Ten years and a day ago…

by Johannes Fischer
1/27/2021 – … on January, 26, 2011, Viktor Kortschnoi played in round 2 of the Gibraltar Chess Festival against Fabiano Caruana. Kortschnoi was 79 years old, Caruana 18, Kortschnoi had a rating of 2544, Caruana had a rating of 2721. Moreover, Kortschnoi was playing with Black. But he soon attacked Caruana with all his energy and won a remarkable game. | Photo: John Saunders, Chess Festival Gibraltar 2011

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Kortschnoi was one of the best players in chess history, and he was feared, respected and admired for his fighting spirit and pugnacious nature, but in the game against Caruana he was nevertheless a clear underdog. After all, Caruana was already one of the world's best players at the time, and had almost 200 Elo points more than Kortschnoi. Moreover, he had won all three previous encounters between the two.

Kortschnoi at the Hoogovens Tournament 1985 | Photo: Rob Croes / Anefo

The last time the two had played each other was at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden in 2008 in the match between Switzerland and Italy, and in that game Kortschnoi had suffered a crushing defeat with Black.


More than two years had passed since then, and Caruana had become even better, while Korchnoi had to pay tribute to age. Korchnoi would celebrate his 80th birthday on March  23, 2011, whereas Caruana, born on July 30, 1992, was still a year and a half away from his 20th birthday, an age difference that prompted Dylan Loeb McClain to remark in the New York Times that Kortschnoi "probably owned socks older than Caruana".

But none of that seemed to matter in their game in Gibraltar. Kortschnoi played with Black, and with – there's no other way to put it – youthful vigour he seized the initiative soon after the opening, and built up a strong attack which gained him material, which he converted without much trouble.


An impressive win by the almost 80-year-old, and a vivid illustration of the Kortschnoi's energy and his enthusiasm for the game.

My Life for Chess Vol. 1

Victor Kortchnoi, two-times contender for the world championship, is a piece of living chess history. He is known as one of the greatest fighters in the history of chess. On this DVD he speaks about his life and shows his game.

My Life for Chess Vol. 2

Volume 2 of the memories of Viktor Kortchnoi features about four hours of Kortchnoi live. He speaks about his life and shows his game - and in every minute you see and feel his enormous passion for chess.


Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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