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The Day I Met Anatoly Karpov.Part 1

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From 1971 to 1978  I did not play Chess at all. In 1978 I decided to start studying and playing Chess. In that year the World Championship match Karpov-Korchnoi was being played in Baguio and  Karpov was my hero.  I began to buy books, collect newspaper games, etc. Everything revolved around Karpov nearly to a point that he nearly became my “alter ego”.

From those days I remember playing and replaying the Baguio games that the newspapers published and then other Karpov’s games in books I rushed to buy with my scarce money then…My only dream was to meet the great man,see him,  even speak to him. He was constantly visiting my country but it seemed I was not destined to meet him.

Anatoly Evguenievich Karpov was born in Zlatous (former USSR) on 23rd May 1951 and learnt the game at the age of four. In 1966 he became the youngest player in becoming Soviet Master. As ever before in his country, he began receiving tuition and was one of the students at the famous Botvinnik  Summer School of Chess.(A tale is told that Botvinnik,after examining his new pupil, said “this lad knows nothing of chess”, but Botvinnik denied it later.)

In 1967 he was sent, by mistake, to an international tournament in the Czech Republic. By mistake because the Soviet chess officials believed it was a youth tournament when in fact is was for adults. Kupreichik, another junior, accompanied him. Karpov won the tournament ahead of  Kupka, Kupreichik , Smejkal and the rest up to fourteen competitors .It was the beginning of a fabulous chess career.In 1970 he became GM, in 1973 he tied for first with Korchnoi in the Leningrad Interzonal and in 1974 beat Polugaevsky,Spassky and Korchnoi in the Candidates’ matches to become official challenger to the World Championship.

(Karpov’s chess career has been so intense that it would take a thousand posts to discuss it. So I recommend the following books simply because I like them:

KARPOV & ROSHAL: “Chess is My Life”

O’CONNELL, LEVY & ADAMS: “The Complete Games of World Champion Anatoly Karpov” and by the same authors:”Anatoly Karpov’s Games as World Champion 1975-1977″.

KARPOV has published several books analysing his games too.They are easily found in chessbook stores.

KARPOV & MATSUKIEVICH : “Stellungsbeurteilung and Plan”.- I will explain something about this book later.

BJELICA: “Anatoly Karpov” (Collection “Kings of Chess”)

STUDENETZKY & WEXLER: “Karpov: Un Genio de Nuestro Tiempo”

I have managed to obtain teens of books about Karpov, with the exception of one: “KARPOV ON KARPOV”, published years ago in the USA.  I’m still looking for a way to obtain a copy… Any idea????)

Before the Leningrad Interzonal Karpov was invited to play at San Antonio tournament (Texas, USA)  played between November and December 1972, a tournament in which Fischer was not playing (this is another curious story you may like to investigate by yourself…). Karpov clinched the first place leading a field of sixteen players , among whom we have the likes of  Petrosian,Portisch,Gligoric,Keres,Hort, Larsen…. During the tournament, a lady was taken snaps of Karpov: it was Fischer’s mother, who was sent there by Bobby himself. Apparently Bobby already knew who was going to be his next opponent…

Everybody knows what happened in 1975 and  I am not going to labour on that. Thousands of pages have been written for and against Bobby and Anatoly. I am not going to deal either with the matter of  the state of the Soviet chess during those years. You can find Soviet literature on that,Korchnoi books, Spassky’s points of view, Karpov’s account on the matter, Kasparov books and other hundreds  of books or magazine articles from outside the USSR. Karpov became World Chess Champion in 1975 because Fischer decided not to play. Anatoly promised he would play and he played and played, thousands of games,won hundreds of tournaments,played in chess team events and defended the title twice against Korchnoi having to play  gruelling matches against Kasparov too , who was to succeed him on the throne in 1985. You can find all this games in books published all over the world. To sum up his World Championship career here are some details:

1975: Karpov is proclaimed Champion of the World.

1978: beats Korchnoi at Baguio.

1981; beats Korchnoi again at Meran

1984: first match against Kasparov in Moscow. Suspended after 48 games.

1985: loses to Kasparov in Moscow.

1986: loses to Kasparov (London/Moscow)

1987: loses to Kasparov in Seville, Spain.

1990: again the challenger, loses to Kasparov in New York/Lyons.

(Kasparov provokes a schism walking out of FIDE and Karpov returns in

1995: beats J: Timman at Kuala Lumpur becoming FIDE World Champion again.

1996: beats G. Kamsky.

1998: beats Anand and refused to defend the title anymore.

Due to all this and his tournament record,Karpov is considered one of the best chessplayers in he history of Chess.

Karpov’s Chess style has been defined in different ways: positional, “boa-constrictor like”, arid, etc.   He defined it to: “Style?.I do not have a style.” (In general leading chessplayers avoid defining their “styles”…) . Well, some years ago in an article for a Chess bulletin I wrote that we could speak of periods. In my humble opinion, these are:

Early years: very positional.  He played 1.e4 but avoiding open Sicilians, for instance. 1969-1974:  active positional style in development: he started to show the characteristics that made him nearly unbeatable later.   He favoured open and semi-open lines showing an overwhelming ability to exert enormous pressure by means of piece alone 1975-1984: active positional style bordering the so-called universal style.1986 -to this day (though he is retired and appears only in exhibitions): he shifted to QP games and  began to play nearer ultra-positional style,although there are many games with sparks of past periods. Ultra-refined positional/strategical technique  favouring semi-closed and closed positions. Excuse me if the reader has a different idea. It is very difficult to sail in waters like these ones…Choose the division that suits you best for your studying purposes.  Everything is relative, you know…)

In my opinion, some of the stylistic characteristics in Karpov’s approach to Chess should include the following aspects/points  (among others) :

-Prophylactic thinking followed by active consolidation, always strengthening his position to remark the opponent’s weaknesses.

-Zugzwang strategy

-Positional control with absolute prevention of the opponent’s counterplay.

ability to accumulate small advantages through the method of constantly creating threats while always leaving the opponent confronted to a sort of “lesser evil” decision.

-Absolute preference for Bishops and the Bishop pair.

-Exceptional ability to reduce a complicated set of plans to a series of straightforward moves. Economy of means .

-Ability to respond with indirect threats and waiting moves but creating a web of positional ambushes.

-Exceptional knowledge of endgames, specially Rook endgames  and Bishop vs. Knight ones always exploiting the mobility of the B reducing the scope of the N.

-Smooth transitions opening-middlegame  and midlegame-endgame.

-Great skills in the fields of strategical interchange of advantages and positional transformations.

-Deadly precision in the sacrifice of the exchange or the sacrifice of a Pawn for the initiative.

-Perfect appreciation of key critical points during games.

He is always aiming at positional domination.

-Outstanding technique.

Of course, he also showed some defects : narrow opening repertoire, excessive tendency to “win as White and draw as Black”  which implies the choice of too passive set-ups -especially in the latter stages of his career-,hiperactivity,…

And here comes the above-mentioned book co-authored with Matsukievich: in it you can find some “authorized” ideas on the matter of style-because Karpov endorses them!). The main facts are as follows:

(To be continued…)

Questchess  03


Written by QChess

March 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm

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