ANATOLY KARPOV: "Chess has become popular again"

At the beginning of 2014, the 12th world champion was at the opening ceremony of the first Kazakhstan Chess Academy, named after Hansau Abdumalik. Two years later, Anatoly Karpov was again in Almaty, this time to open a sister branch of the same Academy. Despite his busy schedule, he found time to sit down and answer a few questions for us. 

Anatoly Evgenievich, the main event going on right now is the Candidates' Tournament. Who do you think has the best chances? 

The best chances of what (smiling)? 

Of a world championship match with Carlsen.

I think that, if Carlsen retains his current form, then none of the current challengers, in the form they are in, has a chance to beat him in a match. At least, that's how it seems to me. Of course, some of the younger ones are developing fast, Karjakin and Caruana are both improving...Nakamura is an interesting player, but he has definite problems. But even so, I think that at the moment, Carlsen is the most stable of all and has the best chance to retain his title. But the current tournament could be won by Karjakin, if he holds his nerve. He has great chances to become world champion. In fact, I think Serrgey had such prospects already some ten years ago. He was definitely almost there, but something has been lacking. 

Of course, the years march on, but Anand is still very strong. The combination of experience and preparation. But it is hard to say much right now. Apart perhaps from Topalov, any of the players could still win the event (this conversation took place before round 6. - Ed). 

You won brilliantly in Candidates tournaments organised in matches. Now we have a tournament, and the system has changed radically. How do you feel about this? 

An eight-player double round tournament is a thousand times better than a knockout, so great progress has been made. 

So you think a tournament system is more objective? 

No, matches are perhaps preferable, but they take longer and are harder to organise. Maybe it makes sense to have two tournaments of four players, with the two winners playing a final match.   

But in any case, we have a sensible system, which represents great progress. 

What do you think of Carlsen's idea of deciding the world championship with an annual knockout? 

Well, I have already expressed my view of the KO system many times...

The final quarter of the last century was the era of three great champions: Fischer, yourself and Kasparov. Does Carlsen have a chance to become another such legend? 

Yes, of course. He is still quite young and has been the strongest player in the world for some time already. We will see. Like me, he has a few weaknesses in opening preparation. He is working on this, but is still somewhat behind some of the others. But despite giving his opponents this advantage, he still wins. 

Magnus' style is often compared with yours. Is this justified? 

Yes. There are common characteristics, although our styles are not identical. I think this is because he grew up when I was dominant in the chess world and he studied the games of the world champion. And then his trainer Simen Agdestein did a got job. Magnus is good all-round. One can recall a time when there were no GMs in Norway. The first GM, Ogaard, appeared when I was already world champion. Then Agdestein, who is somewhat younger. A player with a good understanding of chess. 

… and football?

Yes, in this respect he is unique. He led the country's chess team and also played for the national football team. A very rare case! 

Will we see the 12th world champion at the board in 2016? 

I have no great plans to play. I will probably play in the annual event that bears my name in France. Nowadays, unfortunately, I do not play for my team in the German Bundesliga. Two years ago, they finished third and they are once again fighting for third. I still support them, and some of the pupils from my school play for the team.  

Which team is this?


Baden are the usual favourites?

This year it is Solingen. This is also a big surprise. They seem to have just about assured themselves first place, which is an upset. Baden have the stronger line-up, of course, but Solingen have played well, recalling their glory days of old. 

They shone in the 1970s.

Yes, in the 70s - 80s, when they fought for the European Cup. Then Koln-Porz became the top side and then Baden. .

Do you plan to play in the Russian club championship? 

No, definitely not. Now I am concentrating fully on the elections, I am registered as a candidate for Tyumen Oblast and am in the preliminary selection. There are two months to go and if everything goes well, I will go through to the next stage. 

Your Russian autobiography, "My Sister Caissa" is very good and interesting, but it ends in 1990. Do you intend to write a sequel? 

Many have asked that in the past 25 years. Usually it is magazines, offering to serialise extracts, etc. But it takes a lot of time and I am very busy with political and other work. I am currently head of the World Fund. Two years ago, we set up an ecological branch. Then I am also building my network of chess schools. I am catastrophically short of free time and simply have no time for anything else. But there is some chance of a film. 

A film of your autobiography?


That would be great. It is a shame top chessplayers are so little-known.

Now chess is becoming popular again. Although the last chess film, devoted to the Fischer-Spassky match, is just dreadful. An absolute nightmare! 

But they got Spassky fairly well, didn't they? 

No, not him nor Fischer. And despite the solid budget, they did not have a proper chess consultant, to avoid the numerous mistakes. That is just disrespectful to chess, in my view. 

Maybe you are judging from the viewpoint who knows both champions very well? 

But they have some completely ridiculous invenstions in the plot, things that have no place at all in chess. Either make a film that has no real historical figures in it, or do it right. If you want to make a film about insanity, then you can make up whatever you like. But if it is about such great figures as Spassky and Fischer, then it should be accurate. 

Is Boris Vasielevich also upset about the film? 

Frankly, I don't know. But I couldn't even stand to watch it through to the end, I hated it so much. 

Interview by Sergey Kim