Korchnoi-Spassky Candidates 1977: Viktor Takes Boris Deep
Viktor Korchnoi was born March 23, 1931 in Leningrad, USSR. He was a candidate for the World Championship ten times from 1962-1991. He won the USSR Championship four times from 1960-1970. Korchnoi never won the world title, but has been considered the best player to never have won the title. Earlier, the same had been said of Paul Keres. In 1976, Korchnoi stopped residing in the USSR. He escaped in or defected to the Netherlands. Two years later, he made his home in Switzerland. His second place in the Candidates Matches of 1974 left him seeded into the 1977 matches. His first match was against Petrosian, the former World Champion. In 1971, Korchnoi was required to lose his match with Petrosian. Now, free of Soviet bosses, he defeated Petrosian 6.5-5.5. Korchnoi then defeated another Soviet player, Polugaevsky, 8.5-4.5. The next step was a match with Boris Spassky, the former World Champion. Spassky was now living in France and playing under the Soviet flag. Korchnoi had lost the 1968 Candidates Match final to Spassky 6.5-3.5.
Spassky’s path to the match was opened by the refusal of Bobby Fischer to play. After Fischer declined to defend his title against Karpov in 1975, he was still seeded into the next cycle. Fischer did not return. Spassky was the next in line as a reserve from the 1974 matches to replace Fischer. Korchnoi and Spassky were joined by six qualifiers from the Interzonals. Spassky got by Hort after extra games broke their tie. Spassky then defeated Portisch 8.5-6.5. This put Spassky in the final match with Korchnoi in Belgrade.
The Korchnoi-Spassky of 1977 consisted of 18 games. Korchnoi won five out of the first ten games. Spassky won the next four games. Two draws followed. Korchnoi won the next two. The final score was 10.5-7.5. Korchnoi won seven games. Spassky won four games. There were seven draws. The Winawer Variation of the French Defense was a major part of the match. It was used by Korchnoi (as Black) six times. He won three, lost one, and drew two games with that line. Selected from the match is game seven. Spassky was already behind by two points and that was to play a role in the players’ stategies.