It's easy to learn from our losses (though some plucky individuals manage to avoid doing so), but learning from our wins comes much less naturally. In my column this week I start with a couple of autobiographical stories: one where I failed to learn from a game I won and one where I got it right. Then it's time to look at the pros, and we see that even the world's best can make this mistake, as Yasser Seirawan did in a famous pair of games against Anatoly Karpov in 1982. This was not the first or the last time someone has committed this error, and hopefully we can all learn from their errors and not follow in their footsteps.
Entries in Anatoly Karpov (26)
Anatoly Karpov is still a dangerous player at faster time controls, and won the 2014 edition of the annual tournament at Cap d'Agde. He again made it to the final this year, against Laurent Fressinet, and had excellent chances to win. They drew a pair of rapid games, and Karpov was winning in both of the blitz games. Alas for the 12th world champion, he went on to lose both of them due to blunders when down to his waning seconds. A fine achievement for the older player all the same, and for Fressinet as well.
There's a bit of everything. Starting with chess, there's his 1978 match with Viktor Korchnoi and parapsychology, his first match with Kasparov and (going back in time) his meetings with Fischer. Outside of chess there's his famous stamp collection, his less famous collection of chess sets, and his family life.
Anatoly Karpov probably hasn't done any serious and sustained work on chess in over a decade, but give him a decent position out of the opening and he can still compete with just about anyone. There was a two-on-two rapid & blitz match this weekend in Cap d'Agde featuring Karpov and Valentina Gunina on the Russian side taking on the French team of Romain Edouard and Marie Sebag. The first two days were rapid chess and the third was blitz, and in each portion of the match a player would face the opponents from the other country with both colors.
The Russians won handily, 11.5-4.5, and Karpov was particularly successful scoring 7-1 overall, 3.5-.5 at both time controls. Of course he was a favorite against Sebag, but he went 3.5-.5 against both Sebag and Edouard, despite the latter's enjoying a higher rating in classical chess. Karpov basically played without openings (his recent advocacy of 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 is painful for me to watch having grown up seeing him at the cutting edge of opening theory*), but once that phase of the game passed he was one dangerous hombre.
There's a nice report on the event here (HT: Allen Becker), with games and videos.
* Yes, I know that was thanks to Semyon Furman and then Igor Zaitsev, but it's painful nonetheless.
Anatoly Karpov's comment that he and Bobby Fischer were stronger than Magnus Carlsen is rather hard to believe and is almost comical, but I'll offer four remarks in his defense.
First, he prefaced it with "I think", offering a bit of a hedge. He wasn't making a categorical pronouncement.
Second, Karpov is assuming that rating inflation is obvious. Given that assumption, his supposition becomes more plausible.
Third, he notes that Carlsen is still developing. Though Karpov, like Carlsen, became the world champion in his early 20s, he didn't reach his peak in his early 20s but sometime later (in fact, his all-time highest rating was accomplished when he was 43 and his highest official rating when he was 45!). So Carlsen has plenty of time to improve even further.
Fourth, Karpov's claims may be based in part on dominance, and both he and Fischer had longer and/or clearer margins of dominance than Carlsen.
In reply, the first rebuttal makes it easier to swallow but doesn't do anything to support the claim on its merits.
Point two has been disputed by Ken Regan, who claims that there hasn't been rating inflation. (There was a brief period where there were maybe 30 points' worth of inflation, but that bump was subsequently eliminated.) In correspondence and conversation I've asked whether his model fails to take the increased depth of theoretical preparation into account, and in reply he has noted that even if we compare the players of today with those of yesteryear taking only moves 17-32 into account, there's still no good evidence of rating inflation.
Point three, like point one, mitigates the shock value of the claim but doesn't support the claim itself.
Point four is both iffy and a change of subject. Fischer's lead over the rest of the world was greater than Carlsen's, but Carlsen's lead was greater than Karpov's when the latter became champion. Karpov was then dominant for years, but as Carlsen only won the title last year the time hasn't elapsed to make the comparison of their reigns. And even if Karpov's reign proves more impressive than Carlsen's, relatively speaking, it doesn't show that he was the stronger player. Emanuel Lasker was great and was world champion for 27 years, but I don't believe that Karpov concludes that Lasker was therefore the strongest player of all time.
Anyway, it's an interesting interview, and there are other entertaining bits to be savored and disputed as well.
The documentary film Chess: A State of Mind came out in 1986 and was written by British IM William Hartston. This (almost) 30-minute piece offers a recap of the world championship from Paul Morphy (not an official champion) through the beginning of the Garry Kasparov era. It goes from Morphy through Boris Spassky pretty quickly, and then takes its time with Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov. Viktor Korchnoi gets a lot of air time in the Karpov segment, and both Korchnoi and Spassky have a bit of fun at Karpov's expense.
Young whippersnappers should watch for the history lesson, and oldsters should watch for the nostalgia.
Some pleasant recent offerings on Chess24:
Two pieces on the 12th World Chess Champion, Anatoly Karpov. The most recent one has Karpov look back at his unplayed match with Bobby Fischer, offer a short comment about the Magnus Carlsen-Viswanathan Anand match(es) and a recollection of meeting Salvador Dali. The older one offers a transcript of a Russian film that had already been available on YouTube for some time, but now English readers unfamiliar with Russian can enjoy it. It is a documentary of Karpov's training camp before the aforementioned (non-) match with Fischer. Fans of Tigran Petrosian will also want to check this out, to see him play a little blitz and hear his voice (as he's engaged in some mild trash talk with Rafael Vaganian).
Then it's time for Mikhail Tal, courtesy of Peter Svidler. There's a short interview with Svidler in which he discusses (among other things) his new video series on Tal, which is, I suspect, probably available only to members of the site. If you're a member I think you'll enjoy it, but I wouldn't really recommend signing up if this is your only reason for doing so. (Unless money is no object to you, in which case there are certain bloggers who would appreciate your support.)
At least two things struck me about the series, which I have watched in its entirety. The first is the strong emotional bond Svidler shows towards Tal, one of deep respect and feeling. The second, somewhat ironically, is a sense in many of the games that his opponents played extraordinarily poorly (at least/certainly by Svidler's standards), to a degree that one almost wonders if there has been rating deflation over the past few decades, at least if ratings are taken to represent objective strength.
A more modest claim is that they played very poorly (compared with their peers today) in the kinds of complicated positions that Tal created, which may very well be the case. Additionally, our improved skill in such positions today is explained in part by the fact that Tal arrived and forced the world to adapt, and even more by the presence of computers, which have done much to improve players' awareness of tactical resources. Whatever the story, the videos are enjoyable, so watch them if you can.
The latest Bundesliga season ended last weekend, with Baden-Baden winning for about the 30th time in a row. (Okay, it was only their ninth consecutive title. Other teams had better find rich benefactors if they hope to break this strangehold.) Levon Aronian was the special guest star helping push them over the edge to victory, scoring 2.5/3 over the final weekend to not only help them but himself as well as he aimed to recover from a poor finish at the Candidates.
More about that here, but I'd like to focus on Anatoly Karpov's surprise appearance. He played a couple of games, drawing with the lower-rated Felix Graf before defeating the 2664-rated Maxim Rodshtein in his second game, and with the black pieces. You can replay those games here, and I would especially draw your attention to Graf's unusual drawing combination in the first game. Most sacrifices involve captures - think of bishop sacrifices on h6 and h7, for example - but sometimes a piece is moved to an empty square. It's even rarer to have the first sac accepted only to have a second empty-square sacrifice on the next move, but that's just what Graf did. There are probably other examples of this happening, but I'm unable to recall any offhand. If you can think of some other examples, please share them with us!
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.
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.