According to Korchnoi, the two grand masters that he requested as his analysts for the match were mysteriously sent away from Moscow to play in other tournaments. The man who was finally assigned, Korchnoi thought untrustworthy. "I was a man obsessed," Korchnoi says. "During the match I received threatening letters from so-called workers, telling me that if I beat Karpov by some miracle, I would suffer." Complaining that Karpov stared at him excessively, Korchnoi engaged in gamesmanship of his own by wearing dark glasses during the games and fingering worry beads; he believed the clicking irritated Karpov.
Still, the match had some lighter moments. "I had a sports psychologist working with me," says Korchnoi, smiling at the memory. "He was mostly advising me on biorhythms, concentration and so on. But Karpov believed that the doctor was working some evil influence on him. So the Soviet chess people got the top psychiatrist in the country—the man who worked with the Cosmonauts—to help Karpov. The two doctors stood in a corridor outside the hall where we played, staring at each other, each trying to nullify the other's effects.
"The pressures were terrible; the broken confidences, the veiled threats—I truly thought that if I won, something would happen to me, like an 'accident' in the street."
Scoffs one old friend, "Viktor was always dramatic, he sees KGB men behind every bush." Counters Korchnoi, "When you live in the Soviet Union the line between paranoia and reality is often blurred. Ask Solzhenitsyn. Ask Spassky." In what one observer called "the longest, hardest-fought, closest major match in modern chess history," after nine weeks and 24 games Korchnoi lost 3-2.
After that he really blew his cork. He told a Yugoslav reporter that Karpov couldn't beat Fischer, and that, although he respected Karpov's chess play, he resented the machinations of the authorities. And he made the unforgivable error of saying that he thought Bobby Fischer the best chess player in history.
For his ill-advised interview, Korchnoi believes he suffered a familiar fate—smaller apartment, smaller salary, no foreign travel, no television appearances, orders to play tournaments in places like Estonia. "I was becoming a non-person," says Korchnoi. "They even told my son at school that he would have a rough time growing up with a father like me." Following his comments on Karpov, Korchnoi was cited by Petrosian for bad sportsmanship, poor patriotism, egotism and bad manners in a statement published in Soviet Sport. After Korchnoi defected, another castigating letter was signed by 31 Soviet chess masters. Notably absent were the signature of Boris Spassky and those of six other grand masters.
When he was allowed to travel again in 1976, Korchnoi played a match in Holland and then walked into an Amsterdam police station and asked for—and was given—a residence permit. He lives now in Switzerland, has found a West German backer and hopes to coach the West German entry in the chess Olympics.
After lunch Korchnoi proposed a trip to the nearby village of Meersburg, where he wanted to shop for some smaller shirts—he has lost 30 pounds and no longer resembles a Soviet tractor-factory foreman all dressed up for Saturday night. Walking through the winding streets of Meersburg, Korchnoi talked about chess. His style resembles his personality—he is most dangerous when attacked, when threatened and under pressure. He thrives on extending his material, tempting opponents to attack, from which position he can bring into play his defensive acumen to force a win. As a result, he has much better luck playing black than white.
"My weakness is the middle game," Korchnoi said, "and although I work hard on it, I usually find myself in trouble then. And the middle game, unfortunately for me, is Spassky's forte.
"I try to discipline myself," he said loudly. He was waving his arms in front of a shop window and attracting confused stares from the villagers. "I try to play patiently, tactically and logically. But then the old fire gets in me, and I can't stand it. I explode and start extending myself. I don't like draws.