It was the years of the cold war and the world chess championship was taking place, between the champion Anatoly Karpov and the challenger Victor Korchnoi, both Russian compatriots.

Anatoly Karpov

But Korchnoi was a dissident, who had escaped to the Netherlands, taking advantage of his participation in a tournament held in Amsterdam in 1976, being the first Soviet grandmaster to defect.

Viktor Korchnoi

This world championship was held in the city of Baguio, Philippines, in 1978. It was a contest that put the cold blood of the opponents to the test; It lasted one hundred and ten days (the rules have been changed and it is no longer possible for a match of this type to last that long) and the players ended up with shattered nerves. There was a hypnotist, x-rays for the chairs, mirrored glasses, complaints and suspicions of all kinds.

Korchnoi wearing his mirrored glasses

Apart from the psychological pressure that players are normally subjected to in science sport tournaments, there was the fact that Korchnoi’s wife and son were still in Russia, unable to leave, due to the refusal of his government. Korchnoi thought that by winning the championship he could put more pressure on the government of his country to allow the long-awaited departure of his family; he even he had sent them an open letter to that end. On his part, Karpov had the additional responsibility that this did not happen as the Russian rulers could be left in an uncomfortable situation.

Chess board with its 32 pieces

At first it looked like Karpov would win easily, he got a big lead, but then incredibly Korchnoi won three out of four games in a row, drawing at 5 wins each. In the last game, Korchnoi played everything for everything. The game developed more or less evenly and was postponed to the following day. As is the custom in these cases, Karpov delivered his last game in a sealed envelope. But in reality, the game was not even. Karpov had the advantage. The next day, and after a few plays, Korchnoi, with tears in his eyes, had to admit defeat for him. Karpov immediately sent a brief telegram to the then ruler of the USSR Leonid Brezhnev, which contained only two words: “mission accomplished.”

Leonid Brezhnev and Anatoly Karpov

Finally, in 1982, Korchnoi managed to reunite with his family. He chose Switzerland as his place of residence. Korchnoi continued to participate in world-class chess tournaments until he was 80 years old. Very few players have managed to accomplish this feat at such an advanced age. He passed away in 2016, at the age of 85.

REFERENCES: Newspapers of the time and internet (Chess 12).

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