Shortly before the iron curtain fell on the tragedy known as The Cold War, there was a politically high charged chess game in 1978 held by the two greatest world champions at that time. Viktor Korchnoi and Anatoly Karpov sat together in Marano Italy. Korchnoi, after defecting from the Soviet Union, played without a country’s flag to represent him. Karpov, far younger than Korchnoi, may have had an assistant in the audience, however, under the gaze of the psychic Dr. Zukhar.
The game was fraught with controversy from the beginning. Karpov’s chair was removed, taken to a nearby hospital, dismantled, and X-Rayed piece by piece in search of transmitters, among things. Korchnoi raised his hand as the standard show of good sportsmanship, but the Soviet Karpov refused to shake it. Yogurt brought to the game created a stir when Korchnoi suggested a coded message may have been in it. Of course Karpov was feeling a great deal of tension from the Soviet Union, as Korchnoi was expected to use the opportunity of his victory as a chance to ask for the release of his family from the USSR, and increase international pressure to do so. The Soviets knew that they must win at all costs. It was perhaps this, that spurred them to call upon the expertise of Dr. Zukhar.
When the match reached the 15th move, Zukhar fixed his gaze on Korchnoi intensely and did not avert it, barely blinking. Korchnoi at that point hesitated so profoundly that he actually got up and walked around the stage, prompting some to wonder what was the matter. Korchnoi always seemed so confident when playing. He never hesitated, and never showed any sign of weakness. For him to suddenly get up like this was beyond belief of many of his fans assembled in the crowd. Korchnoi asked one of the representatives working there that Mr. Zukhar be moved, and he was, but maintained his intense gaze on Korchnoi. Korchnoi later reported that he could feel thoughts entering his head in the voice of Zukhar, “You should not fight Karpov. You are a traitor to the Soviet Union and must lose the game now.”
As the games progressed, Zukhar was present at each and stared at Korchnoi. Whether it was a psychological move or an actual psychic attack is largely in the realm of speculation, but several in attendance were convinced that something otherworldly was going on with Dr. Zukhar, including Leeuwerik and his daughter who made their own attempts to break Zukhar’s concentration with their own limited psychic abilities. The Cold War was engaged in one of several purely psychic battles, the prize of which was the chess match and the dignity of either one man, or the entirety of the USSR.
In the end, Korchnoi was defeated and Karpov was crowned a world champion of chess. Despite his defeat, Korchnoi continued to play leading one of the longest lived professional chess careers of all time. Though he hadn’t been given the chance to speak out against the Soviet Union after his infamous match, he did eventually find the embrace of his family once again as the Iron Curtain fell. As for Zukhar, he continued to be Karpov’s personal ‘psychological trainer’ and finally admitted to being a psychic spy for Karpov during the match.