Anatoly Karpov speaks out

by ChessBase
9/18/2003 – "If this continues FIDE will cease to exist. Perhaps that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. It is better to create new healthy organization than to nurse the old and sick one." Harsh words from the record FIDE world champion Anatoly Karpov, who spoke to journalists and spectators at the 2003 Russian Championship. Here is an English translation...

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At the end of the Russian Men's Individual Championships, which was held from September 3rd to 12th, 2003, in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, several dignitaries gave a briefing on the event. They included Alexander Zhukov, the President of the Russian Chess Federation. Zhukov thanked the local people and the authorities for their efforts, and added that in the future they would “try to bring the Championships even further afield.” Krasnoyarsk is located in the heart of Siberia, and a report on this wonderful city was included in our recent summary on the event.

Also present at the press conference was Anatoly Karpov, the former world champion. He took part in a question-and-answer session that was included in the official website for the Russian Championships. In it, he gave his thoughts on subjects such as chess in schools and on the collapse of the FIDE World Championship between Ruslan Ponomariov and Garry Kasparov. Here is a translation of this candid interview, which appeared on the official Krasnoyarsk web site.

Anatoly Yevgenyevich, are you yourself teaching any students?

No, I simply don’t have the time. However throughout the country I have schools, which I patronise. In these schools talented young players come together, and lessons, seminars, and practical help is given. This process cannot be stopped. In Russia, I already have sixteen such schools. We are also leading an initiative to introduce chess into the school program. Last year a department of chess was opened at the Moscow State Social University. This event is a first for world chess. The first students were accepted to the department this year.

Do you remember your previous visit to Krasnoyarsk and the results of your simultaneous game?

I certainly do not remember the exact results, but the session, which I played for hours in the stadium, was very heavy going, what with the strength of the participants and the temperature.

What is the probability of your taking part in the Russian championships sometime in the future?

I first became the champion when I was nineteen. There is a level, which sooner or later any athlete outgrows and starts to become disinterested in playing in this or any other tournaments. After being world champion several times, fighting for the title of champion of Russia does not appeal to me.

What do you think of the idea of conducting super-finals for the championship of Russia?

At this time I haven’t heard of this kind of idea. Although any plan to increase status and level of competitions certainly deserves respect.

What are your thoughts on the prospects for the game on the Internet?

Chess on the Internet – this is a separate issue altogether. Here unique controls are required, and specialist arbiters, so that no one could use chess programs or use information generated by them. But as a whole this tendency [towards the Internet] has been positive for the development of chess.

Is it true that Ponomariov asked you to play in a rapid event, in place of his abolished match with Kasparov?

No. I received no official invitation. It is as simple to tell fairy tales as it is convenient. Therefore that information, which came from Mr. Vasilyev of "Sport Express", has no bearing on reality.

What is your position vis-a-vis the abolished Kasparov-Ponomariov match?

This it can be said is a tragedy for chess. Every one played a part in it (though I don’t include myself in that). Kasparov as well, by the way, although he himself suffered most of all. If he had spoken out at the time and said to Ilyumzhinov: “That's enough nonsense, you must not cancel the match” – then Ilyumzhinov would never dared take that decision.

As far as Ponomariov is concerned, it was simply not right to show so much disrespect for the world champion. I was a participant in the tournament in Holland, when they made it difficult for Ponomariov to play. Ilyumzhinov sent his representatives, who got on Ponomariov’s nerves. At that moment he didn’t think whether he should first play chess, then enter into negotiations.

There were no serious reasons of any kind to cancel the match, I can clearly say this. The additional rest day, which they discussed and which became a stumbling block – this is quite unimportant. FIDE made an explicit error by appointing two arbiters who did not understand the Russian language. As a minimum one of them ought to speak the language of the participants.

The problem with FIDE lies in the fact that Ilyumzhinov destroyed all the rules of the matches, under which they had been played for decades. I agree with Alexander Zhukov [President of the Russian Chess Federation], that the cancellation of match has impacted upon Russian chess. When will we ever get the chance again to see the President of Russia make the first move? This would have been great for the whole world of chess. If the President of Russia and Ukraine had attended the match then the Presidents of other countries would have come also. It had already appeared in newspapers and on television channels.

Is there any solution to the problems with the Kasparov-Ponomariov match?

I do not see any solution. If the same methods are applied and promoted, then in the future chess will continue to be split and FIDE will cease to exist. Perhaps that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. It is better to create new healthy organization than to nurse the old and sick one.

On the surface, FIDE appears to be very democratic. In reality it is not. Let us take Russia, which has hundreds of thousands of chess players. It has the same vote as, for instance, the Virgin Islands, where there are only a handful of players. In chess, we need the same kind of Security Council as the UN has. The most important and guided questions must be presented to this council. As far as a union of players is concerned, it may be possible to create a trade-union organization for chess players, for whom it would protect their interests, discuss the conditions of game, work though some fundamental positions, articles of contracts and so forth.

Source: Official Krasnoyarsk Russian Championship web site
Translation: Joanne Pittaway (England)

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