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Korchnoi - Reshevsky Candidates Quarterfinal Match

Viktor Korchnoi5.5/8(+3 -0 =5)[games]
Samuel Reshevsky2.5/8(+0 -3 =5)[games] Chess Event Description
Korchnoi - Reshevsky Candidates Quarterfinal (1968)

Photo: Reshevsky was 56 years old, Korchnoi was 37 years old. They had only met twice before, in 1960 and at the preceding Interzonal, both games being drawn.

The Sousse Interzonal (1967) had produced a tie for the last Candidates place with Reshevsky, Vlastimil Hort and Leonid Stein sharing sixth place. A playoff was held 18th February - 2nd March (Los Angeles Interzonal Playoff (1968)), which was also tied. Although he had not won a single game in the playoff, Reshevsky, by virtue of his superior Sonneborn-Berger score from the Interzonal, secured the last quarterfinal place. (1) Korchnoi qualified for the Candidates in a more straight-forward manner. He shared 2-4th places at Sousse with Svetozar Gligoric and Efim Geller. This would be Korchnoi's first ever match!

A Novosti press release - as an indication of the Soviet perspective - Mikhail Botvinnik advised Korchnoi not to play in the US as this gave Reshevsky an advantage. "Appraising the power of the American, the former World Champion stated that it is becoming more difficult for Reshevsky to play because this grandmaster's forte is fast and exact calculations of variations. As the years pass .. this ability is gradually blunted. Nevertheless, Botvinnik considers Reshevsky a formidable fighter ... As for the duel between Korchnoi and Reshevsky, Botvinnik thinks anything can happen ... Korchnoi is inconsistent ...". (2)

The match commenced in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on the 8th May, 1968 (3) and concluded on the 20th May. (4) The match was organized by the Royal Dutch Chess Federation, and the arbiter was Mr. Van Maastright. (5) It took place in the boardroom of the Olympic Stadium. The drawing of lots for the colours had been conducted the day before, on May 7th, in Amsterdam's City Hall. (6)

The strategy of the match

Despite a scare in Game 1, Korchnoi managed to dictate the type of position and avoided combinative open positions.

"Whilst preparing for this match, Korchnoi (and his second International Grandmaster Semyon Abramovich Furman, one of the USSR's leading theoreticians) decided that Reshevsky's opening repertoire is somewhat limited and it therefore almost possible to foresee what the position will be after ten or fifteen moves. Korchnoi judged that the styles of the players are in many ways similar, and in tactical and combinatitive play they are approximately equal in strength. It is also well known that both players share a love for the defence. However, in positions where mere concrete calculations will not suffice to solve the problems on the board, the advantage will be Korchnoi's. Therefore according to Furman, it was decide to strive basically for closed positions, where the role of strategy, as opposed to tactics increases. The repetition of an opening line would make Reshevsky's task easier .. (hence) Korchnoi's constant change of opening choice." (7) "In preparing for Reshesvky, I pinned my hopes on my better practical know-how, an on my superior knowledge of modern opening theory. I realised that I was up against a subtle strategic player, whose knowledge of the subtleties of the game was probably superior to mine." (8)

Reshevsky had the support of former Candidate and International Grandmaster Pal Benko. "... Benko will be his teacher and sparring partner for about seven days." (9) Reshevsky stated that he had prepared for three months for this match. (10)

Amsterdam, Netherlands, 8-20 May 1968

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 GM Korchnoi ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 5½ 2 GM Reshevsky ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 2½

The match "was essentially decided in the first two games" (Korchnoi). (8)

Game 1. Reshevsky had the white pieces. According to Korchnoi, "In the opening he outplayed me, and obtained a strategically won position. But he evidently underestimated my tactical ability, played too sharply, and made a couple of tactical mistakes, so I was able to save the half point." (8) Reshevsky was reported to be "quite upset" when the clock stopped and so disturbed his concentration whilst both players in time trouble. (11)

Game 2. Korchnoi played a prepared line and at 18 moves he had used only 1 1/2 minutes on his clock to Reshevsky's hour. Reshevsky "became nervous, began playing more quickly, and, on emerging from the opening, he blundered away a pawn" (Korchnoi). (12)

Game 3. Korchnoi very effectively blunted Reshevsky's opening and the game was drawn in 23 moves. This was a significant blow to Reshevsky as he had been unable to make use of White due to Korchnoi's and Furman's careful preparation.

Game 4. Korchnoi used another of his specially prepared openings, Reshevsky used a lot of time and again began to play more quickly, only to blunder fatally in the ending.

Game 5. Reshevsky used a Closed Sicilian set up new for him, but successfully employed by Spassky in his Candidates match against Geller. Korchnoi, however, held the draw.

Game 6. Korchnoi as White established a nagging advantage. Reshevsky should have been able to draw but overlooked a tactical trick, when a temporary Bishop sacrifice by his opponent netted two Pawns.

click for larger view

33.Bxf6! Reshevsky left immediately after the adjournment for his hotel but resigned only an hour later by telephone. Benko ironically remarked that he was now considering leaving to pack. (13)

Game 7. Once again, Reshevksy with White achieved no advantage from the opening. It was now apparent that he had nothing in his opening preparation with which to trouble Korchnoi.

Game 8. A short draw, Reshevsky was too dispirited to continue the fight. He was also too upset to attend the end of match ceremony, according to Korchnoi. Another contributing factor to Reshevsky's absence may have been the prize fund, which was described in the press as "decidedly low". Benko made a short impromptu speech on behalf of Reshevsky to smooth over his absence from the proceedings. (14)


Korchnoi advanced to the Korchnoi - Tal Candidates Semifinal (1968).


1) Chess Life and Review, April 1968, p. 115.
2) Chess Life and Review, May 1968, p. 163.
3) De Tijd, 8th May 1968, p. 12.
4) Korchnoi's 400 best games, by Korchnoi, Robert Wade and Leslie Stephen Fraser Blackstock, p. 159.
5) Het vrije volk: democratisch-socialistisch dagblad, 15th May 1968, p. 9.
6) De Tijd, 8th May, p. 12.
7) Chess Life and Review, August 1968, p. 286.
8) Chess is my Life, by Korchnoi, p. 60.
9) Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 7 May 1968, p. 9 (User: Stonehenge provided this and translated a section).
10) Nieuw Israelietisch weekblad, 17 May 1968, p. 6.
11) De Telegraaf, 9th May 1968, p. 23.
12) Chess is my Life, by Korchnoi, p. 61.
13) De Telegraaf, 17 May 1968, p. 21.
14) De Telegraaf, 21 May 1968, p. 15.

Original collection: Game Collection: WCC Index ( Korchnoi - Reshevsky 1968 ) compiled by User: Benzol. This text by: User: Chessical. User: crawfb5 provided dates for the games from the New York Times. These are corroborated from various newspaper reports: Game 1 - 8th May De Tijd, published 8th May, p. 12. Game 2 - 9th May, De Waarheid, published 8th May, p. 4. Game 3 - 12th May, Friese koerier, published 13th May, p. 5. Game 4 - 14th May, Het vrije volk, published 14th May, p. 18. Game 5 - 15th May, De Telegraaf, published 16th May, p. 23; the date-line for the article is "Wednesday". Game 6 - 16th May, Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, published 17th May, p. 31, and De Telegraaf, published 17th May, p. 21. Game 7 - 19th May, Leeuwarder courant, published 20th May, p. 19, and De Telegraaf, published 20th May, p. 15. Game 8 - 20th May, Het Vrije Volk, published 21st May, p. 18, and Amigoe di Curacao, published 21st May.

 page 1 of 1; 8 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Reshevsky vs Korchnoi ½-½411968Korchnoi - Reshevsky Candidates QuarterfinalE46 Nimzo-Indian
2. Korchnoi vs Reshevsky 1-0421968Korchnoi - Reshevsky Candidates QuarterfinalC93 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Smyslov Defense
3. Reshevsky vs Korchnoi ½-½231968Korchnoi - Reshevsky Candidates QuarterfinalE46 Nimzo-Indian
4. Korchnoi vs Reshevsky 1-0441968Korchnoi - Reshevsky Candidates QuarterfinalA04 Reti Opening
5. Reshevsky vs Korchnoi ½-½401968Korchnoi - Reshevsky Candidates QuarterfinalB25 Sicilian, Closed
6. Korchnoi vs Reshevsky 1-0411968Korchnoi - Reshevsky Candidates QuarterfinalA14 English
7. Reshevsky vs Korchnoi ½-½401968Korchnoi - Reshevsky Candidates QuarterfinalE53 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3
8. Korchnoi vs Reshevsky ½-½181968Korchnoi - Reshevsky Candidates QuarterfinalE19 Queen's Indian, Old Main line, 9.Qxc3
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Mar-16-15  zydeco: Korchnoi studied Reshevsky in depth in preparation for this match. He found "a few weak spots in his armor - but strangely enough they coincided with my very own!" He meant that Reshevsky is much better at tactics than strategy; lacks confidence in the opening; and suffers from time trouble.

Korchnoi decided that the opening would be his main advantage and decided to play a fresh variation in every game. He decided also that Reshevsky was 'self-confident and wasn't preparing particularly hard for the encounter with me.' Korchnoi figured that opening preparation would be particularly useful for getting Reshevsky into time-trouble - and then at that point ('around move 25') he would start to play natural/superficial moves. That's pretty much exactly what happened -- and Korchnoi proved adept at giving Reshevsky forcing continuations (30....Nb4 in Game 4 and 31....Rd2 in Game 6) that were disadvantageous but hard to resist.

Reshevsky was very disappointed by the result - his last real chance at the World Championship - and declined to analyze any of the games with Korchnoi or to attend the match's closing ceremony.

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