Karpov vs. Korchnoi | World Chess Championship 1978
A Filipino stamp from the match. Photo: Wikipedia.

Karpov vs. Korchnoi | World Chess Championship 1978

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
Nov 2, 2018, 12:00 AM |
43 | Fun & Trivia

The yogurt. The dissident. The psychoanalyst Vladimir Zukhar staring from the front row. The 1978 world championship match between Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi had it all, and thus came in number six on Chess.com's list of most exciting world chess championships of all time, with 36 points.

The full circus in Baguio City, Philippines, was enough to even inspire many parts of the musical Chess. And more recently, the documentary "Closing Gambit" reminded the public of other eccentricities of the match, like Korchnoi demanding to play with either a Swiss flag or a flag reading "Stateless" (in the end, he used no flag).

Korchnoi also wore sunglasses while competing long before Hikaru Nakamura came to the board with them.

It might seem the chess was secondary, but not at all. After narrowly losing in their 1974 Candidates' match finals (which ended up as a de facto world championship match since Bobby Fischer forfeited a year later), Korchnoi was once again extremely close to the top of the chess mountain.

The match was the first to six wins (and unlike Karpov-Kasparov, 1984, they actually got there!). Karpov broke out to a 4-1 lead and then was up 5-2 when Korchnoi rallied, winning three out of four in games 28-31 to level the score at 5-5.

Here's Korchnoi's clever idea in game 28, which still only made the margin 5-3.

Korchnoi once again went for an ending the next game, and outplayed Karpov in 79 moves to make the margin a single game.

After Karpov quieted the momentum temporarily with a draw in game 30, Korchnoi went back to the well—the endgame—to win game 31. He used yet another pawn sac, this time to break through with his king.

But maybe the glare of Zukhar or the color of the yogurt finally got to Korchnoi, as he abandoned the Spanish and French in game 32 in favor of the Pirc (which he had used once before earlier in the match). 

Karpov kept the queens on, and kept the title:

Coming up next: Number 5 on our list! 


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