Maradona and Needleman – Karpov's Argentine Adventure

9/24/2005 – On a recent goodwill trip to Argentina former world champion Anatoly Karpov played a couple of interesting game. One was in "living chess" against the soccer star Diego Maradona, who is now a talkshow host. The other was in a simultaneous exhibition against chess youth. Oh, and he also challenged Fischer to a match. Illustrated report (with more pictures).

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Anatoly Karpov in Argentina

At 54 Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov, with a round ruddy face, heavenly eyes with a permanent look of surprise, walks like an ambassador down the hall of the international airport of Ezeiza, in his grey brown suit with matching shoes and sweater, accompanying Dimitry Gorlachov, vice consul of the Embassy of Russia, on his eighth visit to Argentina. That, in any case, is our literal translation of the start of an article by Carlos A. Ilardo on Karpov's visit in Buenos Aires. Here's the original:

Ya no son sólo sus movimientos frente al tablero los que despiertan admiración entre los aficionados; a los 54 años, el ruso Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov, carita redonda y rubicunda, ojos celestes y mirada permanente de asombro se pasea como un embajador del mundo de los trebejos por uno de los salones VIP del aeropuerto internacional de Ezeiza; lleva un traje gris claro, zapatos marrones y chomba al tono y lo acompaña Dimitry Gorlachov, vicecónsul de la embajada de Rusia, en su octava visita a la Argentina. – The full Ilardo article can be read in the original on our Spanish language news page.

Karpov is greeted at Ezeiza Airport in Buenos Aires by Victor Solnicki, the son-in-law of Miguel Naidorf, and Dimitry Gorlachov, the Russian vice consul.

Karpov was a guest of the Asociación Miguel Najdorf and to inaugurate the XVI Festival of Chess that began last Friday in a shopping center. In the above picture he poses next to a poster of the legendary Miguel Najdorf.

During his stay Karpov was a guest on the new Talkshow hosted by the Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, against whom he played a game of chess. From the Russian newspaper Pravda we learn the details of this encounter: apparently 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. The game, Pravda reports, was two moves long. Unfortunately we have not been able to get the moves and so cannot offer you the game for JavaScript replay. 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.


Karpov with "human chess pieces" in Buenos Aires


A "human chess" re-enactment of Karpov's game against Najdorf in Hastings 1971


The playing hall of the chess festival in the Children's Museum


At the opening of the chess festival Karpov speaks to the audience


...who listen attentively to the former world champion (1975-1985)


A remarkable portrait provided by Carlos A. Ilardo


The chess society in the Villa Martelli


A plaque celebrating the 12th World Champion


Images from the careers of Karpov and Kasparov


...and those of the other world chess champions.


Karpov gave a clock simul in the Circulo de Ajedrez de Villa Martelli


Later he faced a tougher battle against young Argentinian talents


Karpov during the clock simul on the stage of the Museo de los Niños


One of the opponents in the clock simul... hmmm, looks familiar, doesn't he?

Indeed, it is our Argentinian boy wonder Gastón Needleman, who has been very much in the news recently. The 15-year-old, who is the reigning champion of Mendoza Province in west Argentina, tied for second with seven other players at the American Continental Championship. In the tie-break tournament for six tickets to the FIDE World Cup a local paper reported that the GMs ganged up against the boy to force him out. Subsequently he was given a special invitation by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

In Buenos Aires Gastón was the only player to beat Karpov, who won the clock simul with a score of 4:2. We asked him to send us the game, which he promptly did, together with a few notes.

Karpov,Anatoly (2676) - Needleman,Gastón (2242) [E69]
Simultaneas con reloj Buenos Aires, 20.09.2005 [Gastón Needleman]
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0-0 5.0-0 d6 6.d4 c6 7.Nc3 Qa5 8.e4 e5 9.h3 Nbd7 10.Re1 exd4 11.Nxd4 Ne5 12.Bf1 Be6 13.Nxe6 fxe6 14.Kg2 Rad8 15.Qa4 Qb6 16.f4 Nf7 17.Qb3 Qc7 18.Be3 b6 19.Rad1 Kh8 20.Be2 e5 21.f5 gxf5 22.exf5 Rg8 23.Bf3 Bh6 24.Ne4 Qe7 25.Bf2 Rg7 26.Kh2 Rdg8 27.Nxf6 Qxf6 28.Bxc6 Qxf5 29.Qf3 Qc8 30.Bd5 Ng5 31.Qh5 Rf8 32.Be3 Rg6 33.Rf1 Rf5 34.Rxf5 Qxf5 35.Kg2 Rf6 36.Qg4 [36.g4± according to Fritz] 36...Qxg4 37.hxg4 Kg7?! [37...Ne6+/=] 38.Bf2?! [38.Rh1± Nf7 (38...Rf8±) 39.Rxh6+–] 38...Ne6 39.b4 Nd4 40.Bxd4 exd4 41.Rxd4 a5! Black has to make safe place for the bishop 42.bxa5 bxa5 43.Re4 Kf8 44.Bc6 Bd2 45.Re8+ Kf7 46.Re2 Bc1 47.Be4 h6 48.Bf5 Kg7 49.Kf3 Ba3 50.Ke4 Bc5= 51.Kd5 a4 52.Ke4 a3 53.Kf4 Bd4 54.g5 Be5+

55.Kg4? Anatoly was playing on the other boards. He was more concentrated on other games and lost his bishop. I was very lucky! 55.Ke4 hxg5 56.Re3 Bb2 57.g4 Rh6 58.Kd5 Rh2 and the game could finish in draw. 55...h5+ 56.Kxh5 Rxf5 57.Kg4 Kg6 58.Re3 Rxg5+ 59.Kh3 Bb2 60.Re6+ Kf7 61.Rxd6 Rc5 62.Kg4 Rxc4+ 63.Kf5 Ke7 64.Re6+ Kf7 65.Ra6 Rc2 66.Ra7+ Kf8 67.g4 Bc1 68.g5 Rxa2 69.g6 Rf2+ 70.Ke5 Bb2+. Better was 70...a2. 71.Kd5. This is the position in the last picture above. 71...Rg2 72.Kc4 Rxg6 73.Kb3 Re6 74.Ka2 Re7 75.Ra6 Rb7 76.Ra4 Ke7 77.Ra6 Kd7 78.Rh6 Kc7 79.Rg6 Rb6 80.Rg5 Kc6 81.Rg6+ Kb5 82.Rg5+ Ka4 83.Rg4+ Rb4 84.Rg8 Rc4 85.Ra8+ Kb4 86.Rb8+ Kc3 87.Ra8 Kc2 88.Rc8 Kd3 89.Rd8+ Kc3 90.Rg8 Rc5 91.Ra8 Kb4 92.Rb8+ Rb5 93.Rg8 Bd4 94.Rg3 Kc4 95.Rxa3 Rb2+ 96.Ka1 Kd5!

Whatever White plays black has a deadly discovered check on the next move. 0-1. [Click to replay]

Post Scriptum

  1. During his stay in Argentina Karpov told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that he is ready to face Bobby Fischer. He said the possibility of such a match depended solely on Fischer and getting sponsors. "Fischer is hardly predictable. It depends on him, and of course, on the sponsors. Fischer is always interesting, but he wants to play his chess. That's no problem – we can play his chess."

  2. We have received the moves of the game Karpov vs Maradona, which was four moves long. Ezequiel Matias of Buenos Aires watched Maradona's talkshow and jotted them down: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.Nc3 and draw. No dramatic novelty in this game.

  3. Christian Sánchez of Rosario, Argentina, took some pictures of the Karpov-Maradona match:


    Karpov playing blindfold


    The "human chess" position after 1.e4 e5


    The final position in which Maradona (inset) offered a draw.


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