Checkmating Viktor the Terrible


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How does one set about checkmating Viktor the Terrible?

As it is Checkmate Monday once more, we shall soon find out!

The Desire for Revenge

Two weeks ago, we examined the rivalry between Viktor Korchnoi and Tigran Petrosian and showed a very rare case of a checkmate on the board. Rare, because strong players normally resign when they are suffering from a big disadvantage in a game of chess – and certainly when checkmate is inevitable.

Playing four Candidates matches against the same person in just nine years turns the opponent into a permanent opponent. Korchnoi – Petrosian was one of THE biggest chess rivalries of all.

Petrosian gained revenge for the checkmate he allowed in their 1974 by returning the compliment in their 1977 match.

The first four match games ended in draws and then Korchnoi won game five. Petrosian hit back immediately in game six.

Tied Down

In this position, Petrosian’s passed c-pawn ties down two of Korchnoi’s major pieces. Petrosian opens up a second front of combat, with a direct assault on the enemy king.

Petrosian Gains revenge by Checkmating Viktor the Terrible

Petrosian – Korchnoi
Game Six
Candidates Match, 1977

30 g5 h5

Korchnoi has to keep the lines closed for as long as he can.

31 Rd2 Rfe8

32 Qf3!

Petrosian Attacking

Targeting the undefended h-pawn and forcing another weakness in Korchnoi’s defensive wall. Moving the queen also allows the white rooks to coordinate directly.

32 …g6

33 R2d5!

33 Rd7 is tempting but gives Black serious drawing chances after 33 …Qxc6, eliminating White’s powerful c-pawn and pinning White’s queen against his king.

33 …Rf8

Defending against the threat of 34 Rd7 and the collapse of f7.

34 Rf6!

Even now the most obvious move is definitely not the best. 34 Rd7 Qxc6 35 Rxf7 Rxf7 36 Qxf7 Rd8! and Black wins the rook (and the game), thanks to the pin.

34 …Qe7

35 Rd7

Korchnoi Under Pressure

Even Korchnoi’s extraordinary defensive powers are feeling considerable strain.

35 …Qe8

36 Rxg6!

Rook Sacrifice

Given Petrosian’s dominance, it should be no surprise that there is a sacrificial path towards White’s victory.

36 …Qe5

Korchnoi avoids 36 …fxg6 37 Qc3+ followed by checkmate but allows a shorter one. There is no satisfactory defense anyway.

Checkmating ‘Viktor the Terrible’

37 Qxh5 checkmate

Petrosian Checkmating Viktor the Terrible

By checkmating ‘Viktor the Terrible,’ Petrosian gains revenge for the checkmate of 1974. However, Korchnoi won again in game eight and the other games were drawn, so Viktor the Terrible has the last laugh on this particular occasion.

Tune in next week for a new instalment of Checkmate Monday.

There are many more beautiful checkmate patterns in our course, The Checkmate Patterns Manual, by International Master John Bartholomew and CraftyRaf.

There is a shortened, free version of the course here.

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