Two weeks ago, nobody would have expected that Victor Korchnoi's fans would applaud and breathe a collective sigh of relief at the news that he had played a draw in his chess match with Boris Spassky. Until the week before Christmas, Korchnoi's lead over the former world champion was so imposing that a draw didn't seem to matter, although sound match strategy would have called for the self-exiled Russian grandmaster to relax, avoid risks and force Spassky to take chances.

Last Wednesday, with Korchnoi's lead whittled down to single point, was the last time he could begin to adopt such a strategy, and he appears to have dne it in the nick of time.The draw ended a four-game losing streak which seemed to have its roots in psychology (or perhaps in the fatigue) as much as in the relative strength of the two players. It is risky and perhaps improper for an average player to second-guess a grandmaster, but an examination of the games seems to indicate that korchnoi's losses were due more to his weakness than to a sudden increase in Spassky's strength.

The crucial games from this portion of the match are presented below. GAME 10

This was the last game won by Korchnoi before his long losing streak began. It was started on Dec. 16, adjourned, then postponed first because Korchnoi claimed illness and then because of disputes between the players about the match rules. By the time it was completed, on Dec. 24, Korchnoi had already lost games 11 and 12. The position in the diagram below is the adjourned position over which both players had a full week to brood.

White; Spassky; Black: Korchnoi. 1. P-K4, P-K3; 2. P-Q4, P-Q4; 3. N-QB3, B-N5; 4. P-K5, P-QB4; 5. P-QR3, BxNch; 6. PxB, N-K2; 7. N-B3, B-Q2; 8. PxP, Q-B2; 9. B-Q3, B-R5; 10. R-QN1, N-Q2; 11. R-N4, B-B3; 12. 0-0, NxBP; 13. R-N4, N-N3; 14. N-Q4, 0-0-0; 15. P-KB4, B-Q2; 16. R-N3, K-N1; 17. Q-K1, K-R1; 18.P-KR4, NxB; 19. PxN, P-KR4; 20. B-K3, R/Q-K1; 21. P-R4, R-R2; 22. R-N5, N-K2; 23. B-B2, P-KN3; 24. Q-R1, R-QB1; 25. R-B1, R/2-R1; 26. P-R5, N-B4; 27. P-B4, N-K2; 28. R-N3, R/Q1; 29. R-KB3, Q-N1; 30. Q-R3, N-B4; 31. NxN, NPxN; 32. B-B5, R-B3; 33. PxP, PxP; 34. P-Q4, RN1; 35. R-N1, R-R3; 36. Q-N4, B-B3; 37. R-B3, Q-Q1; 38. P-N3, QxQRP; 39. Q-N2, Q-R7; 40. Q-B1, Q-K7; 41. R-K3, Q-N5; 42. K-R2

42 . . . R-R7ch; 43. R-N2, R-R5; 44. R-N2, B-N4;45. R-R3, R-R3; 46. RxR, BxR; 47. Q-R3, R-QB1; 48. R-R2, Q-Q8; 49. Q-N2, Q-KB8; 50. Q-N3, Q-B5; 51. Q-R3, P-N31; 52. QxB, QxQ; 53. RxQ, K-N21; 54. R-R1, PxB; 55. R-Nlch, K-B3; 56. PxP, R-QR1; 57. P-N4, BPxP; 58. N-N3, P-R4; 59. P-B5, P-R5; 60. K-B4, P-R6; 61. K-N5, P-R7; 62. R-QR1, KxP; 63. K-B6, K-Q5; 64. KxP, KxP; 65. P-B6, K-Q5; and white resigned. GAME 12

In game 11, Korchnoi make serious strategic errors, floundered, and was finally overwhelmed when the alert Spassky pounced on his weaknesses. He was smiply outplayed and he suffered his first defeat of the match; it happens to everyone sooner or later. Game 12 offers a different spectacle, however, and it may not be unfair to speculate that Korchnoi lost it largely because he was so bothered at having lost Game 11.The final position shows black in a strong, perhaps a superior position, except for one point: his 2 1/2 hours had elapsed, he had bot made the 40 moves required in that time-frame, and so his position didn't matter; the game wasa lost.

White: Spassky; Black: Korchnoi. 1. P-K4, P-K3; 2. P-Q4, P-Q4; 3. N-QB3, B-N5; 4. P-K5, P-QB4; 5. P-QRS, BxNch; 6. PxB, N-K2; 7. Q-N4, Pxp; 8. PxP, Q-B2; 9. K-Q1, 0-0; 10. N-B3, P-B3; 11. B-Q3, N-B4; 12. Q-R3, N-B3; 13. P-N4, PxP; 14. PxP, NxP; 15. NxN, QxN; 16. R-QN1, N-R3; 17. R-K1, Q-B2; 18. BxN, PxB; 19. P-N5, P-K4; 20. Q-N3, P-KR4; 21. RxP, B-N5ch; 22. K-B1, Q-N2; 23. Q-K3, R-B6; 24. Q-Q4, R-Q1; 25. R-N4, P-N3; 26. B-K4, RxBP; 27. P-R3, R-B8ch; 28. K-N2, BxP; 29. BxPch, K-R1; 30. Q-B3, R/8-B1; 31. B-N3, B-B4; 32. R-KB4, R-B1; 33. B-B4, B-N3; 34. R-B6, R/KB-K1; 65. R-Q5, R-B2; 36. Q-Q4, P-R5; 37. B-N3, P-R6; 38. Q-KR4, and black lost on a time forfeit.

GAME 14

This game marks the low ebb of Korchnoi's spirits and fortunes, at least so far in the tournament. Sometimes he seems almost to be moving aimlessly, without a plan, tossed about casually by his opponent's ideas, which are effective in the circumstances though less impressive than Spassky at his historic peak. This was the last game of Korchnoi's four-game losing streak.

White: Spassky; Black: Korchnoi. 1. P-K4, P-K4; 2. N-QB3, N-KB3; 3. P-KN3, P-Q4; 4.Pxp, NxP; 5. B-N2, NxN; 6. NPxN, B-Q3; 7. N-B3, 0-0; 8. 0-0, P-QB4; 9. P-Q3, N-B3; 10. N-Q2, Q-Q2; 11. Q-B3, Q-B2; 12. N-K4, B-K2; 13. B-K3, P-B5; 14. P-Q4, B-K3; 15. R/B-Q1, R/R-Q1; 16. Q-K2, B-Q4; 17. QR-N1, PxP; 18. PxP, R/B-K1; 19. N-B3, BxB; 20. KxB, N-R4; 21. Q-B3, N-B3; 22. Q-K2, N-R4; 23. P-QR4, P-QN3; 24. Q-B3, Q-Q2; 25. R-N5, N-N2; 26. B-B4, N-Q3; 27. BxN, BxB; 28. N-K4, B-K2; 29. P-B3, P-N3; 30. P-N4, R-KB1; 31. R/1-QN1, P-QR3; 32. RxP, P-B4; 33. PxP, RxP; 34. Q-K2, QxRP; 35. R-N7, R-K1; 36. R-B7, B-Q6; 37. RxQBP, RxN; 38. R-B8ch. K-N2; 39. QxR, Q-R7; 40. R-KB1, Q-B2; 41. P-KB4, R-KR4; 42. R-K8, Q-N6; 43. R-K6. Q-N7ch; 44. Q-K2, Q-N1; 45. Q-K4, Q-N7ch; 46. Q-K2, Q-N1; 47. R-K4, R-QN4; 48. R-B2, Q-N2; 49. Q-B3, Q-B1; 50. P-R3, P-QR4; 51. R-K5, BxR; 52. BPxB, Q-KB4; 53. P-B4, R-N5; 54. Q-K3, Q-QB1; 55. P-K6, RxP; 56. Q-K5ch, K-R3; 57. Q-B4ch, K-N2; 58. Q-B6ch, K-R3; 59. Q-R4ch, and black resigned.