Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Viktor Korchnoi

Chess grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi turned 80 years old seven days ago on 23 Mar. It seemed like only yesterday that he escaped from the old Soviet Union, turned into their persona non grata, fought his way to become the official challenger in the World Chess Championship series twice (1974 not counted) and finally, gained Swiss citizenship and acceptance by the new Russia. All these trials are now firmly behind him.

I remembered first bumping into him in Hongkong in the late 1970s - was it 1977 or 1978? I'm not sure, it could even be 1981 - and he was campaigning passionaltely for the release of Boris Gulko from the Soviet Union. Very vocal, kept pressing me and my friends to support the campaign.

The other time I ran into him was at the Chess Olympiad in Manila. He had just undergone an eye operation but insisted that he would not miss this grand event. So he turned up every day with an eyepatch. Pirate Korchnoi was my nickname for him.

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