Anatoly Karpov is a Russian chess grandmaster who was the official world champion from 1975 to 1985 before being defeated by Garry Kasparov. He once again became the FIDE World Champion after Kasparov broke away from FIDE in 1993. Years later he resigned his title in protest against FIDE's new world championship rules. An exceptionally skilled player, he is counted amongst the greatest players of all time. Karpov began displaying his skills at the game at a young age—he started playing chess from the time he was four. Recognizing his talent, his parents arranged for his rigorous training in the game which ensured that he blossomed into a formidable player quite early on in life. Accepted into Mikhail Botvinnik's prestigious chess school, he went on to become the youngest Soviet National Master in history, at the age of 15. He developed his game quickly to become a grandmaster at the age of 19. He proceeded to win a series of international tournaments becoming the official world champion in 1975. He defeated Viktor Korchnoi, another Russian grandmaster, to retain his title in 1978 and 1981. His string of successes and reputation as the world champion not only earned him much international acclaim but also made him a millionaire. His reign as the world champion came to an end when he was defeated by Garry Kasparov in 1985.
Childhood & Early Life
Anatoly Karpov was born to Yevgeniy Karpov and Nina Karpova on May 23, 1951, in the former Soviet Union.
He started displaying his skills in chess when he was just four. His parents arranged training for him which greatly helped in developing the young boy’s playing technique. He became a Candidate Master by the age of 11 and was soon accepted into Mikhail Botvinnik's prestigious chess school.
Initially Botvinnik did not have a good impression of the youngster though Karpov worked hard to prove his mettle. He made significant improvement under the guidance of his coach to emerge as the youngest Soviet National Master in history, at the age of 15.
He won the annual European Junior Championship at Groningen in 1967. A teenager at that time, he was also attending high school where he excelled in academics. Following his graduation, he entered Moscow State University in 1968 to study mathematics.
He then moved to Leningrad State University from where he graduated in economics. During this time he was being coached in chess by grandmaster Semyon Furman who greatly aided the young Karpov in developing his game.
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In 1969, Karpov won the world junior championship at Stockholm. The next year, he became the grandmaster, at the age of 19. Over the ensuing years he won several tournaments which made him the official challenger to Bobby Fischer of the United States for the 1975 world chess championship.
There was much anticipation in the chess fraternity surrounding the world championship match between Karpov and Fischer. However, the match never took place as Fischer refused to play against Karpov under conditions set by the official world chess organization, the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE).
FIDE declared that Fischer forfeited his crown by refusing to play, and named Karpov the new world champion in 1975. Being crowned the world champion without playing the match was very disappointing for Karpov and he participated in nearly every major tournament over the following years in order to prove his worth.
He won the Milan tournament in 1975, and proceeded to win several other tournaments against the strongest players in the world, creating a record for most consecutive tournament victories (nine) that was later broken by Garry Kasparov. In 1978, he defended his world title against Viktor Korchnoi and beat Korchnoi again in 1981.
He was considered the world's best player and world champion in the mid-1980s when a promising young player, Garry Kasparov, emerged on the scene. The two men met for the first time in the World Chess Championship 1984. The championship was, however, abandoned under controversial circumstances after five months and several wins for both the players.
A rematch was set in 1985 in which Kasparov emerged the winner, becoming the new world champion. The professional rivalry between Karpov and Kasparov continued over the years and the two men played five world championship matches in total in which Karpov scored 19 wins, 21 losses, and 104 draws in 144 games.
In 1993 Kasparov split from FIDE and Karpov reacquired the FIDE World Champion title. He then defended his FIDE title against Gata Kamsky in 1996. However towards the end of the decade Karpov developed some differences with FIDE and ceased to be FIDE World Champion after the FIDE World Chess Championship 1999.
Karpov is also actively involved in politics and humanitarian activities. In 2010, Karpov ran to become president of FIDE but lost to the organization's sitting president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
Karpov has been actively engaged with humanitarian work from the past many years. He has served as the President of the International Associations of Peace Foundations, President of the Chernobyl Help Organization, and UNICEF’s Regional Ambassador for Central and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic states.
Awards & Achievements
In 2001, he was presented with the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 3rd class “for outstanding contribution to the implementation of charitable programmes, the strengthening of peace and friendship between the peoples.”
The Order of Friendship was bestowed upon him in 2011 for his great contribution to strengthening peace and friendship between peoples and productive social activities.
Personal Life & Legacy
Anatoly Karpov’s first marriage was to Irina Kuimova with whom he has a son. The marriage did not last long as his wife was unable to cope with the pressures of Karpov’s career as a chess player of international acclaim.
He tied the knot for the second time with Natalia Bulanova. The couple has one daughter.