20 Oct 2016

Unknown stories about ‘Viktor the Terrible!’

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designViktor Korchnoi: if he won a game, he was very polite with you and would analyze it happily. If he lost, then … he would pull back his chair with venom and leave the room very angrily!
Viktor KorchnoiHe was a four-time USSR chess champion, 10 times candidate for the World Championship and played in two World Championship matches. He was in the top 100 best players at the age of 75 and beat Fabiano Caruana at 79!
Viktor Korchnoi vs Fabiano Caruana
Suggestion: you may like to know how I defeated Fabiano Caruana in a blitz game here!

Even a stroke in 2012 did not prevent him from returning to competitive chess. The above achievements made him one of the strongest chess players in the world. Unfortunately, he never won the World title because he lost to Anatoly Karpov each time.

Korchnoi, born in 1931 in Leningrad, USSR, was nicknamed “Viktor the Terrible” for his legendary fighting spirit. There are hundreds of books and thousands of articles devoted to this extraordinary person, the legendary Grandmaster Viktor Lvovich Korchnoi, but let’s make a quick summary here.

Early life

He learned to play chess from his father at the age of five. He had the ability to defend with vigor and determination, even in the most difficult positions, and was always ready to unleash a deadly counter-attack.


He was a really smart guy. Everybody knows that if you touch a piece, then you are forced to move it. From time to time, this happens even to the best players, like Kasparov (in his game against Judit Polgar in 1994) and Nakamura in 2016. So this is what happened to Viktor.

Viktor Korchnoi's touch move ruleDuring a game, he grabbed his queen in order to place it somewhere. Suddenly, he realized that this move was a big mistake. What could he do? He already had the queen in his hand …

Instinctively, smart Viktor plunged it into his tea and started to stir it! He justified his action by claiming that he had mistaken the queen for his spoon, and so he was spared a fatal mistake. :)

Viktor Korchnoi vs Anatoly Karpov (defection)
In 1974, the USSR started a campaign to promote Karpov over Korchnoi. The central authorities prevented him from playing international tournaments or even playing in Estonia which was part of the Soviet Union at that time.

Suggestion: you may like to learn about “Karpov’s Prophylaxis” here.

Tigran Petrosian made a public statement in the press stating that his generation, including Korchnoi, which been defeated by Fischer could no longer hope to compete successfully against him. So he agreed with the Soviet Federation, wishing to develop younger players like Karpov.

In 1976, the USSR authorities allowed Korchnoi to play in a tough 16-player round-robin tournament, IBM Amsterdam, probably in order to prove that he was not so strong any longer.

Korchnoi scored 9.5/15 points and shared first place with Britain’s Tony Miles. At the end of the tournament, he asked Miles to spell ‘political asylum’ for him. But he would have to leave his wife and son behind in the USSR.

So, in 1976, he defected from the Soviet Union and took up residence in Switzerland, becoming a Swiss citizen, and continued to be active in chess. Immediately after his defection, he became a public villain in the USSR. The newspapers and TV accused him of a deadly sin – betrayal of the Motherland.

Best combinations

Now let’s take a look at some of the best combinations from Korchnoi! :)

Nataf – Korchnoi
Viktor Korchnoi chess games
Black to play

Korchnoi – Xie
Viktor Korchnoi chess games
White to play

Korchnoi – Kozul
Viktor Korchnoi chess games
White to play

Korchnoi – Shaked
Viktor Korchnoi chess games
White to play

After calculating all possible variations for each puzzle, you can find all the games here.
to be continued

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