Was the 1978 World Chess Championship the proving ground of the KGB’s secret program on mind control? Was Korchnoi correct about Dr. Zoukar? Or was everything just about his paranoia? We may never know, but many believe that Korchnoi was not exaggerating!
(NOTE: This article was originally published in 2010 here on this blog, but I have decided to re-publish it again because the topic is timeless and always of historic interest.)
CURIOSITIES AND COINCIDENCES
GM Igor Bondarevsky (left, above) is credited for single-handedly turning around Boris Spassky’s up to then unsuccessful attempts at qualifying for the world championship in the 1960’s. Few people know that besides being a respected grandmaster and trainer, Bondarevsky was one of the leading parapsychologists of the USSR of the time.
Spassky once remarked to a colleague, many years later, that in the 1960’s –with so many equally strong and talented grandmasters in the Soviet Union–it was necessary to do something ‘different’ in order to be the best.
It was with the help of some training in parapsychology–especially, influencing your opponent with your own mind–that Spassky was able to overcome virtually every obstacle that came in his way and become crowned world champion in the summer of 1969.
Fischer disappeared from competitive chess for about 18 months in the late 1960’s. There is very little known about his activities during this period, right before his meteoric rise to winning the world championship in the early 1970’s. My father–just an amateur player himself–told me that he heard on a radio program during the summer of 1972 that Fischer had studied ‘hypnotism’ during this period! (I have never been able to verify that.)
Few people know that Fischer’s sister (Joan) married one of the leading researchers of paranormal phenomena , secretly working for the US military (CIA, DoD, etc) in the ’60s and ’70s, Dr. Russell Targ. His work was so secret that everyone who even knew about it was forced to sign a document preventing them from ever revealing its existence! Could it be that Fischer was part of Dr. Targ’s research during this period ? It is known that he attended the 1972 match!
I will write about the amazing Dr.Russell Targ in a future blog article
”The late 1960s and early 1970s were the window in which psychic and occult phenomena moved into the mainstream in American and Western culture. While the Beatles brought the “religion of the East” to Britain, the field of parapsychology began to order itself for more “scientifically-based study.”
Parapsychology is divided into several major fields. One is extrasensory perception or ESP, which deals with information obtained by means beyond the five senses. Another is psychokinesis — the direct mental interaction with inanimate or animate objects. Yet another involves so-called “near-death experiences” or NDEs.
In 1970, during the height of the Cold War and under the growing threat of Soviet world domination, American authors Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder published a startling book called “Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain.” They documented how the Soviets had recruited clairvoyants, psychics, psychokinetic wonderkids and telepathic savants to work in the realm of espionage, counter-intelligence and related security applications.
The book got the attention of the U.S. military complex. So much so, that by 1972 the Defense Intelligence Agency had produced a paper called “Controlled Offensive Behavior — USSR.”
As we all know, Fischer lost the 1st game and forfeited the 2nd game of the Reykjavik match. Fischer refused to continue the match unless they play in a secluded room in the back of the auditorium, with no public and especially no cameras. Up to that time, Fischer had never won a single game in his life against the Russian (the score was 5-0, not counting draws).
Against the advice of the USSR chess federation, Spassky agreed to play in the backroom. He literally played like a child and lost without a fight! Spassky said afterwards that he had played “like a rabbit hypnotized by a boa constrictor“ ! Spassky refused to continue the match unless they return to the auditorium stage and play in front of the public.
Fischer consented, but Spassky could not break the spell that he was seemingly under. He played horribly and was blunder-prone. Moscow sent 2 leading experts on parapsychology to Reykjavik to investigate:
”To this day, some Soviet participants believe their champion was the victim of dirty tricks….Was Spassky a victim of psychological warfare or parapsychology, of drugs or electronic interference? We now know that two leading Soviet psychiatrists were sent to Reykjavik to look for evidence of psychic manipulation; that a sample of Spassky’s orange juice was sent to a KGB lab- oratory; that the hall was surveyed for radiation. The KGB had heard that Fischer might be computer-assisted: “too difficult” was a technical officer’s assessment.
Then these shadowy figures contemplated active measures to defend the champion. At the end of July, a KGB officer reported the launching of a rumour involving a device hidden in Fischer’s leather chair.
Three weeks later, before game 17, Efim Geller issued a press statement asserting that “non-chess means” were being deployed against Spassky. Letters had been received, he claimed, warning that electronic devices and chemical means were being used; they mentioned Fischer’s chair.”
‘Bobby Fischer Goes to War’, by David Edmonds and John Eidinow
The chair and lights above were investigated and x-rayed! Nothing was found that was unusual. Curiously, 6 years later–in Manila 1978 –right before the Karpov vs Korchnoi match was to begin, the Soviet authorities insisted on x-raying the chairs!
Don Sindikato, Belgrade, the match venue had 2000 spectators daily
Great confusion ruled the finals of the Candidates match between Boris Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi. Korchnoi built up an impressive lead right from the beginning, with Spassky unable to win even one game. Spassky started to complain about being stared at (by the chief arbiter, Kazic) and of being hypnotized! He complained of bright lights, etc.
Then Spassky begins one of the most amazing comebacks in history. He wins 4 games in a row (!) and does this by not once sitting at the board! Instead, he preferred to study the game position on the large demonstration board in front of the 2000 spectators, returning to the board only to make his move. Korchnoi lost his cool and was worried that the KGB was bombarding the board with micro-waves!
Read More: Sports Illustrated Article on Belgrade Match of 1977
Some years later, however, the emphasis was placed elsewhere:
...”In personal conversations he (Spassky) accused everyone, in particular me and Kazic, that he had been hypnotised and prevented from thinking…” (Korchnoi) and goes on to describe a conversation they had a decade later.
Spassky, he says, asked him, “Do you remember, Viktor, how I accused Kazic of disturbing me, and how he once prevented me from placing my knight on f5?” and then stated that the hypnotist wasn’t Kazic after all but his second, Igor Bondarevsky…”
Many years later they can laugh at what happened. (editor)
If Spassky thought he was being hypnotised could it be that he wore the sun visor and swimming goggles in an attempt to deflect hypnotic rays or other forms of paranormal activity? It sounds far-fetched I know but while such theories are by nature hard to disprove, this hypothesis does at least seem to be rather more consistent than any other explanation.
It’s a great shame that Boris hasn’t given his own account of the Belgrade shenanigans, or if he has I’ve yet to come across it. I’d love to hear his side of the story though. Perhaps one day somebody will ask him and we’ll find out what he was really up to. Given everything else that was going on during those few short weeks in Belgrade, nothing he said would surprise me, absolutely nothing at all.
”At the end of the games there is a press conference. In other interviews the seconds answered questions put to them by the official press officers. Here some excerpts.
Apparently one of the mysterious names on the Veselin Topalov team is that of a mystic or parapsychologist, as Topalov’s second Silvio Danailov admits. “We do not show him in public,” said Danailov, “because we are worryied about overreaction from the media.
Such people do not like publicity. Sometimes he talks with Veselin, but more often chats with me. As for the starting losses, I would warn you against hasty conclusions. This did not tell negatively on Topalov’s fighting spirit.”
Vladimir Kramnik’s manager reacted to the presence of the the mystic: “I can tell you my personal attitude. I do not want to sound rude, but in my opinion using parapsychologists is just a lot of nonsense [a stronger expression was used].
Such things affect you only when you take them seriously, and we do not. Vladimir has a very strong personality, and he feels fully responsible for his own decisions, both at the board and outside it. So there is nothing to worry about.”
Kramnik has brough in his own cook, not because they rejected the local cook. However, Vladimir suffers from chronic polyarthritis, and his doctors have urged him to avoid certain ingredients, including some that are widely used. It was too complicated to instruct a new cook on all the details of his regimen.
Veselin Topalov, on the other hand, is perfectly happy with the new cook, especially after he learnt to make the traditional Bulgarian salad (vegetables and cheese), which is the main course of the team. Topalov does not eat meat during a match, but subsists on fish, vegetables and fruit.”
‘‘Viswanathan Anand has requested for a special curtain to be placed separating the audience and the stage to avoid visual contact for his upcoming World Chess Championship match against Veselin Topalov in April.Though this move looks simple and harmless, it has unveiled Team Anand’s cautious approach to the match in Sofia, Bulgaria.”–ChessDom