Will things start to get ugly in Sofia if Anand pulls ahead of Topalov?
Over on the EC Forum that was what one Arshad Ali, posting after game 3, wanted to know. "Very possibly" was my reply although as it happened when Anand did pull ahead a shenanigans there were none.
Was it out of the question though? What would have happened had the Champion won game 7 or saved game 8 or even picked up the win in yesterday's fabulous game 9? Topalov 2-0 down with four to play, say, instead of level? Might that have prompted some Bulgarian action? We'll never know.
A couple of pages after our friend Mr. Ali in that EC Forum thread BCM Editor John Saunders opined that we had returned to,
... pre-1972 times when world chess championships commanded minimal interest in the general media in the West. This is a pity because the entertainment value of the four games played so far has been remarkably high. However, these are early days and we mustn't underestimate the fertile brain of Silvio Danailov when it comes to creating a bit of controversy and garnering a few headlines.
Perhaps it's a shame nothing kicked-off; the chess in Sofia just gets better with every game and yet all the media are interested in is whether Kirsan has or has not met E.T. (and note how even here the chess content of the story is just a sub-plot to the main joke: 'These wacky foreigners ... they think they've met aliens and they spend all their money on chess').
There's certainly no denying that a little off-the-board argy bargy never hurts when it comes to generating publicity for a chess contest. As we saw in WwwK VII the Korchnoi-Spassky 77/78 Candidates Final was getting front-page coverage anyway but press interest in the match increased still further when the battle spread beyond the 64 squares.
Back in Sofia there are still three games to go so perhaps we shouldn't give up hope of trouble breaking out just yet. Vishy one up with one to play anyone?
Korchnoi vs Spassky: Chess Crisis
21st December, 1977
PROTEST BY KORCHNOI AGAIN DELAYS GAME WITH SPASSKY
Belgrade, Dec 20. – A dispute over Boris Spassky’s use of a demonstration board today prevented play between the former world champion and his self-exiled Soviet compatriot Viktor Korchnoi.
The organizers of the world chess championship challengers final postponed until Thursday the adjourned tenth game to allow Spassky time to appeal against the referee’s decision to place the board out of sight.
Korchnoi, who protested about the use of the board, leads the series with 6 ½ points to 3 ½ with one game adjourned.
22nd December, 1977
SPASSKY REFUSES TO PLAY IN CHESS PROTEST
Belgrade, Dec 21. – The twelfth game of the chess candidates’ match between Russian grandmasters Boris Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi was postponed today after Spassky failed to show up, continuing the psychological warfare between the two contestants.
Officials said Spassky, a former world champion, risked forfeiting the game by refusing to play, but Korchnoi and the referee Bozidar Kazic, agreed on a postponement.
Korchnoi leads the 20-game match, 6 ½ points to 3 ½. Spassky’s refusal to play was apparently in protest against a referee’s ruling that a large display chessboard should come down from the stage. – UPI.
23rd December, 1977
CHESS CHIEF TRIES TO SAVE MATCH
Belgrade, Dec 22. – Dr. Max Euwe, president of the International Chess Federation, arrived in Belgrade tonight to try to solve a dispute which threatens the match between the world title challengers Boris Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi.
The dispute, which has held up play for the past three days, is over whether a demonstration board for spectators should be within sight of the two players. It became an issue after the eleventh game – the first won by Spassky.
After Korchnoi had complained, the referee ordered that the demonstration board be moved out of sight of the players. Spassky has since refused to play.
Dr Eune (sic) will see both players. Korchnoi is leading 6 ½ - 3 ½ in the match to decide who challenges Anatoly Karpov for the world title. – Reuter.
24th December, 1977
FEUDING CHESS CHALLENGERS AGREE TO PLAY ON TODAY
From Our Correspondent
Belgrade, Dec 23
A temporary solution was found today to the dispute between Boris Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi, the world chess title challengers, and their 20-game match will be resumed tomorrow.
The compromise was reached after Dr Max Euwe, president of the International Chess Federation, had spent all night in separate talks with the two players.
The dispute is over whether a demonstration board for spectators should be within sight of the players. Korchnoi complained after Spassky had spent most of the eleventh game away from the table studying the position on the demonstration board and reappearing only to make his moves.
When the referee ruled that in future the demonstration board should be out of sight, Spassky refused to continue the match, arguing that the conditions of play had been altered.
The adjourned tenth game will now be resumed tomorrow in a small hall without a demonstration board. But the board will be back as Spassky wishes for the twelfth game.
What happens after that is uncertain as both players are insisting on their point.
The match is to decide who will challenge Anatoly Karpov for the world championship. At present Korchnoi leads 6 ½ – 3 ½.
30th December, 1977
Viktor Korchnoi, the self-exiled Russian grandmaster, threatened to withdraw from this world chess championship qualifying match against Boris Spassky unless spectators were banned. Page 4
30th December, 1977
KORCHOI THREATENS TO QUIT MATCH AGAINST SPASSKY
Belgrade, Dec 29. – Viktor Korchnoi, the self-exiled Russian grandmaster, today threatened to withdraw from his world chess championship qualifying match against Boris Spassky.
In a letter to Mr Bozidar Kazic, the umpire, he said he would not resume the match unless spectators were excluded and no demonstration board was in sight of the players. He would exercise his right to postpone the fourteenth game tomorrow but would play on Monday provided his demands were met. If they were not, he would ask the International Chess Federation to move the match from Belgrade.
The Yugoslav organizers are meeting tomorrow to consider the ultimatum. Mr Kazic said of Korchnoi’s demand that the public be excluded: “This just cannot be done”.
Korchnoi is leading 7 ½ - 5 ½ in the 20-game match to find a challenger to Anatoly Karpov, the world champion. But he was now lost three games in a row. A grotesque blunder which cost him his queen and the thirteenth game yesterday came after he had complained to the umpire of the noise in the packed audience.
Mr Kazic said today: “There would have been whistling and shouting if I had agreed yesterday to Korchnoi’s demand to lower the curtains on the audience.” He noted that the noise subsided as soon as he asked for silence.
31st December, 1977
CHESS CHIEFS PUT OFF DECISION ON KORCHNOI
Belgrade, Dec 30. – The organizers of the Korchnoi - Spassky chess match today considered Viktor Korchnoi’s threat to withdraw from the 20-game series unless spectators are excluded. They put off a decision and will meet again tomorrow.
There was no play today, Korchnoi having exercised his right to postpone the fourteenth game. He says he will play on Monday but only if his conditions are met.
Korchnoi leads 7 ½ - 5 ½ in the match to decide who will challenge Karpov, the world champion, next year. Spassky has won the last three games. – UPI.
3rd January, 1978
KORCHNOI BACKS DOWN AND PLAYS ON
Korchnoi has backed down and resumed his game with Spassky in the world chess candidates’ match in Belgrade. Although the demands of his “ultimatum” have apparently not been met, he returned to his board yesterday after a personal appeal from the president of the International Chess Federation. Page 4
3rd January, 1978
KORCHNOI BACKS DOWN WITH GRACE
Belgrade, Jan 2. – Boris Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi today adjourned the fourteenth game in their candidates’ match. After five hours of play the game was adjourned on the forty-first move in a position which experts say gives Spassky better chances to win.
Korchnoi, backing down from his threat to walk out of the match unless all points of his ultimatum, including the exclusion of spectators and no demonstration board were met, decided to resume the match after “a personal appeal of Dr Max Euwe”, the president of the International Chess Federation, said Mr Michael Steane (sic) Korchnoi’s aide.
Spassky, the former Soviet world champion, made the first move at 4pm, started Korchnoi’s clock, stood up, took off his jacket and left the centre of the stage. But, Korchnoi was nowhere to be found.
Minutes passed. As tension rose Korchnoi appeared nonchalantly, without a jacket, made his own move, and then left the stage. – AP
When we were Kings Index
(1) With thanks to Morgan for the Reuters tip.
(2) The subtitle of today's post is borrowed from Ray Keene’s book on the match (Allen & Unwin, 1978) but the news reports republished here are not included in RDK's work.