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Lajos Portisch vs Viktor Korchnoi
USSR vs. Rest of the World (1970), Belgrade SRB, rd 4, Apr-04
English Opening: Symmetrical. Anti-Benoni Variation Geller Variation (A33)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Dec-25-03  tud: So, Fischer saw this shamefull stuff. Portisch repeats the moves, playing against the World Team strategy, and happy himself with a match won against Korchnoi. Fischer reports to Euwe, and this demonstrates that back in 70s, this guy was a real team player. He was not satisfied of what happened in this fantastic 1970 match. Once Fischer was into something , he was for real.
Dec-26-03  uglybird: Never knew about this game. The match was very close 20.5 for USSR vs 19.5 for rest of the world, so if Portisch wins its a tie match. Clearly Portisch is exchange ahead and should continue playing. It looks like a double-crossing by the Hungarian to his rest of the world teammates.
Dec-27-03  Resignation Trap: When I saw the comments on this game, I thought that you were simply ripping on poor Portisch. I was going to write a message in defense of the Hungarian. But, being someone who appreciates "just the plain truth," I decided to check with contemporary reports of this event.

I thank you for forcing me the Chess Life & Review issues of 1970! I found out a lot more about this match than I sought.

Go to Korchnoi-Portisch, Round 1, to see game commentaries:

Korchnoi vs Portisch, 1970

Dec-27-03  Resignation Trap: In round three the World defeated the USSR 6-4, but the USSR held on to a minimal margin overall: 15.5-14.5. According to Koltanowski, "The captain of the World team, Dr. Max Euwe, called a meeting of his team to instruct them to play for a draw on every board. The strategy is that the Russians must play to win the last round and may overreach themselves."

Larry Evans: "Hungary's Lajos Portisch (33) forgot that it was HIS birthday and extended a costly gift by allowing Viktor Korchnoi a draw by repetition on move 25. Since Portisch had a technically won position and more time on his clock, his teammates were understandibly bitter. "I'm really mad! It's disgraceful," said Fischer subsequently. "Korchnoi's position was hopeless." B H Wood of the British CHESS opined that the Hungarian "suffered from a rush of blood from his boots."... Korchnoi had no complaint, although he dropped the set 2.5-1.5. The entire match would have been tied had he lost this game as well."

[In the final position] "White is an exchange ahead and has many good moves. Castling Queenside is one, Rd1 is another. Instead it was drawn by repetition on move 25 after Bf1, Qc6, Bg2, Qb5, etc. No one regretted his decision more than Portisch when it became clear that it cost a tie match; but he has been known to chicken out when he feeld there is any danger in a position, and he was anxious to clinch his set with 2.5 - a conceit the world press is not likely soon to forget."

Aug-08-04  iron maiden: I heard that Portisch deliberately drew by repitition because he needed to get to a meeting with a Hungarian ambassador.
Jun-13-09  WhiteRook48: can't he just decline the draw?
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <iron maiden: I heard that Portisch deliberately drew by repitition because he needed to get to a meeting with a Hungarian ambassador.>

Portisch couldn't wait to shovel a couple of hundredweight of Ferrero Rocher down his galuska-hole.

Jun-15-14  RookFile: Strange stuff.
Dec-09-14  Granny O Doul: Bizarre if Euwe actually thought the onus was on the Russians to press simply so that they could win by two points rather than one. Also, even if 5-5 were a good outcome, playing to draw each game regardless of the position is obviously an idiotic strategy. I have heard the "ambassador" story before. Since Portisch, as far as I know, has never spoken of it since, my inclination is to agree with the "chicken" theory.
Apr-14-20  eyalbd: Portisch comments on this:

Apr-14-20  sfm: The draw itself is a non-story. The final result and Fischer's accusations blew it up.

Team chess is thinking for the team. Portisch could certainly have lost this game.

In my time as a chess player I have seen it countless times: playing on in clearly won positions, losing the game, and the team lost the match.

And tactical draws from better positions - team-tournaments or not - which turned out to be the wrong choice. Afterwards. Then the accusations come, typically about laziness.

Should I frown at an such player I'd hardly have a chess friend left to smile to.

Apr-14-20  Granny O Doul: I've read Portisch's explanation, linked above. It suggests that he would have played on had the team captain, Euwe, told him to, but since Euwe put it on him, he decided to secure the victory in his personal match with Korchnoi. In any case, it clearly was not a tactical decision made for the team's sake.
Apr-15-20  sfm: <Granny O Doul: ... he decided to secure the victory in his personal match with Korchnoi. In any case, it clearly was not a tactical decision made for the team's sake.>

It must be nice to live in a world where things are clear, yes and no. It seems that Fischer also had another clear reason - Portisch was bribed during the game.

To me, both my own and others' decisions are usually a result of complex considerations, often subconscious.

I'd have imagined that "his personal match with Korchnoi" maybe could have been one parameter, others being the team result, his own evaluation of the position - and then a handful of others that we don't know about and that even Portisch himself wouldn't have realized.

Least of all while the clock was ticking away and he had to decide on whether to take that half point.

May-12-21  tympsa: Fischer saw conspiracies everywhere. After decades he accused that all Karpov- Kasparov games and matches were fixed, results predetermined .

And position is far from win. White is better, but barely out of opening, lot may happen here .

May-12-21  Petrosianic: <After decades he accused that all Karpov- Kasparov games and matches were fixed, results predetermined.>

Even more bizarrely, he claimed that the Karpov-Korchnoi games were pre-arranged (!). As he saw it, nobody really played for the title after he resigned it. Not really.

Team events produce some really bizarre results. I remember one team event where I had a dead even game. But the team was losing, so I unbalanced the position at considerable risk. I gave Black a passed pawn for some other stuff that went nowhere, and ended up in a lost game.

Knowing that the other team just needed a draw to win the match, I offered one, sure he wouldn't take it. But his teammates begged him. "Take it! Take it!" He did, and I dared think that maybe it was a draw after all. No such luck. As as soon as he took the draw, his top board showed me the winning continuation for Black. It was there, and he knew it, but he wasn't confident that Black wouldn't go wrong in the complications. So he'd advised Black to take the draw with the others. So in one way I got a free half point, but then I'd never have been in trouble at all if I'd been able to play it the way I wanted to.

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