky Candidates Semi Final by User: Open Defence, Game Collection: WCC Index (Korchnoi-Polugaevsky 1977) by User: Hesam7, and Game Collection: Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates Semifinal 1977 by User: Tabanus. Thanks to User: Chessical and User: Paint My Dragon for help with the English.

 page 1 of 1; 13 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Korchnoi vs Polugaevsky 1-0601977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalA17 English
2. Polugaevsky vs Korchnoi 0-1401977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalE19 Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 9.Qxc3
3. Korchnoi vs Polugaevsky 1-0631977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalD47 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
4. Polugaevsky vs Korchnoi  ½-½331977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalA40 Queen's Pawn Game
5. Korchnoi vs Polugaevsky  ½-½401977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalD47 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
6. Polugaevsky vs Korchnoi 0-1591977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalA10 English
7. Korchnoi vs Polugaevsky 1-0431977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalD47 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
8. Polugaevsky vs Korchnoi 1-0361977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalE00 Queen's Pawn Game
9. Korchnoi vs Polugaevsky ½-½191977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalA17 English
10. Polugaevsky vs Korchnoi ½-½741977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalD87 Grunfeld, Exchange
11. Korchnoi vs Polugaevsky  ½-½341977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalA21 English
12. Polugaevsky vs Korchnoi ½-½501977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalE00 Queen's Pawn Game
13. Korchnoi vs Polugaevsky  ½-½211977Korchnoi - Polugaevsky Candidates SemifinalA17 English
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Ray Keene in the August 1977 <Chess>:

<When the match started I was nervous about facing Soviet adjournment analysis (Polugayevsky was backed up by Zaitsev, Bagirov and Baturinsky) but their analysis was so feeble that we seemed always sure to get the 'right' result. It was especially poor in games 1, 6, 10 and 12. In game 1 they even succeeded in overlooking Korchnoy's first move after resumption.>

Keene also mentions participating in a training camp in Lausanne that started a fortnight before the match. No doubt the occasion for one of the great pictures in sporting history:


Sep-19-15  Everett: Amazing picture <Scarlett> thanks for posting
Nov-16-15  siggemannen: Indeed! Looks like Viktor just came off Wimbledon center court!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Tabanus: The bio has a bigger sized picture:
Nov-16-15  DrChopper: It would have been so funny if Korchnoi had played under the Jolly Roger flag! What a shame!
Oct-04-16  Allanur: what Happened to the negotiations of match between Korchnoi and Fiscer? I guess Fischer rejecyed butdoes someone know the details?
Oct-04-16  offramp: Allanur , I heard that Fischer met Kortschnoi to talk about a match. But it turned out Fischer wanted Kortschnoi to act as go between to arrange a match with Karpov! Kortschnoi was unimpressed.
Oct-20-17  Isilimela: Re "sporting history". They all look like - well - chess players! Anyway looks like all the physical training certainly helped "Scorchnoi" in this match.
Oct-20-17  cunctatorg: Love that picture; I loved that man!


Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: ray keene's a regular stud in those dark shorts, huh?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eggman: Video of the match here:

NOTE: Create an account today to post replies and access other powerful features which are available only to registered users. Becoming a member is free, anonymous, and takes less than 1 minute! If you already have a username, then simply login login under your username now to join the discussion.

Please observe our posting guidelines:

  1. No obscene, racist, sexist, or profane language.
  2. No spamming, advertising, duplicate, or gibberish posts.
  3. No vitriolic or systematic personal attacks against other members.
  4. Nothing in violation of United States law.
  5. No cyberstalking or malicious posting of negative or private information (doxing/doxxing) of members.
  6. No trolling.
  7. The use of "sock puppet" accounts to circumvent disciplinary action taken by moderators, create a false impression of consensus or support, or stage conversations, is prohibited.

Please try to maintain a semblance of civility at all times.

Blow the Whistle

See something that violates our rules? Blow the whistle and inform a moderator.

NOTE: Please keep all discussion on-topic. This forum is for this specific tournament only. To discuss chess or this site in general, visit the Kibitzer's Café.

Messages posted by Chessgames members do not necessarily represent the views of, its employees, or sponsors.
All moderator actions taken are ultimately at the sole discretion of the administration.

Spot an error? Please suggest your correction and help us eliminate database mistakes!

Copyright 2001-2021, Chessgames Services LLC