Karpov was born in Zlatoust in the former Soviet Union and learned to play chess at the age of 4. At age 12 he was accepted into Mikhail Botvinnik’s super-prestigious chess school. He became the youngest Soviet National Master in history at 15, and won in his first international chess tournament several months later. In 1967 he took 5th in the Soviet Junior Chess Championship and won the European Junior Chess Championship several months later. But his career really took off in 1969 when he became the first Soviet player since Boris Spassky (1955) to win the World Junior Chess Championship with a score of 10 out of 11.Soon afterwards he tied for 4th place at an international tournamnent in Caracas, Venezuela and became the world’s youngest Grandmaster.
The 1970’s showed a major improvement in his game. His Elo rating shot up from 2540 in 1971 to 2660 in 1973, when he came in 2nd in the USSR Chess Championship and placed first in the Leningrad Interzonal Tournament. The latter qualified him for the 1974 Candidates cycle, which determined who was allowed challenge the reigning World Champion, Bobby Fischer.
In 1978, Karpov’s first title defence was against Viktor Korchnoi, the opponent he beat in the previous Candidates tournament. The situation was vastly different from the previous match.In the intervening years Korchnoi had defected from the Soviet Union. The match was played in Baguio in the Philippines, and a vast array of psychological tricks were used during the match, from Karpov’s Dr. Zukhov who 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 flag when he was denied the right to play under Switzerland’s, 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.
Karpov’s tournament career also reached a peak at the exceptional Montreal “Super-Grandmaster” 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. Meanwhile, he had also won the prestigious Linares tournament in 1981 (and again in 1994), the Tilburg tournament in 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, and 1983, and the USSR championship in 1976 and 1983 (and again in 1988).
The 1984 World Championship between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. Kasparov en la left. Karpov is on the right, Kasparov on the left.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 in 1984, Karpov quickly built a 4-0 lead, and needed only two more wins to keep his title. Instead, the next 16 games were drawn, and it took Karpov until Game 27 to finally win a 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 suddenly won Game 47 and 48, Karpov suffered a mental and physical breakdown, having lost 22 pounds over the course of the match. The FIDE President controversially terminated the match, which had lasted an unprecedented four months with five wins for Karpov, three for Kasparov, and an staggering forty draws. A rematch was set for the following year. In a hard fight, featuring a incredible blunder by Karpov in the final game, Karpov lost his title 11 to 13 in the 1985 match, ending his ten year reign as champion.
Karpov’s playing style is solidly positional, taking no risks but reacting mercilessly to any tiny errors made by his opponents, also referred to as the boa constrictor style. As a result, he is often compared to his idol, the famous Jose Raul 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.”
People believed Karpov’s style was always bland, but he was capable of brilliant attack (for example, Torre-Karpov, Bad Lautenberg 1976 shows Karpov provoking his opponent to overextend then counterattacking through the centre with a pretty pawn sacrifice).Though he keeps his opening repertoire relatively narrow (he likes to stick to the Queen’s Indian and Caro-Kann Defences), his middlegame is solid and his mastery of the ending in particular unparallelled. It is also said that he exploits even the smallest advantage in space better than anyone else in history.
Official website: http://www.matchkarpovkasparov.com/ingles/inicio/karpov.html