Karpov on Fischer (2/3)

3/3/2015 – in 1974, Anatoly Karpov defeated Viktor Korchnoi in the Candidate Finals to earn the right to play Bobby Fischer for the title. Although Bobby never showed up, Karpov had no way of foreseeing this, and prepared for it as best he could. Want to know how he got ready for the greatest match in his life? Read on to find out the complete details of his preparation.

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Irwin Fisk: At that point, did you know who would become the challenger?

Anatoly Karpov: No, first I played in the Interzonal Tournament in Leningrad which was much stronger than its counterpart in Brazil. It became clear after the quarter finals that we had qualified already Spassky, Petrosian, Korchnoi and myself. I beat Spassky in the second match.

In the second match, the semi-finals, I lost the first game to Spassky, so this was the most difficult match for me. He wanted to play another match with Fischer, so he prepared quite well. When you lose the first game with white against Spassky, this is not a good start. But, then I started playing very well. I think I played my best match against Spassky. I won convincingly.

Spassky lost the match to Karpov 7.0-4.0 in spite of his win in game one

I faced Korchnoi in the finals, who I beat. Before that Korchnoi had won his match against Petrosian.

We played in the Chess Olympiads in Nice, so this was not only important for chess but also for chess politics. If you remember, Fischer sent an ultimatum to the congress that was taking place in Nice during the Olympiads. I remember in this congress that I made a speech on behalf of myself and Korchnoi, because at that moment we were the two who could play Fischer. I was talking on behalf of two, so we discussed the things we should stress. Korchnoi asked me to talk because it was known that when he became emotional or nervous, he would say much more than he should. At that time we were friends. So I mentioned it to the delegates to the congress, but then when I beat Korchnoi, he gave an interview and changed his position completely. He said a completely different thing, so this was very unpleasant for me. The congress in Nice didn’t accept Fischer’s demands, and I must say that what he wanted was not realistic.

Little did they know it then, but Korchnoi and Karpov were playing for the title in 1974

IWF: So Fischer was making demands even before you became the challenger?

AK: Yes, then he continued to demand these conditions, so we had an extra-ordinary congress in ’75 after Nice. In this congress there was a big fight and in the end the delegates accepted one of Fischer’s conditions to play without limits to ten wins, which was crazy. Then Fischer sent them telegrams saying if they didn’t accept everything from his ultimatum, he wouldn’t play.

IWF: At what point did you as the challenger know that you were not going to play Fischer?

AK: The first deadline was the first of April, so Euwe tried to contact Fischer for another two days, the second and third of April, and when he didn’t succeed on the fourth of April, he announced me as the new world champion.

IWF: Was there ever a time leading up to that, that you thought Fischer might play?

AK: No, I didn’t bother too much. I just made my preparations. I was just doing my job to prepare the best way I could. If I had spent time worrying whether Fischer would play or not, I couldn’t make my preparations. I tried not to think about this.

IWF: Once you defeated Korchnoi and became the challenger, was there a preparation team assembled for you?

AK: I made my own choice and continued with the same seconds I had.

IWF: Who were they?

AK: My main one was Semyon Furman. He had been my trainer since 1969. Efim Geller, who helped me with my match against Korchnoi. I needed specialists in the openings. So at that time I was with Efim Geller, and later I invited Balashov who had been my friend for many years, and especially because he got his diploma at the Sports Institute on Fischer’s games. He was the Fischer specialist in the team. I also had a fitness team as part of my preparation.

Semyon Furman had been Karpov's trainer since 1969, when he was 18

IWF: When the deadline passed, and Max Euwe declared you world champion, where were you?

AK: We were at a training camp near Moscow. I remember I was playing tennis at the time the journalist came from Moscow and said there was a declaration that Fischer hadn’t confirmed, so they declared me world champion.

IWF: What was your feeling at that moment?

AK: Two feelings, first, okay, I was happy that I had been declared the new world champion, but second I was not very happy that I couldn’t play Fischer.

IWF: Were you angry at Fischer for not playing?

AK: No, it’s difficult to say. Like I said I had two feelings. If I hadn’t become world champion, I would have been angry. I had played very well during the whole cycle. I had played the best Interzonal tournament, and when I recalled all the matches, I felt I deserved it. But I didn’t expect that Fischer would leave chess forever. I thought OK, I became world champion and we can negotiate and we can play.

After failing to bring Fischer to the table, FIDE president Max Euwe declared Karpov the new World Champion

IWF: When you said you were preparing to play Fischer you were pretty much on your own. Did you make any special preparations?

AK: I just studied. I must say I didn’t have too much pressure from the officials, so I received funds. I presented my plan to the Minister of Sports of the Soviet Union and they accepted. So after this I was ready.

IWF: Were you at the training facilities outside of Moscow?

AK: Yes, in Moscow it was difficult. They have many friends. It’s difficult to go out somewhere. Better to go somewhere in the country, then you have better control. I was with my team at a special camp of the Olympic team near Moscow.

IWF: When you were preparing with Geller and your team, what would a typical day be like?

AK: I would get up late, because I went to sleep late. I got up at half past eight or nine, then a small physical exercise, then breakfast. After breakfast, we worked on chess maybe two or two and a half hours, then one hour of tennis or swimming, then lunch. Then after lunch a one-hour break, then a chess game. Then more chess for two to three hours, then another half hour to one hour sports, then dinner. After dinner, of course not every day, we could spend time on chess preparedness or have free time.

IWF: How long were you at this camp?

AK: We had camps from two weeks to three weeks, then we had a break for five or six days, and then another camp or a tournament.

IWF: Who was in charge of the Soviet Chess Federation at that time and who would you answer to?

AK: We had a chess department in the Ministry of Sport. Mr. Baturenski was the head of this department, so he was responsible for all chess players and events. He was the person I contacted. Pavlov was the Minister of Sports. He was famous as one of the best ministers of sports in my memory.

IWF: So, they tried to give you all the help you needed?

AK: This was a system that was established by Botvinnik as soon as Botvinnik became world champion. It was always like this. They did nothing very special for me. It was just a continuation, so if Spassky hadn’t made this crazy match… Spassky had the same situation and so he received everything he asked.

Continued in part three

About the author

Irwin W. Fisk (www.fisk.us.com) is a freelance writer who has written numerous articles about chess.  He is also currently on the board of directors for the Anatoly Karpov Chess School. 

If you would like to see detailed grandmaster analysis of Bobby Fischer's openings, middlegame, and endgame:

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by Dorian Rogozenco, Dr. Karsten Müller, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh

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KOTLD KOTLD 3/6/2015 04:02
An excellent article. I love hearing champions describe their training, this is something which is not explained often enough.
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