Korchnoi-Spassky Candidates 1977: Spassky Begins a Streak
The great rivalry between Boris Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi had turned in Korchnoi’s favor. Halfway through their Candidates match to determine which one would face Anatoly Karpov for his title, Korchnoi was five points ahead. After ten games, Korchnoi had scored five wins and five draws. I have previously shown game seven of this match in which Korchnoi used a Queen’s Gambit. In that game, Spassky used the Tartakower Variation, a favorite of his trainer, Bondarevsky. Despite losing, Spassky returned to that line in this game. Not only did Spassky bounce back to win game eleven, he also won the next three games. Korchnoi was still ahead one, but only one, point. Korchnoi held on to that lead with draws in the next two games. Then with wins in the following two games, Korchnoi ended the match. Since he had a lead of three points, the final two game were not played.
The politics of the match showed a public face in the matter of the use of national flags. Korchnoi had left the Soviet Union for a tournament and did not return in 1976. He stayed in the Netherlands and moved to Switzerland in 1978. He was not permitted to have a small flag on the table. Spassky had been given permission by the Soviets to live in France and was able to have a Soviet flag on the table. Ironically, Spassky used the flag of a nation he no longer lived in, while Korchnoi could not use the flag of the nation he did live in. The psychology of the match showed a public face in game 10 when Spassky stayed in his relaxation area or box, except to make his moves at the board. Spassky followed the game on a demonstration board in his private space. Korchnoi won the game, but protested Spassky’s behavior. It is presumed that Korchnoi’s complaint disturbed Korchnoi himself and he lost the next four games (starting with the one shown). I believe that complaints players feel they need to make tend to have that effect and that players should weigh that cost against the need to complain. Korchnoi copied Spassky’s behavior in game 14 and lost his fourth consecutive game. Later, Korchnoi apologized for doing what he had already complained about. During game 14, Spassky had escalated his psychological gambit by wearing a silver visor. Later, in game 17, Spassky wore the visor, sunglasses, and diving goggles. However, Korchnoi won games 17 and 18.
Shown now is Spassky’s first win of the match, game 11.