Anatoly Karpov tells all (3/4)

by Albert Silver
2/22/2015 – Fischer's resignation of the World Championship title in 1975 is one of the great disappointments in chess. In this part of the interview, Anatoly Karpov describes the secret meetings that ensued over the years, from the US, to Spain, and more. The renowned philatelist also shares some wonderful stories as he put together one of the greatest stamp collections on chess.

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The meetings with Fischer

Your most memorable encounter with Fischer?

1976 in Tokyo. We talked from 7 PM to 1 AM. The reason I remember the exact time of our meeting, is because at the other side of the world Korchnoi was in a police station at Amsterdam requesting political asylum.

Did you have secret meetings on an eventual match that might take place?

Yes. That was how I got my first gray hair - in Moscow I story circulated that I planned to sell the World Title to Fischer. As a result, the KGB started a file on me.

Was it clear to you that Fischer was crazy?

Crazy how?

You yourself said in an interview that Bobby had paranoiac disorders.

That does not mean that he was crazy. But anomalies were certainly visible.

A sick person?

This too is debatable. Perhaps this is not so abnormal? If you are unable to restrain your thoughts, and are compelled to express them, is that a disease? Or a lack of upbringing? If Fischer had something in his mind, he would immediately interrupted you, "No, no, let me say something ...".

The match that never was

Your last meeting with him?

In America. But the meeting in Spain was more interesting. We ate at a small restaurant and decided to go for a walk. We had barely started down the streets when we were surrounded on all sides by people who wanted autographs. We had to flee in the truest sense of the word!

You were not worried, but it may have been stressful for Fischer

We no longer walked in the streets, and talked at the hotel. Then I went to play the end of a tournament playing at the end, and he stayed in Spain two more days. Together with Campomanes we went to Madrid. I told Fischer that I would stay at the Hotel at Barajas Airport. I had to stay there because the flight would leave the first thing in the morning. At one o'clock, the phone rang and it was Campomanes. "We have an idea. Can Bobby and I come to meet you? " " Of course ... ", I replied.

We talked for another two hours. Our last meeting was held in Washington. 1977. The match was as good as agreed upon. We went to the Philippine Consulate. Campomanes located a typist who typed out the entire agreement. But still the match never took place.

Do you really never meet again? The world is small.

Sometimes not so small. Bobby lived in Budapest. I was there often. But I had never once visited the famous Baths on Gellert Hill, which the Turks built in 1466. Once some friends persuaded me to go. My flight to Moscow was at about eleven, and it was seven still, so I went to the sauna. I swam around a bit in the pool and rested on the stairs. They are very wide, and everyone sits on them. A Hungarian recognized me as he swam by, and greeted me, "Did you know you are sitting in the same place Fischer usually sits? You might still run into him. Will you be here long? " - " An hour or so. " - " Bobby comes at 11:30. I see him regularly ... ".

Fischer died young.

Yes, he was only 64 years old. He was admitted to the hospital for kidney failure. Nowadays it is an easily treatable problem. As it turned out, he had not taken the medication that had been prescribed to him, and left them lying around. The old paranoia. He feared someone wanted to poison him.

Was there a last question you asked him?

Sure, of course .... At the end we tried to negotiate a match through Lothar Schmid. I was still active in chess, and he still followed chess though he had not played for a long time. Finally, I suggested to him we could play Fischer Random Chess, but he never replied.

On stamps

You appear on more than 200 stamps. Are there any you do not like?

In North Korea they printed a stamp in tribute to my match with Korchnoi. On it both Viktor Lvovich and I look like Koreans. The African stamps on silver foil are also something special. The Brazilian grandmaster Henrique Mecking appears on it looking like a black Africans, while I look like a mulatto.

What is the crown jewel in your stamp collection?

A Cuban stamp series in 1951 commemorating the 30th anniversary of Capablanca's victory over Lasker. There were two versions, one that was perforated, and the other not. The latter were kept in the safe of the company, which had printed the stamps. In 1979, one of the owners died, the safe was opened and we came across a sheet of the non-perforated stamps. They went for $600, which at that time was a considerable sum.

How did they come to you?

A friend, an avid stamp collector, was president of the Spanish Chess Federation for many years. Just before he died, he offered to sell me his collection. The stamps were among them, even two.

What is the most interesting way by which a stamp came to you?

There is a story that made me famous in the world of philatelists. It's about an auction in Belgium in 2000. There are people who get into a fever on such occasions, but I am completely calm. Thanks to chess, I have learned to control my feelings. If the price of an item in an auction went through the roof, then so be it, you cannot have everything. At this auction there were many people unexpectedly. The prices shot up. After a while I realized that the only item left that I really wanted to buy was a XIX century envelope. It was a standard dimensioned envelope with small border. Ok, I think I will fight for this one a bit. The number of bidders declined gradually until the only one left was a Belgian pensioner. He fought and fought and only gave up when the price had reached an astronomical 16,000 Euros. He simply did not have that much money. Yes, and I had driven up the price, but it was really not my style.

Had you gone too far?

In the evening, a friend, the organizer of the auction called me at the hotel:

"There is a rumor that you've bought something special."
"I've got so with a madman fought, he drove me into a corner."
"This is not a madman. This has to do with the envelope. "

This is what was discovered: There was an envelope with 17 stamps, one of which was no longer on the envelope. Before it arrived in the auction, it had belonged to the well-known collection of a Belgian tobacco magnate. The first description was from 1897, when there were no photos. It was noted that a stamp was missing. It was the most expensive item in the history of Belgium mail, the equivalent of 365 Euros today. And the 17th missing stamp found itself in the possession of the pensioner, who had fought with me to get the envelope!

One of hundreds of stamps issued around the world with Karpov

How had he gotten it?

He collected first editions of stamps. He had received the auction catalog, read the description of the envelope and became interested. He then looked in his album, looked at the contours and the post mark and realized this was the envelope it came from. He then rushed, from France where he was living, to the auction in Belgium.

The poor guy.

Why? He sold me the final 17th stamp, not at its nominal value of 60 Euros, but for 3000 Euros, or 50 times its value. Still, it was worth it to me. The price of the complete envelope grew instantly doubled. At the following auction, it was solemnly placed under the surveillance of television cameras. After more than 100 years, including two world wars, the stamp had finally rejoined its envelope intact.

How much is your stamp collection worth?

I have no idea. On the Internet numbers have surfaced at around 13 million Euros, but they are based on estimates that do not know the full content of my collection. To evaluate the whole collection would be a tough job, and I've never tried. Why should I? I don't collect the stamps as an investment and am not trying to sell them. I enjoy seeing the collection grow.

Anatoly Karpov has one of the greatest stamp collections in the world

Do you keep your collection in a safety deposit box in the bank?

Yes. It is better to have one in Europe, because the collection is constantly expanding. But a part is also in Moscow.

Do your wife and daughter share your interest?

Sonja not particularly. Natalia has her own passion - she collects Soviet porcelain.

Have you ever thought about who should get your precious treasures after you pass away?

-No. Thinking about it is still too early. In any case, the Chess Olympics series should not be separated. These are the finest collections in the world! Yes, at auctions a lot is sold in parts, if the heirs are not interested in the hobby, but unique collections should remain in the family.

Is there a stamp that is no longer in your collection, and whose loss you bitterly regret?

Not a single one! I would not have won so many tournaments and World Championship matches if I constantly lamented the missed opportunities. Think of the match in Seville with Kasparov in 1987. Ten more seconds and I would have beaten him and regained the world title. Not to mention the fact that it cost me $400,000 in financial terms. If you spend your entire life tormenting yourself, the nervous system breaks down very quickly. Of course I retain the lesson learned from it, but the fact itself, I try to forget.

Continued in part four

Click to see the original interview in Russian



Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 2/25/2015 03:04
anatoly doesn't speak about the undue privileges he enjoyed.......a beaten semi-finalist(lost to short), he beat timman to become WCC!!!!!!
Bertman Bertman 2/23/2015 08:43
@runaway

You might note at the end, that this is translated from a Russian interview. In any case, views will vary, since here we also get a chance to see Karpov the man, Karpov the collector, and his other interests. Personally, I quite liked the story behind the 100-year trip.
runawaypawn runawaypawn 2/23/2015 09:39
Thank you for the interview. But next time you get the chance to talk with him please be sure to ask him more about stamps. Because I don't think you covered it thoroughly enough..I mean I'd like to know more about stamps...not chess...stamps. You don't need that Fischer part, thats boring. Nothing gets the blood flowing like stamps. Thank you.
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