Archive for the ‘Karpov’ Category

Anatoly Karpov Speaks Out in Video

June 29, 2010

As the editorial chairman of, I’ve personally conducted video interviews with many interesting thought leaders, including evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins , New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, and novelist John Irving.  Now I’ve had the honor of interviewing the first chess player for Big Think, grandmaster Anatoly Karpov.  The interview was posted today on Big Think.  Here’s the blog post that went up on Big Think when the interview went live:

“Anatoly Karpov, the twelfth world chess champion, is one of the most successful chess players in the history of the game.  The Russian grandmaster was the world champion for a decade, from 1975 to 1985, and he held the No. 1 position on the international chess rating list for 90 months, second only to his archrival, Garry Kasparov.

“In his video interview with Big Think, Karpov shares the secret of his success: his fighting spirit, which serves him well not just at the chessboard but in the rest of his life, too.  Karpov also reveals his prime weakness as a player—his laziness in studying chess opening-move theory—and how he had to turn that into a strength, by learning to play the inferior positions he sometimes achieved owing to his lack of theoretical knowledge.  He also dissects Kasparov’s strengths and flaws, and says that Kasparov can be blinded by fear when his king is in danger.

“Karpov is still a strong tournament competitor, but these days he is focused on chess politics and is fighting to succeed Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as the president of FIDE, the world chess federation.  Karpov and his team have accused Ilyumzhinov—who famously claimed to have been whisked aboard a spaceship by yellow-robed aliens—of corruption and mental instability.  But madness—and accusations of madness—are nothing new to chess.  The only two Americans to reach the No. 1 spot in the chess world, Bobby Fischer in the early 1970s and Paul Morphy in the late 1850s, were both crazy and paranoid.  Karpov himself emphatically told Big Think that you don’t have to be mad to play strong chess and he shares his impressions of Fischer.”

David Blaine Meets Fabiano Caruana

July 30, 2007

Happy birthday, Fabiano Caruana. The country’s youngest grandmaster* ever turns 15 today. I have fond memories of a chess event, when Fabiano was 10, where he almost abandoned the game. I write about the event in King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game.

In December 2002, Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov, who had perhaps the bitterest rivalry in the history of chess, came together for old time’s sake for a two-day match in the ABC Studios in Times Square. The two veterans played two games of rapid chess a day, at the brisk time control of twenty-five minutes apiece with ten seconds added for each move.

The organizer of the match had asked me to help him with the staging of the match. He asked me if I knew a celebrity who understood enough about the game to be able to make the honorary first move. (The first move is, in fact, chosen by the player with White, but you still want someone who can perform it without, say, pushing the king pawn an extra square or making a knight hop in the shape of a V instead of an L.)

I am friends with David Blaine, the magician and endurance artist—we’ve played chess together—and I thought he’d enjoy meeting Kasparov. “Chess is like magic,” David once told me. “You always have to stay one step ahead of your opponent—or your audience.” The television cameras were rolling when Kasparov and Karpov swaggered up to the board and watched David pick up a White pawn. With an agonizing expression on his face, David grunted and squeezed the pawn, like the strongman at a carnival, until he’d crushed it into a cloud of dust. The match arbiter started berating David on camera because the pawn he destroyed was irreplaceable. Like each of the other chessmen, it was uniquely equipped with a microchip so that the electronic circuitry in the chessboard could sense what square the pawn was on and broadcast the full game position over the Internet to hundreds of thousands of chess fans around the world. The arbiter was angry, but the champions were laughing—a rare display of levity for them at the start of one of their matches. Needless to say, David made the crushed pawn rematerialize and the match, and Internet transmission, began without a hitch.

David asked me which kid in the audience was particularly talented in chess, and I directed him to Fabiano. He did some card magic for the ten-year-old, who was then small for his age. The future grandmaster was bedazzled and asked David to perform trick after trick. He paid much more attention to the knaves in David’s deck than to the knights on Kasparov’s chessboard. Later, Fabiano asked me how much work it took to be a magician; he said he wanted to master David’s tricks. When I explained that it required even more prepration and practice than chess, he dedided to stick to the royal game.

*He is really a grandmaster elect because the title must still be approved by FIDE, the world chess federation.

Is the Twelfth World Chess Champion a Billionaire?

July 17, 2007

The current issue of New in Chess has a tantalizing blurb on whether Anatoly Karpov is a billionaire. In January, a Russian company called Petromir reported that they had found a new gas field in eastern Siberia, and financial analysts valued the company at more than one billion dollars. Karpov, the world chess champion from 1975 to 1985, was once the sole registered owner of Petromir, although it is unclear what stake he has in the company today. It would be interested if perhaps the greatest positional player in history was also by far the richest.

Garry KasparovKarpov’s arch-rival and successor on the world throneis doing pretty well on the speaking circuit, reportedly earning $50,000 a talk.  But that’s a rounding error and chump change if you’re a billionaire.


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