Karpov had qualified from the Leningrad Interzonal (1973), and Polugaevsky from the Petropolis Interzonal (1973) and Portoroz Interzonal Playoff (1973). Three more matches were held in parallel, the Spassky - Byrne Candidates Quarterfinal (1974), Petrosian - Portisch Candidates Quarterfinal (1974) and Korchnoi - Mecking Candidates Quarterfinal (1974). Victory would go to the player who first won three games, or to the one in the lead after 16 games. If tied at 8-8, the outcome would be decided by the drawing of lots. (1) The matches were held in order to select a challenger for Robert James Fischer, the World Champion.
The all-Russian encounter was held in Moscow's Writers' Club. (2) Vladas Mikenas was arbiter. (3) Karpov was seconded by his long term coach and mentor Semyon Abramovich Furman, and by GM Yuri S Razuvaev. (4) Polugaevsky worked closely with GM Isaac Boleslavsky in the early 1970s (5) and was assisted by IM (later GM) Vladimir Bagirov. (6)
Karpov arrived on the chess scene with precision timing. Still smarting from the defeat of Spassky by Fischer the Soviets were anxious to find someone from the younger generation who could be a contender for the chess throne. Karpov had been a star student at Mikhail Botvinnik 's chess school, had won the World Junior title convincingly in 1969, and had gained his grandmaster title while still in his teens (not usual in those days). He had recorded two major tournament wins early in his career – at Moscow (1971) and Hastings (1971/72). (7) Polugaevsky had been a prolific winner of tournaments during the 1960s and shared first place in three consecutive USSR Championships. By the 1970s, he was regarded as one of the world’s ten best players, (8) despite only becoming a chess professional in 1973. Before the Portoroz playoff he had balanced chess with a career as an engineer. (5)
Prior to the Candidates matches, Karpov had played in two strong events, the USSR Championship (1973) (2nd behind Boris Spassky), and Madrid (1973), where he finished first and was awarded the Chess Oscar, voted for annually by the International Chess Journalists Association. Polugaevsky’s form had also been good, and many thought that Karpov’s task would be difficult. (9) In assessing the prospects, Mikhail M Yudovich Sr. expected a close contest, and reported a greater sympathy for Karpov among the audience. (2) Botvinnik claimed that the majority of grandmasters supported Polugaevsky, being suspicious of the young man. This mirrored the patriarch’s own experience as a young player, and struck him as a good omen for Karpov. (10) As for Polugaevsky’s hopes, Botvinnik doubted that he was sufficiently shrewd as a competitor, a quality necessary in match play and in particular, elimination events. (11) Spassky regarded him as a solid calculator, who was less inclined to trust his intuition than would be the case with Karpov. The two had met only twice before in tournament play. Their games, from the 39th and 41st USSR Championships, were uneventful draws. At five minute blitz, Karpov had registered two wins over his opponent in 1972. (6)
Mikenas starting the clock: https://www.delpher.nl/nl/kranten/v...
Botvinnik later described how the match unfolded: "The start .. was difficult; the first three games were drawn. At first Karpov did not appreciate where his opponent’s weaknesses were .. Polugaevsky is strong when he knows what is to be done. When, on the other hand, the plan is not clear and the game drags out, Polugaevsky is weaker. After the fourth game, Karpov gained in confidence, and the match concluded after 8 games with the score of 3:0". (10) It appeared that Polugaevsky was not psychologically equipped to play the match well, and lost his belief. In his own words: "Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I see very clearly the errors I made in preparing for the match. I devoted too much time to purely chess work and did not concentrate sufficiently on the need for correct psychological preparation". According to Karpov, this was especially so after games 4 and 5: "It was the natural serenity of my behaviour that overwhelmed Polugaevsky .. I was so calm and playing so easily". (12) Nor was he afraid to confront Polugaevsky’s choice of openings and variations, a facet of the match which made the experienced man's loss all the more painful. (13) Karpov's mastery of the theoretical duel was emphatic; he used a variation of the Nimzo-Indian with Black, and drew each time, while meeting the Sicilian Najdorf with 6.Be2, and winning three games out of four. (14) Polugaevsky later lamented that "Karpov is just as dangerous with 6.Be2 as Fischer is with 6.Bc4". (15)
Moscow, Soviet Union, 17 January - 3 February 1974
Karpov advanced to the Karpov - Spassky Candidates Semifinal (1974).
Elo* 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 GM Karpov 2660 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 5½
2 GM Polugaevsky 2625 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 2½
1) Harry Golombek in The Times, 15 January 1974, p. 5; Tidskrift för Schack, February 1974, p. 33.
2) Candidates' Matches 1974, by Botvinnik, Aleksandar Matanovic, Bozidar Kazic & Yudovich (Belgrade, 1974).
3) Jaque, No. 27 (March 1974) (http://www.bartelski.pl/olimpbase/l...), p. 22.
4) ICC/Razuvaev (https://web.archive.org/web/2015041...). This was confirmed by Karpov in a conversation with the compiler of this report.
5) Sicilian Love, by Polugaevsky et al. (New In Chess, 1995), p. 35.
6) The Karpov-Polugaevsky Match, by Spassky (Chess Life & Review, May 1974), p. 315.
7) The Guinness Book Of Chess Grandmasters, ed. William Hartston (Guinness publ., 1996), p. 160.
8) The Oxford Companion to Chess, ed. David Vincent Hooper & Kenneth Whyld (Oxford, 1984), p. 259.
9) Karpov’s Collected Games, ed. David Neil Lawrence Levy (Hale, 1975), p. 27.
10) Anatoly Karpov: His Road to the World Championship, by Botvinnik (Pergamon, 1978), p. xii.
11) Anatoly Karpov: His Road to the World Championship, by Botvinnik (Pergamon, 1978), p. viii.
12) My Great Predecessors Vol. 5, by Garry Kasparov (Everyman, 2006), pp. 239-240.
13) My Great Predecessors Vol. 5,by Kasparov (Everyman, 2006), p. 236.
14) CHESS (March 1974), ed. Baruch Harold Wood, p. 187.
15) Sicilian Love, by Polugaevsky et al. (New In Chess, 1995), p. 41.
*FIDE Rating List July 1973.
Original collections: Game Collection: WCC Index (Polugaevsky-Karpov 1974) by User: Suenteus Po and Game Collection: Karpov - Polugaevsky Candidates Quarterfinal '74 by User: Tabanus. The text was first written by User: Paint My Dragon. Game dates are from AP reports in Dutch and American newspapers and in The Times.