Kindred’s Special: GM Anatoly Karpov, Chess Professional and Politician

Adorning the cover of NEW IN CHESS #6 is one of my favorite players GM Anatoly Karpov, the 12th World Champion, who has put his hat in the ring to do battle with the powers that be in chess, namely FIDE with the serious intention like his brilliant play over-the-board to axe the FIDE Presidency.  The whole team of Karpov support hope to restore the integrity of the game and put an end to the ‘financial slavery’ of many FIDE member-states and ‘cannibalism’ that the current administration relies upon as it’s business model.  FIDE should become a healthy organization with offices in Moscow, Paris and New York with an active Board that brings real sponsorship to the game. “We have to beat the system that they have been building up for 15-years.”–Karpov. So intense is Karpov’s energy and determination that he and Richard Conn, his VP partner in politic,  just completed a nine day trip through the Asian countries of Japan, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. Both emerged from many meetings with chess leaders with the impression that their agenda is favorably looked upon.

 On the dark side, dirty tactics abound in chess as in any political atmosphere. The abuse of power by the current adminstration, the buying of votes; the intimidation of parents who are forced to send their children for chess training at the academy of Ignatius Leong, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s candidate for General Secretary, at 50 euro a session or their kids will be banned from future representation for Singapore official events will inhibit a bright future for chess playing especially among the new crop of youth talent that continually emerges across the World Stage.

Well, folks, I just touch on the whole corrupt nature of the current FIDE which, by the way, was corrupt much of it’s existence largely by those rascals in Moscow, USSR and often backed up by other socialistic states and socialist leaders like Dr. Max Euwe.  Unfortunately such corruption rubbed off on our own United States Chess Federation.  I can only warn to beware of what you wish and vote for because you may just get your wish.

I encourage all who can acquire a copy of the magazine NEW IN CHESS, #6 do so and study the issues carefully.  Indeed, my philosophy and partial purpose of my blog reflects just another of my theme that life and chess are so much alike.

The 1974 Challengers’ Final between Karpov and Korchnoi was 3/2 with the rest drawn. Thus, Karpov won the right to do battle with Robert J. Fischer, the 11th World Champion. Addressing the FIDE president, Dr. Max Euwe, Karpov said: “In the qualifying competitions of the current world championship round (cycle) I had to play 60-games and follow a very exacting road before winning victory and the right to play a match with the world champion in 1975.  I hope all the conditions will be provided for an honest and sportsmanlike struggle in this match and that the unpleasant events besetting the 1972 Spassky-Fischer match will not happen again.” My emphasis because I think Karpov should have stopped leaving out this political communistic overload from a spirited speech.

For those interested in the indepth coverage of Karpov’s early games, I recommend David Levy’s , KARPOV’S COLLECTED GAMES–all 530 available encounters, 1961-1974 featuring some wonderful photographs of the youthful Karpov and researched with Karpov’s assistance viewing his thoughts of and about chess and life. The game collection covers a host of interesting openings that Karpov played to hone his great skill of which he had enormous talent.

Writing about chess I often found inaccuracies that authors personalize too much with glossed over comments.  This is one such book. For example, page 15, the very first paragraph: “Genius at the chessboard has been possessed by only a handful of players in the history of the game. Morphy and Steinitz in the last century; Lasker, Capablanca, Alekine, Botvinnik, Tal and Fischer in this. These are the few who stand out above all the other super Grandmasters.” Wait just one minute!!  The great Polish-American boy prodigy, Samuel Reshevsky, was probably the greatest prodigy outside of Capablanca who ever came to maturity in similar fashion. Neither cared much for opening study and hard work at chess but relied upon their natural gift for chess to emerge among the top in the world. While Capablanca enjoyed wealth and ambassadorship for Cuba, Reshevsky had to pursue a private education and find gainful employment as an accountant. Now, you might say just who was Samuel Reshevsky? I presented him in an earlier column–go look it up.  He defeated World Champion GM Mikhail Botvinnik 2-1 in a team match between the USA and USSR.  Many Americans felt that Reshevsky was entitled to a match with the World Champion.  Reshevsky had never lost an organized match. The USSR machine said “no way.” To be fair to them, it would have been outside of the FIDE influence over such matches. That occurred because the match between Alekhine and Capablanca last so long that most reporters left South America (Brazil) before the match ended and the news media that followed the match so closely found public interest support declining with every draw. The length of the match was the culprit.

What occurred then was the establishment of the Western World Championship that paired the South American top player GM Miguel Najdorf against the USA’s GM Samuel Reshevsky that took place in 1951 and covered in the pages of the picture chess magazine CHESS REVIEW. This historic match was won by Reshevsky and he continued to defend the title as Western World Champion again against others I believe like Yugoslavia’s GM Svetozar Gligoric. Like it or not, I don’t think the title was ever recinded by anyone and Reshevsky had defeated both Fine and Kashdan in matches. Not much interest was shown to raise the funds to play against Reshevsky. Reshevsky also won against World Junior Champion William Lombardy who, at the time was very talented and scored high in the Chess Olympics for the USA and sometimes on Board 1. Additional suggestions for a match with Botvinnik met with distain. Perhaps the last famous match took place which ended in a win by forfeit over Robert J. Fischer who forfeited his last match game over a dispute.  My own review of this match series seemed to me to not reflect Reshevsky’s great skill for match play as he was aging by then and Fischer missed a couple plays that would have put Reshevsky hard pushed to recover a playable position.

This oversight of  Levy about Reshevsky was likely an ignorance on the history of the boy genius. And I am the only one who gives GM Reshevsky the honor he deserves as a stalwart champion of both the United States and the free world at a time when great dispair was seen throughout the world and skullduggery was not uncommon in chess circles.

The date 1951 was the birth of the Western World Championship and was perhaps more so for the birth of Anatoly Yevgenievitch Karpov. Among his early recognition was his earning the title of Honourable Pupil  and was only partially a chess recognition as he likewise found recognition for good work in mathematical and technical competitions.

During this period he was included in Botvinnik’s Trud school in Moscow.  Botvinnik met a lad with a very confusing knowledge of chess theory. Botvinnik mentioned to his own associates that this boy understands nothing about chess. But readers take note.  Karpov’s own recall says Botvinnik’s tuition was most valuable, especially the homework assigned because it was the first time he devoted a serious study of chess material. Botvinnik radically changed my attitude toward the game.  Another shrift given Karpov was an observation by Eduard Geller that the lad was too small and too thin to ever become a Grandmaster. Physical sight can lead to the wrong view as hidden was his talent and strong resolve.

One of the greatest exponents of the game was Jose R. Capablanca, the Cuban prodigy. Many who got the bug have espoused the depth achieved through a study of Capablanca’s games and his book covering broadly all chess fundamentals. This book was a real insight of Capablanca’s thinking–make the most with the least necessary effort. Let us examine what Levy and Karpov write in this treatise of his games, pages 30-31, under the umbrella ‘Karpov’s Style’. Such self-evaluation is a meaningful picture of a player’s character and chess sanity. “It has been written that Karpov’s style most resembles that of Capablanca…It is true that the misleadingly peaceful nature of Karpov’s play and the precision with which he handles endgames can be easily likened to that of Capablanca. But there is another side of his play–one of the fiercest attacking players of modern times.

Because of his profoundly deep understanding of the game, Karpov does not contest razor sharp variations unless he has already convinced himself that they are sound. But give him reason for attack and fireworks are bound to follow.

In 1972 at the San Antonio tournament, he was asked to describe his style and replied: “Style? I have no style.” Less than two years later in annotations to his game versus Polugayevsky, he wrote after his 17th turn: “Here I must explain something. Not only many chess fans but also some commentators do not understand my play and approach to the game.  For me, chess is principally  a fight. You have to beat the opponent and this I aim for in every game.  Sometimes I am criticized for being dry, rational, calculating. Yes, I am pragmatic and my play is based mainly on technique. I try to play correct chess and never take risks in the way that say, Larsen does.  With white I try for an advantage from the first few moves; with black I try first of all in equalizing the position.

“When making my choice of moves it is not the case that I try to hit upon the simplest but rather the most appropriate move. If there are several moves of approximately equal worth then the choice depends a lot on who is my opponent. For example, with Korchnoi and Tal I prefer to go for simple positions which does not suit their creative tastes, while with Petrosian I try to complicate it a bit. However, if I see there is a single good line, then no matter who my opponent is, I go along that one line.

“Incidently, I feel that my style has been changing somewhat recently. In this particular  game (492) my double pawn sacrifice is one that before now would never have occurred to me. Everyone took this to be opening preparation but I can say with my hand on my heart (and my trainer can confirm this) the line was the product of my imagination, improvised at the board.”

What this seems to me to be is a very revealing picture of Karpov’s building of a mental catalogue expressed in a variety of writings that over play his emotional feelings. Why give credit to Capablanca alone when his own words of ‘chess is a fight’ were out of the mouth of Emmanuel Lasker? Why, for example, does he go into such extensive discussion after a particular move on 17? Or to write a rebuttal of perhaps an insecure feeling when discussing certain aspects of a choice in moves by expressing in such a way as to find a need to justify components of his play.  If this reflects anything of character and strengths and weaknesses for his opponents to weigh in on in future contests ala his future match with Kasparov where he simply could not put away Kasparov with a final victory may just be his own undoing.

Finally, I would like to say that I always admired and appreciated the games and style of Anatoly Karpov from his youth throughout his chess career.  He contributed much from both sides of the board and greatly enriched the game of chess.  The chessworld unfortunately was deprived of  what would have been a great match with Robert J. Fischer although I think that Fischer would have defended his title successfully. Still, it would have been a titanic struggle. I have presented here a short look at Karpov and you can find many of his games on the computer, in books, and an excellent analysis by Kasparov, Korchnoi and many others as well as himself.

Adios for now.  Enjoy!!

16 Responses to “Kindred’s Special: GM Anatoly Karpov, Chess Professional and Politician”

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  2. kindredspiritks Says:

    Thank you. A writer can approach a topic from different perspectives. I did so here not to create a debate or conflict as Kasparov is part of Karpov’s team. I deal strictly with facts and do not know what the future political scene will bring before the world public as if anyone but chessplayers care. Others may like to surmise but I tend to believe that the mere fact that Kasparov and Karpov have joined to solidify their joint beliefs about FIDE and right now the two Ks appear to share the aim overthrow the current FIDE administration is timely. It serves no purpose to suggest a bitter fight within the team. Whether Karpov was and perhaps continues to support communist doctrine is not the issue. Whether Kasparov and Karpov having past dislike for each other is not the issue. The only issue is a firm commitment to unseat the current administration that is the goal of those out-of-power. –Don.

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    • kindredspiritks Says:

      Tell your associates about my blog. Thanks! It is regrettable that journalists and writers have seemed to weigh in on the creation of debate or character bashing often seen in the decade of Robert J. Fischer who few knew but tried to get inside his head often in gross erring. Respect was shown more from USSR GMs and European GMs and federations than by his own country and federation USCF, especially those whose personal agenda and critique was more aimed at the fact that Fischer said he was a Christian and not a Jew. Today there is a new organization of religious believers who call themselves Jews for Christ. They have a common bond in that both Chrisians and Jews have in history been victimized by terrorists of different stripes with agendas meant for conquest of mind, territories, and return the world to darkness.

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  6. kindredspiritks Says:

    Unfortunately, the team of Karpov, Conn and Kasparov, etc. lost the election due largely to the corrupt buying of favors to the smaller countries. Too bad for chess. But the millionaire President I am sure will continue to advance chess across the world with the most modern philosophy: equality.

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    • kindredspiritks Says:

      Hello. Unfortunately money goes a long way in winning elections, general support and little value is placed on ethics and honest debate. But this has always been true of political campaigns and sadly it carries over into the chessworld as well./Don.

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