Karpov met with Maradona in 2005

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/2/2020 – Football star Diego Armando Maradona passed away last Wednesday at age 60. Regarded worldwide as one of the greatest players of all time, he was glorified in his home country, Argentina. After his retirement as a professional footballer, Maradona worked as a manager first in 1994-95 and then from 2011 until his death. In the meantime, among other activities, he was a talk show host — in September 2005, former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov was one of his guests. | Pictured: Lorenzo Insigne, Napoli’s forward, placing flowers at a section of the San Paolo Stadium that donned a picture of Maradona. | Photo: Alessandro Garofalo/LaPresse

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Argentinian football fans are among the most passionate in the world. The sport’s popularity in the country has provided the world with some of the greatest players in history. Nowadays, those following the European leagues — the richest in the world — have surely heard of Gonzalo Higuiaín, Paulo Dybala, Ángel Di María, Sergio Agüero and, of course, Lionel Messi.

Much like in chess, the perennial discussion regarding who is the greatest of all time is not likely to stop any time soon, with fans young and old defending their stance based on statistics, anecdotes and circumvented arguments. Is it Pelé? Is it Messi? Or is it Maradona? Perhaps we will never find out. But for Argentinians — even those who consider Messi to be a better footballer than ‘el Diego’ — there is only one idol: Diego Armando Maradona.

As Rory Smith put it, in an article for the New York Times:

In Argentina, Maradona’s homeland — which declared three days of national mourning once his death was announced — there has long been a church in his honor. For many, Maradona was a quasi-religious experience.

Much can be found about him online, so we will stick to showing one of his two most famous goals (he scored both in the same match) — his 60-metre dribble in which he flew past five English defenders was voted “Goal of the Century” in 2002:

This goal followed the “Hand of God” incident, in which Maradona scored thanks to an unpenalized handling foul. Argentina ended up beating England 2-1 in the quarterfinals match. The South American team then defeated Belgium and West Germany to win the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Playing Karpov

At 54, back in 2005, the undisputed 12th world champion visited Argentina, where he played a simultaneous exhibition against chess youth and visited Maradona’s talk show “La noche del 10”. The following description was published in ChessBase’s report 15 years ago:

The two played a game of human chess, with Karpov making his moves with his eyes covered by a black blindfold. Maradona had the white pieces, and it was the soccer legend who offered the draw, which Karpov gratiously accepted. [...] After the match Karpov gave Maradona a beautiful wooden Russian chess game with the words: “The king of chess gives this present to the king of soccer”. Maradona gave Karpov an autographed soccer ball.

The game Karpov vs Maradona was four moves long: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.Nc3 and draw. There was no dramatic novelty in this game.

As reported by Clarín, this was the show’s sixth episode, in which Maradona also talked with, among others, French star Zinedine Zidane. For those really into Latin American football history, it is worth noting that Zidane and Maradona talked about Enzo Francescoli — the Uruguayan elite playmaker known as ‘the Prince’ due to his elegant style — with Zidane telling Maradona that he had named his son Enzo in honour of Francescoli.


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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