Only a few weeks ago, I found myself marveling once again at the amazing prowess and endurance of the Swiss grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi. Seemingly on the decline, he had fought his way back up the international rating list to a ranking of 23rd in the world.
A few statistics tell the story.
At 64, he is chronologically ancient compared to the 22 players ranked ahead of him, whose average age is only 30 years. The oldest among them is Anatoly Karpov, who is a full 20 years younger than Korchnoi.
How does he do it? Sheer talent, of course, helps.
In his own generation Korchnoi was a giant, with one of the best tournament records ever recorded. Many times a serious threat for the world title, in a 1978 championship match he came within one game of beating Karpov -- universally acknowledged to be one of the greatest players in chess history.
Although he is today a senior citizen, Korchnoi retains a zest for battle unequaled by most of his younger rivals. A strong physical constitution and a boundless love for the game provide him with a seemingly endless source of energy for analysis and play.
"It might sound a bit strange, but I think my understanding of the game of chess is still growing. . . . Nowadays I have more and better ideas," he explained in an interview last year.
It was hardly a surprise when Korchnoi recently took first place in the Pan-Pacific International Tournament at the historic Mechanics Institute in San Francisco. Finishing in a tie for second were Boris Gulko of the United States and John Nunn of England.
The tournament, an organizational tour de force and one of the strongest in the history of U.S. chess, was a testimony to the living legend Viktor Korchnoi.
Below is a match between Korchnoi and Robert Huebner.
1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. e5 N(f)d7
5. f4 c5
6. Nf3 Nc6
7. Be3 cxd4
8. Nxd4 Qb6
9. N(c)b5 a6
10. Nf5 Bc5
11. Bxc5 Nxc5
12. N(b)d6ch Kf8
13. Qh5 Nd8
14. Nxg7 Qb4ch
15. c3 Qxb2
16. Rd1 Qxc3ch
17. Rd2 h6
18. N(g)e8 Ne4!
White resigns (a)
Note (a): Black will add to his pawn advantage. For example, if 19. Nxe4, then . . . dxe4 threatening both 20. Kxe8 and 20. e3 winning the rook.