Happy Birthday, Anatoly Karpov

by Alexey Root
5/23/2021 – Today, on 23 May, Anatoly Karpov turns 70! The 12th World Champion is still very active and on 31 May 2021, he will give a simul at the Karpov Children’s Cup, an event supported by FIDE. Which made Alexey Root remember a remarkable Karpov simul in Austin, Texas, back in 1994. | Photo: V. Savostianov, Novosti Press (via D. Griffin)

Master Class Vol.6: Anatoly Karpov 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.


Karpov at 70

While some people retire at age 65, former World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov is still going strong. He turns 70 years old on May 23. A three-volume retrospective of his life and career has just been published.

Anatoly Karpov and FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich present Karpov's biography | Photo: FIDE

On May 31–June 1, 2021, Karpov will give a simultaneous chess exhibition (simul) at the Karpov Children’s Cup. Apparently, not even the pandemic slowed Karpov down. As reported on ChessBase, Karpov also gave a simul on August 21, 2020.

Three teenagers

In 1994, three of my private chess students played Karpov in a simul. Those teenagers are adults now. Dr. Heather Flewelling is an astrophysicist. John Hendrick is a chess teacher, rated 2180 in the US Chess Federation system, who vows to become a national master (2200 or higher) soon. I wrote about Flewelling and Hendrick in this article. Hendrick is an online chess teacher for Grant Sitta’s daughter. Sitta is now a lawyer working in the Patent Office. Even though only Hendrick has made chess a career, all three have fond memories of Karpov’s visit to Austin, Texas.

The banquet

Before the simul, Flewelling attended a banquet which included Grandmaster Ron Henley (Karpov’s second), Karpov, and her parents. Her mother, Judy, is a long-time friend of Henley’s and her father, Mike, is a chess expert. Flewelling had taken a Russian language class and spoke briefly in Russian to Karpov.

Like the simul, the June 24, 1994 banquet was part of the Lions Club efforts to raise money, with one special cause being a heart transplant for a girl in Moscow. The banquet featured a barbecue buffet of Mesquite smoked chicken and Angus beef brisket, with desserts of Fredericksburg peach cobbler and Bluebell ice cream. The Austin Lions Club and the Moscow Arbat Lions Club (where Karpov was president-elect) split the proceeds from the banquet and simul. According to then-Texas Chess Association President Michael Simpson, writing in the September–October 1994 issue of Texas Knights, the simul might have had more boards sold at $1,000 each had there been more than five weeks’ notice of the exact simul date.

Contacted via Facebook on April 27, 2021, Henley recalled:

"I think this might have only been Karpov's second trip ever to our great state of Texas! (When he was young, he tied for first in the famous 1972 San Antonio Church's Fried Chicken Tournament.) The organizers were wonderful and very hospitable. I believe they even made him an honorary Lions Club Brother. They also presented him with a Texas Ten Gallon Stetson Hat! On the rest day we had a nice poolside barbecue, and my good friend Senior Master Joseph Mark Bradford came over and we got in some blitz games with Karpov."

The simul

On June 25, 1994, fifteen youngsters and eight adults faced off against Karpov, then the FIDE World Chess Champion. Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short had played for the Professional Chess Association (PCA) World Championship, with Kasparov becoming the PCA World Champion. In the lecture preceding the simul, at the start of this YouTube video, Karpov answered questions about several topics, including the world championship split, the role of computers, and his chess heroes.

The location for both the banquet and the simul was The Terrace, formerly the Austin Opera House. One adult, National Master Jim Gallagher, earned a draw. Gallagher, who passed away in 2004, was 37 years old when he drew Karpov. He paid $400 to play; the original asking price of $1,000 was met on only one board. Gallagher told a newspaper reporter, "It was exciting, even for a tough, old weathered chess player like me….To be honest with you, he’s awesome. He’s virtually flawless."

Texas Middle School Champion Sitta drew too, then had his game analyzed on a demonstration board by Henley and International Master Doug Root. That analysis begins at 57 minutes into the YouTube video. You can see me (Alexey Root) and my daughter (Clarissa) hanging around the edges of the demonstration board.

Karpov, chess idol

In 1994, at age 15, Flewelling wrote, "Personally, I am glad I lost. Had I drawn, it would have been different. What would you do if you had DRAWN your idol and also the FIDE chess champion?"

In April of 2021, Hendrick recalled how he felt about the 1994 simul:

"I was extremely excited to play Anatoly Karpov. This was a charity simul. My dad wasn't able to donate the $500 required. However, the organizers were nice and let me play in the simul at the last minute for a $100 donation. I was happy just to see Karpov, but I couldn't believe that I actually was going to play him too!"

Anatoly Karpov versus John Hendrick | Courtesy of John Hendrick

Scoresheet of the game | Courtesy of John Hendrick

In April of 2021, Sitta emailed:

"Karpov had such a positive effect on my life, and I was very proud to have drawn the simul game against him. On my college and law school applications, I included that I drew Karpov in a simul. I think it altered my life’s trajectory. I wish him a Happy Birthday!"


A. Karpov - Sitta


The annotations for the Karpov–Sitta game are based on 1994 post-game analysis by Ron Henley and Doug Root, available unedited at around 57 minutes into this YouTube video. That analysis was also referenced in a Texas Knights article, September–October 1994, by Richard Strauss.

A. Karpov - J. Hendrick


In 2021, John Hendrick analyzed his 1994 game with Karpov in a YouTube video.

A. Karpov - Flewelling


The Karpov–Flewelling game has not been annotated.


Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


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