From the age of four, Anatoly Karpov saw great beauty in chess. He made the game his profession and was the world champion for a decade, from 1975 to 1985.
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.
Question: What’s the appeal of chess?
Anatoly Karpov: So, I like beauty in chess. I like interesting ideas that could be fantastic combination, but it could be also very deep positional idea, or, or very high level technique in endings. So, I can feel and I can see beauty in each of this; beauty of chess, but also chess is always competition and so I like to compete and so this is part of my life.
Question: When did you learn to play chess?
Anatoly Karpov: I started to play chess at four years watching my father playing with his friends.
I showed interest quite early and then I started to have lessons in school. I visited chess club and I played my first tournament when I was seven, and then I can’t say that I wanted to be professional and I thought I would be professional until the moment I became strong grandmaster. When I became the youngest grandmaster at the time, at 19, then I thought maybe it could be my profession. But still I graduated Moscow University and I got profession of economist and in the meantime I made progress in Chess and I became world champion in 1975, when I was 24 years old.
Question: At what age do chess players usually peak?
Anatoly Karpov: So, in my time, it was from let’s say 25 to 35, now it’s earlier because you have easier information then you have computers and then okay maybe young people changed and so now I think it should be from maybe 18 even, or at least 20 to 30.
Question: Are we reaching the time when computers might solve the game of chess?
Anatoly Karpov: Theoretically, yes. Because the number of variations are limited, is limited. But still even the most powerful computers cannot calculate all possibilities which you have over a chess board.
Question: So you’re not worried about computers ending the game?
Anatoly Karpov: Who knows. Who knows. But I don’t think in my life we shall reach that level.
Recorded on May 17, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman