Korchnoi vs Spassky in Elista

12/19/2009 – It is billed as the "Battle of the Giants", between tenth World Champion Boris Spassky, 72, and multiple World Championship challenger Viktor Korchnoi, 78. The latter is still very active in competitive play, while Spassky has essentially retired from chess. In the first game an exhausted Korchnoi (he had rushed to Kalmykia from London) put the pressure on Spassky and won. Illustrated report.

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Battle of the Giants – Korchnoi vs Spassky

Report from Kalmykia by Buyancha Galzanov

The opening ceremony of the Battle of the Giants took place in the Conference Hall of the Government of the Republic of Kalmykia. Despite complicated weather conditions the participants managed to arrive in Elista in time for the start. With foresight Boris Spassky turned up some days in advance, while Viktor Korchnoi rushed from the London Chess Classic, where he was guest of honour, to Kalmykia, where he was just in time to catch the opening ceremony.


A singer opens the festive ceremony of the Battle of the Giants


Kalmyk dancers in their traditional dress


Boris Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi in the audience


The indefatigable Viktor Korchnoi gives a press conference

Korchnoi was quite exhausted after the long journey, so that Spassky proposed reducing the number of games from eight to six, with an additional rest day. But Viktor declined and wanted to go full out. His condition, however, was responsible for his (in his opinion) poor performance in game one. He went about it very aggressively in order to put maximum strain on Spassky, who has had very little practical playing experience in resent years. The former World Champion was forced to make quick decisions, and at one stage proposed a draw. Korchnoi declined and went on to win the game, after an error by his opponent. Nevertheless, Spassky didn't look upset and promised to sort things out in the next game.

Korchnoi,V (2567) - Spassky,B (2548) [E21]
Match Kalmykia RUS (1), 19.12.2009
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 b6 5.Qb3 a5 6.Bg5 Bb7 7.e3 h6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.Be2 d6 10.0-0 Bxc3 11.bxc3 Nd7 12.Qa4 Ke7 13.Rab1 Rhd8 14.Nd2 Kf8 15.Bf3 Bxf3 16.Nxf3 Qe7 17.e4 e5 18.Rfe1 Kg8 19.Qc6 Nf6 20.c5 Qd7 21.Qxd7 Nxd7 22.cxd6 cxd6 23.g3 Rac8 24.Re3 Rc7 25.dxe5 dxe5 26.Kg2 Rdc8 27.Rd1 Nf6 28.Nxe5 Rxc3 29.Rxc3 Rxc3 30.Rd8+ Kh7 31.f3 Rc2+ 32.Kh3 Rxa2 33.Nxf7 Ng8 34.Nd6 Rd2 35.e5 a4 36.Ra8

Now things for Spassky, who has been under pressure, go seriously astray: 36...b5? 37.f4. 37.Nxb5 is met by 37...Rd5 38.Nd6 Rxe5. 37...b4. 37...Rb2 or 37...Rd5 to defend the b-pawn leads to 38.Ra7 with a trapped black knight and a win as demonstrated by Korchnoi a few moves later. 38.Rxa4 b3 39.Rb4 b2 40.Rb7 Rc2 41.Nf5 Kh8 42.Ne3

42...Rd2 43.Nc4 Rc2 44.Nxb2 h5 45.Nd3 Nh6 46.Rb2 Rc7 47.Rb1 1-0. [Click to replay]


After the game and some analysis the two veterans shake hands


Playing in front of an empty house, as so often in chess? No, this is just post-game analysis.


Packed house: this is what the theatre in Elista looked like before the start of game one

The 2nd game between Spassky and Korchnoi ended in a draw. Boris Spassky evidently wanted a revanche for yesterday's loss but however didn't venture upon a sacrifice of a pawn in a promising position. Possessing a spare pawn in the ending he agreed to draw.
Korchnoi applied the same strategy as in the 1st game and would constantly provoke Spassky with unorthodox moves. Today he rather had to defend than to seek the advantageous position. When asked at the after-match press-conference whether he would venture upon a sacrifice of the pawn, The Eternal Challenger shrugged his shoulders: "It was Spassky who wanted the match more, so it's up to you to decide."

In game two, an unusual French, it was Spassky who was pressing, but Korchnoi applied the same strategy as in the first game and constantly provoked Spassky with unorthodox moves. The game ended in a draw.

Spassky,B (2548) - Korchnoi,V (2567) [C00]
Match Kalmykia RUS (2), 20.12.2009
1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.cxd5 Nf6 5.Bb5+ Nbd7 6.Nc3 Be7 7.d4 0-0 8.Nf3 Nb6 9.0-0 Bf5 10.Re1 Nfxd5 11.Ne4 Bb4 12.Bd2 Bxd2 13.Qxd2 Nf6 14.Nc5 Rb8 15.h3 c6 16.Bf1 Nbd7 17.Qf4 Bg6 18.Bc4 Nb6 19.Bb3 Nbd5 20.Qd2 b6 21.Nd3 Rc8 22.Nde5 Qd6 23.Nxg6 hxg6 24.Rac1 Rfd8 25.Ne5 Nd7 26.Nc4 Qf6 27.Ne3 Nxe3 28.Qxe3 Nf8 29.Qe5 Qxe5 30.Rxe5 Rc7 31.Rce1 Rxd4 32.Re7 Rxe7 33.Rxe7 Ne6 34.Rxa7 c5 35.Bxe6 fxe6 36.Rb7 Rb4 37.b3 Kf8 38.Kf1 c4 39.bxc4 Rxc4 40.Rxb6 Rc1+ 41.Ke2 Rc2+ 42.Ke3 Rxa2 43.Rxe6 Kf7 44.Rb6 Ra3+ 45.Kf4 Ra2 46.Kg3 g5 ½-½.


Boris Spassky was on the attack in game two


Viktor Korchnoi on the defence


Interview with Viktor Korchnoi at the airport (in Russian language)


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