Lev Abramovich Polugaevsky was born November 20, 1934 in Mogilev in the Soviet Union (now Mahilyow, Belarus). Unlike many of his grandmaster colleagues, his development in chess was slow, and he did not receive the Soviet master title until 1953.
In the USSR Championships
In 1957 he finished second with 12 of 19 behind Victor Korchnoi, in 1960 he tied for first place with 12 of 17, in 1961 he finished second with 14 of 20 behind Boris Spassky, and in 1965 he finished second with 13.5 of 19 behind Leonid Stein. He then tied for first an incredible three years in a row: in 1967, with Mikhail Tal, in 1968, with Zaitsev (with 12.5 of 19), in 1969, with Petrosian (with 14 of 22). He finished second a number of times thereafter: in 1973 with 10.5 of 17 behind Boris Spassky, in 1974 with 9 of 15 behind Tal and Beliavsky, in 1977 with 9 of 15 behind Gulko and Dorfman, and in 1978 with 10 of 17 behind Tal and Tseshkovsky.
Great International Success
In 1962 he tied for second place in in the Capablanca Memorial with 16 of 21 behind Najdorf. Also in 1962 he won in Mar del Plata with 11.5 of 15. In the same year, he was awarded the Grandmaster title. He won a number of strong international tournaments in the years that followed: Bad Liebenstein 1963 with 10.5 of 15; also in 1963 the Chigorin Memorial with 8.5 of 11; Budapest 1965 with 11 of 15; Hoogovens 1966 with 11.5 of 15; Belgrade 1969 with 10 of 15; Amsterdam 1970 with 11.5 of 15; Mar del Plata 1971 with 13 of 15; Amsterdam 1972 with 12 of 15; Solingen and Chigorin Memorial in 1974 with 10 of 14 and 11 of 15; Hoogovens 1979 with 7.5 of 11; Biel 1986 with 7 of 11; Haningen 1988 with 8 of 11.
In 1972, his peak Elo rating was 2645 and he was ranked number 3 in the world, tied with Tigran Petrosian (behind Fischer and Spassky).
World Championship Candidate
In 1974, he played in the quarter-final of the Candidates' matches, but lost to Anatoly Karpov in Moscow, losing 3 games and drawing 5. In 1976, he tied for 2nd place with Hort behind Mecking at the Manila Interzonal with 12.5 of 19. In 1977, he defeated Mecking in the quarter-final with 6.5 to 5.5, then he lost to Victor Korchnoi in the semifinal matches. He won 1 game, lost 5 and drew 7. In 1980, he beat Mikhail Tal 5.5 to 2.5 in the quarter final Candidates' matches, but lost to Korchnoi 7.5 to 6.5 in the semifinals. Karpov and Korchnoi were obviously very tough opponents during these years!
In the early 1990s, Lev moved to Paris, France. In 1992 played in the senior team against women and ended with the best score with 8.5 of 12. He passed away in 1995 in Paris, France from a brain tumor.
Polugaevsky was an excellent writer. Some of his books are Queen's Gambit: Orthodox Defence, Grandmaster Preparation, Grandmaster Performance, Grandmaster Achievement, Art of Defence in Chess, and The Sicilian Labyrinth.
Polugaevsky was a noted theorist whose work on a number of openings has stood the test of time. He is best remembered for a variation of the Sicilian Defense that bears his name: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 b5!? This "Polugaevsky Variation" of the Najdorf Sicilian leads to extraordinarily complicated play.