Reports | June 30, 2010 16:47

Big Think interviews Anatoly Karpov

Big Think interviews Anatoly KarpovWhat qualities does it take to play world-class chess? What’s the appeal of chess? These and other questions were answered by 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov in an interview with Big Think.

The following interview with Anatoly Karpov was conducted May 17, 2010 by Paul Hoffman of Big Think, a global forum connecting people and ideas. In their Experts series, other big names include Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist William Phillips, author Isabel Allende and comedian Stephen Fry.

Question: What qualities does it take to play world-class chess?

Anatoly Karpov:  A lot of things.  Chess is a very tough game, and psychologically a tough game.  And of course chess needs a lot of qualities, human qualities.  And so you must have very strong nervous system and then you must be well prepared, you must be able to work a lot. Chess need good preparation and so you must work for hours if you play, let’s say, for world championship.


How do remain calm after you realize you’ve made a poor move?

Anatoly Karpov: No, this is a very important and this is good question because many people would call back the situation, they missed chances, and then of course it will spoil the rest of the game.  But it is concerning not only special situation during the game, but also the bad result of previous game for the next game you play.  So, in my life, I tried and I succeeded in many cases to forget everything that was in the past.  So, of course you need to make some analysis and not to repeat mistakes, but it’s extremely important to accept situation like it is, the real situation, not with thoughts of regrets of what you missed and okay, two moves ago you had winning position now, you have to defend a difficult position and probably you might lose the game.  So, this thought shouldn’t be when you play chess game.  And so later on maybe you analyze and then you will, how to say, make some conclusions.  But during the game... and this is also very important part for chess education because chess is getting ideas how to accept the real situation and how to be objective.  To be objective and to meet unexpected situations and to adapt to this immediately and to start to think and to solve the problems.

You have to develop this.  I don’t think it comes from your childhood or with birth. 

What are your weaknesses as a player?

Anatoly Karpov: Weaknesses?  So, I didn’t know so well chess theory, the theory of chess openings.  And so, of course I knew the theory, but not on the level of the best players, so this was my... this was always my weakness.  But this is you know, this is weakness and this is advantage because if I would know Chess theory so well, so probably I would not work out this style to defend difficult positions because from my childhood I could receive difficult positions against even weaker players, but okay nothing happened, so I was continuing to fight.  And so this is weakness, this is positive thing, but still more this is weakness.  It is better to know Chess Theory and not to get in difficult positions from the beginning. 

The full interview can be read here.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Spectator's picture

The most important question in the interview gets a stunningly weak answer.

Mark's picture

Which question do you consider to be the most important of the interview? Do you believe that Karpov would naturally concur and give it the attention you feel it deserves?

john's picture

A Top interview here. Karpov seems like a genuinely nice guy, maybe he has mellowed a bit with age, whatever the reason I would like to see more such interviews with more specific questions about his career, rather than the standard chess questions.

Spectator's picture

The most important question is asked at 4:42 in the interview:
,,Why do you want to lead the World Chess Federation?"

call_me_ishmael's picture

Glad to see that Morphy was brought up in the interview, but Karpov's reply reveals how little he knows of his great predecessor.

1) Morphy died in his bathtub not in a hospital.

2) Morphy's mental issues in his later years had nothing to do with the U.S. Civil War.

3) Morphy was the World Champion not the "unofficial world champion".

Nick's picture

I like Karpov he is a gentleman

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