Reports | March 23, 2011 17:35

Viktor Korchnoi turns 80

Viktor Korchnoi turns 80Today the legendary Viktor Korchnoi celebrates his 80th birthday. He played two matches for the World Championship against Anatoly Karpov in 1978 and 1981. By beating Fabiano Caruana last January in Gibraltar, Viktor the Terrible showed once again that he still plays chess at a very high level.

Viktor Lvovich Korchnoi (who himself writes his surname as 'Kortchnoi') was born March 23, 1931 in St. Petersburg, then called Leningrad. He's clearly the oldest active grandmaster on the tournament circuit, and currently has a rating of 2557.

After defecting from the Soviet Union in 1976, Korchnoi won consecutive Candidates cycles to qualify for World Championship matches with Karpov in 1978 and 1981, losing both.

Viktor Korchnoi vs Anatoly Karpov

In all, Korchnoi was a candidate for the World Championship on ten occasions (1962, 1968, 1971, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1988 and 1991). Korchnoi was also a four-time USSR chess champion, a five-time member of Soviet teams that won the European Championship, and a six-time member of Soviet teams that won the Chess Olympiad. In September 2006, he won the World Senior Chess Championship.

In August 2008 Viktor Korchnoi was part of the Experience team in the NH Chess Tournament in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Together with Simen Agdestein, Evgeny Bareev, Artur Jussupow and Ljubomir Ljubojevic he played against the Rising Stars Wang Yue, Ivan Cheparinov, Fabiano Caruana, Erwin l'Ami and Daniel Stellwagen.

Here's a video with Korchnoi from that tournament, by Macauley Peterson

The Rising Stars won 33.5-16.5 and Korchnoi scored 2.5/10. After the last round he was remarkably honest and critical about his own play, and he praised his opponent Erwin l'Ami. Here's a video by the author of this report:

On January 31st we reported that Korchnoi beat the strong and talented Fabiano Caruana from Italy with the black pieces. Before this game Korchnoi’s score against Caruana was 0-4 with no draws.


Gibraltar 2011


29…Bxd3! 30.Kg1 e4 and after many more complications Black won.
2011 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival, Caruana-Korchnoi

Fabiano Caruana vs Viktor Korchnoi, Gibraltar 2011

During the first week of the 2011 Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Viktor Korchnoi was a special guest in Monaco. Together with Ljubomir Ljubojevic and John Nunn he was part of the judging committee for the 1,000 Euro Game of the Day prize. Every day he would sit in the press lounge and watch the games, discussing them with Ljubo, John and players.

Monday, March 14th - the third round is being played. A big group watches the three rapid games Carlsen-Aronian, Nakamura-Ivanchuk and Giri-Gashimov on TV screens, analysing the position of Nakamura and Ivanchuk, by exchanging variations. Then, out of the blue, Korchnoi says: 'Aaaaah, now Carlsen is loooosing.' Everyone switches to that TV and instantly asks: 'Carlsen losing? Why?' - expecting a short line of moves to support the statement from Viktor. Instead, the legend replies: 'Whyyy? Because he played baaadly...'

Here's a video Macauley Peterson and the author of this report produced for the official site:

It was quite a coincidence that, also last week, we came across the following video about Korchnoi, which has footage from exactly thirty years ago. We see the 1981 Lone Pine tournament, and both Korchnoi and Ljubojevic (!) speak about Korchnoi's defection from the Soviet Union to Europe.

The following message from the FIDE President was already posted yesterday on

Dear Viktor Lvovich!

On behalf of the World Chess Federation and me personally, I cordially congratulate you on your 80th anniversary. You are a great chess player and your chess career deserves high recognition. It’s an honour for millions of your admirers all over the world to have a chance to witness your brilliant chess skills.

Enjoy your birthday and be assured that all the good deeds you accomplish each and every day are appreciated by all. Thank you for your great contribution to chess development.

On this wonderful day, we join all chess friends in wishing you, Viktor Lvovich, good health, happiness and success for many years to come.

Gens Una Sumus!

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Here are some more photos, taken last week in Monaco. In the meantime Korchnoi is already back in Switzerland. We congratulate him on turning eighty.

Korchnoi with another new generation: Aronian, Gashimov, Carlsen and Giri

Korchnoi with yet another new generation: Aronian, Gashimov, Carlsen and Giri

Korchnoi Korchnoi Korchnoi
Aronian, Korchnoi and Carlsen

Aronian, Korchnoi and Carlsen


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Razzmonid's picture

Long live Viktor the Terrible. My Idol, now middle age people are still inspired to play competitive chess! I am now in my 30's and still aspiring to be a master, with Victor Korchnoi as a model. Still have about 50 years to go! Happy 80th Birthday Victor Korchnoi!

unknown's picture

Happy Birthday!

Batel's picture

In all the strong non world champions Keres, Bronstein and others... It seems Victor is the strongest! Happy Birthday!

sundararajan ganesan's picture

victor the great! an inspiration to millions of chess players!

christophe fournier's picture

in 1978, he deserves to be world champion against karpov

ebutaljib's picture
Noah's picture

Happy Birthday!

Dave's picture

He is simply one of the "chess gods". Truely, he is a living legend! Happy Birthday Viktor!

Rick Massimo's picture

Happy Birthday Viktor!

Does anyone know what that 1981 footage is excerpted from?

Stephen Gordon's picture

The clip is from The Great Chess Movie.

Nima's picture

The footage is from a documentary on chess produced in the 80's; I have forgotten the title.

RuralRob's picture

Interesting little bit of trivia: Korchnoi was born the day after William Shatner, and three days before Leonard Nimoy.

VladimirOo's picture

Long live Viktor the Terrible.

Åsmund Hammerstad's picture

I congratulate you so very much and wish you all the very best for you and your wife Petra! Best regards from Drammen, Norway

Pedro Pinto's picture

this is a charismatic rude man.

his comments about other players and his behaviour at the board are obnoxious.
i recall the snow drops tournament...

Pedro Pinto's picture

i believe the story is in this issue of NIC

Pedro Pinto's picture

the man is a fighter a survivour and all...
but he is not right in the head

NBC's picture

The greatest player alive today. Not the best, but the greatest.

James Pack's picture

Viktor is my favourite player of all time. Happy birthday! :)

simaginfan's picture

A great player. A great Man with a capital M. An honest man. Atrue inspiration. In the 70's I had a sweater with SKORCHNOI! on the front. Happy Birthday Viktor - you are the most repected man in the chess world.

The Devil's picture

I love Korchnoi so much. He really loves Chess. Definately one of the top non-world champion players.

simaginfan's picture

So who are the 3 people doing all the thumbs down?? Not true chess fans I presume!?

Trebor's picture

Unbelievable. And Victor is still playing great chess!

One of the greatest players to never become world champion.

Freddie Sarita's picture

The Winston Churchill of chess!

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