“One clear win and already tired of winning?” – An interview with Anatoly Karpov

Born in Zlatoust in 1951, Anatoly Karpov was the Soviet Union’s greatest chess talent in the late 1960s and early 1970s and would return the world title to the USSR in a match against Bobby Fischer. But when Fischer refused to defend his title in 1975, Karpov became world champion without a title match.

However, in the years that followed, Karpov confirmed his role as the best player in the world with a unique string of tournament victories. In 1978 and 1981 he played two bitterly fought and tense World Cup matches against Viktor Kortschnoi. Karpov won the first narrowly and the second clearly.

Karpov’s five World Cup matches against Garry Kasparov between 1984 and 1990 turned into an epic duel between two chess giants. In 1993, Karpov again became FIDE World Champion after Kasparov broke with the World Chess Federation.

Karpov is one of the world champions portrayed in the ChessBase World Champion NFT series. In an interview, he talks about NFTs, his famous match against Kortschnoi in the NFT series, the 2021 World Cup match between Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi, and Carlsen alluding to his reluctance to defend the title.

Master Class Vol.6: Anatoly Karpov

On this DVD, a team of experts takes a close look at the secrets of Karpov’s games. In more than 7 hours of video, the authors explore four essential aspects of Karpov’s fantastic game.

Question: You are a great and passionate stamp collector, but what do you think about NFTs and collecting NFTs?

Karpov: These NFTs are a new topic, a new topic for the world, and a new topic for collectors. I know you can use NFTs to sell digital artwork, stamps and other interesting historical documents. So it could be a step into the future

Q: What can you tell us about the game in your NFT?

Karpov: The cover of the NFT linked to me shows a line of the Sicilian Dragon played in a pivotal match of my match against Viktor Kortschnoi in 1974. It was the final of the Candidates Matches, which basically became the World Championship match because Fischer later refused to defend his title. And according to the rules of the International Chess Federation, the winner of the candidates final was declared the world champion because the world champion failed to show up for the match.

This makes perfect sense. After all, the winner of the Candidate Competitions, who beat the other top players of his time in matches, proved that he is the strongest of all possible challengers and, not counting the world champion, the strongest player in the world.

The game with Kortschnoi is an example of high tactical art in chess. I should mention that I had the idea of ​​consolidating the knight on c3 with Nde2 while I was preparing for the match, and I showed this idea to Efim Geller, who was a great expert on the Dragon Variation. We decided the idea deserved attention, but I didn’t know if Kortschnoi would play the Dragon or not. Although one of his seconds, Genna Sosonko, was a fan of this variant of the Sicilian, we thought the chances of a dragon appearing on the board were pretty slim. That Kortschnoi would play the sharp Dragon Variation right at the start of the match really surprised me.

And it should be mentioned that Kortschnoi immediately deviated from my home analysis after my novelty Rd3, and I had to find the remaining moves on the board. It was especially satisfying that this beautiful moment of the match was crowned with a beautiful combination.

Q: Did you watch the World Chess Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi? What is your verdict?

Karpov: A few notes on the last World Cup match: Sure it’s nice that the number of games is now higher than before, but I still think 14 games are not enough. I’ve always played games with 24 games or more, and all games went the full distance. Only once was I able to win an early game, in 1981, in my second World Cup game against Kortschnoi. But 14 games are not enough, because this format leaves no room for risk. Today everything has become a bit flat.

In the beginning of the Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi match, Nepomniachtchi was the one pushing, and I think he had quite the advantage. I wouldn’t say he should have won, but he had quite a bit of advantage in the first game, in the second game and in the fifth game. Two of these games ended in a quick draw. In the first game, Carlsen was compensated, but that should at most be enough for a draw.

White had many opportunities, but Nepomniachtchi played very badly, very unlucky in the middle of the match and almost lost. So: he even had the chance to lose, which is surprising after he reached such a good position.

And if he had played c4 at the right time in the fifth game, his advantage would have been very unpleasant. White may not win immediately, but he is under very uncomfortable pressure and defending such positions is quite difficult.

In game six, where he had black, it seems like he was very close to a win. Now there are many people who say that the computer shows that there was no direct profit, but what the computer shows is one thing, but a practical game is totally different… under pressure of the clock things are not so simple .

I think the reason for the tragic turn of the game was psychological and mental, when Nepomniachtchi realized he had missed too many opportunities. And as they say in football, if you don’t use your chances to score, your opponent will score.

Crucially, Nepomniachtchi failed to score in the sixth game. After that he was just a shadow of himself. The following matches were not at World Cup level. Carlsen sensed his opponent’s weakness and used it energetically. He won, not spectacularly, but very convincingly. And overall, it’s very rare to win four out of six games. I can’t even remember anyone winning four out of six matches in post-war World Cup matches. There have been some very sharp title fights, e.g. Botvinnik vs. Smyslov, where you had four wins in six games, but then both players won.

Q: What do you think of Carlsen’s hint that he may not be defending the title?

Karpov: Carlsen has proven that he is the strongest player in the world and that he deserves the title. But as for his hints, maybe he’s bored. However, it cannot be said that he convincingly defeated Caruana or Karjakin. There were also questions in his match against Anand. If he had beaten all three as clearly as he beat Nepomniachtchi, I would understand Carlsen. But is he tired of winning after clearly winning one match? That surprises me a bit, but you have to understand what he means by his hints first.

Because the young Iranian player is already so strong, he is the most interesting opponent for Carlsen. But to play against Carlsen, the Iranian grandmaster would first have to win the Candidates Tournament. That is how it works.


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