Victor the Terrible

Victor the Terrible‎

GM Gserper
26 | Tactics

Last month the world chess community celebrated the 80th Birthday of the legendary Grandmaster Victor Lvovich Korchnoi. There are hundreds of books and thousands of articles devoted to this extraordinary person, so it is very difficult to write anything new about him.  Let me share my personal memories from my childhood, when Korchnoi had just escaped from the Soviet Union. ("Image taken from this video for the Amber tournament). 

Immediately after his defection he became an official villain since all newspapers and the TV accused him of all the deadly sins and worst of all, the betrayal of the Motherland. Yet, somehow, as far as I remember, the majority of Soviet chess players still liked him. There is a story of a lecture given by a strong GM ( I believe it was Sergey Makarichev, but I can be wrong here) where he got a question from the audience: "The Soviet Chess Federation just stripped Victor Korhnoi of all his titles, so if he is no longer a Soviet Grandmaster or Master, then who he is then?" Makarichev paused for a second and then said: "He is a Candidate Master, but a very strong one!"

I also remember that hot day in my home city of Tashkent in 1978, when I rushed back home from school to find out the result of the 32nd game of the World Championship Match in Baguio, Philippines.  Korchnoi had just won three games in a row and equalized the score.  Now whoever would win a game, would win the whole match. And on the way home I heard a radio broadcast which announced that Anatoly Karpov had won the game and therefore successfully defended his World Title.  I cried all the way home. I cannot explain why I was rooting for Korchnoi. At that point I was just 9 years old and definitely couldn't appreciate the depth of chess of either opponent.  Moreover, at some point in my career, Karpov became my chess role model since I really liked his style and many years later when I met him personally, I liked him as a person too. But at that point I was crying because I probably could sense the great injustice, when the biggest country in the World was fighting just one person and did everything it could to make his life miserable.

Fast forward 15 years and I was about to cry again because of Korchnoi. I lost all three games we played. On the picture above you can witness the start of one of those massacres.  Mind you I wasn't a patzer (as a matter of fact I was in the top 50 in the World at that time) and yet Korchnoi crushed me like if I was that nine-year-old who cried on the streets of Tashkent. Let me present you one of those games, so you'll understand why GM Korchnoi has earned the nickname Victor the Terrible.

A couple of months before my first encounter with Korchnoi, I won a nice game against Gata Kamsky in the Dortmund Super tournament (where by the way I had the pleasure to meet Karpov). I played my pet line in the English opening (8. Rb1!) and even though I didn't get much of an advantage, I confidently refused a draw offer and managed to convert my tiny endgame advantage into a win.  Here is the game:

Now you can understand how happy I was, when GM Korchnoi allowed me to play my favorite line in our game, played in one of the most important tournaments of my life: the Qualifier for the PCA World Championship.
(I give you a chance to test your attacking skills and compare your moves to the ones of the legendary Victor Korhnoi, so the game is given as a Quiz.  Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)
After the beating I got from Victor Lvovich, I couldn't help but think: "Damn, this Man is way too strong for me!". It's been almost 20 years since we played those games and yet his rating is still higher than mine. And I truly hope that in 20 more years, when chess players from all over the World celebrate Korchnoi's 100th Birthday, I'll be able to say: "Damn, the Man is still way too strong for me!"
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