And what does Karpov think?

5/14/2002 – Flushed with his success at the Eurotel World Chess Trophy, Anatoly Karpov was an honoured guest at the 125th anniversary celebrations of the German Chess Federation. At a breakfast meeting the 50-year-old gave us his views on the Chess Unity Plan that was signed in Prague exactly a week earlier. Anatoly was frank and thoughtful in his views, which you will find in a special interview here.

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Karpov on Prague

Anatoly Karpov, the 12th world champion (from 1975–1985) and FIDE world champion (after the split with Kasparov) from 1993–1999, is one of the greatest players of our time. After a lean spell over the last two years Anatoly, now 50, has come back with a flourish, knocking out Nigel Short, Vladimir Kramnik, Alexander Morozevich and Alexei Shirov in the Eurotel World Chess Trophy in Prague, probably the strongest rapid chess tournament ever held.

Last weekend Karpov attended the celebrations for the 125th anniversary of the German Chess Federation in Leipzig, as an honoured guest and speaker. On the morning of his departure we had a breakfast meeting and used the opportunity to ask him about the Chess Unity Plan that was signed in Prague the week before.

ChessBase: What is your opinion on the decisions taken in Prague?

Karpov: In general I believe it is positive for chess. In the end everyone realised that the split in the chess world was absolutely negative – for us, the sponsors, for chess in general. So I was glad to hear the speeches in Prague, where I attended the meetings for the first two hours. The reunification was necessary for sure, everybody should have recognised this many years ago. The details of the plan, that is another story. The split lasted ten years, which is a long time. It produced many complications which we have to consider. All the plans which were proposed at the moment came from outside FIDE. Bessel Kok, Kasparov, Kramnik, the Dortmund people, all of them made proposals, which FIDE simply accepted. Probably – for sure – Ilyumzhinov had preliminary negotiations. We know that he signed something with Kasparov, but in the detail plan they must protect the interests of the federations and the players. But at the moment all the plans that were proposed came from the outside, so the interests of FIDE and the players who supported FIDE are not defended. Only one player comes from the FIDE side, Ruslan Ponomariov, the current world champion. But in the last ten years FIDE had four world champions, and Anand and Ivanchuk refused to play in Dortmund, in the interest of FIDE. They were loyal to FIDE and were defending it.

ChessBase: So what don't you like about the plan?

Karpov: I don't know if Kasparov and Kramnik can still claim they are world champions. For Kasparov that is of course completely unclear, because he played a match with Kramnik, which they called a world championship match, and lost it. Kasparov was very successful in tournaments, but still he lost the match for the title, so he cannot call himself the current world champion until he beats Kramnik. But he is the most successful tournament player in the last years, so I think he has certain rights. If you want to accept the winner of a competition as the only world champion Kasparov has to be in. If you throw in Kramnik and Ponomariov then everything is clear.

ChessBase: Are you saying they should have a reunification with just these three players?

Karpov: Yes, whatever system, just play against each other without anybody else.

ChessBase: That would be a solution?

Karpov: Let me say it like this: it would not create additional problems. It would unify the title. But if you accept the Dortmund tournament as some kind of a qualification for Kramnik it becomes much more difficult.

ChessBase: So what exactly do you propose? What would you do if you were in charge of everything and had to take a decision today?

Karpov: I haven't thought about it very deeply, and I can see the problems. It is not so easy to give advice immediately. There must be solutions, but it is not easy. I think maybe in the new situation the Dortmund people should reconsider what to do: keep Dortmund as a candidate tournament for Kramnik, or reorganise it with the other players.

ChessBase: You are talking about Anand and Ivanchuk?

Karpov: Yes, and Khalifman and myself.

ChessBase: Are you are saying that the easiest, quickest fix now would be to enlarge the Dortmund tournament by four players?

Karpov: Yes, probably it is easier if you want to change the picture of the chess world so dramatically you should organise something else.

ChessBase: Cancel Dortmund?

Karpov: No, leave Dortmund as a traditional tournament, with Lutz, who has nothing to do with the candidates and with the new situation. Because of course the German organisers have the right to invite a local player, and Christopher is a very good player. So he should play in the Dortmund tournament. But organise another tournament with all the top players.

ChessBase: And what would the winner of the tournament do?

Karpov: Leave the rest in place. Kramnik has agreed to play against the winner of Dortmund,
Kasparov has agreed to play against Ponomariov, and probably Ponomariov to play against Kasparov, so it would be easier to keep it like this.

ChessBase: And what about the timeframe, when should they do this all?

Karpov: No, this is too deep, I haven't thought about it.

ChessBase: Were you consulted in Prague or about the Unity Plan?

Karpov: I just took part in the meeting during the first two hours, that's all.

ChessBase: How do you get on with Ilyumzhinov these days? He used to be a very close friend of yours.

Karpov: Ilyumzhinov? You think the matter in Lucerne in the Olympic court was between friends?

ChessBase: Please refresh our memories.

Karpov: FIDE just stole one year of my championship. They reduced the cycle from two years to one year. So we had to go to court in Lucerne.

ChessBase: And since then you have not been on good terms?

Karpov: Why since then? If we had been on good terms before then they wouldn't have done it. Actually I'm talking about the leadership of FIDE. I was supporting FIDE all the time, so my problems were not with the organisation but with the leadership.

ChessBase: Do you feel bitter towards FIDE?

Karpov: It is difficult to say. First I must meet the people, speak with them, understand what exactly they did in Prague. When I left Prague I was satisfied with the situation. At that moment everything looked okay. But now I must examine the documents and talk to the people, after that I can make my position clear.

ChessBase: Kasparov seems to be on very good terms with FIDE and with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

Karpov: Makropolous said in Prague that there are a lot of things that are a little strange in the proposals. Originally Kasparov left FIDE and caused the split in the chess world. Now in this proposed system in the end there will be a reunification match between the Kramnik group and the FIDE group. There is quite a high possibility that Kasparov will beat Ponomariov and then defend the side of FIDE in this reunification match. The second thing Makropolous said was he couldn't understand how FIDE world champions could be excluded, except Ponomoriov.

ChessBase: Do you think that if you took part in the reunification tournaments you would have a chance of coming back as world champion?

Karpov: Well, for the last two years I cannot say that I was taking chess, and especially preparation, too seriously. Because of all the things that happened I was not enjoying it, and it is difficult to concentrate on something you do not like. But now the situation is changing, and once again I'm making serious preparation for competitions.

ChessBase: So you are beginning to enjoy it again?

Karpov: Yes, I enjoy working again. I can see for what I am working, and then I can enjoy it.

Interview conducted by Frederic Friedel


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