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 Samuel Reshevsky, Vlastimil Hort and Leonid Stein, sharing sixth place. A playoff was held in Los Angeles, 18th February - 2nd March 1968, which was also tied. Although he had not won a single game in the play-off, Reshevsky, by virtue of his superior Sonneborn-Berger score from the Interzonal, secured the final Candidates place. 1
Korchnoi qualified for the Candidates in a more straight-forward manner, he shared 2-4th places at Sousse with Bent Larsen and Efim Geller. This would be Korchnoi's first ever match!
A Novosti press release - 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, Holland, on the 7th 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
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) decide 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". 6
"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". 7
Reshevsky had the support of former Candidate and International Grandmaster Pal C Benko , "...Benko will be his teacher and sparring partner for about seven days". 8
"(the match) was essentially decided in the first two games.." (Korchnoi). 9
..........1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Korchnoi ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 5½
Reshevsky ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 2½
Game 1 Reshevsky had White; "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" (Korchnoi). 10
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).11
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
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 was that the prize fund was described as "decidedly low". Benko made a short impromptu speech on behalf of Reshevsky to smooth over his absence from the proceedings.12
Korchnoi advanced to the Candidates Semi - Finals Game Collection: Korchnoi - Tal Candidates Semifinal 1968 where he played Mikhail Tal .
Original collection Game Collection: WCC Index ( Korchnoi - Reshevsky 1968 ) compiled by User: Benzol
User: crawfb5 provided the dates for the games from the "New York Times".
User: Stonehenge provided the "Nieuwsblad van het Noorden" article and translated a section.
User: Tabanus provided the "Het vrĳe volk" article.
1 "Chess Life and Review", April 1968, p.115.
2 "Chess Life and Review", May 1968, p.163.
3 "Chess Life and Review", August 1968, p.286.
4 "Korchnoi's 400 best games", Korchnoi, Wade, Blackstock, p.159.
5 "Het vrĳe volk : democratisch-socialistisch dagblad", 15th May 1968, p.9
6 "Chess Life and Review", August 1968, p.286.
7 Korchnoi "Chess is my Life" p.60.
8 "Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 7 May 1968, p9.
9 Korchnoi "Chess is my Life" p.60.
10 Korchnoi "Chess is my Life" p.60.
11 Korchnoi "Chess is my Life" p.61.
12 "De Telegraaf", 21 May 1969, p.15