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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Fickle Finger of Fate

 The Biel Interzonal of 1977 was part of the cycle that resulted in the Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship Match in 1978. At Biel Petrosian had some bad luck and some good luck. And, if it weren't for bad luck, Huebner would have had no luck at all. In this tournament Petrosian lost one game to a tailender, the 2380 rated Oscar Humberto Castro Rojas and he should not have won this one from Robert Huebner.   
     Huebner's loss left him bitter about chess. He stated in an interview that there was a time he actually enjoyed playing chess, but when he thought about this game where he missed a forced mate, it cause him to lose interest. 
     Many of today's players won't know the name of the somewhat quirky German (then West German) GM Robert Huebner (born November 6, 1948), but he was one of the world's leading players in the 1970s and early 1980s. 
     At eighteen, he tied for first in the West German Championship, became an IM in 1969 and a GM in 1971. By 1980 his rating placed him number three in the world. Hubner played in three Candidates Tournaments and all of them ended in a controversy. 
     In 1971, he forfeited a closely contested quarter final to Tigran Petrosian, complaining about the noise when he was behind by one game. 
     In 1980-81 he reached the final before losing to Viktor Korchnoi when he forfeited the match after 10 games, again when he was down one point. In his match against Korchnoi, after six games Huebner was leading by one point, but in Game 7 he blundered and lost then lost game 8 which gave Korchnoi a one point lead. 
     Huebner asked that game 9 be postponed which it was. When it was played two days later, the game was adjourned as was game 10 which was played the next day. 
     On January 7th Huebner asked for another postponement of the two adjourned games until January 12th. Meanwhile the last two games were scheduled for January 10th and 11th.
     But, on the morning of January 9th Huebner packed up and left Merano. Korchnoi was informed at breakfast and Huebner had left a letter to arbiter Henk Folkers stating he was abandoning the match. 
     Nobody knows exactly why Huener walked out. Rumor was that Huebner had a disagreement with his seconds, Vlastimil Hort, William Martz and Gudmundur Sigurjonsson, but that turned out not to be the case. Korchnoi's manager, Alban Brodbeck, had been involved in a nasty argument with chess patron Wilfried Hilgert in which he called Hilgert a liar and a highwayman. Hilgert made the same claims against Brodbeck. The argument got ugly; Hilgert's wife wouldn't greet Korchnoi's secretary and things escalated until Huebner apparently had enough. 
     Finally, in 1983 Huebner lost a quarter final match to Vassily Smyslov. The match was tied after the original 10 games plus four playoff games.  The tie was resolved in Smyslov's favor by... the spin of a roulette wheel! 
     Huebner served as Nigel Short's second in the 1993 world championship match against Garry Kasparov and remained active on the international circuit into the 2000s, but was never a full-time chess professional due to his career as a papyrologist (the study of ancient literature, correspondence, legal archives, etc.). 
     Huebner has authored a few works on chess, the most interesting of which was probably a ChessBase CD where he concluded that Alekhine's analyses were overestimated and he was very harsh and negative in his comments on Alekhine's games and analysis. According to Huebner, Alekhine had terrible weaknesses in every single aspect of the game, including technical and psychological ones. On reviewer of the CD wondered if Alekhine's rating would have gone up or down after thorough tutoring by Huebner. 

Biel final results:
1) Bent Larsen 12.5 
2-4) Tigran Petrosian, Lajos Portisch, Mikhail Tahl 12.0 
5-7) Vasily Smyslov, Robert Byrne and Robert Huebner 11.5 
8) Ulf Andersson 10.5 
9-11) Istvan Csom, Efim Geller and Jan Smejkal 10.0 
12) Gennady Sosonko 9.5 
13-15) Vladimir Liberzon, Kenneth Rogoff and Boris Gulko 9.0 
16) Raul Sanguineti 8.5 
17) Aleksandar Matanovic 8.0 
18) Oscar Humberto Castro Rojas 6.0 
19) Andre Lombard 5.0 
20) Joaquin Diaz 2.5 

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