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Subject: Karpov

I noticed karpov now plays 1.d4 to e4 he plays the boring petroff aiming for a draw, and to d4 the nimzo which he has had great success with in past. What did Karpov play when he was world champion 75-85? Did he ever play a sharp sicilian or any interesting line he just play repeditive, draw with black, dont push too hard with white, which is what he seems to play now.



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Actually in his...

Neverending match with Kasparov he played the Sicilian as black, and more frequently the Ruy Lopez. I think he played the nimzo to 1.d4, but he also switched to the QGD once in a while.
When he first started his career the only thing he played with confidence was 1.e4. Maybe age is to blame in his jump from open to closed games.



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Means "too subtle for us to understand" :-)

Karpov can easily outplay anyone here in Petroff and it is very much likely his opponent will never realize where he went wrong. Boring? Only to the poor opponent who has no clue why his position keeps getting worse :-) Obviously there is always "the position was so boring I got careless" excuse, but how convincing it really is when you have ended up to a zugzwang in middlegame?

You can easily argue Dragon Sicilian is boring - very often it leads to hacking, straight-forward, formulated attacks we have seen millions of times before. Go For The King is just easier to understand than positional nuances. And really, is banging out memorized, Fritz-checked moves in Botvinnik Semi-Slav creativity?

Here is one boring Karpov game in the Petroff. It is from FIDE wc match from Elista 1996. Notes by GM Schwartzman.

Gata Kamsky - Anatoly Karpov

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4

Karpov chooses the other interesting alternative, 3...Ne4. A very popular variation lately, it has been subject to many interesting novelties, partly because of the intriguing positions that often result after this move.

4.Bd3 d5 5.Nxe5 Nd7 6.Nxd7 Bxd7 7.0-0 Bd6

All the moves played up to now have been played many times before. 7...Bd6, however, is not the main variation in this position. Black usually continues with the interesting 7...Qh4 followed by queen side castling and a quick offensive on the white king. The resulting positions are often very unclear, but several recent novelties have given white an edge. Karpov thus prefers to avoid them, entering the more passive positions after Bd6.


Kamsky also chooses a more discrete move, as opposed to the popular 8.c4 which after 8...c6 9.cd5 cd5 10.Qh5 0-0 11.Qd5 Bc6 gives place to a very complicated position where black tries to obtain compensation for the pawn through his active bishop play.


In two other games played last year in Europe, black chose the more conservative 8...Nc3 9.bc3 0-0, but after 10.Qh5 f5 11.Rb1 b6 12.c4 black's position is worse, and Karpov was apparently not satisfied, so he went for the more active 8...Qh4. This move has a double idea: it tries to weaken white's king side, and at the same time prevents the white queen from doing the similar maneuver Qd1-h5.

9.g3 Nxc3 10.bxc3 Qg4 11.Re1+ Kd8!

Of course, the better looking 11...Be6 is a huge blunder here, because then no one would be able to capture the queen back after 12.Qg4. 11...Be7 is also risky because of the dangerous pin on the e file.

In a game between Magem Badals and Illescas played earlier this year in Spain, black preferred to hide his king on f8. After 12.Be2 Qf5 13.c4 dc4 14.Bc4 white had the advantage, and black's rook spent a long time closed on h8. The square d8 seems at first glance much more dangerous for the black king, but it seems like Karpov's assessment of the position was very thorough, and revealed no concrete way for white to take advantage of his king's placement.

12.Be2 Qf5 13.Rb1 b6 14.c4 dxc4 15.Bxc4 Re8 16.Be3 Bc6!

Why do I give an exclamation mark to such an obvious move? After all, the h1-a8 diagonale is clearly a great place for the bishop, and it doesn't take a GM to see that. Well, that's true, but just as obvious is that white will play 17.d5 closing the diagonale with tempo and chasing the bishop away. But that's exactly what Karpov wants! By making the pawn on d4 advance, he closes the diagonale of the bishop on c4, and also makes the central pawn duo a little less dangerous by getting a better grip on the c5 square.

17.d5 Bd7 18.Bf1 h6!

Another typical Karpov move! While h7-h6 is usually played either as a waiting move or just to create an opening for the king, Karpov has very different reasons. He wants to make sure that the white bishop will not be able to gain control of the h4-d8 diagonale. You will understand better why this is so important as soon as you see what Karpov's plan is.

19.c4 Re7!

And here it is! I am pretty sure that Karpov envisioned this plan before he even played Kd8. His primary concern is still the safety of his king and getting the rook on a8 into play. He first tried to do that by trading pieces, but since Kamsky didn't seem too fond of the idea, Karpov switches to a B-plan. By pushing his rook to e7 he creates a wall of pieces that will protect the return of the king to the ideal king's side position. Then he will be able to bring his second rook to e8 and have doubled rooks on the e file. While this entire process is still much slower than castling, in this situation it's very effective.

20.Bd3?! Qf6 21.Kg2 Ke8 22.Bc2

Kamsky is preparing a big welcome party for the black king. The idea of Bc2 is to leave the d3 square for the white queen, so that when the black king finally gets to the king side, the white queen will be waiting on h7. Black can not simply push g6 to stop the white queen, because then the pawn on h6 would remain undefended. But Karpov finds another way of doing the job...


Amazing move! Karpov sends his queen alone on a mission to stop the white queen from getting to d3 and to attack the just weakened pawn on c4. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Kamsky underestimated this move - it is just the kind of move that you tend not to look at seriously once you become a GM. It is the kind of subtle move that at first glance looks awful, but when analyzed in depth reveals all its beauty. And very few players understand the positions as deep as Karpov usually does.

23.Bb3 Kf8 24.Rc1 Qf6 25.Bc2 Rae8 26.Qd3 Bg4

It seems that Kamsky had a fixation on the Qd3 plan. After all, the simple Qd3 doesn't checkmate or win a queen, and while white lost so many tempos making it possible, black developed all his pieces on fabulous squares and began to threaten the white king. Now that the queen finally got to d3, Kamsky realizes how little she can do. For instance, if white tries to play now 27.Qh7, black can reply with 27...g5, and the black king is very safe thanks to queen on f6. The white queen, meanwhile, is almost trapped. If 28. Bd1 for example, trying to get control of the f3 square, 28...Bf5 does the job. And getting out of there is not so easy either, as 28.Qd3 runs into 28...Qf3 29.Kh1 Bh3 with a winning position.

Without even noticing, Kamsky has worsened his position considerably. The black rooks are now in control of the e file pinning the bishop on e3, threats like Qf3 followed by Bh3 make the king shiver, and the white pawn structure is clearly worse, if it ever gets to an endgame. Now Kamsky would give anything to trade the queens, but he can't... Nevertheless, Kamsky should have understood the gravity of the situation and tried to regain control of the light squares on the king side. Instead, he played...


A grave blunder: Kamsky not only removes the last defender of the king, but this also allows the black rooks to directly enter the attack by infiltrating the 2nd rank. It is very hard to explain how a player of Kamsky's level can make such a mistake, but it must be reassuring for weaker players to see that even super GM's make blunders without being in time trouble. It seems like Kamsky left his sense of danger at home this afternoon... Letting black play Re2 is the worst thing that can happen to white's position, and the only way to explain Kamsky's move is that he might have overlooked 27...Re2.


And of course, Karpov doesn't need a special invitation to take advantage of this unique opportunity. Now white is defenseless. Against 28.Be3 black has 28...Qf3 29.Kg1 Bh3, and 28.Rf1 runs into 28...Rd2 29.Qd2 Qf3 30.Kg1 Bh3. How much Kamsky wishes his light squared bishop would be closer to the king right now...

28.Rxe2 Rxe2 29.Rf1

If white tries 29.Bf4, black has 29...Bf4 30.gf4 Qf4 31.Rf1 Rc2 32.Qc2 Qf3 33.Kg1 Bh3. 29.Be1 doesn't help much either, because of 29...Bc5 followed by 30...Bf2. Another typical example how a move made by Karpov almost 15 moves ago, when he forced white to play d5, turns out to be so important now... White's last attempt is to play 29.Rf1 hoping that black won't see the easy combination that follows. But as I said before, even though Karpov is probably not as good a tactician as Kasparov, he still knows enough tactics to beat any player out there. So, of course he played...


And Kamsky had no other choice than to resign, since 30.Qd2 is followed by 30...Qf3 31.Kg1 Bh3 and after the only 32.Be4 black wins easily with 32...Qe4 33.f3 Qf5 34.g4 Qf6.




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yes but now days karpov goes for a draw with black



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He skips most theoretical lines and tries to equalize first. But if his opponent gives him a chance to play for a win (advantage), of course he goes for it. I suppose Petroff suits his style and can be played without spending hours per day for studying state-of-the-art opening theory. It is well known Karpov no longer uses as much time for chess studies as he used to (it has to be noted Karpov never studied chess as much as Kasparov let alone Fischer) when he was top 1-2 player.

If you look at some tournaments from recent years, you can see Karpov has been one of the players who instead of shaking hands has played approximately equal endgames out instead of simply shaking hands. But of course chess audience kept complaining because endgames are "boring" - two players just move pieces back and forth, nothing happens. Eh? :-)



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I agree that labeling a position "boring" often signals a lack of comprehension in the accuser. What's more, why shouldn't he play for equality with Black? He's just following the golden rule of assuming maximum rationality on the part of his opponent.



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The modern Yugoslav Attk vs

the Dragon, strange as it may seem, in the manner it is now played, was virtually founded by , yes , KARPOV. In his 2 victories over Korchnoi in that opening. He showed us to dispense with g4, instead go h4, h5 directly. He pioneered the WT Nde2 retreat & following Rd3. The Yugo was early on called the Rauser Attk.
Fischer did well vs the Dragon, but was not a Yugo player, as far as I'm aware of .
From the time Fischer retired, when the WC with Karpov was never played, there was no other player in the World who could even give Karpov a good Match, excepting Korchnoi. He was virtually untouchable in Match (except for the highly controversial match with Korchnoi, who had a chance in the WC develop only to find his family being ill treated.) and TMT play for at least the next 1/2 decade. Till finally Kasparov came into the picture as a contender. Yet even he could not defeat Karpov in their first 2 matches. Clearly outclassed in the first one. And needing to use his more youthful vitality as a factor in the 2nd KK match, that I like to refer to as the DrAW TILL HE DROPS stategy by GK. Which did seem to start working after very many games, then abruptly stopped by the FIDE President, Campomanes. To replay the Match later citing AK's health. Twas very controversial & probably a travesty. The most humerous part being when Campo took the stage saying he only that moment decided, the match must be halted. But apparently, there were already handbills circlating earlier that day announcing the halt.



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looking in my database I come up with:

410 wins 754 draws and 231 losses with the black pieces

judgeing from his results it would appear that Karpov preferrs to keep the draw in hand with the black pieces. His score with the white pieces are considerably more impressive.



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Tolya The Dragon Slayer

"the Dragon, strange as it may seem, in the manner it is now played, was virtually founded by , yes , KARPOV. In his 2 victories over Korchnoi in that opening."

It is true Karpov has crushing record against Dragon, and he has certainly played several brilliant attacking games against this particular variation. It only shows no top player is simple to define - Tal knew how to play endgames and Petrosian knew how to attack...

"Clearly outclassed in the first one. And needing to use his more youthful vitality as a factor in the 2nd KK match, that I like to refer to as the DrAW TILL HE DROPS stategy by GK."

It has to be pointed out Karpov was leading 5-0 and all he had to do was to continue in same manner to sooner or later score his 6th win. But he wanted to win 6-0, no less. That is why he stopped playing active chess (to make sure Kasparov stayed at 0) and choosed to wait until Kasparov made a mistake. But Kasparov too began to play it safe and as a result there were countless draws, until finally Karpov lost his form completely.

"The most humerous part being when Campo took the stage saying he only that moment decided, the match must be halted. But apparently, there were already handbills circlating earlier that day announcing the halt."

The funny thing is neither player liked his decision! Even Kasparov points out in his book that the final decision revealed by Campo in the press conference was unpleasant surprise to Karpov, too (although in the same book Kasparov shows his great "logic" by claiming the plan was made by Campo & Karpov together, before referring to a discussion after the press conference where Karpov was opposing the decision made by Campo, until Russian authorities pursuated him to sign...). Obviously Karpov supported a break (or halting the match and continuing it later) to find his lost form, but losing his 5-3 lead...? No way. And since Kasparov was against a break, Campo made his own decision. Apparently several Russian authorities supported him because they thought Karpov was much stronger player than Kasparov. Karpov got some compensation, in other words a rematch in a situation where Kasparov wins by a margin of 2 points or less (based on 5-3 lead in first match), but Kasparov managed to win the 3rd match as well.

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