Anatoly Karpov's Best Game Prizes

Anatoly Karpov's Best Game Prizes

| 21 | Amazing Games

My last two articles were about the best game prizes for Mikhail Tal (who won the most prizes — 15) and Rashid Nezhmetdinov, who came in tied for 3rd and 4th with Anatoly Karpov (10 prizes; Garry Kasparov came in second with 12).

Tal and Nezhmetdinov were pure attackers (though Tal was more well-rounded) and both tried to club their opponents to death with incredible creativity, tactical genius, and endless courage (they didn’t fear losing, so they threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at their opponents). Of course, both players pushed the envelope in that sometimes their creations were not sound, but the positions were so complex that most people simply drowned under the cascade of never-ending aggression.

Though having Tal, Kasparov, and Nezhmetdinov (all magnificent attackers) as the top best game prize winners makes sense, I was a bit surprised that Anatoly Karpov (one of my favorite all time players) was with them. I thought that perhaps Karpov’s prizes were given to him for his many positional masterpieces. But, if you look at these games, you’ll find that Karpov also crushed many of his opponents with surprising tactical mastery.

Anatoly Karpov.

The fact is that the top players are outrageously good at all areas of the game. Yes, they might have a preference for attacking chess or positional control, but if the board demands tactics or strategy, these monsters of the chessboard will skillfully do what has to be done.


This game shows us that Karpov’s attacks are usually based on positional superiority. He first creates positional plusses, and in many cases his opponent’s position falls down dead due to positional Armageddon. But sometimes those positional plusses he creates sets up tactical fireworks.


A very famous game. One might be in awe at the way Karpov turned Korchnoi’s position into a black hole of despair. However, the truth is that just about every move was analyzed by Karpov and his team before the game was played. It was bad luck that Korchnoi walked right into Karpov’s preparation.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


White, making use of his incredible positional skills, outplayed Spassky in the opening. However, when White played 19.Qa4 things went from bad to worse… UNLESS a certain sacrifice by Spassky would change the game. As a result, the game went from pure positional domination to who calculated Spassky’s combination better. As it turned out, Karpov also had a better understanding of the tactics.


Unlike Tal or Nezhmetdinov, who often attacked even if it wasn’t fully sound, Karpov only sacrificed if it gave him concrete plusses (positional or tactical) that would surely give him serious compensation. Due to this, Tatai was quite brave to go after Karpov’s pawn sacrifice. Alas, Tatai's bravery turned into foolishness and Karpov quickly pushed his opponent off the board.


A good old “rip the enemy kingside apart and force the King to run for it’s life!”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


A rare spectacle! Karpov decides to have some fun and sacrifice a bishop, though its soundness is “iffy.” Nonetheless, the chess world was happy he did it since Karpov’s play after the sac demonstrated his fantastic creativity.


This game clearly deserves a best game prize. His 18th move (18.Rd5!!) sacrificed an exchange so his bishop would eat up the light-squares and leave the black king in permanent panic mode. A really lovely game.


After all these tactical victories we now see a best prize game being given to a slow, maneuvering, positional masterpiece.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


This game had it all: Cutting edge opening ideas, super sharp play, Black makes a mistake on move 22, White pushes for a win only to make a mistake on move 24, Black takes the initiative, Karpov does a Gandalf and says to Kasparov (the Balrog), “You shall not pass!” and Karpov holds tight and saves the half point. Due to this magnificent battle, both players were given a shared best game prize.


Another theoretical opening which, by move 17, was in White’s favor thanks to 17.c5. After that Karpov did what Karpov does: he slowly but surely pushes the opponent back, eats up key squares, gains as much space as possible, improves the positioning of all his pieces, little tactics appear, and lo and behold, Karpov’s opponent falls face down in defeat.

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