The full interview as submitted is given below. It was conducted by the organisers
of the Mainz Chess Classic where Karpov will attend a special celebration in
August honoring the
80-year-old Wolfgang Unzicker. Together with Boris Spassky, Viktor Kortchnoi
and Unzicker he will play a double round robin rapid tournament, the "Unzicker
Gala80" on August 9 and 10, 2005 in the Rheingoldhalle in Mainz, Germany.
Here are a few especially provocative quotes by Karpov in the interview:
Kasparov knocked himself out and became a victim of his own pitiful diplomacy.
After that he stepped back from chess which is not good for chess in general
Even a dickhead would do a better job than Ilyumzhinov. The chaos in the
chess world is caused by “leaders” who are unable to do their
Ilyumzhinov must go as soon as possible, also the rest of his gang, who
are plundering FIDE.
It is absurd to have people like Zurab Azmaiparashvili in the FIDE team,
who is attacking policemen like a madman, or the convicted Indian Ummer
When Ilyumzhinov found out that the world championship title and the names
of Karpov and Kasparov were far more interesting than the name of the president
of FIDE, he decided to devaluate the title, because he could not deal with
the fact that others are more popular. Well, he succeeded, but unfortunately
he destroyed chess as well.
People knew about 110 years of chess history. Nowadays, nobody is able
to tell you the name of the world champion of 2000.
I hope that Bobby Fischer is safe in Iceland now. I am very happy that
this story in Japan has ended peacefully for him. This whole fuss did not
only damage Fischer’s image, but that of the USA as well.
My relations with Kortchnoi depend on whether he has slept well. If he
had bad dreams, he speaks a lot of rubbish.
Interview with Anatoly Karpov
“Even a dickhead will do a better job than Ilyumzhinov”
By Hartmut Metz – translation by Eric van Reem
Anatoly Karpov is still able to fill headlines. The UNICEF ambassador
is engaged in a project involving children who are suffering from iodine deficiency.
He has more than 50 chess schools worldwide and he is also working for his
own cause: Anatoly Karpov is one of the candidates to follow in the footsteps
of the unpopular president of the world chess federation FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
The European Chess Union (ECU) is positioning the chess legend against the
president of the Republic of Kalmykia. Although we hardly see the 54-year old
ex-world champion at the board nowadays, Karpov still loves the game. On August
9 and 10 (starting at 16.00) Karpov will play in the Unzicker Gala, celebrating
the 80th birthday of Wolfgang Unzicker in the Rheingoldhalle in Mainz. Not
only the grandmaster from Munich will participate, Boris Spassky and Viktor
Kortchnoi will complete the field.
Question: Is the best chess player ever still playing or did he step
back from chess?
Karpov: No, I am still playing.
Contrary to 42-year old Gary Kasparov, who retired from chess this year
you are still playing. Only recently you won another tournament in the French
town of Burdeos.
Karpov: Correct: I won my 161st international tournament. In Burdeos I won
the decisive game against the strong player Hichem Hamdouchi from Morocco.
France seems to be a good spot for me to play. Last year I won my 160th tournament
in France as well, in Aix-en-Provence to be precise.
So, you are still not tired of chess yet and you do not seek new goals
in life like Kasparov obviously tries to? Are you going to play as long as
you arch rival Viktor Kortchnoi, who is still playing, although he is 74 years
Karpov: I still love to play chess. So I do not even spend a minute on the
possibility to step back.
What do you think about Kasparov’s sudden decision to stop playing
Karpov during a recent simultaneous chess event in Baden Baden, Germany
Karpov: I guess that his own political stratagems with Kirsan
Ilyumzhinov exhausted him. He changed his point of view at least three times.
At a certain point he was a good friend of the FIDE president, a short time
later he was his fiercest enemy, but a month later they were on good terms
again. Kasparov even travelled to Kalmykia to negotiate about his last chance
to play in the world championship cycle, but Ilyumzhinov cheated on him once
more and after that they were enemies again. In the end he knocked himself
out and became a victim of his own pitiful diplomacy. After that, Kasparov
stepped back from chess which is, and I want this to be clear, not good for
chess in general at all. As a whole, the current situation in the chess world
leaves a lot to be desired.
To change this situation, you are supposed to take over the FIDE presidency.
The European Chess Union wants you to become a candidate for the job.
Karpov: Of course, even a dickhead would do a better job than Ilyumzhinov.
The situation can not become worse anymore, so it would be rather easy to improve
in the beginning. The chaos in the chess world is caused by these “leaders”
who are unable to do their job properly. The priority must be the unification
of the world titles to straighten things out. But we should not wait that long
anymore to change the situation, because we are running out of time.
If the ECU were to speak with one voice, you would have 53 votes and
federations behind you. That would be a powerful alliance that should be
enough to get rid of Ilyumzhinov, don’t you think?
Karpov: No, no, it is obvious that the ECU should act as a close alliance
for the benefit of chess. At the moment it is more than clear for everybody
that Ilyumzhinov must go as soon as possible. But not only he should pack his
bags, also the rest of his gang, who are plundering FIDE. The problem is that
you never can tell if these FIDE officials are telling the truth or are lying
in your face again. Of course, the latter is mostly the case. It is far more
difficult to catch them telling the truth (smiles).
In case of a victory you would follow in the footsteps of the Dutchman
Max Euwe. He was world chess champion and FIDE president.
Karpov: Let us not discuss this. One thing, however, is very clear: we need
a new FIDE president and a new FIDE team. It is absurd to have people like
Zurab Azmaiparashvili in the team, who is attacking policemen like a madman,
or the convicted Indian Ummer Koya. And what about the arrested Romanian Crisan?
A nice bunch of people, don’t you think? It is no surprise that chess
has a bad image nowadays. We have to change it and we should not forget that
chess also has something positive to offer. I am thinking about chess in schools
in particular. In the USA more than 3200 children competed in an event. In
Kansas I have a chess school. Children can take lessons in that school via
the Internet and can score extra points like e.g. in Geography or History.
That sounds very promising and is a fantastic basis for future steps.
How many Karpov chess schools can we find worldwide nowadays?
Karpov: That is not an easy question to answer. I have to admit that I do
not know exactly how many schools I run. Last year I opened a few new schools.
In Lithuania alone I opened no less than three schools. I have 25 schools in
Russia at the moment. I think that you can find schools in more than 20 countries
worldwide. More than 50 schools, I would say.
The Karpov Chess Centre here in Baden-Baden was one of your first projects
in that field.
Karpov: Yes, next year we will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
Only in Russia I started earlier with my schools. Baden-Baden meant a breakthrough
in the globalization of the project. At first nobody could imagine that it
would make sense to make chess an integral part of the education, but fortunately
that point of view has changed.
You do also support UNICEF as an ambassador.
Karpov: In particular, I am busy fighting iodine deficiency with children.
As a result they stay behind in their development, which often occurs in many
of the 29 Eastern European countries I am working for as UNICEF ambassador.
Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of the countries constituted a law to improve
the situation for these children. According to the latest statistics these
countries do not only slowly gain up on the standards in Western Europe, but
have overtaken them. Bulgaria is the first state that has been awarded for
its excellent fight against iodine deficiency by UNICEF. Next year we should
have reached all our goals, so than I have to find another challenge. I like
to do projects in which you can see statistical results. I am very happy for
all these small children, who have been the biggest group of victims of iodine
Let’s go back to Baden-Baden: Have you ever thought about playing
here in the Bundesliga for the local chess club, OSC Baden-Baden? Some chess
superstars are playing here.
Playing the simul in Baden Baden
Karpov: It is not attractive for me to play here. I do not like the Bundesliga
system with two games in one weekend – in particular playing on an early
Sunday morning! You spend more time travelling than sitting at the board and
actually play. No, I do not want to sacrifice four days for two games. My time
is too valuable to do that.
Who is the real word champion at the moment?
Karpov: Now you are asking me a really difficult question (smiles). I don’t
know. Ok, Kasimdzhanov won this tournament, this KO tourney. I do not want
to devalue him of course, but he is not the real world champion. I want to
give you an example to show you the value of a world champion nowadays: Alexander
Khalifman received a few invitations after he became world champion and he
played in Linares. After the tournament he gave interviews in which he said
that he was happy not to have landed on the last place! You see, it is obvious
that the title you win in a KO event is not attractive, which is exactly what
Ilyumzhinov wanted! In the beginning he had some good and clear goals. But
when he found out that the world championship title and the names of Karpov
and Kasparov were far more interesting than the name of the president of FIDE,
he decided to devaluate the title, because he could not deal with the fact
that others are more popular. Well, he succeeded, but unfortunately he destroyed
chess as well. Maybe he is happy now, but many others are not so happy about
the situation. We need strong personalities and only one world champion to
So, for you as FIDE president, a unification of the world title would
be the first point on your agenda?
Karpov: Exactly. I am convinced that Kasimdzhanov would never have become
world champion if he had played eight or more games per round. In
Tripoli he showed some good nerves, but that is not enough to deserve the title.
First of all, we have to go back to the classical time control. It is not a
good thing however to play marathon matches like the ones I played against
Kortchnoi or Kasparov. Besides, classical chess should not be mixed with rapid
chess or even blitz. If we had played like this in the past, Mikhail Botvinnik
or Boris Spassky would have never become world champions.
In the past, people knew the name of the world champion. Nowadays, everybody
Karpov: You are right. People knew about 110 years of chess history. Nowadays,
nobody is able to tell you the name of the world champion of 2000.
In August you will play the Unzicker Gala in the Chess Classic Mainz
tournament. Can you share a few memories you have when you think of Wolfgang
Karpov: Oh yes, I have known Wolfgang for a very long time, despite the fact
that he is from another generation. The first time we played was in Hastings,
in the early seventies. In 1974 we met in Nice, during the Chess Olympiad.
Unzicker was one of the best chess players in the world so everybody needs
to know who he is. Even very young masters should analyse his games. I was
really surprised when I heard that he is already 80 years old!
All the world champions came from Russia, except Bobby Fischer. In theory
they were called amateurs by the Russian government, but would you regard
Unzicker as an amateur world champion, because he worked as a judge?
Karpov: That is possible, for a certain period he was one of the strongest
amateurs, no doubt about it. It is difficult however to make comparisons. The
Icelandic grandmaster Fridrik Olafsson, who worked as a lawyer, was as strong
as Unzicker, but he is from another generation.
What do you think about the battle with the senior giants in Mainz with
Unzicker, Spassky and Kortchnoi? You are at 54 the youngest player in this
Karpov: I like the tournament. I haven’t played Spassky and Kortchnoi
for a while. And the last encounter with Wolfgang was played 25 years ago in
So you could say that only Bobby Fischer is missing in this exquisite
Karpov: I hope that he is safe in Iceland now. I am very happy that this story
in Japan has ended peacefully for him. This whole fuss did not only damage
Fischer’s image, but that of the USA as well. The way the Americans treated
one of their most popular citizens did not make a positive impression worldwide.
You were even a bit disappointed, when main organiser Hans-Walter Schmitt
informed you that you have to play normal chess instead of Chess960. Maybe
a match against Fischer is still possible, if you play Chess960, the chess
variant Fischer himself invented?
Karpov: I would love to play Chess960 with Fischer. It is not necessary to
spend ages preparing some opening variations, because there is just no theory.
It is important to be in good shape and to have a clear mind. Than you can
play a match with Fischer and you can even beat him. I doubt however that we
will ever play a match. It will only be possible if Fischer desperately needs
Viktor Kortchnoi will be very motivated to play against you. It seems
that he is still eager to beat you, despite the fact that he is 74 years
old. How is your relationship with him nowadays?
Karpov: It depends on whether he has slept well. If he had bad dreams, he
speaks a lot of rubbish.
I assume that you want to win your 162nd tournament in Mainz. Or is
it possible that we will see a kind and not such an ambitious Anatoly Karpov,
especially in the games against Unzicker, the person who is celebrating his
Karpov: This tournament is all about Wolfgang, it is not important if I win
another tourney! It will be a great gift for the fans to be able to watch grandmasters,
great grandmasters from different generations and to see exciting games.