Karpov Beats Sveshnikov 4-2 In Rapid Match

Karpov Beats Sveshnikov 4-2 In Rapid Match

| 30 | Chess Event Coverage

This week GM Anatoly Karpov was back at the chess board in Riga, Latvia for a rapid match with GM Evgeny Sveshnikov. The 12th world champion won 4-2 and claimed the 178th victory in his long career.

Two chess legends met for a six-game rapid match from July 7 to 9 in Riga, Latvia: the 12th world champion Anatoly Karpov (Russia) and renowned theoretician Evgeny Sveshnikov (Latvia).

Karpov became world champion in 1975 when Bobby Fischer forfeited, and was by far the strongest player for a decade. He lost the world title to Garry Kasparov in 1985, but was “FIDE world champion” from 1993-1999 during Kasparov's breakup with FIDE.

Sveshnikov is a two-time Latvian champion and the winner of international tournaments such as Le Havre (1977) and Cienfuegos (1979). He will always be connected to the variation in the Sicilian that used to be called Lasker-Pelikan but has taken his name since the 1970s. He is also an expert of the Alapin and Kalashnikov Sicilians and the French Advance.

The time control in the match was 25 minutes and 10 seconds increment per player. GM Alexei Shirov was among the online commentators. 

The two participants on the left, and Shirov giving an opening speech on the right. | Photo Matīss Sīlis.

According to the database, Karpov and Sveshnikov only faced each other three times in their careers, in 1973, 1976 and 1992. All three games ended in a draw.

Whereas Sveshnikov still plays regularly, Karpov rarely plays chess these days — he's more involved in business and politics. In 2015 he only played two blitz and two rapid games, in a small match with Ivan Morovic in January in Chili. He won 2.5-1.5. 

The Karpov-Sveshnikov match was played in the center of Riga, at the luxury Tal Residence apartment building. The name is a tribute to Latvia's legendary world champion, and the chess connection is physically present as well, as noted on the project's website:

“Architect Ingurds Lazdins has used chess motifs in the facade of the building: geometry of the bay windows represents chess figures of different heights, and combination of light and dark toned glass – an imaginative chessboard. Monoliths of pillars on the first floor, high and skyward ‘capitols,’ bearing the load of the building, represent the triumphant gesture of Tal, as his hands are raised up holding the Champion’s Cup.”

A photo of Mikhail Tal in the playing hall. | Photo Matīss Sīlis.

The first day ended in a mini-victory for Sveshnikov. After drawing the first, showing excellent defense in a rook ending, the Latvian grandmaster beat his opponent — in a Sicilian!

That's right, Karpov played 1...c5, maybe thinking “I'm not scared of your Alapin,” and Sveshnikov chose the Rossolimo (2...Nc6 3.Bb5) instead. Karpov quickly went for an ending, followed positional principles but was always very passive.


Two chess legends meet at the chess board. | Photo Matīss Sīlis.

According to Chess-News, Alexei Shirov commented: “My experience tells me that you can hardly cope with the lack of practice, irrespective of your former successes. It seems to me Sveshnikov has been more devoted to chess in recent years, and it mattered.”

Shirov added the following prophetic words: “Yet, we might see an entirely different Karpov in the coming games.”

And indeed, on the second playing day Karpov turned around the match completely, winning both games. The first saw a hectic final phase:


Sveshnikov lost on time in a drawn rook ending. | Photo Matīss Sīlis.

Game four was another Rossolimo, but this time Sveshnikov parted with his bishop pair immediately, to spoil Black's pawn structure a bit. He didn't continue very well, and by move 13 Karpov was basically already winning. 

In game five on Thursday, Karpov sealed the match with a third win in a row. It was a typical game for him, in which he kept a small advantage making use of small tactical ideas, and then increased that advantage more and more.


The great Anatoly Evgenievich in action.

The match started with a draw and also finished with a draw. The final score was 4-2 for Karpov, who recently claimed to have scored 177 victories in his career. We can now increase that number to 178!

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