This description of Viktor Korchnoi was coined (an oblique reference to Muhammad Ali’s nickname of Louisville Lip) by Ian Ward of the Daily Telegraph during the Baguio City World Championship of 1978.
During the pre-Kasparov mid-1970s and early 1980s, world title chess was dominated by the three great matches between Viktor Korchnoi and Anatoly Karpov. During the second and longest of these, at Baguio in the Philippines, Korchnoi’s tendency to make outspoken remarks became more pronounced. There were moments when his outrageous comments came close to capsizing the match.
The drama is well captured by Genna Sosonko in his new book Evildoer, an ironic reference to the USSR’s attitude to Korchnoi after the grandmaster defected from the Soviet Union, where self-expression was notably discouraged. I keep returning to Sosonko’s book, which has echoes of earlier masterpieces focused on mental combat, such as Yasunari Kawabata’s Master of Go, Stefan Zweig’s Schachnovelle and even Elias Canetti’s Auto da Fe.
This week a game and puzzle by the eponymous Evildoer.
Spassky-Korchnoi: Candidates Final, Belgrade 1977; French Defence
1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Ne7 7 Qg4 cxd4 8 Qxg7 Rg8 9 Qxh7 Qc7 10 Ne2 Nbc6 11 f4 Bd7 12 Qd3 dxc3 13 Be3 This is one of many moves that have been tried in this complicated position. Others are, for example, 13 Rb1 and 13 h4. 13 … d4 A further pawn sacrifice to seize the initiative. 14 Bf2 0-0-0 15 Nxd4 Nxd4 16 Qxd4 b6 17 Bh4 Bb5 18 Qe4 Bxf1 (see diagram 1) 19 Rxf1 Spassky could have forced a draw with 19 Qa8+ Kd7 20 0-0-0+ Nd5 21 Rxd5+ exd5 22 Qxd5+ Kc8 23 Qa8+ Kd7 24 Qd5+. 19 … Rd5 20 Bxe7 Qxe7 21 Rf3 Kb8 22 Kf1 Not 22 Rxc3 Qh4+ 23 Kf1 Rd2 winning. However, 22 g3 is also playable. 22 … Rd2 23 Rf2 Rgd8 24 Qf3 Rxf2+ 25 Kxf2 Rd2+ 26 Kg3 Qd8 This is a mistake. Black should play 26 … Rxc2 since after 27 Qd3 he has 27 … Rd2 28 Qxc3 Qd8 with a winning attack. 27 Qe4 Qg8+ 28 Kh3 Qh8+ 29 Kg3 Qg7+ 30 Kh3 Rd8 Threatening mate. Now White’s queen and rook develop amazing versatility and hammer White from all directions. 31 g4 Rh8+ 32 Kg3 Qh6 33 Qg2 Qh4+ 34 Kf3 Rd8 (see diagram 2) 35 Qg3 Better was 35 Rf1, planning 35 … Rd2 36 Rf2 when White should draw. 35 … Qe7 36 g5 This is a fatal error. 36 Re1 should still hold for White. 36 … Rd2 37 Kg4 Qb7 Spassky probably overlooked this when playing 36 g5. 38 Qxc3 Rg2+ 39 Kh3 Rf2 40 Kg4 Qe4 White resigns