The man who has spent his whole life in the game

El Gran Viktor, Viktor el Grande at the opening ceremony ZCC in February 2016, photo by David Llada







Condolence to Petronella Kortchnoi and Igor Kortchnoi

Viktor Korchnoi's last games in public were the four rapid games he played against his longtime friend from Saint Petersburg, Mark Taimanov at the Chess Museum in November 2015:

It was the first time, Viktor Lvovich was engaged in a match (official or friendly) with an opponent older than him since the Candidate's quarter-final vs. Tigran Petrosian at Velden, Austria in 1980!

At age of 80 in 2011, Viktor Korchnoi, performed a sensational year: National Champion again and more than fifty years since his first national USSR Champion title, winning the closed Botvinnik Memorial Veterans, Rapid at Suzdal, beating Caruana in a fascinating Ruy Lopez with black at the prestigious Gibraltar Open, playing at the European Team Chess Championship for Switzerland on board no. 2, and achieving the individual best score in the Swiss Team Championship together with Alexey Dreev (both at 6.5/8). But early summer 2012, Korchnoi, already using a walking stock, was forced to sit and play in a wheelchair. Very unusual, his first event under these conditions, ended badly, Korchnoi played far too fast at the Swiss Championship (round robin), he still beat the eventual National Champion of 2012, Joe Gallagher, but lost a couple of games and finished at the bottom. He was immediately delisted from the Olympiad squad by his own federation, officially it was he who waived. Instead, Viktor Korchnoi was invited by the Geneva Chess Club (CEG) to take part in a Scheveningen team match of Legends (alongside Andersson, Hort, Ribli, and Spraggett) vs. Geneva in classical chess. Korchnoi finished as individual best (first on tie-break) of all ten experienced and young players, had adjusted his time management and showed some fine games in his second tournament under new physical restrictions, it was August 2012: (with games) (games to replay and videos)
The event was captured in excellent videos, with the final round video focussing on Korchnoi:

Soon afterwards, Viktor Korchnoi drew in the decentralized Swiss league against the many times Italian national champion Michele Godena, however, this game turns out to be Korchnoi's last official game in classical chess:

As chess, our beloved game; health does not follow linear ways

Once again, Korchnoi had to prove how to overcome adversity, in September the same year 2012, he suffered from a severe stroke, and had problems with his heart as well. His physical condition after the stroke, did no longer allow him to take part in absolute elite competitions.
Yes, he was seriously enfeebled, but at the chess board Viktor flourished!

Korchnoi recovered somewhat after a stay at hospital and clinic plus rehabilitation programme, returning to the board at Leipzig in spring 2014, versus Wolfgang Uhlmann, active chess, 1h each. Korchnoi played Uhlmann later at a side event (rapid match) of the Zurich Chess Challenge (ZCC) in February 2015, followed by the mentioned rapid match with Mark Taimanov at the Swiss Chess Museum in Kriens near Lucerne in November 2015.

He was already scheduled to play in the December 2013 Zurich Christmas Open, but withdrew due to health, logistical and organisational reasons (two full rounds a day after the traditional start of the event on boxing day). Nevertheless, it was a pity, that nobody found a solution for a side event..

Korchnoi twice was invited to Dresden in 2014 and 2015, joining the Pegasus summit, strictly for grandmasters above 75 years, meeting with Fridrik Olafsson, Oscar Panno, Mark Taimanov, Wolfgang Uhlmann, Klaus Darga, Hajo Hecht, and more. Korchnoi always wanted to play, and he did! In Dresden, he played at least fifty rapid and blitz games on friendly terms within a few days, with everyone who was willing to play, old and young people, club members and chess affiliated pedestrians (some veteran chess grandmasters switched after a certain time from the royal game to bourgeois cultural interests and rather preferred the walking, talking and eating). Of course, Korchnoi also played regularly with several seniors and club teammates at Wohlen.

Viktor Korchnoi travelled - after the incident - to Russia and visited Saint Petersburg in 2013 again, together with his wife Petra Korchnoi and a nurse, thanks to Mr Gerhard Köhler, the driving force who organised the needed logistics of the journey and could fulfill Viktor's request. Köhler visited Korchnoi quarterly in Wohlen, Argovia, and became a close friend, supporter and scholar, winning then in 2016 the World Amateur Chess Championship (ACO) in the highest possible category.

German invitations, a travel to Russia - ignored by the own Swiss Chess Federation

German chess enthusiasts Dr. Gerhard Köhler and his wife, Paul Werner Wagner, president of the Emanuel Lasker Gesellschaft and its members, Dr. Dirk Jordan, chairman of the traditional ZMDI Schachfestival Dresden and Dr. Rainer Maas, founder and organizer of the Pegasus summit at the same venue, made a lot for Viktor Korchnoi after his stroke, invited him to Leipzig and Dresden, managed the two Uhlmann matches (in 2014, Spassky called off in very last minute), meanwhile the official Swiss Chess Federation, Schweizer Schachbund (SSB) dismissed and ignored Viktor Korchnoi, they didn't make anything for him in the last four years. Absolutely nothing. Please note, this is a pure statement about the official federation. Swiss chess clubs as the SG Zurich as well as some less known local clubs, nonprofit organizations such as the Chess Museum or Accentus Foundation, private donors and friends tried to do their best within their possibilities.

Despite his successes on international chess circuit in 2011 mentioned above, Korchnoi's last invitation to a closed international tournament in classical chess goes back to the year 2009, the final edition of the Staunton Memorial in London, ten players, Korchnoi clear third, beating winner Jan Timman in great style, fighting every game with determination, 61 moves on average! 

Getting old is not for cowards. There was no birthday event to celebrate his 85th jubilee in 2016. The fate of many aging and immobilized people. Memories from the 2011 celebration party:

In analogy of his playing style, Viktor Korchnoi wasn't easy, a very inspirational personality, a man with will and an eternal love for the game. A life dedicated to chess.

Photographer David Llada, who made the photo above, wrote that [the organizers of the 2016 Zurich Chess Challenge] only invited him to the opening ceremony, Korchnoi emphasized:

“I'm not coming here as a spectator! I don't want to watch chess, I want to play chess, but they didn't get me an opponent this time!”

Quotation from Peter Doggers:

Photo:, (Twitter)

Yasser Seirawan's heartfelt tribute (Video 4:55 min.)


"He was very, very loyal to people who are loyal to him. He made me at all times feel as a part of his family.

Thank you Viktor, Thank you Petra"


Garry Kasparov's memories and admiration

"Viktor Korchnoi loved chess like no one else before or since, and chess was lucky to have him for so long" (Facebook) (in russian language)

Vishy Anand's testimonies

"The chess world loses its greatest fighter. R.I.P. Viktor Korchnoi.
We learnt so much from you"

"Personally I will miss his characteristic laughter & his love for chess" 
Anand took to Twitter to pay his tributes)



Initially, this rubric was a calendar of GM Korchnoi's most important activities in recent years since 2012. The reports are still covered down here, followed then by more obituaries and reminiscences at the bottom. The column heading did not change from 'calendar' to 'condolence'.

Exposition by the Swiss Chess Museum

This special exhibition is running from 10th November 2015 (Vernissage) to 31st March 2016 at the Swiss Chess Museum in Kriens, a suburb of Lucerne, including a four games rapid match, held on 11th November (rounds one and two) and 12th November (rounds three and four), with free entry, beginning each at 2 pm, of Viktor Korchnoi and Mark Taimanov from Saint Petersburg:

Viktor Kortschnoi - Ein Leben für das Schach

Main sponsor: Accentus

chess museum -

Korchnoi vs. Taimanov Legends Rapid Match 2.5 - 1.5, Chess Museum in Lucerne, November 2015

The Exposition faced a fascinating four games rapid match (25 min. plus 10 sec. increment per move) between Viktor and Mark, the Legends from Saint Petersburg which were invited to visit the Chess Museum together with their wives Petra Korchnoi and Nadja Taimanov.

Viktor Korchnoi won the first and the last game, Mark Taimanov the second game of the match. The third encounter ended in a draw (offered by Korchnoi who was a pawn up, but in a typical motif of opposite-colored bishops).

Held on two days, all four games were hard fought, seeking for complex and unbalanced positions, played with passion by both players. (pictures and report in german language) (Mark Taimanov giving a simul exhibition, pictures and report in german language, Mark and Nadja stayed from Monday to Saturday in Switzerland and visited the City of Lucerne and the Lake of the Four Forested Settlements, too)

At a total of 174 years, Korchnoi vs. Taimanov (in November 2015, Swiss Chess Museum) is the oldest combined aggregate for a chess match between grandmasters.

Mark Taimanov, three months before his 90th birthday and Viktor Korchnoi, a few months before his 85th birthday, are playing a four games rapid match at the Swiss Chess Museum near Lucerne (Petra Korchnoi, right with the back)

Taimanov in play (November 2015)

Ein Duell zweier Legenden (translation)

Werner Rupp (in white jersey), the Soul of the Swiss Chess Museum

Had the match occurred 60 years ago, the world would probably have stopped. Viktor Korchnoi vs. Mark Taimanov, two chess players from the old Leningrad chess school (now Saint Petersburg) met for a match play with two rapid games of 25 minutes' thinking in the context of the special exhibition: "Viktor Korchnoi - A life for chess", in the Museum where everything, really all about chess.

This special exhibition is dedicated to Chess Grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi (1931 born in St. Petersburg), presented by Werner and Roland Rupp, in months of preparation and running until 30 March 2016th.

The multiple Vice World Champion requested asylum in Switzerland in 1977 and is now not only at home here, but also become a honorary citizen in Wohlen. Numerous titles with teams of Biel and Zurich, winner of the Swiss individual championships and countless tournament wins characterize the path of former Russians. Viktor Korchnoi is one with rough edges but also with a lot of character and charm.

Mark Taimanov (born in 1926) is one of the last great chess players of the older generation. His book "I was the victim Fischer" became world famous. He described his crushing defeat (0:6) against American Bobby Fischer, who played Boris Spassky a year later in 1972 at the World Chess Championship - and snatched the world title in Reykjavik.

Mark Taimanov had, in contrast to most chess players a second, very popular hobby: He was a master at the piano. Aged 10, he played the lead role in Vladimir Schmidthofs film "Beethoven's Concert". On the question of journalists: how can both play chess and piano at this high level, he would say: "In chess I recover from playing the piano, playing the piano I recover from chess!" Thus he has practically the entire life recovered both! In 1998, a CD was released with the recordings of the greatest pianists of the 20th century with recordings of the duo Bruk (his first wife) & Taimanov.

Taimanov took 23 Chess Championships of the Soviet Union and was able in 1952, shared with Mikhail Botvinnik and 1956 (after tie-break) win the first place. In 1993 and 1994 he was at the end of his career twice Seniors World Champion. Great was the interest in the match of the legends in the Chess Museum between Korchnoi and Taimanov. Besides the transfer to a giant screen, visitors were able to follow the game live close.

Werner Rupp, Chairman of the Swiss Chess Museum, 11th of November 2015, translation by Virgil A (pictures and report in german language)

Petra is congratulating Viktor Korchnoi after winning the fourth and final game, background from left to right: Wheelchair Taxi Driver, Chessdiagonals, initiator and co-sponsor of the match, Dr. Christian Issler, president of the SG Zurich, the world's oldest existing chess club, Mark and Nadja Taimanov from Saint Petersburg

Korchnoi vs. Uhlmann Legends Rapid Match 2.0 - 2.0, February 2015

The 4th Zurich Chess Challenge 2015 is taking place from 13-19th February, 2015, at the Hotel Savoy Baur en Ville, in Zurich, Switzerland. The Emanuel Lasker Gesellschaft (ELG) is organising a spectacular supplementary event.

A real gem will be the rapid match between two living legends, Grandmasters Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann. They will celebrate their 84th and 80th birthday respectively in March 2015.

The match as part of the Zurich Chess Challenge consists of four rapid games. The event will be held on Sunday, February 15th (rounds 1-2) and Monday, February 16th (rounds 3-4), both days at 11am at the Hotel "Savoy Baur en Ville".

Before the games, Paul Werner Wagner of the Emanuel Lasker Gesellschaft will make a presentation on the chess history. No previous registration of spectators is required for the lecture and the games of the match.

In March 2013, Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann played an exhibition match of two games at the University in Leipzig, with the time control of 60 min/game for each. Korchnoi won 2-0.

Together with the Zurich Chess Club (, the oldest chess society in the World, the Zurich Chess Challenge is made possible again by the generous support of Oleg Skvortsov from the International Gemological Laboratories in Moscow ( He is the creator of this now traditional event and a passionate strong chess player with good personal relationships to the entire world elite of chess.

Fabiano Caruana, the superior winner of the recently concluded Super Tournament in St. Louis, the former world champions Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, and the absolute top players Levon Aronian, Sergey Karjakin and Hikaru Nakamura are the participants of this outstanding annual supertournament in its 4th edition.

History: 2012 Aronian vs. Kramnik 3-3 (match), Winner 2013 Caruana (4 players), Winner 2014 Carlsen (six players) 

The supporting programme features Sergej Karjakin who will be playing a simultaneous exhibition against representatives of the sponsors at the «Zunfthaus zur Saffran» on February 12th.

Admission to the classical and rapid games of this formidable event is free.

All games will be commented live and broadcast worldwide via the Internet.

GMs Nigel Short, Ian Rogers, Gennadi Sosonko and Ljubomir Ljubojevic will support the swiss GM Yannick Pelletier and IM Werner Hug as guest commentators during the worldwide live broadcast at 

Before the match

At Zurich Chess Challenge Korchnoi still remembers his game from 1960 against Uhlmann in the last round at Buenos Aires (this big tournament to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the May Revolution in Argentina took place in the Aula Magna of the Faculty of Medicine at Buenos Aires in May 1960):

'I have prepared to the Grunfeld', Korchnoi told Genna Sosonko confidentially. As you already know he will play a rapid match against Wolfgang Uhlmann here in Zurich on February 15th and 16th. 'Why exactly the Grunfeld?', Sosonko wondered. The answer was puzzling even to Genna who has been keeping in touch with Korchnoi for decades. 'He always plays the King's Indian', Victor Lvovich explained. 'But in the last round of Buenos Aires in 1960, he suddenly decided to surprise me with the Grunfeld. I failed to win that game and was eventually tied for the first place (with Reshevsky) instead of taking the clear first. How can I be sure he won't do this again? I have to stay on the alert... (unquote) from the Opening Ceremony at Zurich Chess Challenge 2015 with Viktor Korchnoi, his friend Gennadi Sosonko, Wolfgang Uhlmann, and Anand, Aronian, Caruana, Karjakin, Kramnik, and Nakamura, pictorial report by Evgeny Surov

Two wins with White

Wolfgang Uhlmann won the first game, converting nicely after Viktor Korchnoi made a dubious Queen manoeuvre in move 26 and was subsequently outplayed.

Viktor Korchnoi won the second game, dominating right from the beginning and finishing convincingly. The match score between the Legends is 1-1 at half time. (report by Sagar Shah)

Two wins with Black

Viktor Korchnoi won the third game with black in his legendary counter-attacking style, and Wolfgang Uhlmann won the fourth game after white blundered. The final match score between the Legends is equalized 2 - 2. (interview in english language) (interview in russian language) (pictorial report in french with lot of reminiscences by Georges Bertola for EUROPE ECHECHS) (report by Sagar Shah)

The Emanuel Lasker Gesellschaft

Constituted in 2001 at the Congress Homo ludens, Homo politicus in Potsdam, the Emanuel Lasker Gesellschaft (ELG), located in Berlin, is preserving the spiritual and cultural heritage of the second World Chess Champion, Emanuel Lasker

President of the foundation is literary scholar and chess player Paul Werner Wagner, among its members and honorary members are Petra Korchnoi and Viktor Korchnoi (deceased), Wolfgang Uhlmann, Wolfgang Unzicker (deceased), Lothar Schmid (deceased), Rainer KnaakRaj Tischbierek, Helmut Pfleger, Boris Spassky, Yuri Averbakh, Andor Lilienthal (deceased), Isaak Linder, doyen of the chess historians, and Gerhard Köhler, ORWO Net, entrepreneur, chess player and chess maecenas.

The cultural scientist Paul Werner Wagner – there is no really good translation for the German "Kulturwissenschaftler" – was put into jail at the age of nineteen by the East German Secret Service. It was during this time that he studied chess and achieved a noteworthy playing strength. He narrates how he was enthralled by the matches between Karpov and Korchnoi, always rooting for the latter. When he won his first important tournament game he wrote above it in his chess notebook: "Inspired by the great Viktor Korchnoi!" (Quotation from Frederic Friedel, ChessBase)

Korchnoi at Pegasus summit in Dresden 2014 and 2015

Since 2012, Chess Grandmasters aged 75plus, are invited to the International PEGASUS Chess Summit at Dresden as special guests during the traditional ZMDI Schachfestival (Open) Dresden, held annually in August.

All accommodations are sponsored by Pegasus Residenz, Dresden on the initiative by chairman Dr. Rainer Maas, a chess lover himself, in co-operation with Dr. Dirk Jordan, organizer of the traditional ZMDI Chess Festival

Prominent Grandmasters at Dresden since 2012: Boris Spassky, Mark Taimanov, Yuri Averbakh, Boris Ivkov, Fridrik Olafsson, Oscar Panno, William Lombardy, Yair Kraidman, Győző Forintos, Nikola Padevsky, Lothar Schmid (R.I.P.), Klaus Darga, Hans-Joachim Hecht, Wolfgang Uhlmann, and others including IM Andreas Dückstein, from Austria, born in Budapest, clearly regarded as of grandmaster strength (always an amateur player, he nevertheless has beaten Botvinnik, Euwe and Spassky in individual games).

Some grandmasters could or would not be present due to health issues or long journeys, and of course, most grandmasters are too young to fit the criterion :)

The first four Junior World Chess Champions in history all attained again at Pegasus summit:
Ivkov was the first Junior WC in 1951, followed by Panno in 1953, Spassky in 1955, and Lombardy in 1957 (then biannually played).

Olafsson, the Icelandic icon, who is in a splendid health condition, giving a clock simul for club players, walking like an athlete, Taimanov, Uhlmann, and Dückstein visited all four summits so far (as of 2015).

Viktor Korchnoi participated twice in Dresden at the Pegasus summit in 2014 and 2015.

Third Pegasus summit 2014 in Dresden: Meeting of Grandmasters aged 75 years plus,
Viktor Korchnoi playing in a team consultation game with live chess pieces:
(Pictorial report by Sagar Shah, 24-years old International Master from India) (Video from the Pegasus Summit:
chess dance "Sachy" by the czech ensemble "Základni umelecká skola Bystré")
(Pictorial report in german by Raymond Stolze, SCHACH-TICKER from the 2015 summit)
(Video from the 2015 summit in german language)

Getting old is not for cowards: Jenny Behrend, geriatric nurse, cares on Viktor Korchnoi

Viktor Korchnoi and Mark Taimanov at the PEGASUS International Chess Summit of Grandmasters aged 75+ during the ZMDI Schachfestival in Dresden 2014. Photo courtesy of Pegasus Wohnen, a real estate company which is building residential houses in one of the most attractive locations of Dresden - and organizing since 2012 an annual summer summit for chess legends, in its fourth edition with the birthday jubilee kids Fridrik Olafsson from Iceland, Oscar Panno from Argentina and Wolfgang Uhlmann from Germany, all turning eighty years young in 2015, along with amongst other legends IM Andreas Dueckstein, Klaus Darga, Hajo Hecht, Győző Forintos, Mark Taimanov, and Viktor Korchnoi.

Korchnoi wins at Geneva 2012

Viktor Korchnoi wins the CEG versus Legendaries chess tournament in Geneva

Five players from the Club d’Echecs de Genève (CEG) played against five legendary chess grandmasters:

The team of these Legendaries was formed with Viktor Korchnoi, Ulf Andersson, Vlastimil Hort, Zoltan Ribli and Kevin Spraggett (with the Canadian, youngest player of the legends, having the highest ELO rating, and Hort currently the lowest).

For he Chess Club of Geneva (CEG) were competing its members Richard Gerber, former Swiss Champion, Alexandre Domont, Bastien Dubessay from France, Alexandre Vuilleumier - and Lars Rindlisbacher (FIDE number 57 of the U-16 World).

Modus was a double round Scheveningen system with 40 moves in 90 minutes, then 30 minutes for the rest, plus 30 seconds increment from the beginning.

The legends did win as expected and sure with 33 to 17 points. CEG-team-youngster Lars Rindlisbacher, he is coming from Worb near Berne, achieved an IM-norm (4 out of 10 points, team-averages ELO 2351 versus 2544), congratulation!

From the beginning, the organisers also published an individual scoring list, which Viktor Korchnoi finally won on a better Sonneborn-Berger tie-break. Spraggett finished second (shared) and Ribli third (shared), all with 7/10 pts.

Viktor Korchnoi was sitting in a wheelchair, did / could not walk around to watch the other games in progress. The tournament schedule was incredible though with three double rounds, even two double round days in a row (playing at 10 am and 16.30 pm, is this still sound planning? In fact, 81 years aged Korchnoi played four games of a total of more than 16 hours within 36 hours.

Just a few weeks after he had a series of losses at the Swiss Championship due to health handicaps, Korchnoi also took his personal revenge on IM Richard Gerber and IM Richard Domont, against whom both he then lost, now beating them with 3.5 out of 4 points.

In total Korchnoi scored six wins, two draws and two losses, Korchnoi played for a win in every game, no short draws as it sometimes happened on other boards.

The links below present more details from the initial tournament, games in pgn and some nice videos:

Especially the video from round nine (in french: Vidéo de la ronde 9 avec interviews de Lars Rindlisbacher et du GM Vlastimil Hort - Visite de Kramnik), with the unannounced visit of Vladimir Kramnik, former World Chess Champion and in this moment number three of the world, and

The video from round ten (in french: La cérémonie de clôture et la remise des prix une belle Ode à la légende des légendes, le GM Viktor Korchnoï) with a sensitive homage to Petra and Victor Korchnoi, and his love for the game.
(with games to replay)
(with games to replay and videos, text written in french language) (with videos and analysis)
(Korchnoi's health suffers setback: Kevin Spraggett on Viktor Korchnoi in general, anectodes and a specific analysis of the game Korchnoi vs. Lars Rindlisbacher, sixty-five years younger, born in 1996)
(Korchnoi in a clinic recovering from a stroke, article by ChessBase with photos from Geneva 2012, made by Frits Agterdenbos, unfortunately, his ChessVista doesn't exist any longer)

Korchnoi in Leipzig 2014, Internet Video live coverage

Chess at the University
Korchnoi versus Uhlmann (Leipzig, 2014)

<Schach-Event der Extraklasse in Leipzig 2014: Veranstaltung auf Initiative von Dr. Gerhard Köhler, ORWO Net AG, Wolfen, Deutscher Schachbund DSB, Emanuel-Lasker-Gesellschaft und der Universität Leipzig>

Dr. Gerhard Köhler is the man who took the initiative to bring together two of the all time greatest chess living legends: Wolfgang Uhlmann and Viktor Korchnoi.

In summer 2012, Korchnoi visited the City of Leipzig, invited by the University and Dr. Gerhard Köhler, a student chess player in the 1970s for East Germany, Amateur World Chess Champion ACO 2016, promoter of Youth Chess in Germany (founder and president of the corresponding society „Kinderschach in Deutschland“) and entrepreneur as chairman of a mid-cap company in fotofinishing:

Viktor Korchnoi then visited with his wife Petra the new Paulinum and gave a simultan exhibition at the University of Leipzig:

For Viktor Korchnoi, the city of Leipzig creates also reminiscences of his first Chess Olympiads for the USSR in 1960 on board 4, whith Tal, Botvinnik, Keres, Korchnoi and Smyslov, Petrosian as reserve - what an incredible line-up! Even a formation of the then not nominated Bronstein, Spassky, Geller, Stein, Polugaevsky, Taimanov would be most certainly better that time than every other nation on this planet.

A survey of Leipzig 1960 with pictures of Bobby Fischer, the wizard Tal, Korchnoi, elder statesman Max Euwe, sixteen years young Vlastimil Hort or Manuel Aaron, the first indian International Master who did much for the popularization of the game in India:

In spring 2014, Viktor and Petra Korchnoi were invited to Leipzig again, at the University of Leipzig, Viktor Korchnoi  played a match (active chess, 1h each) against Dresden legend Wolfgang Uhlman. It was the first public game of Viktor Lvovich after he suffered a stroke. 

Korchnoi vs. Uhlmann, Leipzig 2014: (Internet live broadcast game 1) (Internet live broadcast game 2) (game 1 to replay) (game 2 to replay) (Analyse der beiden Partien von FIDE-Meister Manfred Schöneberg, früherer Landesmeister der DDR, in der Leipziger Volkszeitung LVZ) (Bericht von Ilja Schneider für DIE ZEIT) (Korchnoi simul with Juniors) (Uhlmann replacing Spassky) (initially a match versus Spassky was announced) (SCHACH-TICKER, Franz Jittenmeier)

No invitation / the years of tournament boycott during Korchnoi's peak time, some historical background

In 1974, Korchnoi gave an interview to a Yugoslav newspaper in which he criticised certain aspects of the Soviet chess system. This resulted in being dropped from the national team for a year and banned from playing tournaments abroad in 1975 by his own federation. He was banned from publishing chess analysis, too.

In 1976, after these measures had been lifted, Viktor Korchnoi took part at the IBM-tournament in Amsterdam, during which he requested asylum in the Netherlands. He lived there for some time, playing and winning the National Championship of the Netherlands in 1977, before moving to Switzerland at the end of 1977. 

A sad chapter of competitive chess history:

No invitation for Korchnoi to estimated 40 possible international chess tournaments from 1976 up to 1983 because of boycott against him by the former Soviet Union.

Viktor Korchnoi was barred from elite tournaments apart from the FIDE WC cycle. For long ten consecutive years (!!), from 1974 up to and including 1983, there was not a single game between Karpov and Korchnoi outside the official World Championships! Even at the Chess Olympiad in Lucerne 1982, when Switzerland was paired to USSR, Karpov paused for a second round in a row (with Korchnoi on board one subsequently facing, and losing a spectacular game against rapidly rising Kasparov).

The first international invitation chess tournament in classical chess with the participation of players of the Soviet Federation and Korchnoi after his emigration, was at Wijk aan Zee (46th annual Hoogovens) in January 1984, won equally by Alexander Beliavsky & Viktor Korchnoi, both unbeaten and during the tournament visibly on friendly terms.

A selection of tournaments, Viktor Korchnoi was deliberately not invited after his emigration during the years he was boycotted:

Not a single invitation at Bugojno (because of boycott threatens), a super-strong five times biannual tournament in the years 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, and 1986, won by Karpov in 1978 shared with Spassky (no Korchnoi), 1980 (no Korchnoi), and 1984 (no Korchnoi). 

No invitation for the superstrong Clarin series, played in Buenos Aires in 1978, 1979, and 1980 (Andersson won the inaugural edition, followed by Larsen as double-winner), and in Mar del Plata in 1982 (Timman took clear first in that last edition). Reigning World Chess Champion Karpov participated twice, finishing fourth-sixth in 1980, and third-fifth in 1982.

No invitation for Korchnoi at Tilburg until the year 1985. Tilburg was played annually from 1977 to 1998 and won a record seven times by Karpov 1977 (no Korchnoi), 1979 (no Korchnoi), 1980 (no Korchnoi), 1982 (no Korchnoi), 1983 (no Korchnoi), 1988 (no Korchnoi), and 1993 (Korchnoi lost to Beliavsky, tournament in k.o.-system). Korchnoi won Tilburg at his first invitation (shared with Miles, Hübner), and was clear second to Kasparov in 1989.

Following the World Championship title match from 1978, at the one-off Montreal elite event in May 1979, won by Karpov and Tal, half a year after the crown clash Karpov vs. Korchnoi at Baguio City, Viktor Korchnoi was not invited! The tournament chief consultant, Grandmaster Kavalek even stipulated to other organizers, not to invite Viktor Korchnoi any longer, because this creates troubles with the Soviet Federation cancelling their players. It was a really top field, and Korchnoi left outside alone:

In the spring of 1979, Lubomir Kavalek, along with Czech filmmakers Milos Forman and Ivan Passer, organized a double round robin tournament to be held in Montreal, Quebec from April 10th to May 7th. Dubbed "The Tournament of Stars," the event was attended by ten of the very strongest grandmasters at the time, including the world champion. The complete list of players was (in order of ELO): Anatoli Karpov (2705, ELO no. 1), Lajos Portisch (2640, ELO no. 3=), Boris Spassky (2640, ELO no. 3=), Jan Timman (2625, ELO no. 5=), Bent Larsen (2620, ELO no. 7), Mikhail Tal (2615, ELO no. 8=), Vlastimil Hort (2600, ELO no. 11=), Robert Hübner (2595, ELO no. 13=), Ljubomir Ljubojevic (2590) and Lubomir Kavalek (2590). As a result, the average ELO rating for the tournament was 2622, making "The Tournament of Stars" a category XV event. It was also one of the strongest tournaments ever organized at that time. Viktor Korchnoi (2695 ELO, no. 2 of the world just ten points behind Karpov and forty-five points ahead of the rest), was being boycotted to secure Soviet participation).

The only two international top players missing were Bobby Fischer (who was reclusive at the time), and Henrique Mecking (no. 8= but inactive in 1979 due to health issues).

(Source: by suenteus po 147)

Montreal originally was labelled "A Man and His World Chess Challenge Cup" (quite cynical to call it Challenge Cup when the Challenger is excluded), later renamed "Tournament of Stars".

That means, not to be invited to this first international appearence of Anatoly Karpov after the World Chess Championship at Baguio City in 1978, a unique chess event in a western country.
Bitter for Viktor Korchnoi. The listed tournaments are just examples, there were many more excluding Korchnoi. A sad chapter of competitive chess history.

Same story following the World Championship title match from 1981 at Torino (World Master tournament) in 1982: explicitly no invitation for Viktor Korchnoi. An uneven number of oddly seven of the world's top players, including the world champion, Anatoly Karpov, plus Ulf Andersson, Boris Spassky, Robert Hübner, Ljubomir Ljubojevic, Lajos Portisch, and Lubomir Kavalek competed in the double round robin event. Due to illness, Huebner was forced to withdraw after the seventh round, and his schedule was expunged from the second cycle of games. Ulf Andersson shared first place with the world champion at 6/11 each, with Andersson having gone undefeated. Kavalek finished clear last.

Simply fighting his way as stateless player through to two successive candidates cycles, winning seven candidate matches in a row, took incredible talent, energy and self-belief.

There were organizers who backed Korchnoi, but then there were suddenly no Soviet players participating: 1978, Wijk aan Zee (Hoogovens), Lajos Portisch placed first, half a point ahead of Korchnoi. The Soviet players boycotted the traditional tournament in 1978 owing Viktor Korchnoi's participation, and once again in 1980, this time young Yasser Seirawan and Walter Browne triumphed above Korchnoi as clear third in an internationally mixed field including also Andersson, Timman, Miles, Mecking, Panno, and Najdorf.

At the 2nd Konex Tournament at Buenos Aires, an event in 1979 sponsored by Luis Ovsejevich and his Konex-Canon Company (later: Konex Foundation), the Soviets boycotted the tournament because Viktor Korchnoi was invited. Korchnoi won together with Ljubomir Ljubojevic.

Similar paradigma for the prestigious Phillips & Drew Kings tournament at London in 1980: Korchnoi invited, alas, no players of the USSR participating. In the following edition two years later in 1982, Korchnoi could not participate although he was title defender from 1980 - because this time Karpov who won, Spassky and Geller were participating (btw: Viktor Korchnoi never met Efim Geller otb after 1975, when the boycott was finally removed in 1984, Geller was no longer strong enough to compete in the elite events).

When Korchnoi was invited at Lone Pine in 1979, Oleg Romanishin and Vitaly Tseshkovsky were slated to play, but then it was discovered that Viktor Korchnoi would also be playing, and the Soviet authorities cancelled their entries. In 1981, Korchnoi entered the Lone Pine Open inkognito, and won a spectacular game against Jussupow and the tournament as clear first. Besides this exception, Korchnoi has only faced Soviet players in official FIDE competitions after Amsterdam IBM in 1976 (won with Miles) until the end of boycott, Herceg Novi, Blitz in 1983 (Korchnoi clear runner-up after Kasparov), and Wijk aan Zee in 1984 (won with Beliavksy).

As a result of these boycotts, Korchnoi lacked the possibility to play most of the strongest opponents apart from the Candidate's cycle, ie. no game in classical chess with Tal between the year 1975 and Titograd 1984. No competitive game with young and promising Kasparov before they met at the official Chess Olympiad in 1982. 

There were organizers who at least made the boycott transparent:

"Unfortunately, if you are present in the tournament, too many other players will cancel it". This was written in the letter sent to Viktor Korchnoi one month before the Banja Luka tournament in 1979. Korchnoi was in Lone Pine (1979) then, and 50 participating Grandmasters and International Masters signed petition to FIDE.

“The letter was first written proof that Soviet Union is imposing boycott on me” – Korchnoi recollects – “FIDE didn’t have power to punish, the organization officially condemned Soviet Union, but that was it. It’s not just about boycott, they held my family for six years.”

Viktor Korchnoi was supposed to play in the notorious 1979 Banja Luka tournament (won by young and titleless Kasparov, two full points ahead of Smejkal as runner-up, and Andersson, Petrosian on shared third place) but the Soviet Union threatened with withdrawal of its players and the organizers were eventually forced to revoke Viktor’s invitation. 28 years later, in 2007 Korchnoi finally saw and won at Banja Luka at his first participation in the 8th international tournament, held after a 20 years break where no tournament at Banja Luka has been played. Banja Luka was the first international tournament win for Garry Kasparov, won at age of 16 - and the last international tournament win in classical chess for Viktor Korchnoi at age of 76.


For more stories about the legendary Banja Luka, especially Garri Kasparov's international debut and Maia Chiburdanidze's tournament of her life in 1985, see on this website under Banja Luka

A fighter and a survivor

A minute's silence at Paris in memory of Viktor Korchnoi. Photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni, Woman International Master from Luxembourg (courtesy of chess24)

At age of 80 in 2011, Viktor Korchnoi, performed a sensational year: National Champion once again and more than fifty years since his first national USSR title, winning the closed Botvinnik Memorial Veterans, Rapid at Suzdal, beating Caruana in a fascinating Ruy Lopez with black at the prestigious Gibraltar Open, playing at the European Team Chess Championship for Switzerland on board no. 2, and achieving the individual best score in the Swiss Team Championship together with Alexey Dreev (both at 6.5/8). 

The following year, Viktor Korchnoi won as individual best an international team event at Geneva, already forced to sit in a wheelchair. In September 2012, Korchnoi suffered a severe stroke, but continued after a rehabilitation phase to play competitive chess, in rapid matches, twice versus Wolfgang Uhlmann at Leipzig in 2014 and at Zurich in 2015, and with his longtime friend from Saint Petersburg, Mark Taimanov at Lucerne in November 2015.

Obituaries and Reminiscences (June 2016)

Evgeny Surov, Chess-News: (russian language, initial report on Korchnoi’s death) (english language)

Associated Press (by JAMEY KEATEN and NAOMI KOPPEL),


Obituary by Peter Doggers, Chess:

Obituary by Mark Crowther, The Week in Chess:

Obituary (on a personal note) by Frederic Friedel, ChessBase:

Obituary by Colin McGourty, Chess24: (player card with video)

Obituary by Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg View

Obituary by Dylan Loeb McClain, The New York Times:

also published in World Chess:

Obituary by Leonard Barden, The Guardian:

Obituary in The Telegraph:

Obituary by Debayan Sen, ESPN:

Edward Winter, Chess History (Chess Notes):
(A miscellany of Chess Notes items concerning Korchnoi)

Dennis Monokroussos, The Chess Mind Net:

Mark Weeks, Chess For All Ages: (Korchnoi tributes) (1931-2016) (When we were Kings, Video) (Photos) (personal note) (Korchnoi’s defection) (Korchnoi’s complaints)$$01.htm (Yogurt, Parapsychology, Zukhar and Ananda Marga)

Dave Lerner on Korchnoi:

Kevin Spraggett, Blog: (slide show)

Gregory Serper, Reminiscences and games analysis:

Ian Rogers, Reminiscences and games analysis:

Lars Grahn, Reminiscences: (including Korchnoi’s Open Letter to Brezhnev, 1978), and[1].London1982.gif (Let My Son Join Me, London 1982)

Soloscacchi, Reminiscences by Fabio Lotti (in italian language):

Kingpin, a tribute:

Chess Hive, a farewell:

Ajedrez de Ataque, a portrait by Javier Cordero Fernández (in spanish language):

Universo del Ajedrez, a portrait by Manuel López Michelone (in spanish language):

Necrológica by Leontxo García, El País, Spain:, and

Obituary by David Llada, El Mundo, Spain:

ABC, Spain:

La Jornada Sant Lluís, Spain:

The Hindu, India (including Viswanathan Anand on Korchnoi):

Obituary by Garry Kasparov: exciting and extensive personal testimonies (Facebook) (Chess) (ChessBase) (russian language) (Korchnoi is not dead, Korchnoi left)

Anatoly Karpov on Viktor Korchnoi:

Peter Svidler on Viktor Korchnoi: personal memories with two games of Peter and Viktor

Yasser Seirawan on Viktor Korchnoi: a heartfelt tribute (Video 4:55 min.)

Genna Sosonko on Viktor Korchnoi: Obsession, a reference written for the 70th anniversary of Viktor Korchnoi:

Players paying homage to Viktor (Anand, Judit Polgar, Giri, Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi, Short, Speelman, Nunn, Williams, Marin, Chuchelov, van Rijmsdijk, Albert Silver, Sagar Shah): (ChessBase)

FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president:

Europe-échecs: (french language)

Swissinfo: (german language)

Swiss Radio SRF (DRS), Interview with Peter Hotz, chess expert:

Obituary by André Behr, DER BUND, Switzerland:

Obituary by Richard Forster, NZZ, Switzerland:

Obituary by Alexander Armbruster, FAZ, Germany:

Obituary by André Schulz, ChessBase (in german language):

Obituary by Colin McGourty, Chess24 (in german language):

Emanuel Lasker Gesellschaft in Berlin. Abschied von Viktor Kortschnoi:

Persönliche Reflexion von Paul Werner Wagner:

Video for Chess Club Live by Michael Chukwuma Mkpadi:


A Tribute to Viktor Korchnoi:

Obituary Notice, Switzerland

Different spellings of name

Searching for references to Korchnoi isn't straightforward, because there are so many different spellings of his surname. Himself, Viktor spelt his prename with a "k" (not a "c"), and his surname as Kortchnoi.

However, a vast majority of publications in english, spelt his name as Korchnoi. For reasons of consistency and clarity, this site follows the common nomenklatura.

Javier Asturiano Molina (Murcia, Spain) reports the following different spellings of Корчной

Korchnoi, Kortchnoi, Kortschnoi, Kortsnoi, Kortshnoi, Korchnoï, Kortchnoï, Korchnoy, Kortchnoy, Kortschnoy, Korchnoj, Kortchnoj, Kortschnoj, Korcznoj, Korcsnoj, Kortjnoj, Kortsjnoj, Kortšnoi or Korčnoj. Addendum: Kortxnoi (20 different spellings)

Source: Chess Notes No. 5591, Courtesy of Edward Winter