One of the sub-events in Groningen over the Christmas holiday was a 4-game match between former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov and Dutch great Jan Timman. The match commemorated their FIDE World Championship match 20 years prior, and finished with the same result: Karpov won. The first three games were drawn, but Karpov won a nice technical game to close out the match - have a look.
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According to the Zurich Christmas Open website, Viktor Korchnoi had to cancel his participation in the tournament due to health reasons. Here's the Google Translate version:
Unfortunately, Viktor Korchnoi can not fulfill his wish of participating in the traditional tournament. Health reasons force him to stay at home. We wish him a speedy recovery and all the best in the coming year.
For those of you looking to get your fix of old-timey chess players, Anatoly Karpov and Jan Timman are playing a four-game rapid (40' + 30") match. Game 1 was played earlier today and was drawn in a fairly dull game, thanks to Karpov's unfortunate but understandable continued advocacy of the Scandinavian with 3...Qd8.
As intriguing as many find the upcoming world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, there is as yet no rivalry in chess history that compares with that between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. They played five world championship matches in a six-year period, comprising 144 games in total (no wimpy 12-game matches for those two), and in all of them the outcome was unclear until very near or even at the very end.
Here is a video compiling both photos and footage of their rivalry from a simul battle in the mid-70s through their rapid and blitz match in 2009. A remarkable highlight to me is the footage of the end of the Seville match in 1987, which must have been one of the most shattering events of Karpov's career - if not his life. To look at Karpov (at the 9:00 mark; see the next 75 seconds or so as well) when he resigns the 24th game is to be amazed. Just to judge by outward appearances, he looks no more disappointed than many of us would be after losing a game at our local club. I've been unhappier after losing blitz games than he seems to be. That kind of remarkable composure probably helped him a great deal in his career.
When we left off yesterday in our Cap d'Agde recap, Anatoly Karpov had drawn the first game of his semi-final with Mariya Muzychuk while Etienne Bacrot had defeated Vassily Ivanchuk. After that, Karpov defeated Muzychuk in a long and eventful ending to make it to the final. First it was a knight vs. bishop ending, then a fascinating pawn ending, and then a queen ending Karpov pulled out after more than 100 moves. Bacrot then defeated Ivanchuk a second time, and Saturday's final was set.
Karpov and Bacrot drew both rapid games (25' + 10"), and so the match moved on to a blitz phase (), and only here did Karpov taste defeat for the first time in the entire tournament. Unfortunately for Karpov, he lost both games - and despite having won positions in both. In the first, blunders near the end cost the game, while in the latter he was still winning in the final position and so presumably lost on time. Alas - but that's blitz. Despite his tremendous success in the preliminary stage Karpov still came in second overall, but even so it was a fantastic result. Of course a very good result for Bacrot as well, and congratulations to both players are in order.
Anatoly Karpov's crazy streak continues, and he's up to six straight wins. In round 8, opening the second cycle of the preliminary round of the Cap d'Agde rapid tournament, Karpov defeated Vassily Ivanchuk when the latter blundered in a better position, and then in round 9 the ex-champ beat Mariya Muzychuk as well. Is this tournament being sponsored by the Make-a-Wish Foundation?
One fears it's too good to last, but in the meantime enjoy the fact that Anatoly Karpov, 62 years of age and retired from serious play for going on 15 years, is leading after the first cycle of Cap d'Agde with a magisterial score of 6/7. He has won four games in a row, including wins over Yannick Pelletier and second-seed Etienne Bacrot (who is in second with 4.5 points).
Starting tomorrow they'll begin the second cycle of this rapid tournament, and once that's over the top four will play elimination matches for the championship. Karpov is in great shape to qualify: Marie Sebag and Maria Muzychuk are tied for third-fourth with 4 points apiece, and I would be surprised if they maintained their placement. Half a point behind them are top seed Vassily Ivanchuk (seven draws!) and Pelletier.
Le trophée Anatoly Karpov 2013 is underway in the resort city of Cap d'Agde, France, and it will be going for a while. It's an eight-player double-round robin - or at least that's how the first stage will work. After that the top four will play a pair of knockout rounds to determine a champion. The three biggest names in the event are Vassily Ivanchuk, Etienne Bacrot and Anatoly Karpov himself. After two days and four rounds, Yannick Pelletier, Bacrot and Karpov are tied for first with three points apiece; Ivanchuk - who barely averted a loss to Karpov in round 1 - has two points.
This is almost as big a "miracle" as Notre Dame's win. It's not that Anatoly Karpov has forgotten how to move the pieces or anything, but his salad days pretty much came to an end after the mid-90s, with a few nice results thrown in the early 2000s. At the age of 61 and semi-retired for over a decade, one wouldn't expect him to defeat Vassily Ivanchuk. I don't think Ivanchuk's best is better than Karpov's best, but Karpov's best was last seen in 1996, while Ivanchuk remains in the upper 2700s and as in love with the game as ever. Ivanchuk plays constantly, studies constantly, and will be in the Candidates next spring; Karpov hasn't even bothered with world championship events in over a decade. Maybe he could win a game against Ivanchuk with a bit of good fortune, but certainly if the match continued, his age and rust and Ivanchuk's superior theoretical knowledge and current ability should win the day, right?
Not today. As in the semis, "regulation time" consisted of a pair of rapid games. Karpov struck first with Black, winning in a long ending. For some time Ivanchuk was pressing, but Karpov is nothing if not a resilient defender, and he gradually turned the tables. Still, Ivanchuk made it to an ending with rook vs. rook and knight, which isn't considered to be a terribly difficult draw. It got tricky quickly, though, and Karpov won.
Match over? Hardly. Ivanchuk obtained a positional advantage with Black in a classical Fianchetto King's Indian, and won in good style. And with that, it was time for blitz games (3' + 2"). Again, in keeping with the Notre Dame "miracle" motif, it went to "triple overtime" - 6 games were needed.
Ivanchuk started with White again, but this time he was more successful. He won a pawn shortly after the opening, and was making reasonable progress towards converting it when Karpov missed a simple mating tactic (possibly in time trouble): Ivanchuk 2, Karpov 1. No matter: Karpov generally had good results against Kasparov when the latter played the Gruenfeld in their title matches, and returning to the Exchange Variation he won what at least superficially looks like a very nice game. He sacrificed the exchange for mobile central pawns, and as passers they ran all the way to victory. 2-2.
Time for another overtime. Karpov started with White this time, and Ivanchuk reverted to a King's Indian. Karpov switched to the increasingly popular Makagonov System (5.h3), but the play against centered for a while around Black's attempts to dominate the central dark squares. This time Ivanchuk had to sac a pawn for that control, and the battle was unclear for some time. Finally, he won his pawn back and seemed to have reached a drawn ending, with White having just one small trump left: a little pressure against f7. I wouldn't have thought it would be enough to win, but - quite possibly in time trouble (it is blitz, after all) - Ivanchuk sacrificed one pawn trying to break the bind, but when he blundered a second pawn it was time to give up.
The next game was rather strange. Ivanchuk enjoyed a small edge, which he carried through to a queen ending. Karpov defended resiliently, and eventually Ivanchuk was forced to make sacrifices to try to go forward. On the last move (at least as given on the TWIC page), Karpov took a third extra pawn - and not just any extra pawn either, but White's pride and joy, the d-pawn. After that he could have played for a win if he wanted to, but apparently the shock of being able to take the d-pawn, realizing that it was safe and then executing the move took Karpov too long, and he seems to have lost on time. Ouch!
On then to the third pair of extra games. The match finally had a draw, its one and only, as Ivanchuk more successfully held in the Gruenfeld. (I'm not sure how the game actually finished, but it's a safe bet that what's on the TWIC page isn't correct.) Finally, in the sixth extra game and the eighth overall, the match finished. Ivanchuk was better in a Reti, a pawn up but not necessarily winning in an ending with rooks and opposite-colored bishops. And then...he lost on time! A pity for him, to be sure, but considering the gift win on time in the fourth blitz game it's pretty hard to feel sorry for him. Anyway, with that the Trophee Anatoly Karpov became another trophy for Anatoly Karpov, and a very impressive one at that. (I'm looking forward to seeing what his official rapid and blitz rating is going to be after this event, and where he will rank on those FIDE lists.)
So congratulations to the former world champion, and I hope that all my older readers are heartened by his exceptional achievement.