Karpov: „Anand and Kramnik never really stood up to their responsibility of leading the world of chess”

Sergey Korzun, chief editor of the Russian radio channel Echo Moskvij had the honors of interviewing former World Champion Anatoly Karpov (1975 to 1985 and 1993 to 1999) for one whole hour. Whilst interviewing he worded a few opinions that probably bother not only sympathizers of Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik.


He praised Magnus Carlsen’s memory and individual playing style, but criticized his “inflexible” opening repertoire and expressed doubt about his byname ‘exceptional talent’. In Karpov’s opinion Fischer and he himself were much stronger then Magnus Carlsen is today. However, he emphasized that Carlsen has growth potential and leaves the thought whether he will ever reach the level of Bobby Fischer and himself unanswered. He does expect great things from Carlsen though.

Karpov mentioned having played against Carlsen many times, but cleverly skipped the fact that Carlsen defeated him at the age of 13.

Karpov is amazed, on the other hand, by Carlsen’s representing role as Chess World Champion and how, symbolically, he has become the leader in the world of chess. In this context he referred to the Norwegian talent’s predecessors Visvanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik as selfish figures. He thinks of them as money-oriented chess players who tried to only protect their titles through preparation. They are to be held responsible for missed opportunities and decreasing recognition of chess as a sport.

In his opinion, the challenge Anand is facing with the upcoming World Championship duel against Carlsen is “stunning”. After the last fight at which Anand had lost his title, Karpov would have never expected for him to return to competition. Karpov called Anand’s playing style against Carlsen “poor and helpless” and even guessed that he has developed a kind of “Carlsen Complex”. He did acknowledge Vishy’s outstanding performance at the World Championship qualifications, which he considers fruits of his hard preparation efforts.

Lastly, Karpov sharply criticized the value that the FIDE is giving the ELO-ratings. Such ratings as qualification criteria for tournaments are a ‘crime against check’. During his time as Chess World Champion He discussed the ELO-issue with the inventor of the rating system, Professor Arpad Elo. Elo himself had only invented the system as approximate measure, and had not intended for it to be an absolute criteria for decision-making. The ELO-rating should be a rough measure of the objective capability in matters of chess. Accepting or rejecting players on the basis of ELO points when it comes to tournaments is a severe mistake, as differences in this measure do not indicate who might be the better chess player overall.

Furthermore, Karpov recognized an inflation in ELO-ratings. When he became World Champion, top ELOs ranged around 2600 and 2700, whilst today an ELO is 2650 is not even enough to be listed amongst the Top 100 players of this world. Not only higher ratings but also the shrinking difference between players is target of his criticism. At the zenith of his career, Fischer was 100 points ahead of his runner-up, and Karpov’s ELO account exceeded his strongest opponent’s by 50 points.

On November 7, the World Championship battle between Magnus Carlsen and Visvanathan Anand will begin in Sochi. We are curiously waiting for further opinions of expert observers.

written by Sarah, translated by Birthe