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Portrait Viktor Korchnoi

Viktor Korchnoi
Born on the 23rd March 1931 in Leningrad (St. Petersburg)
Swiss Grand Master and twice World Champion runner-up

“I play chess because even as a child I was sure that I could become a Grand Master.”

Viktor Kortschnoi has so far played in more than 5,000 competition matches. 52 years ago, he achieved the title of Grand Master and since then has been seen as one of the strongest players worldwide. Nobody can hold a candle to him with his long-term record - Kortschnoi is a unique chess phenomenon.

At the beginning, the young Victor actually tried three areas; playing the piano, acting and chess. As there was not enough money for the music and his Russian pronunciation did not fulfil the highest demands, he focussed on chess. “At 12 years of age, I began to study consistently with books and trainers – my greatest role model was Emanuel Lasker. Lasker was a professional player and, at 14, I was sure that I too could become a professional.”

At 16, Kortschnoi won the Soviet youth championships – the beginning of an unparalleled career. Both of his championship finals (against Anatoli and Karpow respectively) are cited as Kortschnoi’s greatest successes in the chess world. However, Kortschnoi says that looking back, his first title victory of USSR Champion in 1960 was much more important: “The moment when I achieved that is vivid and unforgettable.”

Kortschnoi’s game is pure energy and strength – in order to still be able to achieve such outstanding performances at 77 years of age, he trains every day for at least four hours and pays attention to his physical fitness. The Senior World Champion in 2006, “the boys expect Grandfather to just topple over, but then Grandfather plays chess for five hours and outplays them.”

Kortschnoi’s opponents characterise him as a great fighter with a dynamic positioning style – he cannot stand drawn games and if he should come close to defeat, he accomplishes real miracles in his defence. If he does lose a game or match? “That is very, very difficult for me, I am a bad loser and sometimes I say things to my opponent which I regret the next day,” Kortschnoi admits laughing out loud.

As the strongest Swiss chess player, he sits in Dresden at the first Swiss board. It is his sixteenth attendance at a Chess Olympiad – this is also a typical Kortschnoi record!