When Soviet Mind Control Won the World Chess Championship?
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When Soviet Mind Control Won the World Chess Championship?

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Time to teach those Soviets a thing or two!

You are the perfect candidate to put them in their place.  After all, you used to be a citizen of the USSR!

It is 1978, and here you are in Baguio City, the Phillippines for the World Chess Championship.  You have been a grandmaster since 1956 and you are ready to destroy the Soviet chess machine. And you know that machine well since you grew up under its tutelage.

Over the years, you've grown tired of the Soviet chess machine. For a long time, you've refused to stand up for the Soviet national anthem. Your disdain for your country is well known; especially within the Soviet government itself.

They have turned the press against you.

And with the press, the people have also turned against you.

For so long you were considered such a risk for defection that the Soviet Government didn't let you play outside the country for years... until 1976 when you were permitted to play, and become joint tournament winner, of the 1976 Amsterdam Tournament.

You chuckle at how you managed you escape the Soviet Union. After the Amsterdam Tournament, you had a friend help you write "political asylum" on a piece of paper and you walked into a police station handing them the note.

Checkmate. No more Soviet shackles.  You were free.

So today, just two years later, you are facing one of your old teammates, Anatoliy Karpov, in the 1978 World Chess Championship.

Things are going well for you until your mind starts to play games with you...

You hear a voice...

You shake your head... you rub your temples... Ugh, where did that voice come from?

You take a few sips of water and try to...

Ugh, there it is again! You take deep breaths...

Gah, your concentration is gone...

Where is this coming from?

You scan the audience for anyone or anything unusual. And then you see him... sitting in the front, staring at you intensely!

He's sending these messages!

He's telling you to lose!


You do... five times, in fact.

. . .

This is the incredibly odd story of the 1978 World Chess Championship. Competing were two of Russia's finest grandmasters: Anatoliy Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi.

Korchnoi would not win the tournament.  No, he would go on to write that he was victim of a parapsychologist that the Soviets enlisted to use mind-control techniques on him.

The parapsychologist in question was Dr. Vladimir Zoukhar, a military psychologist. Korchnoi wrote that Zoukar sat motionless for hours, just staring at Korchnoi with a look of intense concentration on his face.

Things got even stranger. To combat the parapsychlogist, Korchnoi employed the assistance of two Yogis in orange robes who sat outside the hall in the lotus position and, upon seeing them, the Soviet parapsychologist left the tournament for good.

Strangely, after Zoukhar left, Korchnoi won four games in a row. But ultimately, Korchnoi just lost his mind completely and threw a fit with the tournament authorities, and just refused to finish playing. (Maybe the mind control worked after all?)

Karpov took the title that year.

So ended one of the weirdest World Chess Championships in history where a supposed parapsychologist beamed mind control waves at Korchnoi while orange-robed, meditating yogis simultaneously wrapped Korchnoi in some sort of psychic mind shield.

. . .

How about you? Have you ever been the victim of secret, Soviet mind control while playing chess? I think I have. Please share your mind control trauma in the comments below.

Also, if this story interested you, check out the great documentary:  The Closing Gambit (2018).

I'm a 40-something, long-time lover of chess who has always been in awe of the complexity of this beautiful game.  I use this blog to share the incredible history of chess and offer some commentary on current chess happenings around the world.  Enjoy!