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Spassky on Korchnoi

Originally posted on Chesstalk  February 3, 2000

by Kevin Spraggett

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I remember fondly one conversation I had a few years back with Boris Spassky. We were discussing 'THE' Victor Korchnoi ('Victor the Terrible' to many).

Boris and Victor had been bitter adversaries for more than 40 years at the time of this conversation, and they had played more than 60 times in official competitions..(including 2 candidates finals)... only Karpov can boast to have played Victor more times.

Boris, at one point, came up with the incredible statement that Korchnoi had every quality necessary to become world champion BUT lacked ONE very essential quality...and it was precisely this quality that prevented him from attaining chess' highest title.

I coaxed Boris on...He began to list Korchnoi's many qualities:

...Killer Instinct (nobody can even compare with Victor's 'gift')
...Phenomenal capacity to work (both on the board and off the board)
...Iron nerves (even with seconds left on the clock)
...Ability to Calculate (maybe only Fischer was better in this department)
...Tenacity and perseverance in Defense (unmatched by anyone)
...The ability to counterattack (unrivaled in chess history)
...Impeccable Technique (Flawless, even better than Capa's)
...Capacity to concentrate (unreal)
...Impervious to distractions during the game
...Brilliant understanding of strategy
...Superb tactian (only a few in history an compare with Victor)
...Possessing the most profound opening preparation of any GM of his generation
...Subtle Psychologist
...Super-human will to win (matched only by Fischer)
...Deep knowledge of all of his adversaries
...Enormous energy and self-discipline

Then Boris stopped, and just looked at me, begging for me to ask the question that needed to be asked....

I asked: 'But, Boris, what does Victor lack to become world champion?'

Boris' answer floored me:

''He has no chess talent !''

And then he roared with laughter...

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