Karpov defeats Sveshnikov in match

by Albert Silver
7/12/2015 – Two chess legends met in a rapid chess match in Riga, Latvia from July 7 to July 9. Twelfth World Champion Anatoly Karpov faced the renowned chess theoretician Evgeny Sveshnikov in a six-game match that played over three days. The match enjoyed top-notch conditions with a beautiful locale, live video transmission, and GM commentary. Karpov won the match, though not before a minor upset.

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It was a welcome return to see Anatoly Karpov, one of the greatest players of all time, whose epic rivalry with Garry Kasparov is unparalleled in chess history, and whose feeling for positional chess can only be compared to Capablanca or present-day Carlsen. In fact the contrast in styles was even directly compared to Capablanca and Alekhine of yesteryear.

Twelfth World Champion Anatoly Karpov

Grandmaster Evgeny Sveshnikov, two-time Latvian champion has permanently left his mark on the Sicilian variation with his name. It was his theoretical investigations, and success against top players that helped forge it into one of the most popular and successful opening lines against 1.e4. He also authored books on the subject, and if that was not enough, he was also a significant contributor to the theory of the Sicilian Alapin 1.e4 c5 2.c3, helping bring it too out of obscurity, and transforming it into one of White’s main weapons to avoid the theory-heavy lines of the Sicilians.

Two legends face off

The match conditions were comfortable and elegant

The event was held in the Tal Residence apartment complex, so-named not just as a tribute to Latvia’s most famous player, but also because, as explained on the project's website: "Architect Ingurds Lazdins has used chess motifs in the facade of the building: geometry of the bay windows represents chess figures of different heights, and the combination of light and dark toned glass – an imaginative chessboard."

The drawing of colors was done the old-fashioned way: "pick a hand"

Live transmission of the games was available throughout, with live video commentary by GM Alexey Shirov, GM Arturs Neiksans, WGM Dana Reizniece-Ozola and IM Nikita Meskovs.

The website provided high-resolution video with GM commentary by Alexei Shirov no less

A look through the lens

In spite of the time off, everyone expected a comfortable win by Karpov, however, he helped keep it suspenseful when he completely botched the opening in the second game of day one and was so badly outplayed that he resigned in almost complete zuzwang. Was this going to be a report on a shock loss by the champion?

It was not the first result chess fans expected

[Event "Karpov-Sveshnikov Rapid m"] [Site "Riga LAT"] [Date "2015.07.07"] [Round "2"] [White "Sveshnikov, Evgeny"] [Black "Karpov, Anatoly"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B30"] [WhiteElo "2508"] [BlackElo "2628"] [PlyCount "59"] [EventDate "2015.07.07"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 e6 4. O-O Nge7 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Nxd4 ({Currently, top players have preferred} 6... Ng6 {or Qb6. Ex:} 7. Be2 Bc5 8. Nb3 Bb6 9. c4 d6 10. Nc3 a6 11. Kh1 e5 12. Nd5 Ba7 13. Bg4 O-O 14. Bxc8 Rxc8 15. Be3 Bxe3 16. Nxe3 Nge7 17. Rc1 a5 18. c5 dxc5 19. Nxc5 Nd4 20. Qd3 Qd6 21. Nb3 a4 22. Nxd4 Qxd4 23. Qb1 Qd2 24. Rcd1 Qb4 25. Rd7 Nc6 26. a3 Qb3 27. Rd3 Qb6 28. Nd5 Qb5 29. Rc1 Rcd8 30. b4 Nd4 31. Rc5 Qe8 32. Qd1 f5 33. exf5 Rxf5 34. f3 Rf8 35. Nc3 b6 36. Rc7 b5 37. Rc5 Rc8 38. Ne4 Rxc5 39. Nxc5 Qf7 40. h3 Qf5 41. Re3 h6 42. Qd2 Rd8 43. Re4 Kh7 44. Qf2 Rd5 45. Kh2 Nb3 46. Nxb3 axb3 47. Qe3 b2 48. Qe1 Rd4 {0-1 (48) Caruana,F (2839)-Nakamura,H (2767) London 2014}) 7. Qxd4 Nc6 { This is definitely not the obvious grandmaster choice. This is not said out of hubris, but fact. Mega 2015 has zero games with GMs choosing this as black.} ({ The usual follow-up after ...Nxd4 is} 7... a6 8. Be2 Nc6 9. Qc3) 8. Qc3 { Naturally White is not going to give up the bishop for so little. Furthermore, on c3, the queen prevents the Bf8 from developing just yet.} Qf6 {Black is searching for a way to solve his development issues, and does so rather radically. Surely smashing his own pawn structure this way cannot be the only solution.} 9. Qxf6 gxf6 {Strange opening play by Karpov, especially since the great positional player has not only doubled the f-pawns but split the structure into three pawn islands, and all this after only 9 moves.} 10. Be3 Bd6 11. Nd2 a6 12. Be2 b5 {A logical move, preventing Nc4, and preparing Bb7 or Rb8, but this also presents a clear-cut target for White to attack.} 13. a4 $1 Rb8 14. axb5 axb5 15. f4 Bc7 16. c3 Ke7 17. b4 d6 18. Nb3 Bb6 19. Kf2 $1 { Ready to bring the king into the fray. RIght now White's rooks may seem to be biting on dust on the a-file, with nowhere to enter, but after an exchange or two of minor pieces, those squares will soon become available.} Rd8 20. Rfd1 Bxe3+ 21. Kxe3 Rb6 22. Ra8 Bd7 23. Rxd8 Nxd8 24. Ra1 $1 e5 25. f5 Bc6 26. Ra7+ Rb7 27. Ra6 Bd7 28. Na5 Rb8 29. Ra7 Ke8 30. Rc7 {Black is in complete zugzwang, and resigns. White has two perfectly viable plans to reel in the point: 1) Play Kd2-c2-b3 and finally push c4 to free the b-pawn to advance, or 2) Kf3-g4-h5-h6, and clean up on the kingside.} 1-0

Sveshnikov showed that he was not to be taken lightly, and took full advantage

The next day Karpov came back with a vengeance and won both his games, reasserting his authority, though only leading by a point. The match was still open. On the third day, the first game of the day, and game five of the match, saw a vintage performance by the 12th World Champion. Fighting over a small weakness on the dark squares, he proceeded to work his way towards debilitating and exploiting them in textbook fashion.

[Event "Karpov-Sveshnikov Rapid m"] [Site "Riga LAT"] [Date "2015.07.09"] [Round "5"] [White "Karpov, Anatoly"] [Black "Sveshnikov, Evgeny"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E10"] [WhiteElo "2628"] [BlackElo "2508"] [PlyCount "95"] [EventDate "2015.07.07"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. e3 c5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bb5+ Nc6 7. O-O Bd6 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Bxc6+ bxc6 10. Qc2 Qd6 11. b3 O-O 12. Bb2 Ne4 13. Rc1 Bd7 14. Nfd2 {This is pure Karpov. Simple, classic fighting for the squares he wants.} Nxd2 15. Qxc5 Qxc5 16. Rxc5 Ne4 17. Rc1 {Now the dark square weaknesses will become a key part to the fight. While White's plans to improve his pieces are clear, Black's are much less so as there is no obvious way to drum up counterplay.} Rfe8 18. Ba3 a5 19. f3 $1 {The point of this move is two-fold: evict the knight from its strong e4-square, and free up Nc3-a4 without allowing the black knight to exchange itself off.} Ng5 20. h4 Ne6 21. Nc3 d4 {Trying to fight back, but exploiting these types of positions was the former world champion's specialty. Textbooks were modeled on his treatment of them.} 22. exd4 Nxd4 23. Rd1 $1 Nc2 24. Rac1 Bf5 (24... Nxa3 $6 {is just not an option.} 25. Rxd7 Red8 26. Rc7 Rac8 27. Rxc8 Rxc8 28. Kf2 {and Black is al tied up. The knight cannot leave a3 since} Nb5 $2 {loses to} 29. Nxb5 {so the king will quickly arrive and Ne4 will follow.}) 25. Bc5 h5 26. Rd2 Nb4 27. Bxb4 $6 { Possibly worried about Nd3.} ({However,} 27. Bb6 {was stronger, since} Nd3 28. Rcd1 Reb8 29. Na4 {is good for White, with Black's pieces all disjointed, the rook having left its open file, and the knight forced to retreat once more.}) 27... axb4 28. Na4 Rad8 29. Rxd8 Rxd8 30. Rxc6 Rd1+ 31. Kh2 {Still, White is up a pawn, and though hardly won, it is a position with only two outcomes: a White win or a draw at worst.} Bd7 32. Ra6 Rd2 33. Nc5 $2 ({Missing the tactic } 33. Ra8+ $1 Kh7 34. Rd8 {Threatening Nb6 or Nc5 which wins the piece. There is no saving it either.} Rd3 (34... Rd5 35. Nb6) 35. Nc5) 33... Bb5 34. Ra8+ Kh7 35. Ne4 Rb2 36. Ng5+ Kg6 37. Nh3 Kf6 38. Nf4 g5 ({After} 38... g6 39. Ra5 Bf1 40. Kg1 Be2 41. Nd5+ Ke5 42. Nxb4+ {It is clearly just a matter of time.}) 39. Nxh5+ Ke7 40. hxg5 Bd3 41. Ra4 Bb1 42. Rxb4 Bxa2 43. Re4+ Kf8 44. b4 Bd5 45. Rf4 Ke7 46. Kg3 Kd6 47. Nf6 Be6 48. Ng4 1-0

With this win, he had already secured match victory, and a draw in the last game finished the match 4-2 in his favor.


A big congratulations to the organizers for also providing the complete videos on YouTube for reference


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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