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World Chess Championship
1981 Karpov-Korchnoi Title Match

Korchnoi had White in the first game, as he also had in the two previous matches.

Game 1 - Queen's Gambit Declined

The opening followed game 1 of the 1978 match. Korchnoi was the first to vary with 9.Be2. Karpov could have forced the line from the previous game with 9...dxc4, but he chose another alternative. Karpov accepted hanging pawns, proceeded to outplay Korchnoi, and broke through with ...d4.

Game 1 : Korchnoi - Karpov
after 24...d5-d4

He then broke up White's king position, won a pawn, and gained an attack. Korchnoi resigned after considering his sealed moves for several minutes. After one game, Karpov led 1-0.

In his annotations to the first game Karpov remarked, "During the match I noticed that Korchnoi frequently avoided tactical complications, although formerly he used to pride himself on his calculating ability".

Game 2 - Ruy Lopez

Korchnoi avoided the Open Variation that he had used eight times in the previous match, and chose instead the Rio Variation of the Berlin Defence. Karpov built a strong positional advantage. In a difficult position, Korchnoi blundered a pawn.

Game 2 : Karpov - Korchnoi
after 34...f7-f6?

Karpov sealed his 42nd move with an extra pawn and continued accurately in the second session. Korchnoi resigned on his 57th move to give Karpov a 2-0 lead.

Game 3 - Queen's Gambit Declined

The game followed game 1 until Karpov chose on his 9th move to repeat game 1 of the 1978 match. Korchnoi obtained a favorable position, but was unable to gain anything concrete against Karpov's accurate defence. At one point Karpov offered a draw, but Korchnoi replied that draws should only be made through the arbiter. The game was drawn anyway in the face of a triple repetition. In fact, Karpov claimed the draw although the position was being reached for only the second time, but by the time this was discovered, Korchnoi had already signed the scoresheets and left the hall.

Game 4 - Petrov's Defence

The players followed game 6 of the 1974 match until Korchnoi varied on his 8th move. Karpov provoked the advance of Korchnoi's queenside pawns and obtained a slight advantage. Karpov felt that his position was not enough to win, but since his opponent was insisting that draws be offered through the arbiter, he played on. Korchnoi decided to complicate the game by launching a kingside attack, but it was Karpov who got an attack against Korchnoi's exposed king. By the time Korchnoi sealed his 41st move, he had a lost game. He resigned before reaching the time control in the second session. Karpov now had a 3-0 lead.

Korchnoi took a timeout.

Game 5 - Queen's Gambit Declined

The opening followed ideas similar to game 13 of the 1978 match, without the 8.Bxf6 Bxf6 of that previous game. With g3, Korchnoi started to fianchetto his bishop, but then allowed it be exchanged for its counterpart on a6. Karpov sacrificed a pawn, which Korchnoi returned immediately. After the queens were exchanged, the game settled into a 2R+N+Pefgh vs. 2R+N+Pafgh endgame. Korchnoi exchanged a pair of rooks and the knights to win the a-pawn, but was unable to win the resulting position, which was a theoretical draw. He agreed to split the point after 68 moves.

Game 6 - Ruy Lopez

Korchnoi had lost the first two games where he had the Black pieces, so he returned to the Open Lopez. He played 12...Bg6 instead of the move he had played three times in the previous match, the last time in the 14th game. He steered into a line which he had recommended as better for White in ECO, but Karpov chose another variation. Although both players had apparently analyzed the ensuing moves in preparation for the match, Korchnoi proceeded to outplay Karpov and sacrificed a pawn to gain an advantage. Just before the time control and in severe time trouble, he gave Karpov an opportunity which would have turned the game completely around.

Game 6 : Karpov - Korchnoi
after 40.Ng3-f1
(40.Ne2 should win)

Karpov missed the chance, Korchnoi sealed his 41st move, and Karpov resigned before the second session started. It was Korchnoi's first full point in the match, but Karpov still led 3-1.

Game 7 - Queen's Gambit Declined

The opening followed game 5 until Karpov varied on his 13th move. Karpov accepted hanging pawns and used them to open the position at the appropriate time. Korchnoi had the better position, but Karpov defended accurately. After his 31st move, Korchnoi offered a draw through the arbiter, which Karpov accepted. The final position seemed very sharp and some spectators assumed that Korchnoi had won.

Karpov took a timeout.

Game 8 - Giuoco Piano

Karpov avoided the Spanish Game and chose a Giuoco Pianissimo, which became even quieter after the early exchange of queens. Condemned to 'a tedious search for equality' (Karpov), Korchnoi misplayed and gave Karpov an endgame advantage. Karpov hesitated to follow the strongest plan and allowed Korchnoi to escape unscathed from severe time trouble. Korchnoi thought for a long time before sealing his 41st move and was again in time trouble during the second session. By the time the second time control was reached, the game had settled into an ending of 2N+4P each.

Game 8 : Karpov - Korchnoi
after 61...c6-c5+

Karpov managed to win a pawn, but agreed to a draw in a 2N+P vs. 2N endgame, where Korchnoi could have sacrificed both knights for the pawn to obtain a theoretical draw.

Game 9 - Queen's Gambit Declined

The players followed game 7 until Karpov deviated from known theory on his 7th move. Korchnoi accepted an isolated d-pawn, but instead of forcing its exchange into an equal game, he sought complications. All of the minor pieces were exchanged leaving a position of Q+2R+6P each. Faced with the loss of his isolated pawn, Korchnoi defended by opening his kingside.

Game 9 : Korchnoi - Karpov
after 35...e6-e5
(36.fxe5 Rxe5 37.Qa1 Qe8)

Karpov penetrated with his heavy pieces and Korchnoi resigned on his 44th move. Karpov now led 4-1.

Korchnoi took a timeout.

Game 10 - Giuoco Piano

The opening followed game 8 with transpositions and slight modifications until Karpov varied by accepting the exchange of the light squared bishops. The queens were exchanged a few moves later and by move 24 the game settled into a R+N endgame. It was agreed drawn on the 32nd move.

Game 11 - Queen's Gambit Declined

The game followed game 23 of the 1978 match until move 13, when Karpov repeated the line from game 9 of that match. Karpov then varied from game 9 on his 14th move, following an idea which Huebner had played against Korchnoi during game 6 of the final candidates match. Korchnoi varied immediately from the Huebner game, the queens were exchanged, and Korchnoi won a pawn, for which Karpov had excellent compensation.

Game 11 : Korchnoi - Karpov
after 24...b7-b5

The game was agreed drawn after 35 moves.

Game 12 - Gruenfeld Defence

Karpov switched to 1.c4 for the first and only time in the match. On his 4th move he deviated from game 30 of the previous match. He gradually developed a positional advantage, but Korchnoi defended accurately. Karpov won a pawn, but it was not enough to win the game. Korchnoi sealed his 41st move, but the game was agreed drawn a few moves into the second session.

Game 13 - Queen's Gambit Declined

Korchnoi repeated the Exchange Variation which he had played in game 31 of the previous match, but varied with 5.Bf4. He gradually outplayed Karpov and had a won position by the 22nd move. He then allowed Karpov a series of tactical strokes.

Game 13 : Korchnoi - Karpov
after 28.g5-g6
(28...hxg6 29.Bg3 Be7;
29...Nh4+! should draw)

Karpov failed to find the miraculous 29th move and gave up his queen for rook and knight. Korchnoi sealed his 42nd move, winning the knight, and Karpov resigned without continuing. He had been unable to find a fortress to save the Q vs. R endgame.

This was Korchnoi's first win with the White pieces in the match. Karpov now led 4-2.

Karpov took a timeout

Game 14 - Ruy Lopez

The opening saw another Open Lopez, where Karpov avoided the variation from game 6 and returned to a line last seen in game 10 of the 1978 match. He varied from that game on his 11th move. Korchnoi thought for 78 minutes on his 13th move, which became his personal record for the three matches with Karpov. By his 16th move he was already in some trouble and Karpov's surprise 17th move almost won by force.

Game 14 : Karpov - Korchnoi
after 17.Ne4-f6+

Karpov allowed Korchnoi to escape the worst and had to continue accurately to score the point. Korchnoi sealed his 46th move, but resigned before continuing. Karpov led 5-2 and needed one more win to retain the title.

Game 15 - English Opening

The opening followed game 27 of the previous match until Karpov varied on his 5th move. Korchnoi played a small combination on his 16th move which won a pawn, but left Karpov with good drawing resources. Korchnoi sealed his 41st move, but the game was agreed drawn before continuing.

Game 16 - Ruy Lopez

The players followed game 14 until Korchnoi varied on his 14th move. Karpov maintained a small positional plus until Korchnoi sealed his 41st move in a Q+B vs. Q+N endgame with 5P each. The sealed move was the most accurate and the players agreed to a draw after 42 moves.

Game 17 - Queen's Gambit Declined

The players repeated game 9 until Korchnoi varied on his 10th move. Most of the pieces were traded off and the game was agreed drawn after 23 moves in R+N+5P ending.

Game 18 - Ruy Lopez

The opening followed game 16 until Karpov varied on his 13th move. The queens were exchanged and Karpov penetrated with a rook to the seventh rank on the 19th move.

Game 18 : Karpov - Korchnoi
after 23.f5-f6

He continued to play strong moves until Korchnoi sealed his 41st move. Korchnoi resigned the game the next day, losing the match by 6-2. His message to the arbiter said, in English, "I congratulate Karpov and the entire Soviet delegation on their splendid electronic technology".

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