"One clear win and already tired of winning?" - An interview with Anatoly Karpov

by ChessBase
1/21/2022 – Anatoly Karpov is one of the World Champions who is featured in the ChessBase NFT series. The 12th World Champion is a passionate stamp collector and immediately understood the idea. In an interview Karpov talks about NFTs, the story behind his brilliant win against Viktor Kortschnoi in the Candidates Final 1974, the World Championship match Carlsen vs. Nepomniachtchi, and Carlsen's statements about defending the title.

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Anatoly Karpov, born in Zlatoust in 1951, was the greatest Soviet chess talent in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was supposed to bring the world title back to the USSR in a match against Bobby Fischer. But as Fischer refused to defend his title in 1975, Karpov became World Champion without a title match.

However, in the following years Karpov confirmed his role as the best player in the world with a unique series of tournament victories. In 1978 and 1981 he played two bitterly fought and tense World Championship matches against Viktor Kortschnoi. Karpov won the first one narrowly, and the second one clearly.

Karpov's five World Championship matches against Garry Kasparov between 1984 and 1990 turned into an epic duel between two chess giants. In 1993 Karpov became FIDE World Champion again after Kasparov broke with the World Chess Federation.

Karpov is one of the World Champions portrayed in the ChessBase World Champion NFT series. In an interview he talks about NFTs, his famous game against Kortschnoi given in the NFT series, the 2021 World Championship match between Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi, and about Carlsen hinting at his unwillingness to defend the title.


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.

Question: You are a big and passionate stamp collector, but what do you think about NFTs and collecting NFTs?

Karpov: These NFTs are a new topic, a new topic for the world and a new topic for collectors. I know you can use NFTs to sell digital artworks, stamps and other interesting historical documents. So it could be a step into the future

Question: What can you tell us about the game given in your NFT?

Karpov: The cover of the NFT associated with me shows a line from the Sicilian Dragon that was played in a crucial game of my match against Viktor Kortschnoi in 1974. It was the final of the Candidate Matches, which effectively became the World Championship match because Fischer later refused to defend his title. And according to the rules of the International Chess Federation, the winner of the Candidates Final was declared World Champion because the World Champion did not turn up for the match.

This is completely logical. After all, the winner of the Candidates Matches, who defeated the other top players of his time in matches proved that he is the strongest of all possible challengers and, the World Champion not counting, the strongest player in the world.

The game with Kortschnoi is an example of high tactical art in chess. I should mention that I had the idea of consolidating the knight on c3 with Nde2 while preparing for the match, and I showed this idea to Efim Geller, who was a great expert on the Dragon Variation. We decided that the idea deserved attention, but I didn't know whether Kortschnoi would play the Dragon or not. Although one of his seconds, Genna Sosonko, was a fan of this variation of the Sicilian, we thought that the chances for a Dragon appearing on the board were rather slim. That Kortschnoi would play the sharp Dragon Variation right at the beginning of the match really surprised me.

And it should be mentioned that Kortschnoi immediately deviated from my home analysis after my novelty Rd3, and I had to find the remaining moves at the board. It was particularly satisfying that this beautiful moment of the match was crowned with a great combination.

Question: Did you follow the World Chess Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi? What is your verdict?

Karpov: A few remarks about the last World Championship match: Of course, it's nice that the number of games is now higher than before, but I still think that 14 games are not enough. I have always played matches with 24 games or more, and all the matches went the full distance. Only once was I able to win a match early, in 1981, in my second World Championship match against Kortschnoi. But 14 games are not enough, because this format offers no room for risk. Today everything has become a bit flat.

In the beginning of the Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi match, Nepomniachtchi was the one who was pushing, and I think he had a decent advantage. I don't want to say he should have won, but he had a decent advantage in the first game, in the second game and in the fifth game. Two of these games ended in quick draws. In the first game Carlsen had compensation, but it should be enough for a draw at most.

White had many chances, but Nepomniachtchi played very badly, very unluckily in the middle of the game and almost lost. So: he even had the chance to lose, which is surprising after he had achieved such a good position.

And if he had played c4 at the right moment in the fifth game, his advantage would have been very unpleasant. Maybe White is not winning directly, but he has a very uncomfortable pressure and defending such positions is quite difficult.

In game six, in which he had Black, it seems as if he was very close to a win. Now, there are many people who say that the computer shows that there was no direct win, but what the computer shows is one thing, but a practical game is completely different.... under the pressure of the clock things are not so simple. 

I think, the reason for the tragic turn of the game was psychological and mental, when Nepomniachtchi realised that he had missed too many opportunities. And as they say in football, if you do not use your chances to score, your opponent will score. 

It was crucial that Nepomniachtchi failed to score in the sixth game. After that, he was only a shadow of himself. The next games were not at World Championship level. Carlsen sensed his opponent's weakness and exploited it energetically. He won, not spectacularly, but very convincingly. And in general, winning four games out of six is very rare. In fact, I can't remember anyone winning four out of six games in post-war World Championship matches. There have been some very sharp title fights, e.g. Botvinnik vs. Smyslov, where you had four wins in six games, but then both players won.

Question: What do you think ay about Carlsen's hint that he might not defend the title?

Karpov: Carlsen has proven that he is the world's strongest player and that he deserves the title. But as far as his hints are concerned – perhaps he is bored. However, one cannot say that he has beaten Caruana or Karjakin convincingly. There were questions in his match against Anand too. If he had beaten all three of them as clearly as he won against Nepomniachtchi, I would understand Carlsen. But is he already tired of winning after winning one match clearly? That surprises me a bit, but you first have to understand exactly what he means with his hints.

Because the young Iranian player is already so strong, he is the most interesting opponent for Carlsen. But to play against Carlsen, the Iranian grandmaster would first have to win the Candidates Tournament. That's how it works.


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