A short blog post featuring Korchnoi’s annotations to his decisive game v. Bent Larsen in the Palma de Mallorca international tournament of 1968, and some brief background to the tournament.
Exactly half a century ago the great international tournament at Palma de Mallorca had just finished. An 18-player round robin, it was the fourth in a series of events held in the capital of the Balearic Islands between 1965 and 1969. The participants included World Champion Tigran Petrosian and several players from the 1968 Candidates matches – Boris Spassky, Viktor Korchnoi, Svetozar Gligorić and Bent Larsen, as well as former Candidates Borislav Ivkov and Pal Benko.
Viktor Korchnoi in play at Wijk aan Zee, January 1968. (Photo credit: H. Koch / ANEFO, via www. gahetna.nl.)
First place was taken by Viktor Korchnoi. This capped a brilliant year for the grandmaster from Leningrad. At the start of the year he had been in devastating form in the traditional Hoogovens tournament at Wijk aan Zee, winning his first eight games and eventually taking first place by a clear three points. Then he had defeated Reshevsky and Tal in the quarter- and semi-final of the Candidates’ matches before losing the final to Spassky (you can find further detail on that match here). At the 18th Olympiad in Lugano, which finished just before the event in Palma, he had won the gold medal on board three for the Soviet Union.
In his biographical Chess is My Life, Korchnoi states that after the Olympiad he had been confined to home by a recurrence of a stomach ulcer problem and had been pessimistic about his chances in the forthcoming tournament. However, he relates that he was saved by his theoretical preparation for the Candidates’ matches, much of which remained unused. Playing in “exceptionally confident” fashion, with four rounds remaining, Korchnoi had 11/13, a point clear of Larsen and Spassky. By defeating both of his rivals in the next two games, Korchnoi guaranteed himself clear first place in the tournament.
He later annotated his game v. Larsen for Chess in the USSR; a translation of his annotations can be downloaded at the link below.
The Larsen-Korchnoi game in progress, at the Hotel Jaime I, Palma de Mallorca.
Korchnoi’s annotations are from Shakhmaty v SSSR (№ 3, 1969).
Korchnoi’s recollections on the tournament are from Chess is My Life (Batsford, London 1978), p. 67.
The photo of the Larsen-Korchnoi game is from Chess is My Life (Edition Olms, 2005).