1975: Fischer beats Karpov 10-4?

by Stephan Oliver Platz
1/16/2019 – What if Bobby Fischer had played Anatoly Karpov in 1975? It's a persistent question and thought experiment that fascinates our readers, but also contributor STEPHAN OLIVER PLATZ, who shares a computer simulated 1975 World Chess Championship match, to add his own fuel to the fires of speculation.

Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer

No other World Champion was more infamous both inside and outside the chess world than Bobby Fischer. On this DVD, a team of experts shows you the winning techniques and strategies employed by the 11th World Champion.

Grandmaster Dorian Rogozenco delves into Fischer’s openings, and retraces the development of his repertoire. What variations did Fischer play, and what sources did he use to arm himself against the best Soviet players? Mihail Marin explains Fischer’s particular style and his special strategic talent in annotated games against Spassky, Taimanov and other greats. Karsten Müller is not just a leading international endgame expert, but also a true Fischer connoisseur.


A simulation of a 1975 match

When recently I was reading Matthew Wilson's article on the probable result of a Fischer vs Karpov World Chess Championship match in 1975 I saw that this topic aroused great interest and a lot of discussions among ChessBase readers. Some commentators expressed the opinion that Bobby Fisher would have won such a match while others pointed out that he hadn't been playing for three years and therefore Karpov would have had good chances to become the new champion. The prognosis in the article that Bobby Fischer would have won was mainly based on the Elo ratings of the players (2780 vs 2705 in favour of Fischer). Isn't there any better way to get an answer? Suddenly an interesting thought came into my mind: Can a computer simulation reveal the outcome of a Fischer-Karpov match, if it had taken place in 1975? And I decided to give it a try. But how could this be accomplished?

Fischer in 1972 Some months ago when doing some research on computer chess I found Norman J. Brendan's blog. I discovered that there were interesting articles, a lot of funny games and good pieces of advice, especially for amateurs who want to improve their play. In one article a chess engine by Dutch programer Ed Schroeder was reviewed: Rebel 13/ProDeo 2.0. Brendan pointed out that this engine has a very human-like playing style and plays even better using so-called personalities like "MACHEID", "ALEXAL", "Storm" etc. The games played by these personalities were really impressive and Brandan stated that these games could as well have been played by strong humans. I did not investigate this any further, but now, thinking of the Fischer vs Karpov match, I got curious: Are there personalities of Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov for Rebel 13? And when I opened the folder containing the available personalities for this engine I did find the names of these two great chess players. Wow! A computer simulation of a 1975 World Championship match was now within reach.

Above: Fischer in Amsterdam, 1972

Master Class Vol.6: Anatoly Karpov

On this DVD a team of experts looks closely at the secrets of Karpov's games. In more than 7 hours of video, the authors examine four essential aspects of Karpov's superb play.

The next thing I had to do was to prepare four opening books: Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov playing with the white pieces and two more opening books for the black pieces. In the Mega Database, I found several hundred games played by each player until the end of the year 1975. It would have been unwise to use games from later years, e.g. from Karpov's World Championship matches against Korchnoi (1978 and 1981) or Kasparov (1984-85, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1990) or from Fischer's rematch with Spassky (1992). What could they possibly contribute to the simulation of a 1975 match? Nothing! In all probabillity, using these games would only falsify the results. What might be the most promising setup for the opening repertoire of Karpov and Fischer in 1975? I think the answer is obvious: In order to produce a maximum of tension I had to use only games which had been won by Fischer or Karpov, even with the black pieces. Of course, drawn games could have been used, too, especially for the play with the black pieces. But I had to make up my mind and I decided to use only wins up to a total depth of 15 moves.

Then I installed the engines under my Fritz-GUI. I used exactly the same files for both the Fischer and Karpov personalities of Rebel 13/ProDeo 2.0 and copied them into two different folders. Exactly the same parameters were used for both engines with the only difference that I used the "Fischer" personality for creating Robert James Fischer and the "Karpov" personality for creating Anatoly Karpov. At last the computer simulation was ready to start. In order to produce a playing strength that could be compared with the "real" players back in 1975 I set the time control to 40 minutes for the first 40 moves, 40 minutes for the next 40 moves and finally 40 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 60 seconds per move beginning with move 81.

The World Championship match Bobby Fischer vs Anatoly Karpov in 1975 is ready to start!

The match

On November 11th, 2018, the match Bobby Fischer vs Anatoly Karpov began as a computer simulation, 43 years later than it would really have taken place. We know for sure that Bobby Fischer insisted on playing for ten wins without limiting the total number of games and that a 9-9 would have allowed him to retain his title without playing any further. These conditions were not accepted by FIDE back then in 1975, and in fact, they would have been really unfair, but for the computer simulation I had no other choice: Bobby Fischer's conditions had to be applied. Otherwise, there would have been no match Fischer vs Karpov! I drew lots to decide which player has the white pieces in the first match game and Bobby Fischer was luckier. He will have the first move!

The 17 games of the "Fischer" vs "Karpov" match

Now let's see what sort of games were produced by the Fischer and Karpov personalities of Rebel 13 in my computer simulated 1975 World Chess Championship match. Some of them are really impressive! Again, I must stress — these games were not played by Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov themselves, but by a computer program attempting to simulate their playing styles. Nevertheless, I'll use the names of "Robert James Fischer" and "Anatoly Karpov" just as if they had played these games themselves, for the sake of the narrative.

Replay all games in full below!

Game 1

In a Ruy Lopez Karpov sacrifices a pawn "on position". After missing the strongest continuation he has to fight for a draw. By a pretty knight sacrifice, he neutralizes Fischer's advantage and the endgame ends up as a draw.

Game 2

Very aggressive play by Karpov against Fischer's Najdorf Sicilian. He sacrifices a knight for two connected passed pawns, but Fischer proves that his pieces are superior and wins the endgame. 1-0 for Fischer.

Game 3

In a Ruy Lopez (Breyer variation) Karpov plays a little too careless with the black pieces. By playing 20...Bxd5 he would have had good chances to draw the game, but he recaptures with the knight and Bobby finds a very subtle move (21.Red1!) winning a piece by force.


Karpov's only compensation is his passed e-pawn, but Bobby avoids a trap which might have saved Black's game and wins easily. 2-0 for Fischer.

Game 4

A Najdorf variation with some wild complications in the early middlegame. Two inaccurate moves in a difficult rook ending (42.b5? and 47.Rc6?) cost Karpov the game.


3-0 for Fischer.

Game 5

Bobby Fischer surprisingly comes up with 3.Bc4 instead of the Ruy Lopez and Karpov avoids both the Giuoco Piano and the Two Knights Defense by playing 3... Be7. White's 22nd move 22.g3? weakens his King's position.


Karpov starts a nice attack which prevails. 3-1 for Fischer.

Game 6

A great game by Fischer! In order to avoid the Najdorf variation, Karpov plays a Closed Sicilian. Bobby Fischer starts a furious attack with h7-h5-h4-h3 (moves 5-8).


Karpov misses some chances to equalize and after a hard fight loses the endgame. 4-1 for Fischer.

Game 7

Fischer plays the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez. Karpov defends the slightly worse endgame accurately and after 49 moves a draw is agreed.

Game 8

Another great game by Fischer! In a Najdorf Sicilian, Karpov gets two strong pawns on e4/c4 and the bishop pair, but Bobby delivers a masterpiece by completely dominating the white bishops with his two knights. Instead of defending the inferior position patiently, Karpov sacrifices the exchange but is not able to get enough counterplay. Bobby Fischer answers with a counter-attack offering a pawn and the exchange himself and ends up in an ending with the exchange up. After 64 moves Karpov resigns and Fischer leads 5-1.

Game 9

Bobby Fischer wants to take revenge for his loss in game 5 and goes for the Giuoco Piano instead of the Ruy Lopez. Karpov plays 3...Be7 for a second time and the same moves are repeated until Fischer deviates by playing 18.f4.


Like in game 5 Karpov starts an attack on White's King offering a pawn sacrifice which Fischer accepts. It would have been wiser to decline the pawn and after carelessly grabbing a second one Karpov is able to maintain an advantage which proves decisive in the endgame. A good game by Karpov! 5-2 for Fischer.

Game 10

Karpov strikes again, and this time in a spectacular manner. At last, he has found something against Fischer's Sicilian Defense. At move 15 he sacrifices a knight in order to destroy Black's King's position. Fischer misses the best defence and his position is demolished. 5-3 for Fischer.

Game 11

In the closed variation of the Ruy Lopez three minor pieces, some pawns and the queen on each side are exchanged. After some inaccuracies and a bad move (31.Re2?) by Fischer, the challenger wins the endgame (0:1/57).


What a surprise: Karpov has won three games in a row! Only 5-4 for Fischer!

Game 12

This time Bobby Fischer plays the Sicilian with e6 and a6 (Paulsen). Karpov sacrifices a pawn in order get the bishop pair and a lead in development. Fischer accepts the challenge and takes the pawn. An interesting fight with chances for both sides arises. After a mistake (34.h5?) Fischer gets the upper hand and wins the endgame after 62 moves.


6-4 for Fischer! If the match had been played according to the rules proposed by FIDE which were applied later on in 1978, 1981 and 1984 the final result would have been 6-4 with 2 draws in favour of Fischer. But the computer simulation of the World Chess Championship 1975 is played according to Fischer's rules and therefore 10 wins are required to win the match.

Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen

Let endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller show and explain the finesses of the world champions. Although they had different styles each and every one of them played the endgame exceptionally well, so take the opportunity to enjoy and learn from some of the best endgames in the history of chess.

Game 13

After having lost game 11 in a Ruy Lopez, Fischer plays 3.Bc4 for the third time and Karpov answers with 3... d6 which often transposes into the 3... Be7 lines with which he had been successful in two former games. But this time Karpov plays 4...exd4 instead of Be7 and comes up with a novelty (7...Nf5) which has never been seen before.


White soon offers a pawn for speedy development, but Karpov declines. Bobby Fischer plays brilliantly but misses the strongest continuation (12.Be2!) and the game looks drawish. In the endgame, Karpov is a pawn down, but the game should end up in a draw because of the bishops of opposite colours. But then he blunders (34...h5?) and Fischer wins the endgame by precise and energetic play. 7-4 for Fischer.

Game 14

After his loss in game 12, Karpov avoids the open Sicilian and plays the closed variation instead soon sacrificing a pawn in order to open the f-file. Bobby Fischer takes the pawn and Karpov is not able to get enough compensation for it. The resulting endgame is lost for Karpov. 8-4 for Fischer.

Game 15

For the first time in this match Karpov plays the Sicilian with the black pieces. In the middlegame, Fischer grabs a pawn and then another one, but the resulting endgame is not easy to win. Both players miss the best moves and finally after a long struggle Karpov playing with the bishop pair against bishop and knight succeeds in neutralizing White's last passed pawn.

How Bobby Fischer battled the Sicilian

Fischer liked to play aggressive but basically sound lines against the Sicilian and many of his variations are still very much alive and a good choice for players of all levels.

Game 16

A great game with plenty of beautiful combinations in several variations. Bobby Fischer plays the Sicilian with e6 and a6 which had been successful in game 14. Karpov avoids the unsound pawn sacrifice from last time and gets a good position. Now Bobby Fischer begins to play in a very provocative way by not castling and sacrificing a pawn in order to open the h-file for a King's side attack. Karpov misses several opportunities to take the adverse e-pawn. Finally, he grabs it, but too late! Bobby Fischer avoids two pretty traps by Karpov and equalizes the game by a fine queen manoeuvre. Then a balanced endgame is on the board which Bobby Fischer wins after Karpov has missed 54.Ba5!.

Now Fischer leads 9-4 and can no longer lose his title according to the 9-9 rule. But as the match might still end up as a 9-9 tie Karpov and Fischer must play on.

Game 17

In a closed Ruy Lopez, Bobby Fischer grabs a pawn, but Black has still good chances due to his strong two bishops. But then the game gets very tactical and in an already inferior position, Karpov finds a combination which seems to be advantageous for him. But he misses 32.Qxb4! and this miscalculation costs him the game.

Final result: 10-4 for Fischer

All games of the (simulated) match


Fischer beats Karpov 10-4

If the match had been played according to the rules proposed by Fischer (10 wins) my computer simulation produced a clear result: Bobby Fischer would have won the match 10-4 with only 3 draws. If the match had begun on March, 18th, 1975 it would have lasted seven weeks until May, 6th, 1975. (Recall that the players back then had the right to demand timeouts and this causes the delay in comparison with "modern" World Championship matches.)

The result shows that it doesn't matter if Fischer's rules were applied or not. There was no 9-9 tie and if they had played for only 6 wins the result would have been 6-4 for Fischer with 2 draws.

Only 3 draws?

The result of the computer simulation may look surprising. Only three drawn games in a World Chess Championship? How many games end up in a draw today! But on the other hand let's take a look at Bobby Fischer's candidates' matches from 1971 against Mark Taimanov, Bent Larsen and former World Champion Tigran Petrosian. In these three matches against top grandmasters, 21 games were played and only three of them ended up in a draw. Besides, we know that Bobby Fischer played for a win both with the white and black pieces. As a result, his opening repertoire was much more aggressive (King's Indian Defense, Najdorf variation etc.) in comparison with the opening repertoire of players who are content with a draw when they have the black pieces. Maybe there would have been some more drawn games if the match had been played by Fischer and Karpov themselves, but the total number of draws would probably still have been comparatively small.

Isn't 10-4 a little too much in favour of Fischer?

Karpov in 1976

First, we'll see that after the first ten games we had only +5 -3 =2 for Fischer. If we take into account that Bobby Fischer hadn't played any tournament or match for three years and Anatoly Karpov had to play his first World Championship ever a 5-3 after ten games seems to me very plausible. After twelve games we can assume that Bobby Fischer would have regained his top form of a few years earlier and the lack of practice would no longer have influenced his play. On the other hand, we know that Karpov began to play worse when a match lasted longer than expected (e. g. Karpov - Korchnoi 1974 and 1978, Karpov - Kasparov 1984). Playing a World Championship match for seven weeks can be very strenuous and we must also consider the fact that probably there would have been no short draws at all.

Playing 20 moves and then agreeing a draw was no option if a Bobby Fischer was involved in a match against a Soviet player.

Above: Karpov in 1976, Rob Bogaerts / Anefo Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Karpov's performance is quite good

In 1971 Fischer scored 17-1 with only 3 draws against Taimanov, Larsen and Petrosian in their candidates' matches. Now compare this with the 10-4 with 3 draws against Karpov from my computer simulation. It is obvious that Karpov's result is not that bad.

Can a simulation really predict what would have happened?

No, I don't think so. The only definite result of my little experiment is that the Fischer personality of Rebel 13 won the match against the Karpov personality. But how similar are these personalities in comparison with the real players? For my taste, the "Karpov" personality of Rebel 13 played in a more aggressive way than the "real" Anatoly Karpov would have played sacrificing pawns and pieces as if Mikhail Tal had been one of his seconds. But even this could have happened back in 1975 because Karpov always got the best possible support by Soviet top grandmasters. Mikhail Tal as one of Karpov's seconds is not unlikely considering the fact that they would have done almost everything to regain the title.

Will Anatoly Karpov improve the Rebel 13 "Karpov" personality?

I hope Anatoly Karpov won't get too angry when reading this article. Don't blame me, Mr Karpov! Perhaps you might contribute something to improve the "Karpov" personality of Rebel 13 instead. I'm ready to repeat the experiment with an improved Karpov personality as soon as it is available.


How to install Rebel 13 with Fischer / Karpov personalities under the Fritz GUI

A huge thanks to programmer Ed Schroeder for having made available Rebel 13/ProDeo 2.0 with the Fischer and Karpov personalities! Under the Fritz GUI as delivered with Fritz 16, Komodo 12 or Houdini 6 you can easily install the program and create your own opening books for Fischer, Karpov or any other famous player using the databases from ChessBase. You can download Ed Schroeder's program and the instructions for installation from his website.

You'll find the names of the several available personalities in a folder called "personal". The Fischer and Karpov personalities are not offered by default. If you want to use them go to the folder where the Rebel 13/ProDeo 2.0 engine is and open the file "wb2.uci.eng" with a text editor (e.g. notepad). There you'll find:


Personality=setvar personality personal\%s.eng|combo|ProDeo|ProDeo|Strong Club Player|Average Club Player|Absolute Novice Player|Q3 - Tactical Engine

The offered personalities by default are "ProDeo", "Strong Club Player", "Average Club Player", "Absolute Novice Player" and "Q3 - Tactical Engine"

By replacing "Q3 - Tactical Engine" by another personality you'll have the choice to use it, e.g.


Personality=setvar personality personal\%s.eng|combo|ProDeo|ProDeo|Strong Club Player|Average Club Player|Absolute Novice Player|FISCHER

It is advisable to store a copy of the original file in a separate folder before you change it. Don't forget to save the altered file before you use it.

Now you have the opportunity to open "parameters" and choose the Fischer personality.

In order to create a Rebel 13 with the Karpov personality, you should first copy all the files of the engine into a separate folder. Now switch to that folder and edit "wb2.uci.eng". By replacing the last entry with "KARPOV" you'll have the choice to use the Karpov personality:


Personality=setvar personality personal\%s.eng|combo|ProDeo|ProDeo|Strong Club Player|Average Club Player|Absolute Novice Player|KARPOV

You can also change the name of the engine by modifying the "wb2.uci.eng" file:


Name = ProDeo 2.0

Author = Ed Schröder

Filename = rebeluci.exe


Name = ProDeo 2.0 "Bobby Fischer"

Author = Ed Schröder

Filename = rebeluci.exe

If you don't want to use Rebel's own opening book you can turn it off by changing another parameter:


; InitString = BookOff/n


InitString = BookOff/n

By removing "; " you turn off Rebel's opening book and can use your own one. The databases offered by ChessBase contain plenty of games played by famous grandmasters by which you can create opening books with the repertoire of e.g. Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Tal, Alekhine etc. and use them comfortably under the Fritz GUI.

8 matches and 16 deviations: The Fischer and Karpov personality files:

Fischer personality

Karpov personality

Stephan is a passionate collector of chess books and for years he has been successfully playing as an amateur for his German club. The former musician and comedian works as a freelance journalist and author in Berlin and in the Franconian village Hiltpoltstein.


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planner99 planner99 6/2/2019 09:18
Finally, Kasparov's performance against Karpov speaks to Kasparov's relative weakness, not Karpov's strength."

Really? ...Kasparov's relative weakness? What weakness? Same weakness where he was World No.1 for 22 years, World Champion for 15 years, 39 Super Tourney wins, 9 Linares wins, 10 Super tournaments in a row up to Linares 2002, 7-1 score of the Israeli Olympic team 4 x 2600 GM's, 15 Tournaments in a row from 1981 to 1991, 17 2820+ Tournament performances compared to Fischer's 2, 50-0 personal scores in decisive games against, Morozevich, Gelfand, Shirov and Bareev. That weak Kasparov?

The point being if a monster like Garry didn't thrash Karpov in their matches why would Fischer? The point being that Karpov was very strong indeed, and was no pushover for anyone.
powpow88 powpow88 1/21/2019 04:42
Capablanca may have been the greatest natural talent (after Morphy), but he was also lazy, and lacked the killer instinct. It's easy to win brilliantly vs. players with <100 ELO points, but very different against players within 50 points.

Historical Fischer and Morphy were the only champions who were at least 100+ ELO points higher the number two players. That basically means a victory in match play was predictable and almost inevitable, else we can throw the whole ELO rating system out the window.

Speaking of Karpov vs Kasparov, who was the "genius" in Karpov's camp that agreed to the "six wins unlimited games" instead of the "24 games" rule in 1984? If they had played just 24 games, Karpov would had won with 4-0, and young Kasparov would have been permanently damaged psychologically, never to become champion.
francesco_meca francesco_meca 1/20/2019 04:06
Besides the pride hostinately shown by some, and remembering certain recent researches, I truly believe Capablanca was the greatest, having played with a level of accuracy that was ridiculous for that time, equalled or barely surpassed only after decades of refinement, data collection and studies. Now the match: Fischer could have beaten anyone, but could have also lost to Karpov, mainly due to his peculiar character that could have been "collapsed" in front of a player like the russian, who while not at his peak in 1975 was definitely a much tougher opponent than Spassky. I may give a slight preference to Fischer in normal conditions, but for sure not 10-4. Moreover, "normal conditions" with Fischer were never possible and his temper could have put him on the edge of a nervous breakdown, while Karpov, even many years later, stood fiercely for 42 matches against the mighty GK at his best.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/19/2019 11:57
"If Fischer had not played in 1972, the same people today would be saying that he was scared, weaker (pointing to his minus score) than Spassky, etc."

And people not saying this at all could still say: "It is not clear that most probably Fischer would have crushed Karpov" - for all the many reasons already stated below by some persons.
Nordlandia Nordlandia 1/19/2019 04:21
In Chessmaster GUI, preferable grandmaster edition. It is possible to launch a similar simulation with Karpov vs Fischer personalities. Maybe raising base bishop value to 3.25 as Fischer credited the bishop 3.25 in the book "Bobby Fischer Teaches". Fischereven introduced the term "Minor Exchange" bishop vs knight in the endgame. So it's probable a good idea raising the bishop value to 3.25.

If you have a recent chessmaster version available it's clearly possible to launch a similar experiment.

Just an idea.
powpow88 powpow88 1/19/2019 04:12
The 1972 match might not have happened (as it didn't in 1975) also due to Fischer setting multiple conditions. Fischer was very stubborn and above all demanded recognition and respect from the world "establishment" (FIDE, the media, U.S. public, ..), or else he won't play. Finally the phone call from Kissinger, the extra purse, and above all, worldwide headline news coverage did the trick. No such respect or compromise were made to WORLD CHAMPION Fischer in 1975, which was historic shameful act from FIDE.

If Fischer had not played in 1972, the same people today would be saying that he was scared, weaker (pointing to his minus score) than Spassky, etc.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/19/2019 02:36
"Kasparov didn't crush Karpov and they had 5 matches together. So why would Fischer?"

And these five matches spanned 1984-1990 - with Kasparov being +- 10 years younger than Karpov.

Karpov was probably stronger in 1975.
twamers twamers 1/19/2019 02:34
Whilst this was an interesting article the fact that there were so few draws suggests its not really reliable more something just of interest. My own belief as I've already stated is that Fischer would have beaten Karpov in 1975. Fischer's inactivity was never an issue to him or his playing strength in his career and at that time Karpov was still likely improving but not at his full strength which would come later. I feel also in 1978 Fischer would have won. I don't use the term 'crush' (e.g. Fischer crushed Taimanov & Larsen 6-0 - that is a crush for me) because I rate Karpov as one of the all time greats of chess and I don't believe he would have been crushed. For me it's just a matter of the fact that I rate Fischer as better than Karpov and in those 2 periods (1975/1978) I believe Fischer would have won clearly coupled with the fact that Fischer would still at 1978 be a relatively young man (he'd have been 35 I think) who'd always kept a clear focus on fitness as well. It may ultimately have been unfortunate for Karpov that he was sandwiched between Fischer and Kasparov. In my lifetime of chess I think Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov would be my top 3 (Carlsen is young and still playing and has a career in front of him so I make no judgement on him at this time) rather like in older times when Lasker, Capablanca & Alekhine ruled. I rate Fischer and Kasparov as better than Karpov hence in this topic I'd have to go with my thoughts that Fischer would win.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/19/2019 02:33
"Kasparov didn't crush Karpov and they had 5 matches together. So why would Fischer?"

And the first of these 5 matches was in 1984 - nine years later. Karpov was probably stronger in 1975.
powpow88 powpow88 1/19/2019 02:00
planner99, Let's just say that in 1974 Karpov had no fear of losing to Spassky, and for that matter, any other Soviet players except Korchnoi ... wink wink. All the other students knew who was the teacher's favorite.

In 1972, the score was 6-2 after 12 games, then Fischer rested, maybe he didn't want to take any chance after the poison pawn opening surprise, or he was playing a cat and mouse waiting game. In the end, instead of winning with 2 draws, he "opted" to finish it off with a win, like picking a low hanging fruit from a tree.

Finally, Kasparov's performance against Karpov speaks to Kasparov's relative weakness, not Karpov's strength.
planner99 planner99 1/19/2019 12:23
Karpov beat Spassky 4-1 in the 1974 Candidates. Fischer beat Spassky 7-2 in wins in 1972.

So why would Fischer crush Karpov? And everyone keeps projecting Fischer's rating after that 1970-72 run, would Fischer had maintained that amazing rating until 1975 had he kept playing?

Kasparov didn't crush Karpov and they had 5 matches together. So why would Fischer?
powpow88 powpow88 1/18/2019 11:27
No, Karpov had no chance. Take Korchnoi and Spassky words for it.

What Karpov lacked was the killer instinct and mental toughness. He was mediocre against a much older Korchnoi in their first two matches, he was 4-0 against Kasparov in 1984 after 9 games and choked, instead he had a nervous breakdown.

A match with Fischer would be like what happened to Petrosian in 1971: a seesaw battle in the first 4-5 games, than after one bitter loss, complete collapse and losing all the remaining games, just like what happened to Petrosian (& Taimanov & Larsen earlier). Fischer was a killing machine when he sees mental weakness in his opponent.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/18/2019 10:39
"Karpov put his own chances at about 40% in that match "

"We don't know that Karpov's estimation was accurate."

Agreed. I am not even sure he really said that. And even if he did say that, no one really knows, including Karpov. And maybe there are things that Karpov maybe would not say, even if he thought them, given his position.

What I am saying is that, even IF Karpov would have said that AND it would have been correct - there still would not be a 10-4 crush victory - a lot of IFs. And 40% probabity is still a good chance to win. Less than that what estimated by experts for evaluating Trump's chances to win the US presidency...

I will not put a number, but I am convinced that Karpov would have had a real chance to win, and given Fischer's behaviour, and Karpov's behaviour to play a lot and prove his quality, Karpov fully deserved the title - without any reservation.
dumkof dumkof 1/18/2019 05:06
A real champion has to face all sorts of serious challenge. But Fischer preferred to run away and sit on his title forever. He was simply afraid of Karpov. Organizers did everything to make this match happen, accepted all of Fischer's strange demands, but Fischer never showed up. Still, Fischer would have "crushed him", would have done this and that... A never ending fanboy comedy... Superiority has to be proven!

On the other hand, Karpov was never afraid of anyone, played all sorts of matches and tournaments, and won almost everything. He is still the record holder in tournament victories, even after so many years. He successfully kept his title for 10 years and dominated the chess world for probably 15 years. A prime Karpov, on a good day, was arguably the strongest human chess force ever. He was by no means weaker than Fischer.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 1/18/2019 05:05
We don't know that Karpov's estimation was accurate.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/18/2019 05:00
"Karpov put his own chances at about 40% in that match "

Someone who has a 40% chance of winning would normally not lose 10-4, even if the person loses - and it is not certain that the person would lose. 40% is pretty high.
tomohawk tomohawk 1/17/2019 10:23
I like offramp's suggestion very much. Perhaps run a series of matches between various personalities that did play actual matches. If you can produce results comparable to the actual matches then run these "what if" scenarios.
Ryan Ortega Ryan Ortega 1/17/2019 09:16
This hypothetical will never, never ever, get old!
mc1483 mc1483 1/17/2019 04:37
At the time, the general consensus was that Fischer would have easily crushed Karpov. Fischer, despite a 3 years' absence, was still regarded as a semi-God; Karpov was regarded as a strong, emerging youngster who had taken advantage by previous generation's players' decline, and in fact had barely beaten Korchnoi, a second-class player that never before had reached the Candidates' final. Also, Karpov lacked experience at the higher level; Fischer had a lot.
Also, as others have pointed out, a 3 years' absence was not that much for Fischer, so the real point is another one: would Fischer have taken seriously the match or the 3 years' absence - unlike previous ones - was a hint his mind was eventually collapsing, preventing him to fully committing to defend the title? In the first case Fischer would have easily won; in the second one the match would surely had been open to both outcomes.
s8977 s8977 1/17/2019 04:04
koko48 koko48 1/17/2019 03:16
All you folks 'convinced' Karpov would have won, your estimation is higher than Karpov's himself...in an interview, Karpov put his own chances at about 40% in that match

"He has shown unbelievable fighting spirit an excellent chess in the matches against Polugajewski, Spassky and Kortschnoj"

He also nearly collapsed in the 1974 Candidate Finals, which he barely won (Korchnoi said Karpov played like a "wet dish rag" toward the end). Karpov also famously lost a lot of weight before the critical last game in the 1978 match, after Korchnoi came back from 5-2 to 5-5....Karpov also had many medical timeouts in his matches with Korchnoi and also showed signs of physical/nervous collapse in the 1984 match v Kasparov

Which makes me wonder...Fischer's match opponents were famous for taking as many medical time-outs as they could when they played him. How many medical time-outs would Karpov have required?

"A match between a playing chess master (Karpov) against a man who has not played for three years would be a great handicap for Fischer."

Fischer had been inactive for long stretches in his career (most famously right before 1970, when he didn't play for over a year) and always came back stronger. Even when he wasn't playing, he was training

"The way of preparing for such matches has changed a lot since the WC match Spassky-Fischer and a lonely analysing Fischer would hardly keep pace with the modern methods"

Here I have to agree with @fgkdjlkag, methods hardly got more "modern" between 1972 and 1975. Fischer singlehandedly outprepared Spassky and his team (which included just about every strong Soviet GM, each of whom were required to submit a theoretical analysis of Fischer's play and recommendations to Spassky). There is no reason to think he could not have singlehandedly outprepared all of them again in 1975
Pieces in Motion Pieces in Motion 1/17/2019 03:04
Fun experiment and article. Although a computer simulation can't recreate the human factor in an actual match it probably reinforces the long held supposition that Fischer would have won. Karpov was not at his peak yet during that time and Fischer's aggression and drive is quite similar to Kasparovs. Most likely the match would have been close.
Adilson Adilson 1/17/2019 01:55
Fisher would´ve won.
powpow88 powpow88 1/17/2019 01:46
Don't forget Fischer basically took 2 years off (1968-69) from competitive chess and came back in 1970 and his ELO jumped 100+ points! and in 1975 Fischer was still only 32... I believe Korchnoi after his match with AK had said that Karpov would get crushed, which was one reason Korchnoi was punished by the soviets; and Spassky said years later that he had no doubt Fischer would beat Karpov. I think both Spassky and Korchnoi were better judges of this than anyone else then and now.
laramonet laramonet 1/17/2019 01:40
Interesting ! I know it's not serious but it does make interesting reading and to play through the games. It is sometimes difficult to imagine chess in the era before strong computers and their use in preparation and opening investigation. This does colour our perception of how top players played. We have just witnessed Carlsen v. Caruana where no single game was won in normal time controls. It was not like this in 1975. Maybe too many wins for Black perhaps but I'm glad Fischer "won" ! While I do like Karpov's chess, I don't believe anybody could live with Fischer in the 1970's.
KevinC KevinC 1/17/2019 12:48
This can be considered fun, but it is also silly. My guess, and that is what this is, a pure guess, is as good as anyone else's. This is one thing that I can do just as well as a computer.
RayLopez RayLopez 1/17/2019 10:46
Too many wins, not enough draws, for this simulation, it's not accurate.
Werewolf Werewolf 1/17/2019 09:54
fixpont fixpont 1/17/2019 07:26
this article makes zero sense, waste of time
Offramp Offramp 1/17/2019 06:33
Why not run a simulation of a match that actually happened, to see how accurate you are?
Personally I think Fischer would have won 10-5 but with 40 draws. Fischer himself thought the match might last 6 months.
reddawg07 reddawg07 1/17/2019 04:37
There is no way Fischer could have beaten Karpov at that time. It's unthinkable that Fischer who hasn't played a
major tournament prior to the 1975 World Chess Championship was ready mentally and physically to face Karpov.
To save face and because of the fear of losing, Fischer has to make demands that the FIDE organization could not meet.

Of course, having said that, Fischer at his peak would probably be unbeatable in a World Chess Championship. That is why Magnus, to stay sharp has to play in major tournaments this way he is up to date in the Openings and a has a feel for what his challengers are up to. It's just hard to maintain one's edge if you're not playing.
genem genem 1/17/2019 02:29
In 1975 Fischer was too rusty, and his knowledge of openings was too outdated, for Fischer to have much chance of defeating Karpov and thereby defend his title.
But on the other hand,.....
In 1978 Karpov struggled to defeat Korchnoi. Korchnoi was a great player, but Fischer at his own best would not have struggled to defeat Korchnoi.
Ajeeb007 Ajeeb007 1/17/2019 01:53
Not the most interesting piece of chess fantasy. Fischer proposed unfair conditions in order to avoid a match with Karpov. He needed a way to get out of the match with feigned dignity after he watched how expertly Karpov dismantled Spassky in the candidates matches. Basically, Fischer was afraid of Karpov.
Bruce Harper Bruce Harper 1/17/2019 01:43
Wasn't this article published a bit early - two and a half months too early?

It would have been perfect for April 1.
charlesthegreat charlesthegreat 1/17/2019 01:26
Interesting article. Though just using opening books won by either players is very inaccurate and does not reflect the full state of the players strength in 1975. Therefore, I don't trust the results of this simulation. However, in the future, progress in machine learning means it may be possible to enter all of Fischer's and Karpov's games up to 1975 and simulate each player's state quite accurately (as fgkdjlkag suggested) and this battle between Fischer bot vs Karpov bot can decide once and for all who will win the WCC in 1975 with high probability.
scchess scchess 1/17/2019 12:44
This is a stupid article.
Peter B Peter B 1/16/2019 11:44
The author lumps Petrosian in with Larsen and Taimonov in his comparison, which is very unfair. Leave Larsen and Taimonov out of it, they were not in the same class as Karpov. What we do know is that Petrosian played 33% draws against Fischer (3 out of 9) and Spassky played 55% draws against Fischer (11 out of 20 drawn). So to say Karpov-Fischer would only be 18% draws... clearly something is wrong with the simulation. Also Karpov's overall score (5.5/17 is 32%) is lower than Spassky's, even though Karpov convincingly beat Spassky in 1973. So it's an interesting test, but not accurate.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 1/16/2019 11:17
@Kurt Utzinger, modern methods of chess preparation in 1975? Fischer had better opening preparation than anyone in the world.

A more accurate way to do the simulation would be to combine opening books with a machine learning algorithm trained on Fischer's and Karpov's play to that time. The big unknown variable is Fischer's absence for 3 years, but as has been pointed out many times, he took extended absences in the past and came back stronger than ever.
Lilloso Lilloso 1/16/2019 11:05
And what about a match between P. Morphy and M. Carlsen ? I bet on Morphy but Magnus would have his chances in blitz.
twamers twamers 1/16/2019 10:57
Well an interesting article. I do believe that Karpov is one of the greats of chess history. However if a match had of been played in 1975 I have no doubt that Fischer would have won it. As to a match in 1978? For me Fischer would have won that too. It is of course a great shame that they never played. And in saying this Karpov for me would still easily be in a list of the best chess players of all time - it's just that Fischer was better.