Viktor Korchnoi's 80th Birthday Celebration

by ChessBase
3/28/2011 – On Saturday the Schachgesellschaft Zürich celebrated the anniversary of someone who had done more for chess in Switzerland than any other player. Viktor Korchnoi, born on March 23 1931, kicked things off with a clock simul and then attended a gala dinner in his honour. Guests included Mark Taimanov and Garry Kasparov. We bring you a big pictorial report by Frederic Friedel.

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Viktor Korchnoi's 80th Birthday Celebration

Pictorial report by Frederic Friedel

Last Wednesday, on March 23, 2011, Viktor Korchnoi turned 80. There was a week of celebrations, held mainly in Zurich, which is not far from where Viktor Lvovich and his wife Petra live. The culmination was an event and a gala dinner on Saturday in the Festival Hall of the Hotel Savoy Baur en Ville in Zurich.

Zurich is located on the river Limmat, which flows out of Lake Zurich

Zürich or Zurich (the inhabitants call it Züri) is the largest city in Switzerland, with a metropolitan population of around 1.3 million. It is the main commercial and cultural centre, and offers the highest quality of life of almost any city in the world.

The spectacular Savoy Baur en Ville hotel – one of the finest we have stayed in

On Saturday, the day of the big celebrations, we arrived in the Savoy to find that Garry Kasparov and his mother Klara Shagenovna, Mark Taimanov and his wife Nadya, Grandmasters Artur Yusupov, Genna Sosonko, Robert Hübner, and other notable guests had already checked in.

We rushed down to the Festival Hall on the first floor to find the man for whom this had all been organised already hard at work. Viktor Korchnoi was playing a clock handicap simultaneous exhibition against ten talented youngsters from the Swiss Youth team.

Incidentally, we came down to the Festival Hall with a message from another guest: if the eighty-year-old simultaneous master was overcome with fatigue he could enlist the assistance of an unrated player who was willing to jump in for him, for a move or two. However, Viktor refused: he would do the job by himself, but thank you very kindly for the offer, Garry Kimovich.

There is much to be told about this simul, and it will be – in a separate report. In the above picture you see Viktor pondering against the youngest opponents, who were playing atypically cautiously.

At the Apéro in the Foyer of the Festival Hall after Viktor's ordeal Mark Taimanov turned up, together with his wife Nadya, with new pictures of their twins. We have published many articles on the 85-year-old chess legend and concert pianist. Here is the latest, with links to other reports.

Klara Shagenovna in animated discussion with Mark and Nadya Taimanov

Here the Taimanovs are joined by Klara's famous son

I met Mark Taimanov for the first time in Zurich. Nadya very kindly translated for us, until about ten minutes into the conversation Mark said something in a language I recognized. "You speak German?!" I asked in surprise. "Sure," he said, and after that conversation was really much simpler. And most pleasant, since he told me a lot about his career as a pianist. Sadly that is over since his fingers are riddled with too much gout to allow him to play at the standard to which he is accustomed. He was delighted when I mentioned Mozart's Concerto in E flat – somebody actually knows what I did in the musical world.

The hands of the maestro
(in former days)


Click on the icon on the right to listen to Mark Taimanov playing Mozart's Concerto
in E flat, KV 365 Rondo Allegro, with the Leningrad Chamber Orchestra.

GM Artur Yusupov chatting with his old friend Garry Kasparov. In the background is the mathematician and author Prof. Christian Hesse, who has featured in many ChessBase reports (e.g. this one)

Our host Dr William Wirth, chatting with guest of honour GM Genna Sosonko

William Wirth, who himself turned 80 this year, is a former director
of the Swiss financial services company, the Credit Suisse Group

Garry in discussion with Viktor, with whom he has a very affectionate relationship

At dinner Garry spoke about the role Korchnoi has played in chess over sixty years

Victor's stepson Alexander (and his mother Petra) were particularly fascinated by the ChessBase present: a glass crystal with a beautiful 3D image of the great man in it. Alexander took it around and showed it to every guest individually.

Incidentally the image was created from a 2D picture we had taken some years earlier. The way this is done, by a German company, is to email the image to a company in India, where experts vectorise the picture to 3D, mail it back, where the company burns the data into a special crystal glass with lasers pointing from three directions. If you are interested in getting a copy – the data is still stored – for yourself write to us and we will give you the contact. It comes with a little LED base light that gives the whole thing the feel of a shrine. You will have to acquire the candles and incense locally.

Viktor, Alexander, Petra and, reflected in the window in the blue scarf, Petra's daughter Roswita

Here the Taimanovs and Viktor are chatting with Viktor's son Igor

The next morning on a walk along the lake, it suddenly dawned on me: "Are you Igor, for whose freedom we were fighting back in 1976, when Viktor was playing Karpov in Baguio City?" Indeed it was the man, who in Korchnoi's book "Chess is my Life" has written a ten-page memoir, telling readers of his life in the USSR after the defection of his father, including the time he spent in jail. Today Igor lives in Switzerland and is a software designer. An interesting and enjoyable new friend – as is Alexander from the other side of the family.

We close this report with some final pictures of two chess legends in animated discussion.

A separate report on Korchnoi's 80th Birthday Simul against the Swiss youth will follow shortly.


My Life for Chess – by Viktor Korchnoi

Viktor Kortchnoi is doubtless one of the most electrifying personalities in the chess world. Still playing successful and attractive chess, the former double world championship finalist is also famous for his candid language. Kortchnoi was never one for mincing his words. Now you can experience this chess legend “live”: with the ChessBase DVDs “My Life for Chess”, Kortchnoi has created a vivid memorial to himself and his great chess career.

In Volume 1, he presents eight of his most brilliant efforts from the years 1949-1979, among them games against Smyslov, Geller, Tal, Hübner and Karpov. In each case Korchnoi describes in detail the story of the game, never beating around the bush, sometimes harshly criticizing his opponents, but also lavishing praise on them when this is warranted. A highlight is the game against Karpov from the match for the world championship in Baguio 1978. All in all, “My Life for Chess Vol. 1” offers more than three hours of first-class chess training, plus an extensive interview. A must-have for every chess fan!

Volume 2 features about four hours of “Kortchnoi live”. The great chess legend presents the second part of his eventful career, presenting among other things his games against Kasparov (1986), Spassky (1989) and Short (1990) in his typical gripping style. Embedded in the game commentaries are many details of Kortchnoi’s biography. For instance, before commenting his game against Spassky, the veteran speaks extensively about his personal relationship with the ex-world champion. Throughout these lectures you can feel Kortchnoi’s ever-enduring love for chess. Whenever the great master goes to the heart of an opening (King’s Indian, English and French) or shows an astonishing move, one can see the joy sparkling in his eyes. No wonder – hardly any other chess genius has lived chess as intensively as “Viktor the Terrible”.

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