Portrait of a World Champion

Anatoly Karpov (23 May 1951)

Anatoly Karpov

Karpov was born in Zlatoust, Russia, on May 23, 1951, He demonstrated talent at an early age and was rewarded financially while gathering international acclaim during his reign as World Champion between 1975 and 1985. Karpov continually supports chess with schools and outreach programs worldwide.

He learned the rules of chess when he was four. His early skills were developed in the Soviet way, with long hours of practice and intensive coaching. In 1969, Karpov won the World Junior Championship.

Karpov continued improving and he became a grandmaster at the age of 19. He defeated Kortschnoj and this made him eligible to play in the World Championship in 1975. This was not to be, however, as Bobby Fischer chose to forfeit his title. As a result, Karpov was declared World Champion by default. In 1978 and 1981, Karpov successfully defended his title against Kortschnoj. By this time, Kortschnoj had defected from the Soviet Union, so Karpov's successes gained him the approval of the then-President Leonid Brezhnev. His role of World Champion made Karpov a popular figure in the Soviet Union, as well as a millionaire, In 1984, Karpov faced his fellow countryman Kasparov in the World Championship. The match turned into a marathon, with the series of games that continued for five months. The match ended when the FIDE president Florencio Campomanes suspended play, expressing concern for the players' health. With no decisive outcome, Karpov held on to the title. However, the following year in 1985, Kasparov defeated him to dethrone him from the World Champion seat. Karpov unsuccessfully challenged Kasparov again in 1986, 1987 and 1990. In 1993, Karpov regained the FIDE World Champion title, but this only happened after Kasparov left FIDE to form the PCA. Karpov remained FIDE World Champion till 1999.

In 2010, Karpov ran for the FIDE presidency. He obtained the support of many chess federations by promising to eradicate corruption in chess and to raise its profile. His rivalry with Kasparov had waned over the years, and the latter gave Karpov his endorsement. However, Karpov was defeated by FIDE's sitting president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Karpov has created chess schools in some countries and he has been involved in programs that teach prison inmates chess. Though not as frequently as in previous years, Karpov continues to play chess himself. In 2012, he jointly won the Anatoly Karpov Trophy, which had been named in his honour. He also participated with Kasparov in exhibition games, including a rapid and blitz match that marked 25 years after their first World Championship match. Karpov's autobiography states that "Chess is my life, but not all of my life is chess.". He is also a UNICEF ambassador and chair of the International Association of Peace Foundations. However, he is best remembered for his chess achievements that have come to define his whole life.

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