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Nineteen Eighty-One.

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karpovkorchnoi1981Karpov-Korchnoi 1981

The 1981 World Championship Match was to be played in the same venue as the Candidates’  Final between Korchnoi and Hübner, the Italian town of Meran (north of Italy, region of Trentino-Adigio.The place gives also name to the famous Meran Variation in the Semislav after the game Tartakower-Rubinstein played there in 1924. That part of the old Europe is very interesting historically speaking ). After that match fiasco, I guess the organizers would expect to cash in on a bigger stake. The events which had taken place three years before still cast their shadows over Meran ’81 :Korchnoi’s family was still in the Soviet Union : the Soviet authorities refusing to allow them to leave the country, and the rivalry between the two K’s had not diminished. But the match turned out to be a sort of anticlimax… The Soviet delegation included many people: Chess helpers, Karpov’s personal cook, medical staff, physical helper,translators and diplomats,as well as A. Roshal and V. Baturinsky, and bodyguards.  (Any Soviet World Champion had access to any sort of help.  Karpov had many “consultants” and I could mention his all-time helper Zaitsev, and Yuri  Balashov, for instance. In Meran Tal and Polugaevsky were side by side with him too. On those days it was very difficult to clearly determine “who were doing what” in Soviet official Chess camps) . Korchnoi’s seconds were Stean, Seirawan,Gutman and Ivanov. He was also accompanied by a lawyer, A. Brodbeck and a Chief of Delegation, E. Sztein. Journalist present mention also the  presence of a bodyguard… Those were hard days…The match was scheduled to beguin on October 1st, the winner would have to win six games with draws not counting.

All in all, one thing was immediately clear: Karpov was still becoming stronger while Korchnoi seemed to be slowly declining, at least to maintain such intensity against a terrific opponent as Karpov and for so many years . The first games of the event showed that Viktor was not in the match: after the first five games, the score was 3-0 for Karpov. Korchnoi managed to win the sixth game but after the tenth game the score was 4-1 in Karpov’s favour. Some drawn games followed, Korchnoi won the 13th game but lost the 14th and leaned over the abyss much to the organizers’ desperation who saw that a quick resolution of the match would finish with their financial expectations (understandably, under such conditions a very long match can be catastrophic but if it is too sort and one-sided the financial situation for the sponsors is the same: absolute disaster!). I have read that the organizers  managed to express their worries to Karpov who somewhat reassured them (!)… Be that as it may, three more games ended in a draw but the 18th one ,played on November 19th was adjourned with a winning position for Karpov. The game was not resumed and Karpov renewed his World Champion title for three more years.

After the 1978 match I was looking forward this new event. On the one hand , my sympathy was with Karpov. But I still had the secret hope of witnessing another magnificent struggle with the scores dangling from one side to another. That was not to happen. But the match taught me a lot of Chess strategy, especially the first and the ninth games. In the first game, Karpov played superbly using one of his favourite weapons: the hanging Pawns. In the ninth game, he showed another of his specialties: the fight against the isolated Queen Pawn. The fifth game was also of great technical interest since Karpov managed to draw as Black -a Pawn down- in a typical King +Rook + four Pawns vs. King + Rook + three Pawns  all in the K-side. Nevertheless and in retrospect, the feeling left by that match was  one of dullness. Nothing to do with what was going to come: the immense clash Karpov-Kasparov in the following years. In a sort of gesture to the gallery, Karpov even played the Italian Opening in the 8th and the 10th games. Two draws. Karpov himself in his notes to the games says that the Italian Game had last appeared in a World Championship Match in 1896 (Lasker-Steinitz return match).

W.: V. Korchnoi (0)

B.: A. Karpov (1)

Meran, Italy 1981.- World Championship Match (1)

1. c4, e6/ 2. Nc3, d5/ 3. d4, Be7/ 4. Nf3, Nf6/ 5. Bg5, h6/ 6. Bh4, 0-0/ 7. e3, b6/ 8. Rc1, Bb7/ 9. Be2, Nbd7/10.cxd5, exd5/ 11. 0-0, c5/12. dxc5, bxc5/ 13. Qc2, Rc8/ 14. Rfd1, Qb6/ 15. Qb1, Rfd8/ 16. Rc2, Qe6/ 17. Bg3, Nh5/18. Rcd2, Nxg3/ 19. hxg3, Nf6/ 20. Qc2, g6/ 21. Qa4, a6/  22. Bd3, Kg7/ 23. Bb1, Qb6/ 24. a3, d4!/ 25.Ne2, dxe3/26. fxe3, c4!/ 27. Ned4, Qc7/ 28. Nh4, Qe5/ 29. Kh1, Kg8/ 30. Ndf3, Qxg3/ 31. Rxd8, Bxd8/ 32. Qb4, Be4!/33. Bxe4, Nxe4/34. Rd4, Nf2+/ 35. Kg1, Nd3/ 36. Qb7, Rb8/ 37. Qd7, Bc7/ 38. Kh1, Rxb2/ 39. Rxd3, cxd3/ 40. Qxd3, Qd6/ 41. Qe4, Qd1+/ 42. Ng1, Qd6/ 43. Nhf3, Rb5/ The game was adjourned here. Karpov sealed a move but Korchnoi, after a while, stopped definitively the clocks. White resigned.

W.: V. Korchnoi (0)

B.: A. Karpov (1)

Meran, Italy 1981. World Championship Match (9)

1. c4, e6/ 2. Nc3, d5/ 3. d4, Be7/ 4. Nf3, Nf6/ 5. Bg5, h6/ 6. Bh4, 0-0/ 7. Rc1 dxc4 (TN according to Karpov)/ 8. e3, c5/ 9. Bxc4, cxd4/ 10. exd4, Nc6/ 11. 0-0, Nh5!/ 12. Bxe7, Nxe7/ 13. Bb3, Nf6/ 14. Ne5, Bd7/ 15. Qe2, Rc8/ 16. Ne4, Nxe4/ 17. Qxe4, Bc6!/ 18. Nxc6, Rxc6/ 19. Rc3, Qd6/ 20. g3,Rd8/ 21. Rd1, Rb6/ 22. Qe1, Qd7/ 23. Rcd3, Rd6/ 24. Qe4, Qc6/ 25. Qf4, Nd5/ 26. Qd2, Qb6/ 27. Bxd5, Rxd5/ 28. Rb3, Qc6/ 29. Qc3, Qd7/ 30. f4, b6/31. Rb4, b5/ 32. a4, bxa4/ 33. Qa3, a5/ 34. Rxa4, Qb5 /35. Rd2, e5/ 36. fxe5, Rxe5/ 37. Qa1, Qe8!!/ 38. dxe5, Rxd2/ 39. Rxa5, Qc6/ 40. Ra8+, Kh7/ 41. Qb1+, g6/ 42. Qf1, Qc5+/ 43. Kh1, Qd5+/ White resigned.

QChess.

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