His childhood was harsh; his career difficult. But he spent almost half of his life in the West, able to taste liberty even before the Soviet Union fell. Viktor Korchnoi is one more reminder of the manifold injustices of totalitarian communism.
In the ratings war, the world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, 24, and the top Armenian grandmaster Levon Aronian, 33, looked like brothers in arms, occupying the first two places for some years. But this year they both hit the wall.
Most people who don't play chess believe that the checkmate ends the game. They may not know they can also lose by overstepping the time limit or by resigning - something unheard of in other sports such as football, basketball or hockey.
The Zurich Chess Challenge was a festive six-grandmaster extravaganza played this month in the posh Savoy hotel. The American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura benefitted from the last-minute change in the rules and blitzed his way to win the title.
The careers of top chess players last 25 years or even longer. They can challenge the world's best already as teenagers and can continue for six, seven decades until they turn into ageless warriors. At what point do they play the best? What is the optimal age for success in chess?
Chess is the only sport where smoking was not only possible; it was quite common. For some mental athletes, such as the late world chess champion Mikhail Tal or the legendary grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi, performing without cigarettes was unthinkable.