Person of day - 20 NOVEMBER 2023
A peculiar record belongs to this grandmaster: he was the participant of 20 (!) Soviet championships. Furthermore, he split 1-2 places for three consecutive years. In 1967, he did so with Mikhail Tal, in 1968 with Alexander Zaitsev and in 1969 with Tigran Petrosian. Polugaevsky won the additional match with Zaitsev but lost the one with Petrosian. Thus, he became the two-time Soviet Champion.
A once-celebrated chess journalist Viktor Vasilyev wrote about Polugaevsky under the title of “The Seventh Veil” in which he said that, for a long time, Polugaevsky could not overcome a certain psychological barrier that prevented him from taking all the opportunities he had. With time, the veil was cast off and Polugaevsky began to play to his full ability. He realised his true potential in its entirety at the end of the 1960s.
In the 1970s, Polugaevsky actively participated in the contest for the world championship and, having successfully performed at inter-zonal tournaments, he competed in candidates’ matched for three cycles in a row. In 1974 he lost to Karpov in the quarter-finals, in 1977 he outplayed Mecking but lost to Korchnoi in the semi-final and in 1980, having confidently defeated Tal, he once again lost to Korchnoi, when 12 rounds ended with a draw and all was decided in two additional matches.
Polugaevsky’s style was characterised by a rich debut erudition, an ability to take the initiative and develop it and a precise exploitation of the opponent’s mistakes. These qualities enabled him to participate in international tournaments for a long time. On his watch are victories in Larianske Lazne, Mar del Plata (twice), Sochi, Budapest (twice), Beverwijk, Amsterdam (twice), Belgrade, Kislovodsk, Manila, Wijk aan Zee, Solingen, Skopje…
As a member of the Soviet team, Polugaesvky participated in seven Chess Olympiads, multiple European championships, “The Match of the Century” in 1970 and the match between the Soviet and World teams in 1984.
Lev Abramovich Polugaevsky died in Paris in August 1995. In his native Samara, there is an annual “Polugaevsky Cup” that is one of the stages of the “Russian Cup”.