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Viktor Korchnoi vs Anatoly Karpov
Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship Match (1981), Merano ITA, rd 1, Oct-01
Queen's Gambit Declined: Tartakower Defense. General (D58)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: In Chess is My Life Kortschnoi gives the reasons that he lost this match:

Karpov had a team of 70 people... Karpov was given a villa, and Kortschnoi wasn't... Karpov swivelled his chair when the arbiter wasn't looking... Kortschnoi mad e a comment on the stage and it was recorded... The KGB ws using pulse and heartbeat monitoring equipment on Kortschnoi... Kortschnoi had been irradiated by special equipment taken to Karpov's villa... Karpov was wearing earphones under his hair and was receiving moves from his trainers... the trainers may have been using computers... Kortschnoi's press attaché was attacked by intruders in Kortschnoi's room... Kortschnoi's room was bugged by the Soviets.... Karpov had a team of parapsychologists at the match...

From Chess is My Life, pages 165-169.

May-10-06  RookFile: The unfortunate reality is that for a period of about 10 years, Karpov was the best actively playing chessplayer in the world. The common thought is that Korchnoi had somehow gained in strength in his 40's. I don't see it this way - rather, this was a window of opportunity for Korchnoi when other stars like Petrosian and Spassky were past their prime and disinterested, and new stars like Kasparov were not ready yet.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <The common thought is that Korchnoi had somehow gained in strength in his 40's.>

Behold the power of common thought!

May-22-06  SnoopDogg: Did Korchnoi really say the trainers might have been using computers in 1981? That has to be the most stupid remark Viktor Lvovich has ever said in his entire life.
Sep-12-07  duplex: 24. d4 intrusion with the pawn was the decisive move for Karpov after that Kortschnoi couldn't restore the balance anymore ..Karpov is an amazing player making moves that look like so simple and easy to make but if you go into detail you will be overwhelmed by the brilliance of these simple moves..Karpov in 1980-81 was a superior positional player than Fischer and Kasparov in their best times..Mark my words..
Apr-11-08  Knight13: <SnoopDogg: Did Korchnoi really say the trainers might have been using computers in 1981? That has to be the most stupid remark Viktor Lvovich has ever said in his entire life.> LOL. Computers sucked in 1981 I'd let them use the computers to cheat. :-D
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: What a bad start for 'Viktor'.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: "This was an uncharacteristic game by Korchnoi but we are still optimistic. The loser of the first game is going to be the winner of the last"

GM Michael Stean, one of Korchnoi's seconds.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <SnoopDogg: Did Korchnoi really say the trainers might have been using computers in 1981? That has to be the most stupid remark Viktor Lvovich has ever said in his entire life.>

Yes. It is all in Chess is My Life.

Here is something useful I learned form this game:
After 20.Qc2

click for larger view

Karpov liked his position but was not sure of how to continue. So he employed a tactic that he often employed - improving his king's position. White has no dark-squared bishop, so the black king should theoretically be slightly more secure on a black square. So Karpov played 20...g6. This move also takes f5 away from the white pieces. A few moves later he played the follow-up ...Kg7

click for larger view

The king is better here because in any complications that may occur it might be important that if white plays Rxd8 that it is NOT check. Kortschnoi seems to have lost patience a little. He played 23.Bb1 followed by 24.a3 and lost to the cannonball 24...d4!!

click for larger view

Dec-12-13  Howard: Korchnoi's 24.a3 was a tactical error because it weakened b3 too much.
Jul-04-14  dernier thylacine: When you accept a contest it implies that all objections which were made previously lose their possible validity; nobody forced Korchnoi to play this match without the "liberation" of his son, and all the rest is in my opinion only bad literature, or political hate in this case.

Karpov was much stronger, that's all.

Oct-10-15  Howard: Could someone, perhaps, supply some computer analysis of 24...d4! I'm not quite sure how that move is as good as everyone says it is.
Oct-12-15  Howard: Still hoping for some specifics...
Premium Chessgames Member
  NeverAgain: Howard: hang on there, I'm working on an analysis of the whole game with a recent dev build (061015) of Stockfish 6 and with Komodo 9.2; should be ready in a day or two. A sneak peek for you: yes, 24...d4 was that strong (and 24.a3 correspondingly weak, as you already determined) - on move 23 Black's advantage was roughly worth half a pawn; by move 25 it jumped to a pawn and a half.

Meanwhile, here are Botvinnik's annotations, translated from the German text in Megabase 2012 (had to use several online translators as my German is rudimentary, so this may not be 100% accurate).

*** start quote ****

1.c4 e6
Korchnoi probably wanted to dissuade his opponent from the positions characterized by the move d7-d5, but Karpov steers for a solid opening.

With a transposition into the Queen's Gambit.

In the game Botvinnik-Petrosian, Moscow 1963 (Botvinnik vs Petrosian, 1963) there followed ed 5.Bf4 c6 and subsequently Black successfully solved the problem of development of queen's bishop by means of Bc8-f5.

A move introduced into tournament practice by Capablanca and Tartakower. Later this was named "The Bondarevski-Makogonov System".

9. Be2
In Baguio in 1978 Korchnoi played 9.Bd3; he also chose the bishop development to g2. Following this move Karpov thought for 35 minutes.

A fatal decision. White cannot exploit the hanging pawns on d5 and c5. <12.Ne5 Nxe5 13.dxe5 Ne4> and White has achieved nothing.

15.Bg3 was better. <15.Bg3 d4¹ 16.exd4 Bxf3 17.dxc5!>

17. Bg3
White has to acquiesce to the exchange of his queen's bishop. <17.Rcd2 Ne4! 18.Nxe4 dxe4 19.Bxe7 exf3 20.Bxd8 fxe2 21.Rxe2 Rxd8 22.Red2 Qg4> with a clear advantage to Black².

It is hard for White to generate activity. Korchnoi seeks to bring the bishop to a2 in order to increase the pressure on the d5 pawn.

White does not notice the danger. Now the game is decided already. After 24.Ne2 most of the fight would yet lie ahead.

A decisive blow that would not have been possible if White had kept his center pawn d4 on the 12th move.

White's weak kingside provides a handy target.
<25.exd4³ Bc6! 26.Qc2 <<26.Qc4 Bxf3 27.gxf3 <<<27.dxc5 Bxd1 28.cxb6 Rxc4 29.Rxd8 Bxd8 30.Nxd1 Rc1>>> 27...cxd4>> 26...Bxf3 27.gxf3 cxd4>

Indirectly covers the g3 pawn. <28...Qxg3 29.Nhf5+ or Ndf5+>

One of the white pawns is doomed; the game is hopeless for White.

Threatening mate in three. <38...Qf2+ 39.Kh1 Qf1+ 40.Ng1 Nf2#>

Threatening mate again.

The fight continues only because both players were in time trouble.

White resigns. Following the opening, Korchnoi's play was passive and uncertain; Karpov, however, took advantage of almost every opportunity.

*** end quote ***

¹ a weak move that gives White a advantage. As it's not forced, Botvinnik probably gave it merely as an illustration (as in "with the idea").

² here 20.Bb5 keeps the balance: <20.Bb5 Be4 21.Qa1=> [-0.15/38 SF6] with 22.Rxd7 to follow.

³ in case it's not clear from the annotations, 25.exd4 must have been meant as an improvement. SF6 does rate it better as well, but not enough to save the game.

Oct-13-15  Howard: Thanks very, very much ! Looking forward to the rest of the analysis.

Take your time, by the time.

Oct-13-15  cunctatorg: Korchnoi desires to declare two things by means of his comments at the second edition of "Chess is my life"; firstly he desires to declare that this loss was very hard for him and secondly that he -and every player of his calibre- has a "very strong ego" which obviously is deeply (and for a long time) wounded by that match...

Well, I believe that his desire for such a declaration isn't an unconscious one; on the contrary he wants to point out that his feelings and his thoughts about that ..., well, are similar to a delirium...

Premium Chessgames Member
  NeverAgain: Howard: you are very welcome, and I must thank *you* for keeping picking such interesting games for me to analyze, too. ;)

Was counting on Kaspy's analysis in My Great Predecessors, but he just skims over it with one paragraph:

<The white pieces in the first game went to Korchnoi, but this didn't help him. Karpov very confidently handled the Tartakower-Makogonov-Bondarevsky Variation of the Queen's Gambit: he was not afraid to go in for a position with hanging pawns at c5 and d5, he made a timely exchange of the enemy dark-squared bishop (by ...Nf6-h5xg3), and after a mistake by White on 24th move he carried out the typical ...d5-d4 breakthrough with great effect and scored an excellent win. Geller: 'After this the champion gained a serious psychological advantage'.> [My Great Predecessors vol.5, p.368]

This reads suspiciously as a rehash of Botvinnik's notes I gave in my previous post. And those, in the first place, were either severely abridged or not to the Patriarch's usual painstaking standards. How else are we to explain the fact that both fail to mention that Karpov missed mate in six at the end of the game? Time trouble or not, we are talking about a world championship game here.

As for Korchnoi's reasons for losing the Merano match, Kasparov quotes Alexander Roshal (one of the most prominent Soviet-era chess journalists):

<But Korchnoi often sought the cause of his defeats outside himself, and justified them by the interference of certain outside forces or simply chance, the good fortune of his opponent... Vishy Anand once said to me: I have won about fifteen games against him, without any losses, and after each one of them he informed me that I have no idea about chess".> [My Great Predecessors vol.5, p.369]

Compare this to the following excerpt from the Korchnoi interview in Inside Chess 1994 #17:

<Q: The big surprise was Kamsky's win against Anand. In India.

A: We don't have to talk about Anand's talent. It is obvious. [...]>

Having read numerous accounts of Korchnoi by other top players as well as his interviews, I have no trouble accepting the idea he believed what he said when he said it in both cases.

Oct-14-15  Howard: Karpov missed a mate-in-six at the end ? That's hardly consequential, in my view. Karpov's position was, of course, completely won so once he saw a move that kept his win intact, why take time to look for a "fancier" way of winning?
Oct-14-15  Howard: By the way, I don't see what 24...d4 ! had to do with the fact that 24.a3 weakened the b3 square. According to Chess Life, that's why 24.a3 was a mistake.
Oct-14-15  jvv: Now after 24...d4 25.exd4 Bc6 white can't play Qb3 or Qa3.
Oct-14-15  Howard: Thanks much !
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: <<But Korchnoi often sought the cause of his defeats outside himself, and justified them by the interference of certain outside forces or simply chance, the good fortune of his opponent... Vishy Anand once said to me: I have won about fifteen games against him, without any losses, and after each one of them he informed me that I have no idea about chess".> [My Great Predecessors vol.5, p.369] >

Some players are this way. I used to play many tournaments in the NY Capital region, and one particular player became my punching bag.

Our first encounter, when I was about 100 rating points below his rating, was a draw. After that I won the next 2 or 3 in a row. But I had to stop doing the post mortems because all he would say would be things like "well, I could have moved here instead, and then you wouldn't know what to do".

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: <Karpov was given a villa, and Kortschnoi wasn't...>

So Karpov was living like a star-bellied sneetch and Korchnoi like a plain-bellied sneetch. That confers a psychological edge.

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: <Spitecheck: ...

More than once in this 1981 match Karpov was able to bust Korchnoi's white side with a d4 break in the middle.>

And Korchnoi returned the "favor" here:

Karpov vs Korchnoi, 1981

Jan-01-19  Ychromosome: Once black gets the N established on the 6th rank, it becomes tough for white to progress.
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