GM Anatoli Karpow
Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov was born in Zlatoust (Russia) on 23 May 1951. He learnt chess at the age of 4 from his father, a successful engineer who won many awards for his innovations. His extraordinary talent was evident from an early age; at the age of 9 he qualified for Category 1, a class attained only by very strong amateur players. When Karpov was 10 he entered the school of Leonid Gratvol, a famous trainer in the former Soviet Union. Gratvol was the director of the Pioneers’ Palace in Chelyabinsk, and a very strong chess player. Many of his pupils later became grandmasters. The collaboration with Gratvol lasted a little over three years and soon bore fruit, with Karpov earning the title of Candidate Master.
Nonetheless, it was some time before Karpov achieved his first noteworthy successes. He did subsequently participate in Soviet youth and junior championships, but though he always performed respectably, the winners’ podium eluded him. The breakthrough did not come until 1966, when Karpov defeated his first grandmaster and simultaneously earned the title of “Master”. A sensation, as this title had never been awarded to such a young player before. Immediately afterwards he won his first international tournament in Czechoslovakia.
Karpov went on to achieve his first major title in 1967, winning the European Junior Championship. His first really major victory came two years later, when he became the Junior World Champion in Stockholm.
In 1970 Karpov was awarded the title of chess Grandmaster; at the time he was the youngest player to hold this honour. Soon afterwards he won his first tournaments as an adult: in 1971 he shared victory with Leonid Stein at the Alekhine Memorial Tournament in Moscow, and in 1972 he performed extraordinarily well in the Soviet team at the Chess Olympiad in Skopje, gaining 13 points from 15 games.
Karpov’s ascent towards the world championship began in 1973, when he won the Leningrad interzonal tournament with Viktor Korchnoi, thus qualifying for the candidate playoffs, which were meant to determine who would challenge the reigning world champion, Bobby Fischer. Karpov first beat Lev Polugaevsky and former world champion Boris Spassky, then just managed to keep the upper hand in a dramatic final against Viktor Korchnoi, winning 12.5:11.5. As Fisher declined to play the world championship match against Karpov, Karpov was automatically declared the new world champion.
In the period that followed, Karpov played in a large number of tournaments, winning most of them, and defended his world champion title twice (in 1978 and 1981), both times against Viktor Korchnoi. It was only in 1985 that Karpov had to relinquish his crown to the young Garry Kasparov, who beat him in four matches in 1985, 86, 87 and 1990. In each case Kasparov won only by a narrow margin, and once he only managed to pull ahead in the very last game.
In 1993, however, Karpov succeeded in making a comeback as world champion: Kasparov had broken away from the world chess federation, FIDE, and was thus excluded from the current world championship cycle. The final he had already begun was no longer recognized as an official world championship match, and FIDE decided that the two lower-ranked semi-finalists, Karpov and Jan Timman, should now compete in the final. Karpov won a clear victory, 12.5:8.5, and successfully defended his title in the period that followed, until he was ousted by Alexander Khalifman in 1999.
Karpov also achieved his greatest tournament success in this period: in 1994 he won the star-studded tournament in Linares, Spain, beating Kasparov and the Latvian Alexei Shirov by a substantial 2.5 point margin. To this day this is considered one of the most convincing tournament victories in the history of chess.
In his active period Anatoly Karpov won well over 100 tournaments, which is still a world record today. He was also awarded the Chess Oscar as the best player of the year a total of 9 times. In recent years Karpov has mainly played the role of ambassador for the “game of kings”, and has founded numerous chess school in Russia, the USA, South America and Europe. In Germany the "Karpow-Schachakademie Rhein-Neckar e.V." is named after Karpov, and in the 2011/12 season he played in the Schachbundesliga (German Federal Chess League) for the chess club SV1930 Hockenheim.