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Karpov - Polugaevsky Candidates Quarterfinal '74
Compiled by Tabanus

Karpov had progressed 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). Each would be played to a maximum of 16 games; the first player to 3 wins advancing to the next stage. 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 "Russian" match was held in Moscow's Writers' Club. (2) Vladas Mikenas was arbiter. (3) Karpov was seconded by his long term coach and mentor GM Semyon Furman, and also by GM Yuri 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 serious contender for the chess throne. Karpov had been a star pupil 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 best ten 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 two very strong events, the USSR Championship (1973) (2nd behind Boris Spassky) and Madrid (1973), where he finished first and among other prizes was awarded the Chess Oscar, voted for annually by the International Chess Journalists Association. Polugaevsky's form had also been very good and many thought that Karpov's task would be difficult. (9) In assessing the match prospects, Mikhail Yudovich Sr. expected a close contest, and reported a great sympathy for Karpov among the audience. 2 Botvinnik claimed that the majority of grandmasters supported Polugaevsky, being suspicious of the younger man. This mirrored the famous 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. The 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:

Botvinnik 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, 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 particularly so after games four and five: "It was the natural serenity of my behaviour that overwhelmed Polugaevsky … I was so calm and playing so easily". (12) Nor was Karpov afraid to confront Polugaevsky's own choice of openings and variations, a facet of the match which made the more experienced man's loss all the more painful. (13) Karpov's mastery of the theoretical duel was emphatic; he played a variation of the Nimzo-Indian with Black and drew each time, while meeting the Sicilian Najdorf with 6.Be2 as White, 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)

Writers' Club, Moscow URS, 17 Jan - 3 Feb 1974

Elo* 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts 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

Karpov advanced to the Karpov - Spassky Candidates Semifinal (1974).

*FIDE Rating List July 1973.

1) Harry Golombek in The Times, 15 Jan. 1974, p. 5; Tidskrift för Schack, Feb. 1974, p. 33. 2) Candidates' Matches 1974, Botvinnik, Aleksandar Matanovic, Bozidar Kazic & Yudovich (Belgrade, 1974). 3) Jaque 27 (, p. 22. 4) ICC/Razuvaev ( This was confirmed by Karpov in a conversation with the compiler of this report. 5) Sicilian Love, Polugaevsky et al. (NIC, 1995), p. 35. 6) The Karpov-Polugaevsky Match, Spassky (Chess Life & Review, May 1974), p. 315. 7) The Guinness Book Of Chess Grandmasters, William Hartston (Guinness publ., 1996), p. 160. 8) The Oxford Companion to Chess, David Vincent Hooper & Kenneth Whyld (Oxford, 1984), p. 259. 9) Karpov's Collected Games, David Levy (Hale, 1975), p. 27. 10) Anatoly Karpov: His Road to the World Championship, Botvinnik (Pergamon, 1978), p. xii. 11) Anatoly Karpov: His Road to the World Championship, Botvinnik (Pergamon, 1978), p. viii. 12) My Great Predecessors Vol. 5, Garry Kasparov (Everyman, 2006), pp. 239-240. 13) My Great Predecessors Vol. 5, Kasparov (Everyman, 2006), p. 236. 14) CHESS (March 1974), Ed. Baruch Harold Wood, p. 187. 15) Sicilian Love, Polugaevsky et al. (NIC, 1995), p. 41.

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 The Times.

Game 1 Jan 17
Polugaevsky vs Karpov, 1974 
(E54) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Gligoric System, 32 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 2 Jan 19
Karpov vs Polugaevsky, 1974 
(B92) Sicilian, Najdorf, Opocensky Variation, 40 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 3 Jan 21
Polugaevsky vs Karpov, 1974
(E54) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Gligoric System, 21 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 4 Jan 23
Karpov vs Polugaevsky, 1974 
(B92) Sicilian, Najdorf, Opocensky Variation, 49 moves, 1-0

Game 5 Jan 25
Polugaevsky vs Karpov, 1974 
(E54) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Gligoric System, 44 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 6 Jan 30
Karpov vs Polugaevsky, 1974 
(B92) Sicilian, Najdorf, Opocensky Variation, 40 moves, 1-0

Game 7 Feb 1
Polugaevsky vs Karpov, 1974
(E54) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Gligoric System, 41 moves, 1/2-1/2

game 8 Feb 3
Karpov vs Polugaevsky, 1974 
(B92) Sicilian, Najdorf, Opocensky Variation, 41 moves, 1-0

8 games

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