Gallery of a unique Palmarès
GM Viktor Korchnoi achieved more than 220 first prizes in international Invitation tournaments, international Open, tournaments, National Championships and FIDE official contests, matches, and team competitions, all of grandmaster strength, with a 64 years competitive chess tournament winning span (stretching more than 40 years of victories in world elite supertournaments).
Included in this record are about 20 Rapid / Blitz tournament wins, that means, Viktor Korchnoi achieved at least 200 first prizes in classical chess events.
Junior or Senior contests are strictly not counted (even it's a Junior national champion, student gold team medal or a Senior World champion title), double-counting of team and individual first board prizes in the same event is excluded (exception: Chess Olympiads, official FIDE World and European Team Championships). Wins in only local tournaments obviously do not count.
Counting as well Junior and Senior, local club competitions, and all team / individual doubles, would increase the number of won first prizes by Viktor Korchnoi to far more than 280+.
This timeframe and number of major chess tournament first prizes are definitely a benchmark!
There may be local players with more minor tournament wins (on club or college level), but not in international elite gm groups.
Viktor Korchnoi's more than 220 first prizes:
- Korchnoi won more than sixty major international inidvidual invitational all-play-all round robin tournaments in classical chess (not yet counting international Open with swiss sytem, national or city championships, not yet counting rapid or blitz competitions, not yet counting official and friendly matches, not yet counting team events and individual first board prizes in team events)
- ten National Championships (four times USSR Champion, once Dutch Champion
and five times Swiss Champion) plus two other national titles hors-concours
- twice an official Interzonal tournament (in 1973 and 1987, always being pre-qualified the years in bewtween)
- a world record of thirteen won Candidate matches (including a stretch of seven won Candidates in row, matches of mostly 12 to 20 games vs. Petrosian 1977, Polugaevsky 1977, Spassky 1977/78 (Final), again Petrosian 1980, again Polugaevsky 1980, Hübner 1980/81 (Final), and Portisch 1983)
- about fifteen (further) friendly and training chess matches, naturally not counting drawn matches
- about twenty international or national rapid or blitz tournaments (in the 1950s-1980s of the last century only a few rapid or blitz events were organized for grandmasters, there was no rapid or blitz world chess championship or rating, that's why this figure of wins is comparatively low)
- exact ten Gold medals for team and board first prizes at Chess Olympiads playing for Soviet-Union and for Switzerland (apart from Junior / Senior team events)
- exact ten further Gold medals for team and board first prizes at European Team (for USSR) and World Team Chess Championships (for Switzerland)
- nine times winner Swiss (with Biel and Zürich), three times winner Soviet (with Leningrad), twice winner Russian (with St. Petersburg) Team Championship
- thirteen times member of the winning team in the traditional USSR vs. Yugoslavia match (incl. Budva 1967 which was as an exception also organized as an individual tournament and the retro-match in 2007)
- more than thirty further team matches or/and individual best scores as member of the USSR team in country matches and in other Leningrad, soviet, russian or swiss and ad-hoc team (such as Experience vs. Women or vs. Youth) events
- about twenty-five International Open Festivals with swiss system
others than official open events: an enormous number considering that all these Open were won aged 50 to 80 years!
- wins or first prizes in Junior and Senior events (even if there are official FIDE world championships) are not counted for the record, neither are USSR semifinals / quarterfinals (although there were strong at that time) or minor local events
For a detailed year-by-year list of all victories of Viktor, see the linked folder "1st Prize chronology" in german language in the biography section. Here we will present a more general survey of famous past and present major recurring individual international invitation tournaments in classical chess, especially tournament series (thus excluding official competitions, or national tournaments, matches or team events and first board prizes), focussing on closed elite tournaments won at first participation of Viktor Korchnoi, then elite tournament series won at second entry, and elite tournament cycles never won / never invitated / never participated respectively.
Recurring international chess tournaments, won at first participation
Winning always <at his first participation> these traditional major recurring international individual chess tournaments, including the four longest lasting international evergreen events, still existing today on the yearly chess calendar:
- Hastings* annually played since 1920/21 (without 1940/41-1944/45): won at first participation in 1955/56 and at second participation in 1971/72, sole runner-up in 1988/89, sole 4th behind three joint winners in 1975/76 (in total four participations)
- Wijk aan Zee** annually played since 1938 (without 1945): won at first participation in 1968 and again at second and last nomination as a Soviet player in 1971, again in 1984 and in 1987 at age of 53 and 56 respectively. Last participation at age of 70 in 2001 (the year, Korchnoi won at Biel). Overall 13 participations at the 'Wimbledon of Chess', stepping onto the podium (third, second or first) seven times, four times winning. Only Anand and Carlsen with five victories have more Wijk aan Zee wins than Korchnoi
- Sarajevo (Bosna)*** annually played 1957-1988 and since 1998: won at first participation in 1969 and in 1984, and again in 1998.Korchnoi's personal "Sarajevo trilogy", executing three participations and three victories! Viktor Korchnoi faced an impressive gallery of changing grandmaster opponents, generating a score of +20 =16 -1).
- Capablanca Memorial, Havana and sometimes other places, annually played since 1962: won at first participation in 1963 and again in 1969, both in Havana (two participations, two wins)
- Biel International Chess Festival, annually played since 1968 Open, 1977 and since 1979 an additional GM tournament: won at first participation in 1979 and again outright ahead of Svidler, Gelfand, Grischuk, Lautier in 2001, just some months after his 70th anniversary (two clear wins, seven participations in the closed GMT, among them four at age of already 60plus)
- U.S. Open Chess Championship, annually played since 1900 (various places) making this the longest recurring chess event of the World, won at first and only participation at Pasadena in 1983
Historical bottom line:
* Prior to 1920/21, there were at Hastings International Chess Congress already the famous (summer) tournaments
in 1895 (won by Pillsbury), 1919 (won by Capablanca), and 1922 (won by Alekhine). Today Hastings switched to swiss system
** Wijk aan Zee was called the Hoogovens tournament until 1999 after the merge of Dutch steel and aluminium producer Koninklijke Hoogovens with Britsh Steel to form the Corus Group and subsequently this traditional tournament was named from 2000 to 2010 Corus tournament. Corus Group was acquired by Tata Steel and changed its name again, since 2011 the event is called the Tata Steel Chess Tournament. It took place in Beverwijk up to 1967, since 1968 it is played in Wijk aan Zee. In strength and in reputation, you can call Wijk "the Wimbledon of Chess"
*** Since 2010, Bosna, Sarajevo is played as an International Open (swiss system) and at the moment no longer the strong Invitational Tournament it was known before
Also winning <at his first participation> these today no longer existing, traditional major recurring international individual chess tournament series:
(played frequently, but not yearly from 1949 to 1981, later new series are launched): won at first participation in 1954 (4th edition of that event), and at second participation in 1966
- Buenos Aires (various series): won at first participation in 1960 (150th Anniversary of the May Revolution), and again in the Konex-Canon series: won at first and only participation in 1979
- Maróczy Memorial, Budapest (played 1952 as one year Memorial, 1961 as ten years Memorial, and later some unregular editions): won at first and only participation in 1961
- Asztalos Memorial, Gyula (played annually 1958-1971 at various venues): won at first and only participation in 1965 with incredible 14.5 out of 15!
- Chigorin Memorial (1909 St. Petersburg; then 1963-1990 annually round robin, Sochi): won at first and only participation in 1966
- Palma de Mallorca (played annually 1965-1972 including the Interzonal 1970): won at first participation in 1968 and again in the last edition in 1972
- London Phillips & Drew Kings, London (1980, 1982, 1984, 1986): won at first participation, the inaugural tournament in 1980
- Banco di Roma (played annually 1976-1988, no tournaments in 1978 & 1987), won at first participation in 1981, and again at his second and last participation in 1982
- Tilburg (played annually 1977-1998): won at first participation in 1985
- Amsterdam OHRA (played annually 1982-1990 as an Open, plus 1985-1990 an additional Crown Invitation round robin): won at first participation in 1988
- Magistral de Madrid (played annually 1992-1998): won at first participation in 1995
- Malmö (Sigeman & Co) (played annually 1993-2014): won at first and only participation in 1996, as well as the traditional Politiken-Cup at Copenhagen (played since 1979) in the same year a couple of days later, also won at first entry. Winning a round robin and a swiss system event within a few weeks: Viktor Korchnoi's personal "Scandinavian summer" at age of 65
- Enghien-les Bains (played biannual from 1995 to 2003): won at first participation in 1997
- Marx György Memorial, Paks (played annually 2003-2011): won at first participation in 2004
- Banja Luka (unregular intervals, nine editions between 1974 and 2008): won at very first participation aged 76 in 2007
- Lugano Open: won at first entry in 1982, in 1986, and in last edition 1989 (five participations, three wins plus a shared 1.-7. result (3. on tie-break scoring) in 1988)
- plus many other Open Festival (series) all over the world, from Berlin to Hamburg, from Toronto to Montreal (Quebec Open), from Curaçao to Vienna, from Baden to Banyoles, etc., won almost always at first participation
- and many other over some years recurring chess invitation tournament (series), won at first participation, from São Paulo to Córdoba, from Antwerp to Arnhem, from Bad Kissingen to Bad Homburg, from Harlingen to Royan, from Basel to Beersheba, from Kraków to Antwerp, from Brussels to San Francisco (Pan Pacific), this big event in 1995 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the United Nations' charter in San Francisco often stands as for itself, it is not number-linked with other Frisco events
- and of course various only one-time claimed great chess invitation tournaments such as maybe most famously - among many others - Yerevan in 1965 (an international tournament honouring World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosian, not amused to be surpassed in his home territory), Leningrad International Tournament in 1967 (50th Anniversary of the October Revolution - of course there were many other chess events at Leningrad, Yerevan, etc., but not under the specific claim mentioned), Montreux (Palace) in 1977, Titograd (celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Liberation of the City by the Partisans) in 1984, Clermont Ferrand (celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the French Revolution) 1989, or the Suzdal Rapid Botvinnik Memorial (celebrating 100th Anniversary of Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik) in 2011, Korchnoi aged 80
- and official FIDE tournaments, national championships and tournaments, many further International Open Festivals, official and friendly matches, team events and first board prizes (they all are not part of this chapter)
For detailed insights, please consult the sub-sections under Korchnoi biography. Here we will present a more general survey of past and present major recurring individual international invitation tournaments in classical chess, especially tournament series (thus excluding official competitions, or national tournaments, matches or team events and first board prizes), focussing on elite tournaments.
Recurring international chess tournaments, won at second participation
A selection of reputated recurring tournaments, with Viktor Korchnoi playing, and won at second participation:
- Amsterdam IBM (played 1962-1981): won by Korchnoi at second and last participation in 1976, clear runner-up in 1972 behind Lev Polugaevsky
- Lone Pine Open (Louis D. Statham Masters), California (played 1971-1981): Viktor Korchnoi won at second entry in the final edition of this famous Open in 1981
- Max Euwe Memorial (1976 Jubilee in Amsterdam, and 1987-1996 plus 2011 Memorial, mostly in Amsterdam): won at his second invitation in 1990 (held in Rotterdam)
- Las Palmas (played 1972-1996 with some interruptions): won at his second and last participation in 1991
A selection of major reccuring tournaments played but never won:
No win at Linares (this strong event in the city of Linares in the Jaén province of Andalusia, Spain, sponsored by Spanish businessman Luis Rentero, started in 1978 organized unregular in the 1980s, then annually until and including 2010), dominated in the 1990s brutally by Garry Kasparov, who won nine times. At Linares, Korchnoi twice missed (co-) winning by half a point, as runner-up in 1979 (Christiansen won), and again in 1985 as joint third with Portisch.
No win at the Rubinstein Memorial at Polanica-Zdrój, Poland. Viktor Korchnoi played once, undefeated runner-up as clear second in 1992 (astonishingly neither Korchnoi nor Karpov could win, Karpov too, had one participation, as shared 7th/8th out of ten players with less than 50% at age of 47 in 1998).
No win at Dortmund for Korchnoi, one participation in 1994, beating then reigning FIDE World Champion Karpov and reigning FIDE Vice-World Champion Timman, finishing shared fourth, with Karpov, Dreev, and Yusupov, ahead of Timman, local hope Lutz and young Leko. Winner in 1994 at Dortmund as clear first was Jereon Piket, ahead of Michael Adams as runner-up.
Followed - pointed out here as a footnote - by Vladimir Epishin, a regular top-twenty player in the mid-1990s, who peaked as clear number ten of the world in 1994 (January-June list), but soon afterwards disappeared from the radar of the very best, dropped out of the top hundred (there are plenty strong players today), remaining a very busy Open participant: A real chess professional - who has to win prizes to eat and pay mortgages or rent. The gap (loss) of a few dozen rating points can make the difference between regular invitations to closed supertournaments and banishment to the chancier and less rewarding world of the Open circuit. Globetrotter Epishin is an example of a grandmaster who could claim at the highest level only for a few years, the fate of so many professional chess players just one step beyond the very best, when your meal depends on your next move..
Think also of traveller Sergei Tiviakov, winner of the European Individual Chess Championship in 2008 and always dangerous for anyone, or Bartosz Soćko, the Polish player is one of the most busiest professionals today, or Lithuanian world voyageur Eduardas Rozentalis, there aren't that many countries in which he hasn't played a competitive game, or multiple British Rapid Chess Champion Mark Hebden, who also seems to be playing non-stop following the chess winds seeking a weekly wage, or from Hungary, veteran Iván Faragó, supposed to have the second largest number of higher class games, after Viktor Korchnoi.
Of course, there are famous recurring chess tournament cycles, to which Viktor Korchnoi never participated because he was not nominated by his federation (eg. Piatigorsky Cup, Los Angeles in 1963, Korchnoi was substitute nominée, and during the boycott years, see below), or they were naturally played prior or past to his competitive chess career, to name a few famous series eg. from Ostend, prior to WW I and Margate, prior to WW II up to current Bilbao Chess Masters Final (since 2008), London Chess Classic (since 2009), Zurich Chess Challenge (match in 2012, tournaments including rapid and / or blitz chess since 2013), Stavanger, Norway Chess (since 2013), St. Louis, Missouri, Sinquefield Cup (since 2013), or Shamkir, Gashimov Memorial (since 2014).
The Calendar section will offer you a general flash and orientation of past and present major recurring individual international tournament series in classical chess.
No invitation / the years of tournament boycott during Korchnoi's peak time
In 1974, Korchnoi gave an interview to a Yugoslav newspaper in which he criticised certain aspects of the Soviet chess system. This resulted in being dropped from the national team for a year and banned from playing tournaments abroad in 1975 by his own federation. He was banned from publishing chess analysis, too.
In 1976, after these measures had been lifted, Viktor Korchnoi took part at the IBM-tournament in Amsterdam, during which he requested asylum in the Netherlands. He lived there for some time, playing and winning the National Championship of the Netherlands in 1977, before moving to Switzerland at the end of 1977.
No invitation for Korchnoi to estimated 40 possible international chess tournaments from 1976 up to 1983 because of boycott against him by the former Soviet Union.
Viktor Korchnoi was barred from elite tournaments apart from the FIDE WC cycle. For ten years, from 1974 up to and including 1983, there was not a single game between Karpov and Korchnoi outside the official World Championships! Even at the Chess Olympiad in Lucerne 1982, when Switzerland was paired to USSR, Karpov paused for a second round in a row (with Korchnoi on board one subsequently facing, and losing a spectacular game against rapidly rising Kasparov).
The first international invitation chess tournament in classical chess with the participation of players of the Soviet Federation and Korchnoi after his emigration, was at Wijk aan Zee (46th annual Hoogovens) in January 1984, won equally by Alexander Beliavsky & Viktor Korchnoi, both unbeaten and during the tournament visibly on friendly terms.
A selection of tournaments, Viktor Korchnoi was deliberately not invited after his emigration during the years he was boycotted:
Not a single invitation at Bugojno (because of boycott threatens), a super-strong five times biannual tournament in the years 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, and 1986, won by Karpov in 1978 shared with Spassky (no Korchnoi), 1980 (no Korchnoi), and 1984 (no Korchnoi).
No invitation for Korchnoi at Tilburg until the year 1985. Tilburg was played annually from 1977 to 1998 and won a record seven times by Karpov 1977 (no Korchnoi), 1979 (no Korchnoi), 1980 (no Korchnoi), 1982 (no Korchnoi), 1983 (no Korchnoi), 1988 (no Korchnoi), and 1993 (Korchnoi lost to Beliavsky, tournament in k.o.-system). Korchnoi won Tilburg at his first invitation (shared with Miles, Hübner), and was clear second to Kasparov in 1989.
At the one-off Montreal elite event in May 1979, won by Karpov and Tal, half a year after the crown clash Karpov vs. Korchnoi at Baguio City, Viktor Korchnoi was not invited! The tournament chief consultant, Grandmaster Kavalek even stipulated to other organizers, not to invite Viktor Korchnoi any longer, because this creates troubles with the Soviet Federation cancelling their players. It was a really top field, and Korchnoi left outside alone:
In the spring of 1979, Lubomir Kavalek, along with Czech filmmakers Milos Forman and
Ivan Passer, organized a double round robin tournament to be held in Montreal, Quebec from April 10th to May 7th. Dubbed "The Tournament of Stars," the event was attended by ten of the very strongest grandmasters at the time, including the world champion.
The complete list of players was (in order of ELO): Anatoli Karpov (2705, ELO no. 1), Lajos Portisch (2640, ELO no. 3=), Boris Spassky (2640, ELO no. 3=), Jan Timman (2625, ELO no. 5=), Bent Larsen
(2620, ELO no. 7), Mikhail Tal (2615, ELO no. 8=), Vlastimil Hort (2600, ELO no. 11=), Robert Hübner (2595, ELO no. 13=), Ljubomir Ljubojevic (2590) and Lubomir Kavalek (2590). As a result, the average ELO rating for the tournament
was 2622, making "The Tournament of Stars" a category XV event. It was also one of the strongest tournaments ever organized at that time. Viktor Korchnoi (2695 ELO, no. 2 of the world just ten points behind Karpov and forty-five points ahead of the rest),
was being boycotted to secure Soviet participation).
The only two international top players missing were Bobby Fischer (who was reclusive at the time), and Henrique Mecking (no. 8= but inactive in 1979 due to health issues).
(Source: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chesscollection?cid=1016901 by suenteus po 147)
Montreal originally was labelled "A Man and His World Chess Challenge Cup" (quite cynical to call it Challenge Cup when the Challenger is excluded), later renamed "Tournament of Stars".
That means, not to
be invited to this first international appearence of Anatoly Karpov after the World Chess Championship at Baguio City in 1978, a unique chess event in a western country.
Bitter for Viktor Korchnoi. The listed tournaments are just examples, there were many more excluding Korchnoi. A sad chapter of competitive chess history.
Simply fighting his way through to three successive candidates finals in 1974-1980, winning seven candidate matches in a row, took incredible talent, energy (eg. three match wins de suite against Petrosian) and self-belief.
Same story at Torino (World Master tournament) in 1982: explicitly no invitation for Viktor Korchnoi. An uneven number of oddly seven of the world's top players, including the world champion, Anatoly Karpov, plus Ulf Andersson, Boris Spassky, Robert Hübner, Ljubomir Ljubojevic, Lajos Portisch, and Lubomir Kavalek competed in the double round robin event. Due to illness, Huebner was forced to withdraw after the seventh round, and his schedule was expunged from the second cycle of games. Ulf Andersson shared first place with the world champion at 6/11 each, with Andersson having gone undefeated. Kavalek was clear last.
There were organizers who backed Korchnoi, but then there were suddenly no Soviet players participating: 1978, Wijk aan Zee, Portisch placed first ahead of Korchnoi. The Soviet players boycott this Wijk aan Zee owing Korchnoi's participation.
At the 2nd Konex Tournament at Buenos Aires, an event in 1979 sponsored by Luis Ovsejevich and his Konex-Canon Company (later: Konex Foundation), the soviets boycotted the tournament because Korchnoi was invited and played.
Similar paradigma for the prestigious Phillips & Drew Kings tournament at London in 1980: Korchnoi invited, alas, no players of the USSR participating. In the following edition two years later in 1982, Korchnoi could not participate although he was title defender from 1980 - because this time Karpov who won, Spassky and Geller were participating (btw: Viktor Korchnoi never met Efim Geller otb after 1975, when the boycott was finally removed in 1984, Geller was no longer strong enough to compete in the elite events).
When Korchnoi was invited at Lone Pine in 1979, Oleg Romanishin and Vitaly Tseshkovsky were slated to play, but then it was discovered that Viktor Korchnoi would also be playing, and the Soviet authorities cancelled their entries. In 1981, Korchnoi entered the Lone Pine Open inkognito, and won a spectacular game against Jussupow and the tournament as clear first. Besides this exception, Korchnoi has only faced Soviet players in official FIDE competitions after Amsterdam IBM in 1976 (won with Miles) until the end of boycott, Herceg Novi, Blitz in 1983 (Korchnoi clear runner-up after Kasparov), and Wijk aan Zee in 1984 (won with Beliavksy).
As a result of these boycotts, Korchnoi lacked the possibility to play most of the strongest opponents apart from the Candidate's cycle, ie. no game in classical chess with Tal between the year 1975 and Titograd 1984. No competitive game with young and promising Kasparov before they met at the official Chess Olympiad in 1982.
There were organizers who at least made the boycott transparent:
"Unfortunately, if you are present in the tournament, too many other players will cancel it". This was written in the letter sent to Viktor Korchnoi one month before the Banja Luka tournament in 1979. Korchnoi was in Lone Pine (1979) then, and 50 participating Grandmasters and International Masters signed petition to FIDE.
“The letter was first written proof that Soviet Union is imposing boycott on me” – Korchnoi recollects – “FIDE didn’t have power to punish, the organization officially condemned Soviet Union, but that was it. It’s not just about boycott, they held my family for six years.”
Korchnoi was supposed to play in the notorious 1979 Banja Luka tournament (won by young and titleless Kasparov, two full points ahead of Smejkal as runner-up, and Andersson, Petrosian on shared third place) but the Soviet Union threatened with withdrawal
of its players and the organizers were eventually forced to revoke Viktor’s invitation. 28 years later, in 2007 Korchnoi finally saw and won at Banja Luka at his first participation in the 8th international
tournament, held after a 20 years break where no tournament at Banja Luka has been played. Banja Luka was the first international tournament win for Garry Kasparov, won at age of 16 - and the last international tournament win in classical chess for Viktor
Korchnoi at age of 76.
For more stories about the legendary Banja Luka, especially Garri Kasparov's international debut and Maia Chiburdanidze's tournament of her life in 1985, see on this website under Banja Luka http://www.chessdiagonals.ch/402840532
Brief career summary
- Until recently the oldest active sportsman on competitive highest level in the world
- 64 years winning span in competitive closed chess tournaments from USSR Junior Championship 1947 to Suzdal (Botvinnik Veterans Mem) Rapid 2011, followed by further first prizes as individual best and team winner (Legends vs. CEG, Geneva) 2012 or winner in friendly matches vs. Uhlmann, Leipzig 2014 and vs. Taimanov, Lucerne 2015
- More than 50 years winning span as National Champion (USSR 1960 to SUI 2011)
- More than 40 years winning span of supertournaments from Hastings 1955/56 and Buenos Aires 1960, followed by frequent supertournament victories in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, up to Madrid 1995, Sarajevo (Bosna) 1998 and Biel 2001, clear first as a septenarian, all opponents being near forty to more than fifty years younger than Viktor Korchnoi
- Longest winning span of 19 years at Wijk aan Zee from 1968 (first participation) & 1971 (second participation) to 1984 & 1987
- About 2000 won games against
major opponents (not counting simul exhibitions):
Viktor Korchnoi is undoubtedly the player with the most wins against grandmasters in professional chess history
than 220 victories in major chess tournament, match and team events
(for full achievement with more details, see also the different categories of 1st Prizes chronology, major tournaments, prominent opponents and corresponding listings)
For a comprehensive survey, please look in the Biography section:
http://www.chessdiagonals.ch/402840511 (International Invitation Tournaments)
http://www.chessdiagonals.ch/402840508 (International Open Festivals)
http://www.chessdiagonals.ch/402840516 (National Championships)
http://www.chessdiagonals.ch/402840510 (Team Events)
http://www.chessdiagonals.ch/402840543 (1st Prize chronology)
http://www.chessdiagonals.ch/402840542 (World Ranking survey)