My Life For Chess - Viktor Korchnoi

by Albert Silver
11/28/2011 – Viktor Korchnoi hardly needs an introduction. This Methusaleh of chess, whose competitive longevity and endless love for the game even have Kasparov in awe, has competed head-to-head with every world champion since Botvinnik. In his review, Albert Silver explains why these two DVDs are his favorite, and how they not only entertain and instruct, but also inspire from sheer passion.

A review

The following review is not about the latest product in the Chessbase stable, it is about my favorite: My Life in Chess by Viktor Korchnoi. There are a number of games collections out there, and despite no shortage of grand names, the content and quality tends to vary quite a bit. The best ones are those that entertain, teach, and inspire, but such pearls are rare indeed. You don’t need psychic powers to guess that is how I view Korchnoi’s present work, but allow me to share why, and convince you this is an absolute must for your collection if you don’t already know it.

Viktor Korchnoi hardly needs an introduction. This Methusaleh of chess, whose sheer competitive longevity and endless love for the game have even Kasparov in awe, has competed head-to-head with every world champion since Botvinnik, and along with Bronstein is certainly the greatest player to never actually hold that title.

Usually, when one speaks of inspiration from a great player, it is in the form of a great game or move. This is natural, and how can one not feel inspired by one of Tal’s great combinations, or Karpov’s positional wizardries, or an attack by Fischer or Kasparov? While Korchnoi certainly has had more than his share of great moments, the nature of the inspiration he gives here is entirely unique to these DVDs: his enthusiasm, his passion. Truly it is impossible to explain, and is something you need to see and experience. Korchnoi is already well past 70 in his presentation, but the sheer buoyancy in his presentation is utterly infectious. When he explains how he chose a line because he “wanted to win!” and literally jumps up in his seat when he says this, it is impossible not to grin.

However, the DVDs are more than a declaration of love to the game, they are a testament to his legacy and a wonderful source of insights when you least expect them. His views go far beyond the strategic  aspects of a position, but offer keen analysis into the psychology of the struggle. Observe in this video his comments on the consequences of the draw offer and its effect on the game thereafter.

 
The first eleven minutes of his game against Smyslov in 1952

The sheer balance of his decision making is also the mark of a true virtuoso, as he explains it not only as a great player, but one who has spent a great deal of time contemplating all these aspects, and how they relate to each other.

A few years ago, I was to play in a strong tournament after a long hiatus away from the game, and was feeling a tad jittery. Before each round, I would play a couple of games from these DVDs, and by the time it I left to go to the venue I not only felt uplifted, but grounded as well. Chess was easy, and the flow of the game was logical and fluid. It wasn’t really of course, but that was how I felt prior to the games, and I scored one of my best results ever, with a 2400 performance and even the tournament Beauty Prize. I give all credit to Korchnoi for putting me in the frame of mind to allow my game to shine.

From a pure chess point of view, the games are all well-chosen, illustrating important moments in his career, with interesting introductions, and great battles, ranging from his early career to after he no longer challenged for the world title. You will see insights on chess, as well as on his greatest opponents.

The first DVD begins with a half hour interview, conducted by Frederic Friedel, describing Viktor's career in chess, and then proceeds to the first of eight games, starting with Golenichev-Korchnoi (1949) to Filguth-Korchnoi (1979), including Smyslov, Tal, Geller, Huebner, and Karpov.

Viktor jumps up and down so often the camera cannot capture it all

"He is simply lost!"

It is impossible to watch so much passion and be indifferent

My Life For Chess Vol.2 also has eight games, starting with his breath-taking bout against Kasparov in OHRA-Brussels (1986), to a mammoth 42-minute commentary to his game against Spassky in 1989, ending with his encounter against Moskalenko in the 2004 Catalan Theme tournament.

Still, beyond the technical excellence of the collection, if you are looking for something to leave you feeling positive about chess, and eager for battle, these DVDs are for you.

My Life For Chess by Viktor Korchnoi can be purchased at the Chessbase Shop


Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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