Examples of Soviet cheating in FIDE competition: Petrosian-Korchnoi match, 1971


This account is from "Russians versus Fischer," by Dmitry Plisetsky and Sergey Voronkov


Anatoly Karpov related in  his 1992 autobiography, in reference to the 1971 Candidates Semi-final match between T. Petrosian and V. Korchnoi, which was tied 4-4 after eight draws:

It was already clear that the winner would have to play Fischer, who on the other staircase, was rapidly ascending to the chess throne. There was practically no doubt that Spassky would be able to deal with him, but in the Sports Committee it was decided that it was better that it didn't come to this, that it was desireable to stop him half-way.

And so the officials summoned Petrosian and Korchnoi and asked them directly which of them had the better chances against Fischer.  Korchnoi said that "the generation beaten by Fischer" had practically no chances.  But Petrosian said that he believed in himself.

After this it was suggested to Korchnoi that he should allow Petrosian to win, and in compensation they promised to send him to three major international tournaments (for which a Soviet player in those times was a princely reward.

Petrosian, playing White in game 9 of the 10-game match, won the only game.  Game 10 was drawn, with Petrosain winning the match, to face Fischer in the Candidates Final.

Interestingly, Korchnoi and Petrosian would meet three more times in matches, and Korchnoi won each time.

In 1971-72, Korchnoi travelled to Hastings, Amsterdam, and Palma. :-)


Interesting story. I met Petrosian in 1963 or 64 when he came to the United States. He played an exibition in my home town against 40 of our best. My mother took me, and he had just became world champion. He or someone taught me fools mate that day.


I find this a bit strange, because I would think chess follows the transitive property.

If A is stronger than B, then A will have more chances of beating C (Fischer).


Not always it has to do with styles of how A person  plays also... Sometimes  (A)  always beats (B) and always loses to (C) and (C)  always loses to (B)  but always beats  (A)      . I guess what I,m trying to say is some players styles are more effective against certain players. Korchnoi played more like Fischer and would have been outplayed. Petrosian was A very solid almost defensive type player who,s game would have been more effective against A very agressive player but not in that case, however he did end Fischer 20 game winning streak and If I remember correct  the match ended 6.5 to 2.5 and it would have been more like 6-0 against Korchnoi...  Maybe, even though Korky was probably  A better player then Petrosian at the time. I,m just curious how Korchnoi did in those 3 International events he played in. I,m guessing he won all 3... If we were talking about computers then yes the strongest would win but these are people.  Just my thoughts. Even if FIDE had stepped in and said you guys are going to play A best 2 out of 3 match and if tied the first to win plays Fischer it would not have worked because that country at the time would have told Korchnoi  ( You lose or you will never play chess again) ....  That was the biggest problem with the so called World Championship Tournament and why it was replaced with the Interzonals and candadate matches. Its still not perfect but much better then it was...  I,m just rambling .  Just my thoughts and it really does not matter anymore.   


And despite all their machinations the Soviet regime still lost.


And despite all their machinations it was Spassky who faced Fischer!


In view of the history between karpov and Korchnoi, I wouldnt read too much into comments in his autobiography.

Fischer was not concerned whether he would face Korchnoi or Petrosian. In 1970  he played board 2  ( behind Larsen)  in the Rest of the World team v Russia. He played Petrosian 4 times, winning 2 and drawing 2. Im not entirely sure , but believe at that time Korchnoi had a plus score v Fischer.

Petrosian did put up a good fight against Fischer in the match itself winning a lovely second game; ( See volume 3 of Kasparovs seies on World Champions).


When I think of cheating, 1972, and the Soviets; I typically think of the Olympic basketball game.


Thanks for sharing the story, Jamie. I guess that in this case the cheating, or fixing of the candidate semifinals, was not very helpful for the Russians.


"In view of the history between karpov and Korchnoi, I wouldnt read too much into comments in his autobiography"

Of course, all the "Karpov admitted that Korchnoi threw games/cheated" etc are of little value.


One could just as well say that Topalov has admitted that Kramnik was cheating...


I admit the OP is trolling.


Karpov further related:

"... Korchnoi was once again invited to the Sports Committee, and in the presense of Petrosian, he was invited to help his recent opponent prepare for the match with Fischer.

On hearing this suggestion, Korchnoi could not restrain himself: 'How can I be Petrosian's second if it makes me sick to see how he plays?!'"

Interstingly, Spassky tells this version:

"Petrosian was an original, very clever man, with an excellent sense of humor.  He once told me with a laugh, of how he had gone with Korchnoi to see Pavlov, theh Chairman of the USSR Sports Committee, to ask if Korchnoi woould be his second at the match with Fischer.  And how during the meeting Korchnoi said, 'Comrade Pavlov, when I see such disgusting, vile moves Petrosian makes, I do not want to be his second!'"

NigelShart wrote:

I admit the OP is trolling.

How so, Nigel?


Thanks Jamie for posting this. Whether one choses to believe Karpov is up the individual, and probably, though no necessarily, according each one's firmly established preformed opinions.  There's no way of knowing the absolute truth, but the account does make sense to me.  There was no doubt a bit of panic in the Soviet camp during this Candidates session and the worst-case scenario prevailed despite all their efforts to avoid it.  It reminds me of how the US government tried (and probably still does) to direct history and protect their interests through engineering coups and supporting otherwise nefarious regimes, only to have it all backfire. Subversiveness seems to exact its own karma.


Despite being in no way affilated with either Soviet Union or USA, I find these kind of threads deeply offensive to human intellect. Please, everyone, use principle of symmetry, at least in your thought proccess, before throwing any kind of claims and especially in cases where serious accusations are in place.

ddmeltzer8 wrote:

Very interesting.A determining factor herehas to be that ptrosian was in fact a KGB-agent and had considerable weight to his word.At least to a certain point.Also,within the russian sports-commitee there was a great deal of intriege where the subjectiv over-ruled the objectiv.An disittions was not always fair.

The point of the post is a demonstration that competition within the Soviet Union, and among Soviet players, was oftimes pre-arranged.  I would say that dates back to 1948 World Championship match-tournament, with the Botvinnik-Keres series.

Keres had been under threat of execution by the Soviets after having competed in Nazi-German chess tournament during WWII.  (The USSR had unilaterally annexed  Keres's home country Estonia in 1940.  Keres was caught behind lines after the Nazi invasion of Estonia.)

I can well imagine the pressure Keres must have been under, knowing Botvinnik was the favorite son of Russia, and the Keres was being constantly watched.

Ennar wrote:

Despite being in no way affilated with either Soviet Union or USA, I find these kind of threads deeply offensive to human intellect. Please, everyone, use principle of symmetry, at least in your thought proccess, before throwing any kind of claims and especially in cases where serious accusations are in place.

The account is that of Anatoly Karpov, and is in the public domain.

Do you doubt Karpov?


Karpov was writing about a defector from the state he had been very loyal to, and who really hated him. Of course he is not some sort of truth witness with regards to Korchnoi being a cheater etc.


How did Fischer get that spot in the Interzonal he refused to participate in the qualification for, by the way? Wasn't pressure put on all the players that were ahead of Fischer to decline the spot so he would get it instead of them? Imagine Botvinnik refusing to qualify for a cycle, a bunch of Soviet players that were qualified giving up their spot so he could get it, and this being the reason Botvinnik could win the title. The Fischer nuts would call it the worst type of cheating in the history of chess :-)