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Article Number

Chess is my Life

226 pages, hardback, Olms, 1. edition 2005

From the series »Progress in Chess«

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The biography will be spiced with about 15 deeply annotated games which the author judges as "key games" to his career.

It is time to update Korchnoi's biography "Chess is my Life", which was published some 20 years ago. In a series of lengthy interview sessions. Victor Korchnoi has retold his life, right from the beginning, to journalist Andre Behr (chess columnist for Tages-Anzeiger Zürich, and chess editor for Olms). This was certainly not an easy task, as the story-teller was hard to catch on his neverending tour. But the result is a completely new biography.

Korchnoi's memories of his childhood in Leningrad, his years at University, his rise to the top in the chess super-power, the USSR, and the years before and after his flight to the West are an impressive document about a restless life devoted to chess.

Witness and enjoy an outstanding chess career, told with humour and with no regrets...

Victor Korchnoi is one of the greatest figures in chess history, which he has helped to shape for the last 50 years. At the beginning of the 21 st Century, the aggressive style of this now over 70-years old is undiminished and as awe-inspiring as ever. At tournaments with numerous entrants, the naturalised Swiss Citizen leaves world-class players, young enough to be his grandchildren, far behind him.

It is high time, therefore, to update Victor Korchnoi's autobiography. The memories of his childhood during the siege of Leningrad, his time as a student at the university of his native city (now St Petersburg), his rise to the top of the major chess power, the USSR, and the years before and after his defection to the West in 1976 are also of significance as contemporary documents of a life spent in the former Soviet Union. This volume includes many photographs as well as several games, with typical Korchnoi-style comments, which have been of decisive importance in his brilliant chess career. Also included is a CD-ROM (in ChessBase format) which gives a complete record of his 4280 games.

"In all of chess history you cannot find another player with his long-lived discipline, vigour, and ferocity... Korchnoi, even in his seventh decade, is still looking for the chess truth. He still wants to play big games with big ideas. He is one of the greatest truth-seekers."

Garry Kasparov

Preface The first time I met Victor Korchnoi I was twelve years old and playing against him in a simultaneous exhibition in 1975 in Leningrad. Each team of seven pioneers faced the other teams captains, and what captains! Karpov, Korchnoi, Smyslov, Polugayevsky, and you can imagine the rivalry between Karpov and Korchnoi to finish with the best score.

My Baku team faced Korchnoi in the final round and I will never forget the terrible energy Victor brought to bear against his young opponents, as if it were a world championshipmatch.

Always that mix of passion and arrogance, that's the only way he knows. While that served as an example of his zeal at the board, in 1983 he gave a lesson in character off the board. When I was disqualified from our Pasadena Candidates match by the intrigues of Soviet and FIDE officials, Korchnoi refused to write it off. He didn't believe he should move on to face Karpov again without first defeating me.

When we met in Yugoslavia to discuss the match he also shared some practical advice. He looked at my clothes and remarked, 'You can always tell a Soviet man by his shoes. Go buy some good shoes!'

Korchnoi has always been as critical of himself as of others. There have been very few players with the honesty to criticise their own moves. Among them I would name Botvinnik, Fischer, and most definitely Korchnoi.

I recall one of the games from his annotated collection, a game in which he defeated World Champion Botvinnik. He revisited the game and his old commentaries and made a quite unusual observation. When writing about his old analysis, in which he had said '...Bc6 would have given Black better chances to survive,' Korchnoi added 'typical cowardice when the annotator cannot find the win.' And in his latest analysis he found the win! Impressive honesty after you beat the World Cham­pion, and to maintain that approach 40 years later.

Korchnoi has long been one of the most controversial figures in the chess world, but everyone recognises his immense contribution. In all of chess history you cannot find another player with his long-lived discipline, vigour, and ferocity. He is truly one of a kind. Lasker and Smyslov played for a similar number of decades, but their contributions diminished as they relied more on their talent and experience. Korchnoi, even in his seventh decade, is still looking for the chess truth. He still wants to play big games with big ideas. He is one of the greatest truth-seekers. My relations with Korchnoi have had highs and Iows over the years, but our mutual passion for chess has always won out. We can do nothing but admire his steadfast commitment to our game.

Garry Kasparov

Moscow, June 2004

Prologue The idea of this book belongs to Thomas Wälti, a Swiss Journalist. It is thought, and not without reason, that the main thing in a chess player's biography is his games. That is, his creative life, that which must not be lost, that experience which will be absorbed by humanity. And a book of my games - two even! - have been written and published. But Wälti, a long-standing, enthusiastic fan of mine, suggested that my life story was also something unusual and stirring, that deserved to be told and published as a separate book.

But who should write it? A grandmaster is not bound to be skilful with his pen. To be a writer is also a divine gift, and one that I do not possess. I think that even a Profes­sional psychologist would be unable to convince me that I am any good as a writer. The person who worked on my biography should have been a Professional, desirably one who was familiar with my life, desirably one familiar with the life of people in the Soviet Union, and desirably one who appreciates the subtleties of the Russian language.

This should probably have been a resident of Moscow or St Petersburg. But during the more than 25 years since I left that country - moreover, when I left it, I was convinced that it would be for ever! - I severed all connections with the intellectuals there.

This means that my biography should have been written by a Swiss Journalist. Prob­ably Thomas Wälti himself should have put his own idea into effect, but serious and protracted organisational difficulties arose. In the end, despite the absence of faith in my powers, despite the lack of enthusiasm, it was decided that I myself should write my biography. And in view of the loss of several years on organisational disagreements, I had to describe my life in an extremely compressed time.

Some time ago, during my first year in the West, I wrote an autobiographical book Chess is my Life, which was translated into English, German and Dutch. I looked carefully at what I had written. Much space, too much space, was devoted to descriptions of tournaments and games. Of course, a chess player cannot get by without describing games, but there are other books and there are diskettes. These include game commentaries. But commentaries look dry - in them it is not customary to talk about human relationships, about the relationships between the two players. And it is on human relation­ships that I have focussed in this book.

I have already written a book Antichess about the central event of my life - the match in Baguio. I have now critically examined it and made some additions.

The greatest difficulty is writing about my current life, about processes that are still in progress. On the other hand, this biography frequently develops into a critical review of reality. I hope that the overwhelming majority of the readers will appreciate my endeavours to keep pace with modern life.

Victor Korchnoi

Wohlen, April 2004

More Information
Weight 750 g
Manufacturer Olms
Width 17,5 cm
Height 24,4 cm
Medium Book, CD
Year of Publication 2005
Author Viktor Kortschnoi
Series Progress in Chess
Language English
Edition 1
ISBN-10 3283004064
ISBN-13 9783283004064
Pages 226
Binding hardback

007 Preface by Garry Kasparov

008 Foreword by Sergey Ivanov: The Secret of Chess Longevity

011 Prologue

Part I - My Life in the Soviet Union

012 1. Childhood and Teenage Years

019 2. Higher Studies and the Master Title

024Game 1: V.Korchnoi - M.Botvinnik

029 3. First Professional Steps and my International Debut

030Game 2: R.Nezhmetdinov - V.Korchnoi

038 4. A Leap into Chess High Society

038Game 3: V.Bagirov - V.Korchnoi

046Game 4: R.Fischer- V.Korchnoi

052 5. Barriers

056 6. Havana, Sousse and Amsterdam

060 7. Candidates Matches and unforeseen Incidents

065 8. I gain Experience, both Political and Professional

070 9. Historic Matches. First Encounters with Karpov

077 10. On the Eve of important Events

081 11. The Year 1974. Matches against Mecking and Petrosian

085 12. The first Match against Karpov

089 13. Punishment

093 14. My Escape

097 15. First Clashes with the Soviet Machine

103 Igor's Memoirs

Part II - My Life in the West

113 1. Triple Barrier on the Way to Karpov

119 2. Spassky

124 3. The World Championship Match in Baguio

127 The first Stage

131Game 5: A.Karpov - V.Korchnoi

136 The Crisis

142 Stormy Events at the Finish

146 Immediately after the Match

149 4. The Olympiad in Buenos Aires and the Chameleon Donner

154 5. The Year 1979

157 6. The Boycott

159 7. Another World Championship Cycle

165 8. The World Championship Match in Meran

171 9. Mysterious Chess Events

173 10. My American Stories

176 11. After Meran

179 12. My Family in the West

181 13. I feel my Age

183Game 6: G.Kasparov - V.Korchnoi

187Game 7: V.Smyslov - V.Korchnoi

190Game 8: V.Korchnoi - V.Smyslov

192Game 9: V.Korchnoi - M.Taimanov

193 14. On Arbiters and Rapid Chess

196 15. About my Citizenship and my Retina

199 16. Maróczy

201 17. Wijk aan Zee and the Tournaments of Van Oosterom

204 18. New Rules and the FIDE Events in Las Vegas and Moscow

206 19. Chess in Switzerland

209 20. A dubious Match in Kazakhstan

212 21. My Jubilee Year 2001 and new Contacts with St Petersburg

216 22. Chess Teaching and Training

218 Epilogue


219 Main Tournament Results

224 Candidates Matches and World Championship Matches

226 Chess Olympiads

Nachdem einige englische Verlage erfreulicherweise immer wieder auch deutsche Ausgaben ihrer erfolgreichs­ten Bücher veröffentlichen, wollen wir zur Abwechslung auch auf eine Neuerscheinung hinweisen, die den umgekehrten Weg nahm.

Nach der deutschen Version von Viktor Kortschnois Autobiographie "Schach ist mein Leben" hat Edition Olms dieses Buch nun auch in einer englischen Ausgabe mit dem Titel "Chess is my Life" herausgebracht.

Da dies für die deutschsprachige Schachwelt aber eher zweitrangig sein dürfte, wollen wir uns an dieser Stelle auf den Hinweis beschränken, dass auch der englischen Ausgabe dieses interessanten Werkes eine CD mit über 4.000 Partien von Viktor Kort-schnoi beiliegt.

Schach-Markt 2/2006


GM Victor Kortschnoi, oft liebevoll-ehrfürchtig auch "Victor der Schreckliche" genannt, hat sich den Beinamen "lebende Schachlegende" redlich verdient: sei es, weil er einer der absoluten Weltspitzenspieler war, die niemals Weltmeister wur­den; sei es, weil er im Jahre 1976 als einer der bekanntesten Dissidenten der UdSSR den Rücken gekehrt hat; sei es, weil er drei nervenzermür­bende WM-Kämpfe gegen Anatoli Karpow bestritten hat und damals lange Zeit als Nummer zwei der Weltrangliste geführt worden ist; sei es auch, weil er auch heute noch, mit 74 Jahren, eine scharfe Klinge schlägt und als hochwillkommener Gast und Attraktion viele Turniere bereichert.

Vor kurzem hat er zwei Sammelbän­de seiner besten Partien herausge­bracht (ebenfalls bei Edition Olms erschienen); und auf Anregung des Schweizer Journalisten Thomas Wälti hin hat er nun seine Autobio­graphie folgen lassen.

Im Vorwort attestiert ihm Garry Kasparov eine "Mischung aus Leiden­schaft und Arroganz" (S. 7, übersetzt vom Rezensenten), und wenn man noch seine unbeugsame Prinzipien­treue und den Hang zur klaren, kompromisslosen Aussprache hinzuad­diert, so trifft dies genau die Diktion seines Textes (den man übrigens nur mit entsprechenden Englisch-Kenntnissen lesen und verstehen kann).

Im ersten Teil (S. 12-102) beschreibt Kortschnoi sein Leben in der Sow­jetunion von 1931 bis 1976: Gebo­ren in Leningrad, waren seine Kind­heitserlebnisse im Zweiten Welt­krieg von der Belagerung seiner Heimatstadt durch die deutsche Wehrmacht geprägt. Im Schach stellten sich schon früh Erfolge ein mit dem Gewinn der sowjetischen Jugendmeisterschaft 1947 und dem sechsten Rang bei der Erwachsenen-Landesmeisterschaft 1952 - diese Veranstaltung sollte er dann 1960, 1962, 1964 und 1970 als Sieger be­enden, und dieses Turnier galt da­mals als das stärkste der Welt!

Die internationale Karriere Kortschnois begann gleich mit einem Tur­niersieg in Bukarest 1954, und in den kommenden 22 Jahren sollten 19 weitere folgen.

1967 starteten seine Anläufe zur Weltmeisterschaft, welche 1968 von Spasski, 1971 von Petrosjan und 1974 von Karpow in den Kandida­tenkämpfen gestoppt wurden. Dabei erzählt er einiges über seine Intim-Feindschaften zu Petrosjan und Karpov.

Nach immer größer werdenden Re­pressalien durch die Schach-Apparatschiks nutzte Kortschnoi schließ­lich seine Teilnahme am IBM-Tur­nier in Amsterdam 1976 zur Flucht in den Westen; in seine Pläne hierzu hatte er weder seine Ehefrau Bella noch seinen Sohn Igor eingeweiht. Letzterer musste später fast zwei Jahre in einem sibirischen Arbeitsla­ger verbringen (Igors Erinnerungen stehen auf S. 103-112).

Im zweiten Hauptabschnitt des Bu­ches (S. 113-218) berichtet der Au­tor über sein Leben im Westen seit 1976: Hier stehen zunächst die neu­en Kandidatenkämpfe und die zwei WM-Duelle gegen Erzfeind Karpov 1978 in Baguio und 1981 in Meran im Mittelpunkt. Über die Vorgänge auf den Philippinen hat Kortschnoi seinerzeit ein Buch geschrieben (Antischach) und die sowjetische Seite der parapsychologischen Einflussnahme bezichtigt (Stichwort Dr. Suchar). Diese Vorwürfe bekräftigt er auch jetzt noch und behauptet überdies, dass er im für ihn ebenfalls verloren gegangenen Meraner Zwei­kampf durch russische Strahlen ne­gativ beeinflusst worden sei. Aber auch mit kräftigen Seitenhieben auf andere Zeitgenossen spart der Ver­fasser keineswegs: seien es Boris Spasski, der (inzwischen verstorbe­ne) holländische GM Jan Hein Don­ner, die FIDE-Präsidenten Campomanes und Ilyumshinov, der be­kannte Schiedsrichter Geurt Gijssen, Bobby Fischer höchstpersönlich, oder aber der kasachische GM Dar­men Sadvakasov, gegen den Kort­schnoi 2003 ein freundschaftliches (!) Match verloren hat und ihn her­nach unsauberer Manipulationen verdächtigte; - alle bekommen ihr Fett weg!

Aber positive Erinnerungen gibt es auch noch: etwa ein dickes Lob für den Fernschach-Weltmeister und Mäzen Joop van Oosterom, für das Schweizer Schachleben im Allge­meinen und für das Olympiateam im Besonderen; ferner ein Gedenken an sein Jubiläumsjahr 2001, Besuche in seiner Heimatstadt und an die Ver­leihung der Ehrendoktorwürde durch die Universität Chisinau (Moldawien) im Jahre 2002.

Obwohl "ich mein Alter fühle" (Zi­tat S. 181, übersetzt vom Rezensen­ten), bleibt der unermüdliche und unerschrockene Kämpfer Victor Kortschnoi dem Turnierspiel treu (nicht weniger als 60 Turniersiege von 1976 bis 2005 stehen zu Bu­che!) und sucht weiterhin die Ausei­nandersetzung auf den 64 Feldern, speziell auch mit den jungen Nach­wuchskräften.

Da ausgewählte Partien Kortschnois schon in zwei Bänden erschienen sind, beschränkt er sich hier auf die Wiedergabe von neun Partien gegen große Rivalen, u.a. Karpov, Kasparov, Botwinnik, Smyslow und Fi­scher. Dem Buch ist überdies eine CD beigegeben mit nicht weniger als 4280 (!) Kortschnoi-Partien im Chess-Base-Format. Die lesenswerte Autobiographie wird ergänzt durch 35 Fotodoku-

mente sowie Statistiken zu seinen Turnier-Ergebnissen, Kandidaten-und WM-Zweikämpfen und Olym­pia-Resultaten (Anhang S. 219-226) Außerdem gebührt auch der höchst gediegenen äußeren Erscheinungs­form des Buches mit Festeinband und Fadenbindung - wie ja von Olms gewohnt - eine lobende Er­wähnung.

Dr. W. Schweizer, Rochade Europa 3/2006

'Chess is my life' is an English translation from 'Mein Leben für das Schach', which we reviewed a good year ago.This latest work is perfectly translated and edited into the English language by no less than Ken Neat, even that there are some slight difference in pages. The Germans simple need more words than the English, the main tournament results in this book cover a lot of extra 2005 results. Victor Korchnoi, born 1931, has been one of the world’s leading players for nearly 50 years and can be counted as one of the greatest chess players of all time. Korchnoi is among the chess players in Switzerland unbelievable popular, nearly all players know exactly where Korschnoi lives but so far I did not meet many chess players who even could beat him in a simultaneous exhibition and the great hero of chess already passed the impressive age of 74! I have seen biography’s from Korchnoi in the Dutch and German language but not one is so open as this autobiography from Olms. Korchnoi believes that every strong player has to do something for his offspring and that was the reason for the basis of this outstanding chess biography. The reader shall find in this book many personal things and photos about Korchnoi's personal life as for example his first wife Bella and son Igor who had both such a tough time in the former Soviet Union. This book covers the whole career from Kortschnoi, but now and then he opens the door of his personal life and that makes this book such an interesting read, for example his meeting with Stalin’s daughter Swetlana Alllilujewa and his contacts with the Russian Mafia in New York. For Korchnoi chess is above all a fight where friendships are forgotten, problems are shelved, the struggle on the board takes all his passion and that makes this book so unique! Included in this book are only nine games, where seven of them are superb analysed by the great master himself, and an extra CD ROM with around 4280 latest Korchnoi games and that is 30 more than on the German CD! Conclusion: A unique autobiography!

With kind permission of the author John Elburg (