Person of day   -  23 MARCH 2021

VIKTOR KORCHNOI

VIKTOR KORCHNOI

Viktor Korchnoi made his debut in the Soviet championship more than 60 years ago- in 1952, when he immediately came a respectable sixth. In the next championship, he split 2nd-3rd places and in 1956 he became a grandmaster. But then a halt took place in his career, and he could not achieve serious success for three years. The end to this came in 1960, when Korchnoi won the Soviet championship, which was hosted by his hometown. In that same year, he won an international tournament in Buenos Aires with Reshevsky. This was the start of a Korchnoi’s new ascendance.

In 1961, he came second at the Soviet championship and qualified for the inter-zonal for the first time, from which he progressed into the Candidates Tournament in Curacao. But there, he only came fifth. This misfortune only motivated him, and after Curacao, he won the Soviet championship. In total, he became the Soviet champion four times.

The ambitious grandmaster, who was always notable for his immense will to win and constant hunger for battle, dreamed of great things- a match for the world championship. If the path towards it was long and difficult, so be it. In 1968, Korchnoi lost the final candidates’ match to Spassky and three years later, he was stopped in the semi-final by Petrosian. In 1974, Korchnoi made it to the final once again, but this time he lost to the rising star of Soviet chess- Anatoly Karpov. Since Fischer refused to play with Karpov, this match was essentially Korchnoi’s first for the crown.

It was Karpov who became his principal opponent in the fight for the world championship. After leaving the USSR in 1976, Korchnoi won two candidates’ tournaments. In 1978 in Baggio, Korchnoi, losing 2:5, did the near-impossible: he equalised the score, but lost the decisive match. Three years later in Merano, the match was a one-sided victory for Karpov with a score of 6:2.  

Korchnoi has been competing for the world championship for 25 years and he won multiple tournaments. In matches, he defeated Petrosian, Spassky, Polugaevsky, Geller, Tal, Portisch and Hubner, among others. After leaving the USSR, he settled in Switzerland. He holds all conceivable records of chess longevity. In 2001 in Biel, he won a strong round-table tournament that was devoted to his 70th birthday, which was attended by Gelfand, Svidler and Grischuk.

After the chess world celebrated the 80th birthday of the grandmaster, Korchnoi added another trophy to his collection- he became the five-time champion of Switzerland. For a short while, Viktor had to cease competing in tournaments due to health issues, but in February 2015 he played speed chess against Wolfgang Uhlmann in a super tournament in Zurich, which finished with a 2:2 draw.

Viktor Korchnoi died in the Swiss town of Wohlen on 6th June 2016. To commemorate the legendary grandmaster, the “Kortchnoi Zurich Chess Challenge” and the Kortchnoi Open were held between 12th and 17th April in Zurich.