1978 World Chess Championship
Anatoly Karpov (USSR) vs. Viktor Korchnoi (Stateless)
Baguio City, Phillipines
July 18 - October 18, 1978
Conditions: First to win 6 Games.
Result: Anatoly Karpov retains the World Title.
||6 (w/21 draws)
||5 (w/21 draws)
See the Games of the Match!
Karpov's FIDE Rating going in was 2725, Korchnoi's was 2665.
FOCUS ON: The Rematch Clause
The Rematch Clause, which existed (and was invoked) in Cycles 3 and 4,
but was stricken beginning with Cycle 5, was reinstated for this match.
This was a very controversial decision, in light of Fischer's
resignation of the world title in 1974, and it has been claimed
ever since by Lev Alburt, Larry Evans, et al, that Karpov was granted
more priviliges than Fischer ever asked for. In light of the
controversial nature of the rules, it might be in order to take a look
at how the rules for the 1978 championship match came about, and how
they compare to Fischer's proposed rules for 1975.
First as a quick refresher, there are two basic types of chess
matches: Limited and Unlimited. A Limited Match is limited to a
certain number of games (Best of 20, Best of 24, et cetera). An
Unlimited Match is played until one player has a certain number of
wins (First to 6 Wins, First to 8 Wins, First to 10 Wins, et cetera)
no matter how many games it takes to achieve this. All Previous FIDE
World Championship matches before 1978 had been Best of 24.
Conversely, there are also two basic types of "champion's
advantage" that may be employed: an automatic rematch, and draw odds.
All the previous FIDE World Championship Best of 24 matches had had
draw odds, with the champion retaining the title in the event of a
12-12 tie. The 1957 and 1960 matches had given the defending champion
the right to a rematch a year later in the event of his defeat. The
1963, 1966, 1969 and 1972 matches had no rematch clause. The 1951
and 1954 matches had a different rule. No rematch, but in the event
that the champion lost, he would have the right to join the new
champion and the new challenger three years later in a triangular
match for the world title. This never occurred, however a match for
the Women's World Championship was conducted under these conditions in
1955/6 between Elizabeth Bykova, Olga Rubtsova and Ludmilla Rudenko.
A general rule of thumb in matches for the World Championship has
been that Unlimited Matches have draw odds for the defending champion,
but Unlimited Matches do not. One reason for this is that it's
impossible for an Unlimited Match to end in a tie unless some special
rule is inserted to allow it. If a match goes to the first player to
win 8 games, it's impossible for both players to win their 8th game
However, on occasion, Unlimited Matches had been played with a
such a "special rule" added to allow for a drawn match. Two examples
are the 1890 Gunsberg-Tchigorin Match, and the 1893 Tarrasch-Tchigorin
Match which, although for 10 Wins, had a provision that if the score
reached 9-9, that the match would be drawn, without either player being
able to try for the 10th and final win (and in fact, both matches
did end in 9-9 ties). An upshot of this rule is that, since a
10-9 victory is impossible, the minimum margin of victory for either
player is 2 points (10-8). It was rules exactly like this that
Fischer had wanted to play under in 1975.
However, in a match such as Gunsberg-Tchigorin (i.e. a
match with no title at stake), the 9-9 rule affected both players
equally. When a title is at stake the rule means that the champion
need only break even to retain the title, but the challenger must
win by 2 to gain it. It's because this was regarded as too large of
a handicap, that Fischer's request for a 9-9 tie clause was not granted.
Has there ever been a World Championship match in which the
challenger was required to win by 2 points to win the title? This
is debatable, but the answer seems to be probably not. The 1886
Steinitz-Zukertort match was played under "Fischer's Rules", but the
9-9 tie clause in this match affected both players equally. Had that
match been drawn, the title would have been considered vacant. There
have been constant rumors about the 1910 Lasker-Schlechter match, but
the smoking gun proving that Schlechter was required to win by 2 has
never been found. Negotiations between Lasker and Capablanca broke
down in 1911, partially over this question (Lasker had wanted the
challenger to have to win by 2, Capablanca regarded it as unfair).
And there have been rumors that the 1927 Capablanca-Alekhine match
had a 5-5 tie clause, though the preponderance of evidence seems to
indicate that it didn't (A more detailed discussion of this question
can be found at
In short, there are no examples of World Championship matches where it can
be proven that the Challenger had been required to win by 2.
So, in 1975, Fischer was denied a 9-9 tie clause. In 1978, Karpov
was granted a rematch clause. Which is the bigger advantage? Larry
Evans (who has condemned both), is on record many times as saying that
Karpov's rematch clause is bigger than Fischer's 9-9. He rarely goes
into any detail as to why this is so, but there was one time when
he did: In his January 1979 column in Chess Life & Review,
when he wrote: "Many observers, including me, felt that
[the 9-9 clause] was unworthy of a champion to impose such a handicap
on the challenger. And I want to go on record here as condemning
Karpov's rematch clause just as strongly, for the reasons expressed
by Kavalek last September."
One thing worth pointing out. The rematch clause is a bigger
advantage in an unlimited match than it is in a limited one. To see
why, let's compare the 1957 match (Limited) with the 1978 one
(Unlimited). In both matches, the challenger had to win by 1 point
to become champion. But to win a full three years as champion,
Smyslov merely had to win the 1957 match by a single point, and then
draw the second match 12-12 (for an aggregate +1 score). For Korchnoi
in 1978 to have a full three years as champion, he would have had to
win the 1978 match by at least 1 point (6-5), and then win the rematch
by at least a point also (for an aggregate +2 score).
When looked at this way, Karpov's Rules do seem very similar to
Fischer's. Both systems required the original challenger to score
+2 against the original champion in order for him to be the defending
champion 3 years later. The biggest difference seems to be that in
Fischer's Rules, if the challenger ties 9-9, he's completely out in
the cold. Too bad, so sad. Nothing to show for his troubles except
to be another failed challenger. However, under Karpov's system, if
the challenger "ties" (by winning the first match 6-5, and losing the
second match by the same score for an aggregate 11-11 score), at least
he goes down in history as a former World Champion, even if for only a
year. In this sense, Karpov's Rules (though definitely unfair), seem
to be less unfair than Fischer's Rules.
In any case, to find the source of Evans' claim that Karpov's
Rules constitute a bigger handicap, we must look to Kavalek's words in
This time it is the rematch clause that makes the regulations
absolutely ridiculous. For Karpov to meet a new challenger in 1981
in defense of the title FIDE handed him in 1975, all he needs to do
is win six games—in the rematch. He doesn't need even a single win
in the first match! Korchnoi, on the other hand, cannot be the
defending world champion in 1981 even if he wins eleven games in
both matches combined (six in the first): he must win twelve games.
The favoring factor for the champion is thus 12:6, an incomparably
more advantageous situation for Karpov than for any previous champion,
and far more so than under Fischer's proposals.
Two rebuttals to Kavalek's argument appeared in the February 1979
issue, one written by a 2-time US Champion:
Both valid points. Kavalek seems to have confused the difference
between what is possible and what is required. Korchnoi in 1978 was
not required to outscore Karpov by 6 points. He was only
required to outscore him by 1 point to become champion for a
year, and 2 points to become champion for 3 years. Nevertheless, there
is some merit to what Kavalek says, and there would have been a decided
absurdity if the scenario he suggests had actually happened. In fact,
something similar did happen with Smyslov, who won the 1957 match
by 3 points, lost the rematch by 2 points, and ended up title-less,
despite outscoring Botvinnik by a point over the 2 matches. Dr. Euwe,
the FIDE President in 1978, had tried to avoid this possibility by
allowing the champion a rematch ONLY if he lost the first match by a
score of 6-5, but was outvoted.
The USCF has performed a rare historical service by publishing Lubosh Kavalek's comments on the regulations which govern the 1978 world championship match ("FIDE Does It Again," September, page 473). For decades to come, this document will serve to illustrate the intellectual and moral level of organized chess in the United States.
Mr. Kavalek's argument assumes that Karpov and Korchnoi are engaged in a two-part match for the 1981 world title. Is that the case? If it were, then Korchnoi would not be the world champion in the event that he won the match in Baguio City. Similarly, we would have to conclude that Dr. Euwe was never the world champion since in 1935 he won, so to speak, only one leg of a two-part match for the 1937 title. Such absurd conclusions should be sufficient to indicate that Mr. Kavalek's argument is severely misguided.
More serious is Mr. Kavalek's recommendation: given the opportunity, Korchnoi should simply abscond with the title. One would have thought that Mr. Kavalek would be ashamed to admit it.
APPEAL TO REASON
First I should like to congratulate Lubosh on winning the [1978 U.S.] championship, and for his play which I have always admired. However, his reply to Dr. Hunt puts me in mind of the old Talmudic scholars who could come up with any desired interpretation when expedient. So it was that after reading his article I became convinced that six was more than five, less than seven, yet in some vague way equal to twelve.
As for the question, "What is FIDE up to?" one might also ask with an equal lack of success, "What is Kavalek up to?" or "What is Denker up to?" More rewarding than searching for motives, which at best is highly speculative, would be to examine well-known facts. Here are just two.
• Bobby Fischer has not played since winning the championship in spite of unbelievably lucrative offers.
• The whole world would welcome his playing with or without FIDE.
Now maybe you can tell us, "What is Bobby up to?" Would he play even if granted all his conditions?
This is not written in defense of FIDE, with which I have many disagreements, but simply as an appeal to reason.
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
HOW THE REMATCH CLAUSE CAME ABOUT
After all this, one is forced to conclude that Karpov's Rules in 1978 are,
if not worse than Fischer's Rules, then at least, nearly as bad. How then did
they come about? How was the Rematch Clause reinstituted for Karpov? The Evil
Influence of the Soviet Juggernaut? Yes, yes, there was some of that, but there's
more to it than that. How many people know, for example, that the USCF and Fischer's
former right-hand man, Ed Edmondson himself, were instrumental in helping Karpov
get it? The sequence of events went something like this:
1971: The FIDE Congress at Vancouver. Up to that point, all FIDE World
Championship matches had been Best of 24, champion retains on a 12-12 tie. But
for years (for reasons not worth going into here) Fischer had wanted a return to
the Unlimited Match format, last seen in the 1937 Alekhine-Euwe match. It was
too late to make changes for 1972, but at Fischer's urging, the Vancouver congress
voted that the 1975 match would go to the first player to win 6 games, draws not
counting. No tie clause, and no evidence that Fischer ever asked for one. (As
challenger, Fischer had always publicly maintained that the champion should have no
advantage). Source: Chess Life & Review, November, 1971.
June 1974: However, Fischer had not wanted 6 wins, he'd wanted 10. He
continued urging FIDE to increase the Win Requirement to 10. On June 26, 1974,
the FIDE Congress at Nice voted to do this, however they also voted to Limit the
match to a maximum of 36 games (Which sort of defeated the whole point. Since the match
was no longer Unlimited, there was no requirement to win any games at all, but
merely an option to do so). One day later, Fischer resigned the world title by telegram.
A side-effect of limiting the match is that draw odds for the champion were subtly
re-introduced (in the event of an 18-18 score). Source: Chess Life & Review, October, 1974.
October 1974: In conversations with Ed Edmondson, Fischer agreed that if he could have
the tie clause handicap this one time, that he wouldn't ask for it in future matches.
Edmondson floats possible compromise positions to Bobby, including a proposal by Euwe, that
in the event of a 9-9 tie, the match will continue for another 10 games, with the leader at
the end of that time declared the winner (with champion retaining in case of a draw).
Fischer rejects all compromises. Source: Chess Life & Review, August, 1975.
March 1975: Weeks before the deadline, FIDE called an Extraordinary General Assembly, to try
to get Fischer to retract his resignation. They voted to make the match unlimited again, and to set
the Win Requirement at 10, rather than 6, as Fischer wanted, but refused to give him the 9-9 tie clause.
Fischer declined to play, and the title passed to Karpov on April 3.
March 1976: FIDE met in Rome to discuss rules for the 1978 Championship Match. The rules in place
after the March 1975 Assembly were the first to win 10 Games, with no limit and no tie clause. The Rome
Congress drafted a set of rules which would keep the Unlimited Match, but reduce the Wins Requirement from 10 back to 6 (again,
with no tie clause). Many people at this time wanted the Unlimited Match system to be tried in modern
chess, feeling that it might reduce the number of draws (an idea dispelled after the 1984/5 match, but
popular at the time). However, Karpov had no desire to play an Unlimited Match at all, and preferred
to play under the old Best of 24 system. According to Chess Life & Review: "Mr. Karpov was interviewed
in Belgrade and asked his opinion of the proposed Regulations for the 1978 World Championship Match. Speaking of the
Bureau decisions of the previous week, Karpov stated: "I will not defend my title of these new tournament
rules are adopted by FIDE." He made it clear that he insists upon a match with a 24-game limit, the Champion
to retain the title in case of an equal score... What a situation! Here we have a second consecutive World Champion
talking about "his" title, adopting a non-negotiable position, and threatening not to play unless FIDE obeys his command!"
Source: Chess Life & Review, June, 1976
One very original rule that came out of the Rome Congress was the idea of giving the champion the minimal advantage
of having the White pieces in the first game. This would eliminate the possibility of a scenario where the challenger won
the match by a single point because he'd had one White more than the champion. This rule was actually approved at
Rome, but then lost again by the time the 1978 Match actually rolled around.
October 1977: FIDE Congress at Caracas. Many possible proposals were floated. Karpov still wanted the old Best of 24
system, while Ed Edmondson and the USCF still wanted Fischer's Unlimited Match to be tried. According to Edmondson:
There were six different proposals to choose from on the Caracas Agenda. Pearle Mann and I
kept in mind the USCF Policy Board's expressed preference for a match to be decided on the
basis of a given number of won games, with no drawn match advantage for the defending
Champion. As I rather gleefully reminded several of our FIDE colleagues, the simplest
way to achieve that would be to do nothing at Caracas. The 1978 World Championship Match
would then have to be played under the conditions prescribed early in 1975. Namely, ten
victories required, no limit to the number of games, and no drawn match possible.
Source: Chess Life & Review, January 1978
In fairness to Anatoly Karpov, I must insert here my impression that he honestly feels a match requiring ten wins for victory would be unnecessarily long and terribly exhausting, both physically and mentally. He feels that the same winner would emerge from a no-draw match requiring six wins, although he expressed beforehand a willingness to compromise on eight wins for the match proposed in 1975....
Anatoly Karpov and Nona Gaprindashvili were both at Caracas, and within 48 hours of his arrival Karpov demonstrated one reason why he deserves to be World Champion - he can always come up with yet another variation. In private conversations, he stated that none of the six proposals on the Agenda - including that of the U.S.S.R. Chess Federation - struck him as the best. Rather than put a limit on the number of games, he asked, why not return to what was customary up until 1963, that is, have a rematch if the Championship changes hands? He saw no objection whatsoever to the Bureau's 1976 proposal if this rematch provision could be substituted for that giving the World Champion the White pieces in game one.
Absolutely no one opposed this compromise when it was made from the floor by Dr. Tudela (Venezuela). The Central Committee recognized that it combined the best elements of all that had gone before. The exciting provision which requires a specific number of wins was maintained and the drawn-game and drawn-match possibilities eliminated. And if a rematch does result - twice as much publicity for chess!
# White - Black Locale Date ECO Result
1 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 07-18-1978 D58 ½-½
2 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 07-20-1978 C82 ½-½
3 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 07-22-1978 E42 ½-½
4 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 07-25-1978 C82 ½-½
5 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 07-27-1978 E42 ½-½
6 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 07-29-1978 A29 ½-½
7 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 08-01-1978 E47 ½-½
8 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 08-03-1978 C80 1-0
9 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 08-05-1978 D37 ½-½
10 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 08-08-1978 C80 ½-½
11 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 08-10-1978 B20 1-0
12 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 08-15-1978 C81 ½-½
13 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 08-17-1978 D53 0-1
14 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 08-19-1978 C82 1-0
15 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 08-22-1978 E05 ½-½
16 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 08-24-1978 C08 ½-½
17 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 08-26-1978 E47 0-1
18 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 09-02-1978 B08 ½-½
19 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 09-07-1978 E06 ½-½
20 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 09-09-1978 B15 ½-½
21 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 09-12-1978 D37 1-0
22 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 09-14-1978 C08 ½-½
23 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 09-16-1978 D37 ½-½
24 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 09-19-1978 C83 ½-½
25 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 09-23-1978 A22 ½-½
26 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 09-26-1978 A21 ½-½
27 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 09-28-1978 A29 0-1
28 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 09-30-1978 C82 0-1
29 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 10-07-1978 A19 1-0
30 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 10-10-1978 A34 ½-½
31 Korchnoi - Karpov Baguio City 10-12-1978 D36 1-0
32 Karpov - Korchnoi Baguio City 10-17-1978 A43 1-0
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