Anatoly Karpov is one of the greatest chess players of all time. He became the 12th World Champion in 1975 and held this title until 1985. In 1993, he became FIDE World Champion and held this title until 1999. He had won over 160 chess tournaments and was one of the most successful and consistent chess players in the whole history.
Dominating all kinds of competitions, he had won a lot of games in a brilliant positional style. Those masterpieces are highly instructive and everyone who wants to improve at chess should learn them carefully.
In this article, we will have a closer look at the way he was playing and examine the 5 chess principles that Anatoly Karpov taught us by his games.
Anatoly Karpov was a great positional player who liked to strangle and suffocate his opponents. Often, he was depriving them of plans and ideas to such an extent that at some point they couldn’t find any good moves.
A great master of strategy and prophylaxis, he knew what his opponents were aiming for and how to prevent their ideas. Such an approach made him extremely unpleasant to play against and broad outstanding results.
He was the best at positions with little risk where he could press and torture his opponents till they collapse. Here is how he described himself: “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.”
The way he was managing the pieces is impressive. Karpov kept improving his position and also worsening the enemy position at any chance. Some of the games were ended in his favor with equal material on the board. That means that his pieces were so much better placed that even that was enough to break opponents’ resistance.
This is how Alexander Roshal described it: “When observing Karpov’s play or playing against him, one cannot help thinking that all his pieces are linked by invisible threads. This net moves forward unhurriedly, gradually covering the enemy squares, but, amazingly, not relinquishing its own.”
Playing against him was like walking on thin ice – every wrong step could become decisive. He was great at exploiting the tiniest inaccuracies made by his opponents and could convert a microscopic advantage into a full point.
Such precision when playing chess requires full concentration and a high level of energy. It could be achieved with the champion’s attitude only and shows how determined to win Anatoly Karpov was.
Once he said: “chess is a very tough game, and psychologically a tough game. And of course, chess needs a lot of qualities, human qualities. And so you must have a very strong nervous system, and then you must be well prepared; you must be able to work a lot.”
He’s widely known as a positional master, but it was just his preferred way of playing. If needed, he could be precise in wild calculations and sharp attacking positions.
Once he said: “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.”
If these principles reminded you of the way Magnus Carlsen plays, you’re not mistaken. Many people compare these two great players and see a lot of similarities. It shows that the current World Champion learned a lot from the former one, and apparently, we all should do the same.
GM Bryan Smith has assembled all of Karpov’s secrets into a beautiful 10-hour course covering his entire career, and shedding light on all of his most powerful, game-winning methods.