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Karpov vs Korchnoi, 1978
Baguio City, Phillipines

The 1978 World Chess Championship was played between challenger Viktor Korchnoi and champion Anatoly Karpov in Baguio City, Phillipines. The conditions of the match were changed for the first time since 1951: the 24 game format was replaced with an unlimited game format, with the first player to win 6 games being declared champion. The rematch clause for the Champion, which had been discarded since 1963, was brought back into effect.

 Korchnoi vs Karpov
 Korchnoi vs Karpov, 1974 Candidates Matches, Moscow
This was not the first match betwen Korchnoi and Karpov. In the 1974 candidates matches, after defeating Lev Polugaevsky and Boris Spassky in preliminary matches, Karpov beat Korchnoi in the 1974 candidates final by the close score of +3 -2 =19.

Korchnoi had been one of the USSR's top grandmasters for over 20 years. He had won the Soviet Championship on four occasions and had had reached the Candidates final twice. When Korchnoi dramatically defected from the USSR in 1976, he set the stage for one of the most bitterly contested matches in WCC history, filled with high political drama, tension, and accusations. The political ramifications of a Soviet defector winning the chess crown hung heavy on the match atmosphere.

Numerous accusations were traded by the two camps. Korchnoi continously complained that he was being stared at by a member of Karpov's team during play, a parapsychologist supposedly with hypnotic powers. Karpov objected to Korchnoi's wearing of sunglasses which he said deflected light on his eyes. At one point in the match the players stopped shaking hands and all further communication stopped. Draws offers were conveyed through the arbiter.

According to Grandmaster Robert Byrne:

Korchnoi, the challenger, thrives on rancor, developing instant aversion for every opponent he plays. Their mutual dislike began with Korchnoi's disparaging remarks about Karpov's play during their final Candidates' Match in Moscow in 1974. True enmity did not blossom, however, until their title match in Baguio City, the Philippines. After Korchnoi defected from the Soviet Union in 1976, his wife, Bella, and son, Igor, were prevented from joining him. Karpov was not amused when Korchnoi called him "the jailer of my wife and son", implying that Karpov could have obtained their release from the Soviet Union so they could have joined Korchnoi. Karpov retaliated by terming Korchnoi "immoral" for leaving his family behind when he defected to the West. Korchnoi screamed, "Filthy!" and Karpov would no longer shake hands.[1]

Karpov's FIDE Rating going into the match was 2725; Korchnoi's was 2665. The match opened with seven draws. Karpov opened up a 5-2 lead and seemed sure to win when Korchnoi made an astonishing comeback winning three games to tie the match at 5-5. Karpov, however, won the very next game to win the match.

click on a game number to replay game 1234567891011121314151617181920
Karpov½½½½½½½1½½0½11½½1½½½
Korchnoi½½½½½½½0½½1½00½½0½½½

click on a game number to replay game 212223242526272829303132
Karpov0½½½½½100½01
Korchnoi1½½½½½011½10

FINAL SCORE:  Karpov 6;  Korchnoi 5 (21 draws)
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Karpov-Korchnoi 1978]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #8     Karpov vs Korchnoi, 1978     1-0
    · Game #17     Korchnoi vs Karpov, 1978     0-1
    · Game #31     Korchnoi vs Karpov, 1978     1-0

FOOTNOTES

  1. Korchnoi Bids for Chess Title Karpov Holds, Robert Byrne, New York Times, 1981
        As Chess Matches Go, This One's Well-Behaved, New York Times, Dec 1 1987

 page 1 of 2; games 1-25 of 32  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Korchnoi vs Karpov ½-½181978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchD58 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tartakower (Makagonov-Bondarevsky) Syst
2. Karpov vs Korchnoi ½-½291978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchC82 Ruy Lopez, Open
3. Korchnoi vs Karpov ½-½301978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchE42 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 c5, 5.Ne2 (Rubinstein)
4. Karpov vs Korchnoi ½-½191978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchC82 Ruy Lopez, Open
5. Korchnoi vs Karpov ½-½1241978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchE42 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 c5, 5.Ne2 (Rubinstein)
6. Karpov vs Korchnoi ½-½231978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchA29 English, Four Knights, Kingside Fianchetto
7. Korchnoi vs Karpov ½-½421978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchE47 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3
8. Karpov vs Korchnoi 1-0281978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchC80 Ruy Lopez, Open
9. Korchnoi vs Karpov ½-½411978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
10. Karpov vs Korchnoi ½-½441978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchC80 Ruy Lopez, Open
11. Korchnoi vs Karpov 1-0501978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchA07 King's Indian Attack
12. Karpov vs Korchnoi ½-½441978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchC81 Ruy Lopez, Open, Howell Attack
13. Korchnoi vs Karpov 0-1611978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
14. Karpov vs Korchnoi 1-0501978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchC82 Ruy Lopez, Open
15. Korchnoi vs Karpov ½-½251978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
16. Karpov vs Korchnoi ½-½511978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchC07 French, Tarrasch
17. Korchnoi vs Karpov 0-1391978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchE47 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3
18. Karpov vs Korchnoi ½-½641978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchB08 Pirc, Classical
19. Korchnoi vs Karpov ½-½391978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchE06 Catalan, Closed, 5.Nf3
20. Karpov vs Korchnoi ½-½631978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchB15 Caro-Kann
21. Korchnoi vs Karpov 1-0601978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
22. Karpov vs Korchnoi ½-½641978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchC07 French, Tarrasch
23. Korchnoi vs Karpov ½-½421978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
24. Karpov vs Korchnoi ½-½451978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchC83 Ruy Lopez, Open
25. Korchnoi vs Karpov ½-½801978Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship MatchA22 English
 page 1 of 2; games 1-25 of 32  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 11 OF 11 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Sep-25-21  RookFile: I love how people want to rewrite history, whether it be Kasparov or some of the folks here. I'm not aware of any major chess player in the world, not one, who in 1975 thought that Karpov would beat Fischer in a match. Fischer had taken breaks before, and had in fact emerged from them stronger than ever. Karpov did not have Fischer's level of experience in match play at the highest level, did not have Fischer's stamina, and probably would have spent his time preparing for openings that Fischer wouldn't play, just like Spassky did. To give just one example, nobody would have predicted that Fischer would play the Pirc against Spassky, but he most certainly did. Somebody mentioned the Reshevsky match, which only proves the point - Fischer didn't deviate his openings for that match. By the time he played Spassky in 1972 he had learned to deviate and be unpredictable. When you think about it, that's one of the reasons why Fischer gave up chess and invented chess960 - with computers in full swing, the room for opening innovation in the 1990's wasn't the same as in the 1970's.

Karpov said he had spent oodles of time preparing for Fischer's Alekhine defense. Good for him. Now try to guess Karpov's level of depression when Fischer played somthing else.

Karpov had his weaknesses too. As Tony Miles showed, beating Karpov with 1....a6, Karpov could be beaten when you got him away from his preprogrammed opening book. There wouldn't be anybody better in the world at playing the unexpected opening than Fischer.

Sep-25-21  nok: <As Tony Miles showed, beating Karpov with 1....a6, Karpov could be beaten...>

Yeah, hence his magnificent score against him.

Sep-25-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Reshevsky played Fischer to a draw in their match. BF walked away from the match, because it wasnt going well for him, a familiar pattern. He would have quit in Iceland too, had Fischer not taken an early lead.

Fischer was gone for 3 years, had not done that before.

Id give fischer a slight edge in 1975 <if> he had played continuously for 3 years, after 1972. If BF plays the match after a 3 year layoff? I think karpov would have won, the same karpov who was world champion for ten years.

Sep-25-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <savagerules> <wonder how accurate> Well we have GM <ray keene> here at <chessgames.com> and he was right in the thick of things!! Head of Korchnoi's delegation I believe. Just watched "Closing Gambit" it's very good BTW I'll advise anyone who is interested in the history and lore of great Championship chess to watch it. <ray keene> is in many of the scenes. I'll take his authority on the match.
Sep-25-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: re: the 1975 match

For what it’s worth I have Fischer as a slight favorite in 1975 though I believe it’s close to 50:50. And I say that with Karpov probably being my favorite player of all-time. Either way it’s a great shame the match never took place as it deprived the world of some potentially excellent chess.

Sep-26-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: I hope Jim Carrey plays Dr. Zhukov, the paranormal mentalist in the movie. Zhukov sat in the first row and stared at Korchnoi, trying to hypnotize him, in 1978. You want an actor who can INHABIT the role.

Maybe Jim Carrey can do even better?

Sep-26-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: The chess quality in this match is maybe the worst ever .... Korchnoi missed a mate in four ... lol lol lol
Sep-26-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: The only reason these guys were playing is because of Bobby and FIDE
Sep-26-21  RookFile: Regarding the Reshevsky vs. Fischer match, my sympathies are actually with Reshevsky. The old warrior showed up ready willing and able to play, even though it would be inconvenient for him too. Fischer was still a boy then, Reshevsky toughened him up.
Sep-26-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Fischer ran away when things got tough. He ran away from the chess world when he would no longer be playing aging WWII soviets. He ran away from the candidates tournaments when Spassky was still in his prime. Fischer ran away from the United states when he would no longer follow our laws.
Sep-26-21  optimal play: <Joshka: ... Just watched "Closing Gambit" it's very good BTW I'll advise anyone who is interested in the history and lore of great Championship chess to watch it.>

Yes, that's a pretty good documentary, although it glosses over the actual games, but it's interesting regarding all the shenanigans surrounding the match.

If Korchnoi had won, it's possible both he and Karpov would have been killed by the KGB. Victor might have got the poisoned umbrella tip treatment at sometime while Anatoly would have just disappeared to Siberia.

Sep-26-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <HMM>
<I hope Jim Carrey plays Dr. Zhukov, the paranormal mentalist in the movie. Zhukov sat in the first row and stared at Korchnoi, trying to hypnotize him, in 1978. You want an actor who can INHABIT the role. Maybe Jim Carrey can do even better?>

Lol, I would definitely pay to see that. Sometimes your comments kill me.

<harrylime>
<The only reason these guys were playing is because of Bobby and FIDE>

Well, I suppose that’s one way to put it. Although I myself prefer the way <HMM> puts it a couple posts below yours.

Sep-26-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <optimal play> <If Korchnoi had won, it's possible both he and Karpov would have been killed by the KGB. Victor might have got the poisoned umbrella tip treatment at sometime while Anatoly would have just disappeared to Siberia.>

While I haven’t seen the film yet (though I hope to soon), that’s a very interesting comment. I don’t know a whole lot about the KGB but is there actual precedence for them doing something that drastic? Is there prior evidence of them instigating the death or disappearance of such highly regarded sportsmen? Genuinely curious. And keep in mind I’m asking these questions from a place of ignorance about the KGB and with a desire to learn.

Sep-26-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Was Korchnoi living in Switzerland in '78? I imagine the KGB could easily have killed him, had they wanted. Horrific PR, it could never happen. Karpov, communist party member, was a part of the establishment, they were his patrons. There's no reason to harm him.
Sep-26-21  Bartleby: <0ZeR0: Either way it’s a great shame the match never took place as it deprived the world of some potentially excellent chess.>

True, and Karpov said that it robbed him of an opportunity to become an even better player. Although after winning the title via forfeit he went on a super-tournament blitzkrieg for the next 10 years dominating very strong fields, usually finishing 1st and cementing his position as the world's best for the next decade, until the emergence of that other famous K, of course. As a top-tier competitor Karpov remained in the mix for the next 20 following the aborted Fischer match. He may have lost to Short in the Candidates cycle in '93 but then promptly turned around to beat Jan Timman for the FIDE WCC, (and defending it twice more in '96 and '98) and then taking a clear 1st in Linares 1994 at the age of 42 against a super-strong field in one of the best performances in chess history.

But back to Karpov -- Fischer '75. I feel like Fischer was a better crusader-knight when he was waging his holy war against the whole Soviet Chess Establishment, but when he finally snared the crown, was a poor King. His egomania, paranoia, and inflexibility got the best of him. The requirement of first to nine wins, draws discounted, and the champion retaining the title on a 9-9 tie was grossly unfair, essentially requiring the challenger to win two more clear wins than the sitting defender, as well as no decent ceiling to match length (Just look at 1984's "first to six wins" match which dragged on to an interminable 48 games before Campo cancelled). I think he was daring FIDE to turn him down so he wouldn't have to play. Not because he feared Karpov, necessarily, but according to some twisted martyred Fischer logic, the same that had him turn down all other offers to play for money or prestige during his "Wilderness Years" and live off his mother's SS check instead.

<HeHateMe> mentioned Fischer's too readiness to quit. Spassky would have been in his rights to deny Fischer's demands of FIDE after game 1 and history could have easily had just as anticlimactic an end in '72 as it was in '75.

<HeHateMe: I'm ready to see a well made chess movie. I don't really want to see Toby Maguire kicking at the beach sand, wailing about his place in life. I hope the Russians aren't all Boris Badunov caricatures.>

The original Fischer biopic pre-development movie adaptation talk had Ryan Gosling tentatively cast as Fischer I believe, around '08 or '09. That would would have been a lot more logical, as Fischer's tall, blonde, lanky swimmers' build, as well as his laser-focused intensity, was part of his "presence" that caused so many lessor mortal players to crumble before him. Certainly a lot more resemblance than Tobey does.

At any rate, the "what could have been" epic WCC match that chess history was denied is right up there with, say, a Morphy -- Steinitz match, both a Lasker -- Pillsbury and a Lasker -- Rubinstein match, and a Alekhine -- Keres one.

Sep-26-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <Bartleby>

Indeed. Due to gaining the title by forfeiture Karpov felt that he needed to prove to the world that he really was the best. And, I believe, he was right. In the end he not only proved it, but rather left no doubt that there could be any other conclusion. This combined with how he did it (i.e. the games themselves) are the reasons why he’s a favorite of mine and a top five player of all-time.

<But back to Karpov -- Fischer '75. I feel like Fischer was a better crusader-knight when he was waging his holy war against the whole Soviet Chess Establishment, but when he finally snared the crown, was a poor King. His egomania, paranoia, and inflexibility got the best of him. The requirement of first to nine wins, draws discounted, and the champion retaining the title on a 9-9 tie was grossly unfair, essentially requiring the challenger to win two more clear wins than the sitting defender, as well as no decent ceiling to match length (Just look at 1984's "first to six wins" match which dragged on to an interminable 48 games before Campo cancelled). I think he was daring FIDE to turn him down so he wouldn't have to play. Not because he feared Karpov, necessarily, but according to some twisted martyred Fischer logic, the same that had him turn down all other offers to play for money or prestige during his "Wilderness Years" and live off his mother's SS check instead.>

I can’t argue with any of this. I’ll simply add that I often wonder what Fischer’s career would have looked like had his general mental fortitude been as strong as his chess ability.

Sep-26-21  RookFile: <HeMateMe: Fischer ran away when things got tough. He ran away from the chess world when he would no longer be playing aging WWII soviets. >

Did he indeed. Fischer put his conditions for play up long before anybody even thought about Anatoly Karpov, when his most likely challenger would have been Spassky again. He just did the same thing he did when he wouldn't play in the US Championships again. Generally speaking, you're not afraid of people you outrank by 100 Elo points or more.

Before you get too hard with Fischer, you might want to remember that if anybody wins more than a bag of peanuts for winning a chess event, it was because he demanded better chess conditions and pay and got them.

Sep-27-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Fischer knew he could beat the old WWII USSR guys. Karpov was a new, better player. Different style, different openings, younger with more energy. Fischer ran away, rather than face a opponent he wasn't sure (in BF's mind) he could defeat.

It doesn't matter <when> Fischer put up said conditions for 1975. He would have kept moving the goal posts until FIDE finally had to forfeit him. If FIDE had given in to every single one of Fischer's early demands then BF would have demanded the match be played on the moon.

< I think he was daring FIDE to turn him down so he wouldn't have to play.>

indeed. This was, sadly, the Fischer experience for the the next ten years. Every lucrative commercial offer went unfilled. Fischer would demand more and more, each time, until the businessmen walked away, realizing that no deal could be made. He could have written another book on his own games, written a tournament book on any big event, done a book on Karpov v. Korchnoi, speaking engagements, simul exhibitions. Fischer could have printed money.

Instead, he lived in poverty, on the handouts from anonymous donors, good people trying to help a disturbed man.

I really think that had BF lived in this day and age and admitted that he had a problem, seen a medical doctor, he would have been diagnosed with a minor level of schizophrenia:

"I'm gonna build a big house on the upper east side of Manhattan, shaped like a Rook."

"Jeremy Schaap jr. is another jewish snake."

"I hope the whole USA gets blown up."

Are these the words of a rational man, a guy with his head screwed on right?

he could have been prescribed psychiatric medications and had a much more normal life, perhaps even continued his playing career.

Sep-27-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <HMM>
<"Jeremy Schaap jr. is another jewish snake.">

It’s precisely this kind of delusional antisemitism that Fischer often espoused which makes it very hard for me to empathize with him as a human being. I realize that only someone who’s mind is completely separated from reality could truly believe such things. But his mental illness is not an excuse for believing and saying such things. Of course one only needs to play through his games to recognize he was a genius in the art of chess, but I cannot bring myself to say he was also a particularly good person.

Sep-27-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <0ZeR0.... I often wonder what Fischer’s career would have looked like had his general mental fortitude been as strong as his chess ability.>

Had Fischer possessed such extraordinary inner strength to complement those abilities, he should have been Superman.

Sep-27-21  optimal play: <0ZeR0: <optimal play> <If Korchnoi had won, it's possible both he and Karpov would have been killed by the KGB. Victor might have got the poisoned umbrella tip treatment at sometime while Anatoly would have just disappeared to Siberia.>

While I haven’t seen the film yet (though I hope to soon), that’s a very interesting comment. I don’t know a whole lot about the KGB but is there actual precedence for them doing something that drastic? Is there prior evidence of them instigating the death or disappearance of such highly regarded sportsmen? Genuinely curious. And keep in mind I’m asking these questions from a place of ignorance about the KGB and with a desire to learn.>

The film implied that certainly Korchnoi's life was in danger from the KGB, but even their golden boy Karpov would have suffered a dramatic fall from grace had he lost the match. And who knows what might have happened to him.

The idea that the "traitor" Korchnoi would win the match and thus humiliate the Soviet communist state was unthinkable to them. And Karpov would certainly have been punished, perhaps even eliminated altogether to remove the shame.

It's just speculation of course, but apart from all the other bizarre things going on at Baguio City, there was the astonishing offer by Max Euwe to Ray Keene to call off the match at 5-5. Maybe Euwe had serious suspicions and wanted to avoid such a scenario.

<HeMateMe: Was Korchnoi living in Switzerland in '78? I imagine the KGB could easily have killed him, had they wanted. Horrific PR, it could never happen. Karpov, communist party member, was a part of the establishment, they were his patrons. There's no reason to harm him.>

If Karpov lost he would have been disowned by the Soviet communist establishment. Who knows where he might have ended up.

It wouldn't have been like Spassky losing to Fischer. That was bad enough, but Korchnoi winning would have been unbearable.

Sep-27-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <optimal play> <The film implied that certainly Korchnoi's life was in danger from the KGB, but even their golden boy Karpov would have suffered a dramatic fall from grace had he lost the match. And who knows what might have happened to him.

The idea that the "traitor" Korchnoi would win the match and thus humiliate the Soviet communist state was unthinkable to them. And Karpov would certainly have been punished, perhaps even eliminated altogether to remove the shame.

It's just speculation of course, but apart from all the other bizarre things going on at Baguio City, there was the astonishing offer by Max Euwe to Ray Keene to call off the match at 5-5. Maybe Euwe had serious suspicions and wanted to avoid such a scenario.>

Wow, very interesting indeed. Considering all this I am very glad that the match ended in a victory for Karpov. That something truly horrific could have happened to Korchnoi is unthinkable. It would have been a very severe blow for the game of chess. The last bit about Euwe is also potentially quite telling as I’ve always had the impression of utmost logic and pragmatism from him in both chess and life. I don’t think he would consider calling off the match unless it was something very serious. Thanks for educating me on this topic.

Dec-30-21  Albertan: Karpov-Korchnoi 1978 World Chess Championship depicted in ´´The World Champion’´,a film directed by Alexey Sidorov:

https://www.chess.com/news/view/the...

I wish this film would show in Canada.

Jan-10-22  Allanur: Had Korchnoi won this match, I believe, he would have been publicized and even mythicized more than Fischer has been.

A 47 yold Soviet defective defeating the icon of communism... He would have been the cold war hero of the western block. Also, he would have been mythicized as: his youth has been wasted for political reasons as he was a Jew by one side and came from a Catholic family. Had he had been free to win in his youth he would have been world champion too early, he would have remained champion for decades.

By the west, he would have been embraced more than Fischer has been. Only if he won. Unfortunately, he lost.

Jan-10-22  Allanur: Moreover, I believe, Korchnoi should have demanded that he is not gonna play unless his family is released from the Soviet Union. Karpov won the title by defeault and if he was to 'defend' his title by default, the world simply would not have accepted him second time by default.

The only phase is, Korchnoi should have done it on the opening ceremony of the match. "If my family is not released, I abandon the match."

Thus, challenger being replaced by the loser of candidates would have been stalled. A new organization would have been needed, Spassky would have needed time to prepare.

The Soviets could not accept being seen "did not release the family so that the title remain in the Soviet hands." The press would assert so, whatever the reason was

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