Karpov vs. Kasparov | World Chess Championship 1984
Karpov and Kasparov analyzing one of the games (1984). | © Photo courtesy of

Karpov vs. Kasparov | World Chess Championship 1984

| 30 | Fun & Trivia

Coming in as the number three most exciting world championship of all time is the first Karpov vs. Kasparov match, this one beginning in the fall of 1984 and stretching out over more than five months and into 1985.

The match was famously aborted, which surely added to its historical mystique in the eyes of the judges. In fact, it even ranker higher than the rematch later that year, in which Garry Kasparov beat Anatoly Karpov to become the youngest world champion ever at the age of 22 (that match finished fifth in the content team's voting).

Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov in 2017. | Photo: Mike Klein/

The match ended without a decisive winner. With match rules awarding the title to the first player to win six games, Karpov led 5-3 when FIDE president Florencio Campomanes controversially halted the grueling battle. He cited player health as the reason, despite both players wanting to continue.

Here are some stats that will surely never be matched again in any title match:

  • Counting the week break before official termination, the match lasted five months and five days
  • Of the 48 total games, 40 were draws, including a streak of 17 in a row
  • Karpov led 4-0 after nine games and had no fewer than 21 separate games to close out the match, but never got his sixth win
  • Karpov is estimated to have lost about 22 pounds during the match

Karpov began the scoring in game three when everything lined up on the b-file, but he won the game on the e-file.

In game seven, Karpov traded down into an easily-winning game. It was his only win with queens still on the board.

In his very next turn as White, in game nine, Karpov gave a master class in why knights are sometimes better than bishops in endings. Despite pawns being on both sides of the board, the knight had all the targets while the bishop had none:

Then in game 27, Karpov broke the long drawing streak and made it a seemingly-insurmountable 5-0 lead in wins. That's when Kasparov fought back.

He won his own queen ending in game 32, then won as Black in game 47 with a relentless d-pawn that made the final three moves of the game!

Kasparov, who went about three months without a win (!), then got his second in a row the next game. 

Kasparov suddenly had all the momentum despite the 5-3 deficit when Campomanes ended the match. That would end up setting up the rematch later that year, and Karpov's "rematch clause" in case he lost that one (which he did).

The long Karpov-Kasparov rivalry was truly one of the most seminal moments (or rather decades!) in chess history, and it all began with this match with no winner.

Coming up next: Number 2 on our list!

The Most Exciting World Chess Championships Ever:

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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