Karpov - Korchnoi 1978 chess championship match... some highlights
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Karpov - Korchnoi 1978 chess championship match... some highlights

introuble2
introuble2
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I've recently watched a beautiful documentary, the Closing Gambit by Alan Byron (2018). I've found it in vimeo for rent or buy, and it's describing the unusual circumstances in which the 1978 Karpov-Korchnoi chess championship [Baguio City, Philippines] took place. One of the documentary's merits is the group of the commentators / narrators, who are participating. Among others Anatoly Karpov himself, but also Raymond Keene & Michael Stean, Korchnoi's seconds for that championship match.

Screenshot of the closing credits of the movie. Basic narrator Tara MacGowran... the rest above

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Some stories around this match...

A championship between Soviet Karpov and defector Korchnoi, full of tension and strange events & statements. Dr Zoukhar, Ananda Marga, sunglasses, flags, chairs, yogurts, handshakes... When I've first read about these, I smiled, if not laughed. But on second thought and being light years away of anything similar, I reconsidered to a degree. Viswanathan Anand said [around 47:50 of the documentary] that maybe a laugh comes up, "but having gone through this cycle later, I can tell you that this is deadly serious stuff!"

For me, that I was just aware of few things around this championship match, this documentary was enlightening. I focus below on two incidents, known already, but given in a somewhat more rationalized version compared to what I had already read...

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On Dr Zoukhar incident...

One of the members of the Soviet delegation for Karpov was Dr. Vladimir Zoukhar, "an expert in problems of psychology and neurology with a many-years experience and impeccable professional reputation", [according to V. Baturinsky, Vice-President of the Soviet Chess Federation at the time, found in Karpov-Korchnoi 1978 by Raymond Keene, p. 155]. Since the first games of this championship match he could be found seated in the front rows of the playing room and "Notice has been taken of his habit of riveting his gaze onto Korchnoi as if trying to hypnotize him or otherwise influence him into playing weak moves", as Raymond Keene was complaining on behalf of Korchnoi on Aug 5, 1978 [p. 153]. This hypnotizing try had been expressed and other times via public statements during this championship match, and maybe more directly [on this typical could be considered an on camera Korchnoi's statement ~ around 47:00]. These complaints seem that didn't have some effect and one reaction by Korchnoi seems to be the invitation of two members of Ananda Marga. Anyway...

But one new thing that I've learnt was that Korchnoi and Dr Zoukhar were already knowing each other, before this championship started. "Korchnoi asked Zoukhar for psychological advice when he lived in Soviet Union, so here you see someone who knows you very well... working for your enemy", as GM Gregory Kaidanov is saying [around 47:00].

I hadn't read it before and tried to find something close but in vain. Only the following....

Raymond Keene in his book reproduces some documents relating to this match:

"Incidentally, in Mr. Korchnoi’s book, published in Holland in 1977 and translated thereafter into other languages, the author says that in 1974 during the final candidates’ match, he resorted to the services of some psychologist of Leningrad." [V. Baturinsky, Vice-President of the Soviet Chess Federation at the time ~ p. 155].

"In the letter of Aug. 6, 1978, addressed to the Match Jury, he called Professor, Doctor of Medicine Sciences, V. Zoukhar 'hooligan pseudoscholar', although, in the book published in Holland in 1978 he referred to him as one of the prominent scientists." [USSR Chess Delegation, Aug 10, 1978 ~ p. 159].

The book that is mentioned above is probably the one under the title Chess is my life by V. Korchnoi, 1978, published before this match started [in slideshare]. I've tried to track something relevant in there and found the following comment about their previous match of 1974 [p. 111]:

"During the match, Karpov and I had been engaged in an obscure psychological struggle, the initiator of which was my psychologist friend. From the stage Karpov had immediately discerned him as an enemy, whom he thought was trying to exert influence on him from the hall, to hypnotize him. He requested help, to his assistance was summoned no less a person than one of the best psychologists in the country, working in a centre on the outskirts of Moscow with the Cosmonauts. I would not say that he disturbed me; the task of this Doctor of Sciences was to render harmless my assistant, who by comparison with him was a modest amateur. My psychologist, Z, suggested that I utilize Fischer's experience and try turning up late for the start of the game by five or six minutes. It worked: Karpov was as angry as the devil. ..."

From "Шахматы (Рига)" 19/1978, pp. 1-2, found here
Претендент: Кто-о меня гипнотизирует? Чемпион мира Анатолий Карпов
Challenger: Who is hypnotizing me? World champion Anatoly Karpov

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On yogurt incident...

"It was observed during the second game today that at one point a yoghourt was passed to Mr Karpov from the Soviet delegation via one of the arbiters. According to the FIDE rules for the World Championship section 4.54 'an arbiter may make and receive emergency calls at the special phone in his dressing room. There shall be no other communication into or out of the restricted area.' (Restricted Area is defined in Section 4.5).

Reception of Yoghourt or alternative sustenance is evidently not countenanced by this clause, and we protest most strongly against this serious infringement of the FIDE regulations. It is clear that a cunningly arranged distribution of edible items to one player during the game, emanating from one delegation or the other, could convey a kind of code message. Thus a yoghourt after move 20 could signify 'we instruct you to offer a draw'; or a sliced mango could mean 'we order you to decline a draw'. A dish of marinated quails’ eggs could mean 'play Ng4 at once' and so on. The possibilities are limitless."

The above were signed by P. Leeuwerik, as Head of Korchnoi Delegation, addressed to the chief arbiter Herr Lothar Schmid, on Jul 20, 1978 [in Karpov-Korchnoi 1978 by Raymond Keene, p. 153].

One new thing is the following:

"This wasn't about coded messages at all. This was about there were some kind of stimulants in the yogurt which just speed it up his metabolism". Michael Stean, Korchnoi's second [around 41:30].

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Raymond Keene [1985] in nationaalarchief & Michael Stean [1978] in nationaalarchief

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On chess...

As it is known the championship, held in Baguio City, Philippines, during Jul 18 to Oct 17, was won by Karpov after 32 games with +6=21-5. Some games...

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5th game

In the Closing Gambit, around 41:45, Raymond Keene is narrating a colorful story about the fifth game...

After adjournment, Korchnoi and his team analyzed the position and concluded that he was winning. Korchnoi went to sleep and Keene with Stean left the hotel... "and we saw the local policeman looking at the adjourned position. And the very first move was one that we haven't even looked at. Not even considered it. And I said to Michael: 'Do we should go and wake Victor up? Cause this copper found a move, that we didn't even think of.' And he said: 'Nah'..."! Of course Karpov's sealed move was the policeman's one. And strong enough to confuse Korchnoi and miss a forced mate with checks....

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The game with some analysis on the adjourned position

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Confusing the opponent...

Two games where a seemingly natural move is the losing one. One of each.

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An opening novelty. Karpov's gambit

A beautiful novelty at the time. A gambit of a minor...

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And one more...

After game 27 and a Karpov's win, the score was +5=20-2 and Karpov needed only one more win. But since 28th game Korchnoi managed to win 3, almost in a row, before he lost the last one! Something quite remarkable for a championship match. Michael Stean, commenting this come back and especially the Korchnoi's game choices after the adjournment of this 28th game, said that "this is Victor the gambler" [around 53:00], as he knew that he wasn't playing the best move but he did it just to confuse the opponent.

Here's a game a little earlier, game 25, that it was a draw. I don't know if here Korchnoi can be considered a gambler. But certainly he chose to play a not so common variation on the English opening. A move that he possibly was the first to play but only once, some years before.

A game that had some time pressure according to Keene's comments, and a fascinating middlegame, creative for both sides with missed winning moves.

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...the 32 games of the championship match...

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Korchnoi and Karpov some years after, in 1987, found in nationaalarchief

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