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Chess grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi dies at 85

Mary Delaney Cooke/Corbis via Getty Images

Chess grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi -- often regarded as the greatest player never to have won the world title -- has died in Switzerland, aged 85.

Born in 1931 in what is now St Petersburg, Korchnoi defected from erstwhile Soviet Union in 1976, and was a four-time USSR champion. He also reached the top of the chess rankings in 1965.

Korchnoi formed half of a legendary rivalry with Anatoly Karpov, the rising star of Soviet chess in the 1970s, before Gary Kasparov came along. In 1974, Korchnoi played three matches against Karpov, losing the final of the Candidates tournament - to determine the challenger to play the world champion. Karpov was due to play American Bobby Fischer, who withdrew from the final.

Korchnoi and Karpov had two further meetings in World Championship finals in 1978 and 1981, with Karpov emerging victorious on both occasions. The first of these finals, played in the Philippines, is often remembered as the most bizarre in chess history. Soviet media referred to Korchnoi as "the opponent" or "the challenger" rather than by name, Karpov refused the customary pre-game handshake, and Korchnoi wore mirror glasses under the belief that Karpov had hired a hypnotist to sit in the front rows staring at him.

Korchnoi was the oldest active grandmaster on the circuit -- at 75, he was the oldest player to be ranked in the top 100 -- and also won the World Senior Chess Championship in 2006.