Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov (Анатолий Евгеньевич Карпов; born May 23, 1951) is a Russian chess grandmaster and former World Champion. He was undisputed World Champion from 1975 to 1985, repeatedly challenged to regain the title from 1986 to 1990, then was FIDE World Champion from 1993 to 1999.
His tournament successes include 161 first-place finishes. He had a peak Elo rating of 2780.
Karpov beat Lev Polugaevsky by +3=5 in the first Candidates' match, to face former World Champion Boris Spassky in the next round. Karpov was on record saying that he believed Spassky would easily beat him and win the Candidates' cycle to face Fischer, and that he (Karpov) would win the following Candidates' cycle in 1977.
Most expected the Spassky-Karpov match to be a one-sided rout by the ex-champ Spassky. Although Spassky won the first game as Black in good style, tenacious and aggressive play from Karpov secured him a match win by +4-1=6. Karpov was certainly not hurt by the fact that Spassky's chief opening analyst, 1955 Soviet Champion Efim Geller, defected to Karpov's side several months before the match.
The Candidates' final was set in Moscow against fellow Soviet Viktor Korchnoi, a notable fighting player. Korchnoi was a Leningrad resident who had frequently sparred with Karpov after the latter moved there, and the two had played a drawn six-game training match in 1971. Intense games were fought, including one "opening laboratory" win against the Sicilian Dragon. Karpov went up 3-0, but tired towards the end and allowed Korchnoi two wins, making for a nervy finish. However, Karpov prevailed +3-2=19. Thus he won the right to challenge Fischer for the World Championship.
Garry Kasparov argued that Karpov would have had the better chances, because he had beaten Spassky convincingly and was a new breed of tough professional, and indeed had higher quality games, while Fischer had been inactive for three years. Spassky thought that Fischer would have won in 1975 but Karpov would have qualified again and beaten Fischer in 1978.
Karpov participated in nearly every major tournament for the next ten years. He convincingly won the very strong Milan tournament in 1975, and captured his first of three Soviet titles in 1976. He created the most phenomenal streak of tournament wins against the strongest players in the world. This tournament success even eclipsed the pre-war tournament record of Alekhine. Karpov held the record for most consecutive tournament victories (9) until it was shattered by Garry Kasparov (14).
In 1978, Karpov's first title defence was against Viktor Korchnoi, the opponent he had defeated in the previous Candidates' tournament. The situation was vastly different from the previous match, because in the intervening years Korchnoi had defected from the Soviet Union. The match was played at Baguio in the Philippines, and a vast array of psychological tricks were used during the match, from Karpov's Dr. Zukhar who allegedly attempted to hypnotize Korchnoi during the game, to Korchnoi's mirror glasses to ward off the hypnotic stare, Korchnoi's offering to play under the Jolly Roger when he was denied the right to play under Switzerland's flag, to Karpov's yogurt supposedly being used to send him secret messages, to Korchnoi inviting two local cult members (on trial for attempted murder) into the hall as members of his team.
The off-board antics are better remembered than the actual chess match. Karpov took an early lead, but Korchnoi staged an amazing comeback very late in the match, and came very close to winning. Karpov narrowly won the last game to take the match 6–5, with 21 draws.
Three years later Korchnoi re-emerged as the Candidates' winner against German finalist Dr. Robert Hübner to challenge Karpov in Merano, Italy. This time the psychological trick was the arrest of Korchnoi's son for evading conscription. Again the politics off the board overshadowed the games, but this time Karpov easily won (11–7, +6 -2 =10) in what is remembered as the "Massacre at Merano".
Karpov's tournament career reached a peak at the exceptional Montreal "Tournament of Stars" tournament in 1979, where he ended joint first with Mikhail Tal ahead of a field of superb grandmasters like Jan Timman, Ljubomir Ljubojevic, Boris Spassky, and Lubomir Kavalek. He dominated Las Palmas 1977 with an incredible 13.5 / 15. He also won the prestigious Bugojno tournament in 1978 and 1980, the Linares tournament in 1981 and 1994, the Tilburg tournament in 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, and 1983, and the Soviet Championship in 1976, 1983, and 1988.
Karpov represented the Soviet Union at six Chess Olympiads, in all of which the USSR won the team gold medal. He played first reserve at Skopje 1972, winning the board prize with 13/15. At Nice 1974, he advanced to board one and again won the board prize with 12/14. At La Valletta 1980, he was again board one and scored 9/12. At Lucerne 1982, he scored 6.5/8 on board one. At Dubai 1986, he scored 6/9 on board two. His last was Thessaloniki 1988, where on board two he scored 8/10. In Olympiad play, Karpov lost only two games out of 68 played.
To illustrate Karpov's dominance over his peers as champion, his score was +11 -2 =20 versus Spassky, +5 =12 versus Robert Hübner, +6 -1 =16 versus Ulf Andersson, +3 -1 =10 versus Vasily Smyslov, +1 =16 versus Mikhail Tal, +10 -2 =13 versus Ljubojevic.
Karpov had cemented his position as the world's best player and world champion when Garry Kasparov arrived on the scene. In their first match, the World Chess Championship 1984, held in Moscow, Karpov quickly built a 4-0 lead, and needed only two more wins to keep his title. Instead, the next 17 games were drawn, and it took Karpov until Game 27 to finally win another game. In Game 31, Karpov had a winning position but failed to take advantage and settled for a draw. He lost the next game, but drew the next 14. In particular, Karpov held a solidly winning position in Game 41, but again blundered terribly and had to settle for a draw. After Kasparov won Games 47 and 48, FIDE President Florencio Campomanes controversially terminated the match, citing the health of the players. Karpov appeared to be in worse health, having lost 10 kg (22 lb) over the course of the match, and lost the last two games. The match had lasted an unprecedented five months, with five wins for Karpov, three for Kasparov, and a staggering forty draws.
A rematch was set for later in 1985, also in Moscow. In a hard fight, Karpov had to win game 24 of the 1985 match to retain his title, but lost it and the title 11 to 13 (+3 -5 =16), ending his ten-year reign as champion.
In their five world championship matches, Karpov has 19 wins, 21 losses, and 104 draws in 144 games.
Karpov is on record saying that had he had the opportunity to fight Fischer for the crown like Kasparov had the opportunity to fight him, he (Karpov) could have been a much better player as a result.
It came as a surprise, then, that Karpov lost a Candidates Match against Nigel Short in 1992. But in 1993, Karpov reacquired the FIDE World Champion title when Kasparov and Short split from FIDE. Karpov defeated Jan Timman – the loser of the Candidates' final against Short. Once again he had become World Champion, and once again he did so controversially, only winning the title because of the absence of Kasparov and Short.
The next major meeting of Kasparov and Karpov was the 1994 Linares chess tournament. The field, in eventual finishing order, was Karpov, Kasparov, Shirov, Bareev, Kramnik, Lautier, Anand, Kamsky, Topalov, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Illescas, Judit Polgar, and Beliavsky; with an average ELO rating of 2685, the highest ever to that point, meaning it was the first Category XVIII tournament ever held. Impressed by the strength of the tournament, Kasparov had said several days before the tournament that the winner could rightfully be called the world champion of tournaments. Perhaps spurred on by this comment, Karpov played the best tournament of his life. He was undefeated and earned 11 points out of 13 possible (the best world-class tournament winning percentage since Alekhine won San Remo in 1930), dominating second-place Kasparov and Shirov by a huge 2.5 points. Many of his wins were spectacular (in particular, his win over Topalov is considered possibly the finest of his career). This performance against the best players in the world put his ELO rating tournament performance at 2985, the highest performance rating of any chess player in any tournament in all of chess history.
Karpov defended his FIDE title against Gata Kamsky (+6 -3 =9) in 1996. However, in 1998, FIDE largely scrapped the old system of Candidates' Matches, instead having a large knock-out event in which a large number of players contested short matches against each other over just a few weeks. In the first of these events, champion Karpov was seeded straight into the final, defeating Viswanathan Anand (+2 -2 =2, rapid tiebreak 2:0). But subsequently the champion had to qualify like other players. Karpov resigned his title in anger at the new rules in 1999.
Karpov usually limits his play to exhibition events, and has revamped his style to specialize in rapid chess. In 2002 he won a match against Kasparov, defeating him in a rapid time control match 2.5-1.5. In 2006, he tied for first with Kasparov in a blitz tournament, ahead of Korchnoi and Judit Polgar.
Karpov's "boa constrictor" playing style is solidly positional, taking no risks but reacting mercilessly to any tiny errors made by his opponents. As a result, he is often compared to his idol, the famous José Raúl Capablanca, the third World Champion. Karpov himself describes his style as follows: "Let us say the game may be continued in two ways: one of them is a beautiful tactical blow that gives rise to variations that don't yield to precise calculation; the other is clear positional pressure that leads to an endgame with microscopic chances of victory.... I would choose the latter without thinking twice. If the opponent offers keen play I don't object; but in such cases I get less satisfaction, even if I win, than from a game conducted according to all the rules of strategy with its ruthless logic."