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“What Would Have Happened If…?”

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German GM Wolfgang Unzicker (1925 – 2006)


Speculations… We all have speculated about what would have happened if this or that had taken place instead of… (“WWHHI” from now on)

Thirty years ago, Bobby Fischer defeated  Boris Spassky in Iceland so causing an immense stir in the world of Chess in general and in the Soviet Chess in particular. In the middle o the so-called “Cold War” between the Soviets and the Americans, Fischer hit where it most could hurt: the pride of the Soviet regime: Chess. Shortly after Rejkjavik, Fischer disappeared playing no more serious games. In 1975 , in spite of all the efforts, Fischer did not appear to play against the challenger, the then Soviet GM Anatoly Karpov. And a myth was born. Since then, one of the most recurrent question has been “what would have happened if there had been a match between Fischer and Karpov?”.

Evidently, everybody has his/her emotional favourite and both sides can show  a variety of reasons to justify the choice. Even someone like Gary Kasparov has dealt with the matter devoting a lot of space to it in his mamooth masterwork  “My Great Predecessors”. Kasparov , who has always admired Fischer and had played bitter matches against Karpov when both were the best of the best -so no suspicious of being too much  pro-Karpov- , has stated that Karpov would have beaten Fischer. Karpov’s Chess record had been impressive, yes. He was the blueeyed boy of the Soviet regime (very angy at both Spassky -imagine why-, and Korchnoi -always making “friends” with his strong character and open criticism. Well, to reach Fischer, Karpov  had to play in the Leningrad Interzonal (tied first with Korchnoi ahead of R. Byrne, Smejkal, Larse, Hübner,Kuzmin,Gligoric Taimanov, Tal, up tp 18 players. And Korchnoi was full of praise for Karpov´s play (!). Over to the Candidates’ Quarter-Final, Karpov’s first opponent was his fellow countryman L. Polugaevsky. Karpov won by +3  -0  =5.  His  next rival in the Semi-Final, was Boris Spassky. Karpov also won :  +4  -1  =6. And the last match marked the start of a long lasting confrontation on the board and outside it: Karpov vs Korchnoi. 24 terrible struggles were needed to find the challenger, with Korchnoi complaining about all the problems he had to face on the part of the Soviet authorities. Karpov won by the narrowest of margins : +3  -2  =19. Neither of them could imagine that the winner of the match was going to be the next Champion of the World without moving a Pawn (By the way: another “What-would-have-happened-if”  horror story: “WWHHI Korchnoi had won the match??? Perhas he would have accepted all the conditions Fischer tried to impose, so having to leave the Soviet Union in 1975 -instead of in 1976…as he did. I think this was very likely to have happened: Korchnoi’s situation in the USSR was in a no-way-out lane and the break was a matter of time. He would have tried to play Fischer inside or outside FIDE. In fact, around 1977 he tried to contact Bobby so as to play an unofficial match with him and even travelled to California to meet him. He could only realise in how bad conditions Fischer already was. Nothing came out of it.)

Well, if a match Fischer-Karpov would have taken place in 1975 …er… Thank you very much indeed.

Fischer had not played serious Chess between 1972 and 1975. (But he had done similar things before coming back on top…). Karpov would have gone armed to the teeth. Fischer wanted a match up to ten victories with no game limit and with the challenger having to win by, at least,  a two point margin. This was not accepted by the Russians. Karpov even said that with two players like Bobby and him, wh lose very few games,  that condition would have sent them to a bedlam…  So, “what would have happened?”…

Another “WWHHI- story” could be: “Wa would have happened if in the 1978 World Championship match Korchnoi, after levelling the score 5-5 instead of blowing himself us as Black in the last game of the match had played to protract the match as much as possible -as happened years later in the first Karpov-Kasparov match in 1984-?.

And WWHHI in that first K-K match it had not be cancelled by the FIDE President?


The following game is a masterpiece worth a deep study. Unfortunately, the winner is no longer with us.

  GM. A. Miles, (1955-2001)

W.: A. Miles  (1)

B.: R. Hübner (0)

Wijk aan Zee, 1984

1. d4  d5  2. c4  c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qc2  dc4  5. Qc4:  Bf5  6. g3  Nbd7  7. Bg2  e6  8. 0-0  Be7  9. Nc3  0-0  10. Bf4  Ne4  11. a4  a5  12. Rfd1  Qb6  13. Nh4!  Bh4  15. Be4: Be7  16. Bf3  Nf6  17. e4  Rad8  18. Be3  Qc7  19. Rac1  Qd7  20. Rc3  Bb4  21. Rcd3  Q7  22. Kg2  Rd7  23. b3  Rfd8  24. Bg5  h6  25. Bc1  Ba3  26. Be3  Bb4  27. h4  Ne8 28. Qc2  Nc7  29. Qe2  Na6  30. Kg1  Bd6  31. Bg2  Nb4  32. R3d2  Bc7  33. Qg4  Kf8  34. Bf1  Bb6  35. Bc4  Qf6  36. Kg2  Ke7  37. Qh5!  Kf8  38. g4  Re8  39. g5  hg5  40. Bg5:  g6  41. Qh7 , Black resigned.

W.: A. Karpov  (1)

B.: V. Korchnoi (0)

Baguio -World Champioship 1978 .Game 32

This was the last game of a match played up to six victories with no game limit and draws not counting. This dramatic match seemed an easy matter for Karpov -and a matter of time too-. After the 27th game Karpov was winning 5-2 only needing one more victory. But somehow he managed to lose games 28th, 29th and 31st . Korchnoi, playing excellently,  levelled the score. In the 32nd game Korchnoi defended the Black side and -in my opinion- completely missed the point trying to rush things (?), surprise Karpov (?). Instead of playing on Karpov´s nerves, he chose the wrong defence (again my opinion). After all, wouldn’t have it  been better to draw with a French and play the 33rd game as White?. instead he allowed Karpov to reach a favourable position belonging more to a Benoni than a Pirc…:

1. e4  d6  2. d4 Nf6  3. Nc3 g6  4. Nc3 Bg7  5. Be2  0-0  6. 0-0 c5 (apparently this is  38. what Korchnoi wanted: a difficult variation leading to a complex middlegame. O.K. –But against Karpov???– I wonder.

7. d5 Na6  8. Bf4  Nc7  9. a4   b6  10. Re1  Bb7  11. Bc4  Nh5? (and after ten moves, it is Korchnoi the first in faltering…)

12. Bg5  Nf6  13. Qd3  a6  14. Rad1  Rb8  15. h3 Nd7  16. Qe3 Bc8  17. Bh6  b5  18. Bg7:  Kg7:  19. Bf1  Nf6  20. ab5  ab5  21. Ne2  Bb7  22. Ng3  Ra8  23. c3  Ra4  24. Bd3  Qa8  25. e5!  de5  26. Qe5:  Nd5:  27. Bb5: +-  Ra7  28. Nh4  Bc8  29. Be2  Be6  30. c4  Nb4  31. Qc5: (The triumph of White’s strategy. Black’s  plan backfired without achieving the goal:  “…a complex middlegame, etc”)

31. …, Qb8  32.   Bf1  Rc8  33. Qg5  Kh8  34. Rd2  Nc6  35. Qh6  Rg8  36. Nf3  Qf8  37. Qe3  Kg7  38. Ng5  Bd7  39. b4  Qa8  40. b5  Na5  41. b6  Rb7 (sealed)/ Korchnoi abandoned without resuming the game. 1-0

(With this post about to appear the Chess world knew a sad piece of news: one of the warriors of the chessboard has just left us: GM Svetozar Gligoric passed away  on August 14. He was born in 1923 and was another living legend. One of the best chessplayers in the world and -in my opinion- the best Jugoslavian one, (other people may have different opinions ) many of you will remember his extraordinary career. You can enjoy his games against the greatest post WW2 fellow colleagues. He was also an extraordinary man. Rest in peace.)



Written by QChess

August 15, 2012 at 8:31 pm

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