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.

The_Philipines,_1978 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 Score__________
Karpov ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 0 0 ½ 0 1 6 (w/21 draws)
Korchnoi ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 1 ½ 1 0 5 (w/21 draws)
Result:  Anatoly Karpov retains the World Title.

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 simultaneously.

  • 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 chesshistory.com. 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 September 1979:
    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:

             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.
    [Name Deleted]
    Fairhaven, Massachusetts

             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.
    Arnold Denker
    Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

  • 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.


  • 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.
         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!
    Source: Chess Life & Review, January 1978

  • Match Breakdown
     #    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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