Anatoly Karpov


Anatoly Karpov : biography

May 23, 1951 –

Among the many tournaments organized, some particularly stand out because of history or category. This tabulation gives an overview of the number of wins in the major recurring chess tournaments and world championship matches.

Linares (1978) Wijk aan Zee (1938) Dortmund (1928) Tal Memorial (2006) M-Tel Masters (2005) Nanjing Super-GM (2008) London Chess Classic (2009) Biel (1968) Fide Grand Prix (2009) Bilbao Masters (2008) WC match/tournament Total won
Karpov 2 2 1 3 6 14

Early life

Karpov was born on May 23, 1951 at Zlatoust in the Urals region of the former Soviet Union, and learned to play chess at the age of four. His early rise in chess was swift, as he became a Candidate Master by age eleven. At twelve, he was accepted into Mikhail Botvinnik’s prestigious chess school, though Botvinnik made the following remark about the young Karpov: "The boy does not have a clue about chess, and there’s no future at all for him in this profession." Karpov acknowledged that his understanding of chess theory was very confused at that time, and wrote later that the homework which Botvinnik assigned greatly helped him, since it required that he consult chess books and work diligently. Karpov improved so quickly under Botvinnik’s tutelage that he became the youngest Soviet National Master in history at fifteen in 1966; this tied the record established by Boris Spassky in 1952.

Notable games

  • Karpov sacrifices a pawn for a strong center and queenside attack.
  • Karpov sacrifices for an attack that wins the game 20 moves later, after another spectacular sacrifice from Karpov and counter-sacrifice from Sax. It won the tournament’s first brilliancy prize. This was not the first time Karpov used the sharp Keres Attack (6. g4) – see his win in
  • features a sham sacrifice of two pieces, which he regains with a forcing variation culminating in the win of an exchange with a technically won endgame.


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.

Candidate to FIDE Presidency