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Culture & Religion

Russian Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov Shares Chess and Life Lessons

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.


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