Anatoly Karpov 2007 Ukrainian TV interview. Part 2 - Kasparov and other events

Nov 29, 2014, 12:47 PM |

Read part 1 here.



I think that your confrontation with Garry Kasparov was also very sharp and political. You've already mentioned Aliev... His interested in Kasparov's win is explainable: Kasparov was half-Jew and half-Armenian, but he was born and living in Baku, and, of course, the Politburo member and former First Secretary of Azerbaijan's Communist Party Central Committee should have supported him. Alexander Nikolayevich Yakovlev, the main ideologist of perestroika, also interfered... In short, it was a battle of new and old, a bright, energetic candidate and a World Champion who apparently had to leave the way to somebody younger. How did you feel about all that?

There was a lot of unacceptable things, unexplainable things, things that I couldn't comprehend at all... Kasparov replaced Fischer and Korchnoi in a way, became the Western world's favourite. And in USSR, Yakovlev joined the Politburo; many people call him the architect of perestroika and such, but my attitude to him is peculiar.

In 1985, I came under a very strong pressure. I did understand the source, but... It was difficult to reach Aliev - he had Azerbaijan and all, but I knew Yakovlev since the time he was a Soviet ambassador in Canada, so I requested an audience with him. "Alexander Nikolayevich", I told him, "you like Kasparov... OK, you can build him a golden palace or something, but why do you badger me? I did nothing bad to the country, earned a lot of money and glory for it - why do you do this?"

He smiled condescendingly. "Why do you say so, Anatoly Evgenievich? Your opinion is distorted - where did it come from?" "You're the curator of mass media", I answered. "Turn on the TV, read any newspapers. It's completely clear and obvious - it's hard to live..." But Yakovlev didn't budge: "No, Anatoly Evgenievich, somebody is inciting you to think like that. You're wrong, we have equal respect for Kasparov and you." This amused me: equal respect? I won several World Championship matches at that point, earned more than $4 million for my homeland, and Kasparov won nothing yet!

Yakovlev understood that he misspoke, though. "We respect you more than Kasparov", he clarified. I was astonished. "I don't feel anything like that." He answered, "Well - you've joined the Party in 1979, and Kasparov did only in 1981". (Laughs)

How cynical of him.

Tell me, what more should I have said to him after that?

OK, did you feel any pressure from Kasparov himself? I heard that when it was your turn to move, the public in Moscow's Tchaikovsky Hall, those from Caucasus republics, would start to cough loudly...

It was in 1985, during the decisive games, especially the last one. The former Komsomol Central Committee First Secretary Evgeny Mikhailovich Tyazhelnikov once accidentally came to a briefing for the public in one of the rooms.

What were the instructions?

The audience members were told: when Kasparov is thinking, keep silence, and when Karpov is thinking, cough away.

Couldn't they have been silenced?

How? People had a cold!

You've already told that Kasparov would make faces, but, as far as I know, there were also other ways of influencing the opponent... 20 years ago, the famous psychological study master Yury Gorniy told me that you had a parapsychologist Vladimir Zukhar at your side, and Kasparov had Tofik Dadashev, and they even had telepathic battles or something...

They've never met, or rather never competed with each other who's stronger, but at some moment, Zukhar started to help Kasparov who paid him handsomely. Though I wasn't perturbed by that, because I knew who he was...

A crook?

No, why - he's a professor, psychologist, worked on space medicine. I worked with him because he was a sleep problem specialist...

Did you have insomnia?

Any chess player suffers from insomnia at some point. Zukhar presented himself as a unique specialist, but when time to actually act came in Baguio, rather than telling the journalist about your skills, nothing came out... The professor would do his "sorcery" for two nights: the first night, he was in an adjacent room, and the second night, he told me that he needed close contact, so he came into my room. We suffered until 5 a.m...

Until he fell asleep himself?

It was even harder for me, because I heard him whisper something. At 5:30, I just told him, "Vladimir Petrovich, don't torture yourself, let me sleep on my own." The next day, he said, "I'm sorry, Anatoly Evgenievich, you have such a robust nervous system, I just can't do anything. I can teach you how to put people into hypnotic sleep and other such things, but I cannot help you."

Is it true that Dadashev tried to hypnotize you?

You'd better ask him about this, he's not secretive about that anyway. Tofik, however, said that he worked only with Kasparov, helped him concentrate, but I saw that he was working more...

...towards you. Did he make any gestures, or perhaps say something?

No, he just stared at me intently. I can feel such things, I do pay attention to the public in general. When before the last game of 1985 match I came on stage of the Columns Hall a bit earlier, I've immediately felt that stare from the fifth or sixth row (during the game, I also felt it a couple of times). At first, I couldn't understand why some stranger would stare at me like that, but I knew that it wasn't out of simple curiosity. Later, when I met Dadashev in person, I got the proof of my suspicions. I still remember that stare...


Without a doubt, you and Kasparov will go down in history as participants of the longest, almost unending World Championship match. There was a joke: "After another move by Kasparov, Karpov mat-ed him. ("Mat" in Russian means both "a generic term for Russian taboo swear words" and "checkmate".) The prolonged struggle exhausted you both, you looked skinny, worn-out, with unhealthy lustre in your eyes... To stop this chess clinch, politicians had to interfere?

Of course - that's why Yakovlev and Aliev interfered. They demanded to stop the match when I led 5-3, thus stealing two points from me. No matter how bad I felt, Kasparov also wasn't in his ideal form, and he was hanging on in there for 21 games, from game 27 to 48. One mistake, and the match ends! Yes, Kasparov did win two games in a row, but he still had to win three more games, and I needed just one. So, they stole more than two points from me: they also took away the advantage of one good move or one opponent's mistake.

There was another joke: "Karpov doesn't want to meet Kasparov anymore, he's already got a girl." Weren't you sick of it all at that point? Did you want to call it quits?

No, why? I achieved a lot in my life after that, set a lot of records... In the tournament history of chess, I've achieved something that no grandmaster did before - neither the great Alekhine nor Kasparov. In Linares 1994, 14 best players in the world took part; Kasparov shared second place with Shirov, and I finished 2.5 points ahead of them. And even though I was the FIDE world champion, and Kasparov was the PCA world champion, he was considered a favourite because he defeated me in matches. But in the tournament, Garry Kimovich barely managed to draw me.

I had a better position, and he was in time trouble. I needed nothing at that point: we played in the penultimate round, and draw guaranteed me the first place. I played complacently, and Kasparov managed to escape, but still, finishing 2.5 points ahead of the field was a record. I was the first one in chess history to give an Elo 3000 performance.

How do you meet with Garry Kimovich now? Do you still hate each other, or do you have a good working relationship?

It's even harder with Kasparov than with Korchnoi, because he only respects himself. His priorities are "Kasparov and chess" rather than "chess and Kasparov": he loves himself, and only through himself, he loves the game. Korchnoi, on the other hand, just loves chess (though, of course, he does love himself in chess as well).

In the last years, Kasparov actively got into politics, harshly criticizing President Putin and Russian government in general. Does he really think like that, or just plays a role?

Perhaps he thinks like that, perhaps just plays a role... But he's been playing that role for quite some time now. He's a columnist for Wall Street Journal, and he has to be scandalous, unusual, controversial to attract readers. As I understand, Kasparov gets good money from that (not that I want to look into his pockets, this doesn't interest me at all)... If he would assume a balanced or pro-Russian position, it will harm his readership and his bank balance.

The Kalmykian president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who's also the leader of FIDE, seems an enigmatic figure for me. Is he a con man or something, or he just really loves chess?

You know... (pause) Yes, he loves chess. Earlier, I was opposed to him, but now, our relationship has slightly improved, or should I say, even greatly improved, when I said I wasn't going to compete for the FIDE president position. I think that I was a big threat for Ilyumzhinov, because the world looks at many events (including my matches with Kasparov) differently. So, when I refused to compete with him, he understood that it was better to befriend me than to remain an enemy. By joining the forces, we can do many things, especially in Russia.

Having said that, I've also said a lot of times that Ilyumzhinov was ambiguous: he did many good things for chess and many bad things. I value his own contributions to FIDE, but his personnel selection is quite questionable. Remember, for instance, the "toiled scandal" between Kramnik and Topalov - it only took place because the World Championship appealing committee's selection was clearly wrong. It consisted of Ilyumzhinov's friends and those who supported him in advertising and election campaigns. I think that Ilyumzhinov finally understood after those events that the people should be appointed on the basis of their expertise, or else they just spend the Federation's money and show himself in the bad light.

About money, by the way. Leading chess players take part in tournaments with huge prize funds, but are they wealthy themselves?

Very few of them are. In chess, the gap between high and highest levels is wide, so the prize money for matches and tournaments are incommensurate: in the former case, we're talking millions of dollars, and in the latter, just $100-150 thousand. Those who manage to get to the highest level and challenge for the World Championship, get good money. Others belong to the middle class at best.

In the Soviet times, you personally probably earned much less than you gave away to the government. How much did you get and how much did you give away?

The difference was enormous, even though chess were in a privileged position - we were the USSR's calling card in the world, so we, as "great culture personalities", weren't robbed as much. For the Baguio match, for instance, I received 12% of the prize money, and gave 88% away to the state.

How much was 12%?

$60,000 or so.

In that time? How did you spend that sum?

There was no problem in spending... I converted some of those money into currency certificates, gave some to my parents. They weren't particularly in need, and when they eventually started to convert those certificates, my mother suddenly found $2,000 in her money box. "Listen", she said, "I have even more money." I smiled, "That's good that you found them now."


In the late 70's, only three people had Mercedes 350's in Moscow: Brezhnev, Vysotsky and you. How it felt to go in such a car around the Moscow streets?

Wonderful! For a time, I even drove it myself - it was such fun. Even foreign ambassadors didn't have such cars at the time: I would approach the traffic lights, and as soon as there was green light, I would immediately take the lead - there weren't a lot of cars on our streets back then, anyway.

And it was impossible to steal the Mercedes - what would you do with it?

It was probably possible, but... Still, in that car, I felt completely safe, because I largely was on the road alone, ahead of other cars. It felt like all Moscow was for me.

Didn't our officials scorn you, like, "Anatoly Evgenievich, it's not modest - you shouldn't show off like that"?

No, but there was a funny story with that Mercedes.

In Germany, I won an open championship, then there were some other performances, and the West Germany chess federation decided to award me with a Mercedes car. I came to the factory, took it, and then informed our ambassador, Valentin Mikhailovich Falin, about the gift. He immediately warned me about possible troubles. "Anatoly Evgenievich", he said, "it's not enough to win a Mercedes - you also have to get a permit for importing it. Still, I think that you should accept the car, and, as an ambassador, I approve it." Then he added, "Call me three days later, I'll send an inquiry to Moscow." I was to stay in Germany for a little while, so it wasn't a problem.

As I learned later, the first answer from the foreign trade ministry was "No". Though the decision was made not by minister Patolichev himself - his deputy Kuzmin handled them on this level. Kuzmin said that I couldn't import the car and shouldn't have even accepted the gift at all. Nevertheless, Falin was very persistent. When I called him, he didn't tell me the answer he received. "Anatoly Evgenievich, call me later, it's still unclear", he said, even though it was very clear for him. He send a telegram to Gromyko...

...What a great man!

...and Gromyko himself gave his approval: "Yes, of course! What questions can there be?" When I called Falin a day later, he gave me good news, "It's all right, I've arranged everything with Moscow.

Anatoly Evgenievich, now, in the age of information technology, computers are defeating chess players. Do you think that machines are a danger to the very existence of chess?

Such matches are interesting, but I'm opposed to the idea of computers taking part in tournaments, because some people are just unable to play them. Also, the conditions are unequal, because machines have the entire history of chess in their memory, but chess players have no right to use this information. So we must either take this base away from computers, or allow chess players to consult it during the game. And don't get me started about time controls...

It's too early to mourn chess - we just need to take preparation very seriously and play any Deep Thoughts or Deep Blues as though it's a World Championship match. Sadly, most grandmasters see these matches only as opportunities to earn more money, and don't understand that they harm their future and discredit chess with their bad preparation and unwise playing. Because of such a lightweighted approach, casual chess fans and people who don't know chess at all think that computers are much stronger and cleverer than people. No, thankfully, it's not like that.

In the earlier times, millions of Soviet people had some kind of hobby: some people would collect badges, others would collect matchboxes, still others - postcards. All Soviet philatelists knew that Anatoly Karpov was the best of them. Do you still collect stamps?

I must correct you. I was considered the most famous philatelist, but there were people whose collections were much, much better. Since then, many years have passed, but I still do collect stamps. Though I don't keep it in my house - my friend, People's Artist of USSR Eugeny Raikov taught me to keep them in a bank. I appreciated his advice, though I had to get a special permit to use a bank vault.

How valuable is your collection?

It's just much safer that way - there can be all sorts of people around... Of course, my collection becomes rarer with each year. For 8 years or so, I'm a member of the club of world's 100 most famous philatelists, founded by the late Prince of Monaco. Through this club, I met Prince Albert; he doesn't know much about stamp collecting, but he's a very interesting man, member of the Internatonal Olympic Committee, he really cares about sport. It's a pity that he doesn't play chess or collect stamps, but the greatest stamp museum is located in Monaco. At one exhibition, I told him about my collection, and effectively became a guide of sorts to him. The Prince entered the world of stamps for a while...


When in the mid-70's they showed chess players walking among the tables, especially in the Vremya news program, many watchers actually doubted that chess was a sport after seeing their exhausted faces and stooped shoulders. On the other hand, specialists would say that it's impossible to play chess in a bad physical condition. I've heard that you liked billiards much, even played Gorbachev and Yeltsin. I don't know whether it's true...

Completely true! I played Gorbachev a long time ago; he wasn't a strong billiards player, and it's quite unlikely he made any kind of progress now. To be honest, I don't remember how Yeltsin played. Perhaps a bit stronger, or on the same level... I'm not a bad player myself. I liked to rest from chess at the billiards table. When you make a good stroke, you get aesthetic pleasure, and it's also a form of communication. I've spent quite a lot of time at the billiards table with our best hockey players - Vikulov, Petrov, Kharlamov - and had much fun.

It's almost like Vysotsky: "We've played ten games with Tal..."

"...Preferans, Blackjack and billiards." By the way, many chess players played billiards well: Petrosian, Geller, Polugaevsky, Taimanov... Korchnoi also was an okay player, but worse than them.

The owner of a well-known casino network told me that they have a list of undesirable visitors. "Of course", he said, "we're very wary of chess players, because they can easily remember cards and have good analytical skills." Are you a good card player?

I am, but I don't like casino. I don't know why - perhaps I just can't stand the atmosphere. Though I do play most card games, even Durak, and I fare well enough.

Once I played throw-in Durak with Zhirinovsky: he started to cheat, and I caught his hand. Though it wasn't too hard: he put aces into both his sleeves. When we sat at the table, Zhirinovsky brought several sealed decks and offered me to choose one. I've never learned whether all of them were tampered with, but when I opened mine, I found that they were in a non-standard pack. This immediately put me on alert, though I didn't think that Vladimir Wolfovich would cheat... "Strange", I told him, "this deck isn't packed like it should have been on the factory, what's that supposed to mean?" He shrugged it away, "It's all right", but then, when he started to skilfully pull an ace from his sleeve, I caught him.

Did Vladimir Wolfovich try to find excuses?

No. "That's why the game is called Durak", he said. "If you don't see such things, you're fool; if you do, you're clever."

Now, when Mikhail Tal's jubilee is close ahead, there are many articles about his disorderly private life. Such intellectuals, who are a bit "out of this world", would often have strange relationships with women. As far as I know, Kasparov's private life was also quite tumultuous. Was yours?

I think it's a bit quieter (laughs), though I did have some troubles. I'm into my second marriage right now; with my first wife, I've had a great son, he's now a computer graphics specialist. With my second wife, I have a beautiful daughter, she went to the first grade this year. She likes studying very much - it's a bit strange even. During the last holidays, she would ask impatiently when classes start again...

Do you think it's hard to be a chess genius' wife?

It's very hard (smiles), but I don't do chess all the time: I'm also doing a lot of community work, so I travel a lot... Such a lifestyle is very restrictive, though if my wife did like travelling, it'd be much less of a problem, but... I do have a problem with Natalia - she doesn't like long travels. She can go away from Moscow, from Russia for 7-10 days, but then starts to pine away; long-distance travels, even just for a couple of days, are also too difficult for her. We did travel a lot with her, been to Argentina, Mexico, U.S., China, Malaysia, but she doesn't enjoy that much.

In those matters, I put much hope into my daughter. Sophia's age already allows her to travel, and we're starting to discover the world with her. She's started to study geography, already knows all the European countries. Just recently, she's been to Warsaw with Natalia. My wife organized an exhibition there dedicated to one of Napoleon's battles, and Sophia suddenly found out that they were going to another country: "Isn't Warsaw Russia?", she asked. We said, "Sonechka, it was Russia once, but now it's Poland."

The girl knew that there's another language in Poland, and so in Warsaw, she would introduce herself as Zosia (she was told that it's Polish form of Sophia). The Poles would answer, "Ah, so you have a Polish name!" She liked that a lot. "What great people they are", she said.

When you met your future second wife, did she knew that you were the Anatoly Karpov?

Of course.

Do you think it affected your relationship in any way?

I don't think so. All the troubles I have are due to constant lack of time. I would like to be with my family more, especially now... My daughter grows. She's a very interesting child, I want to be with her more, and she wants to be with me, but sometimes Sophia would say, "Daddy, I haven't seen you for a long time, I feel shy."

Do you feel that your son and daughter inherited your genes, your brain, your intellect?

I'd also add "attitude to life", perhaps. I would say that about my son, but the daughter... She's still very little, but she's already so ambitious and has so serious attitude... She's into a lot of things, but when she starts doing something, she immediately declares that she should be the best: the best dancer, the best singer. If she draws, the drawing should be the most beautiful, in school she must get only the best marks. She's a perfectionist, she strives for perfection and tries to avoid the situations when someone would tell her, "You can't do something." She wouldn't stand it if she's not the very best.