Chess books for Christmas – and the riddle of Karpov


With Christmas fast approaching, the time has come to offer new chess books for chess enthusiasts. A real heavyweight is the latest Elk and Ruby dissertation on the inner histories of the Soviet Chess Imperium, Masterpieces and Dramas of the Soviet Championships Volume III (1948-1953), compiled by Sergey Voronkov. In the final throes of the Stalinist dictatorship, Botvinnik, Bronstein, Smyslov and Keres left their mark on the chess world. Botvinnik had won the world title in 1948 and retained the top honor against Bronstein in 1951. Geller and Averbakh – rose to the fore.

Yet, paradoxically, internal intrigue and division tore this mighty empire apart, resulting in inconsistent messages to the global chess community. Despite their overwhelming strength, the USSR team boycotted the 1950 Olympiad, or World Team Tournament, an omission that would not be repeated until the 1976 Haifa Olympiad. More recently, Russia has been excluded from the 2022 Olympiad, following the illegal invasion of Ukraine. Surprisingly, for the 1952 Olympiad, world champion Botvinnik was left out of the squad – which nevertheless won gold, with Paul Keres in the lead. For the student of Soviet life during the embers of the Stalin era, this book is a must.

Which brings me to my next choice: The most exciting chess games of all time by Steve Giddins. This book is subtitled: The Experts’ Choice in New In Chess Magazine. Twenty years ago, New to chess magazine has launched its own questionnaire, entitled “Just Checking”. In this column on the last page, chess players and personalities have named their favorites, preferences, moods, life mottoes, and more. One of the questions has always been: what was the most exciting game of chess you’ve ever seen? Chess greats such as Anand, Shirov and Ivanchuk, authors and commentators such as Jeremy Silman, Jennifer Shahade and Tania Sachdev named their pick of the most memorable games.

This anthology now features the 45 most exciting of these games. Besides the usual suspects – such as Kasparov-Topalov (Wijk aan Zee 1999) or “the Immortal” Anderssen-Kieseritzky (London 1851) – readers are treated to a wide variety of lesser-known gems. You’ll see Ding Liren reveling in an all-out attack, Ivan Saric juggling a knight and five pawns against two rooks, and Sergei Radchenko chasing the white king all over the board. Each game is a showcase of the richness and ingenuity of chess. The ever-reliable Steve Giddins edited this selection (200pp, New in Chess, £22), a job he thoroughly enjoyed: “I hope every reader will find games here that will bring a smile and a boost to their his heart. ”

There is of course some debate about what constitutes an ideal book for the general chess reader and, indeed, what constitutes an exciting game. As far as the first category is concerned, Giddins’ work scores very well: clear printing and layout, a powerful narrative, notes not overloaded with printed computer analysis, and a well-defined personal character guiding the commentary. It reminds me of the best days of Harry Golombek, king of chess annotators, whose books on Reti and Capablanca (both published by Hardinge Simpole) remain classics of the game anthology genre.

The choice of exciting games largely focuses on those of the blood and thunder variety, such as the two examples linked above. Personally, I think there can be a whole other dimension to excitement. For example, the 24th and final match of the 1987 Kasparov v Karpov World Championship in Seville. In many mundane ways, the match was adjourned overnight with Kasparov in a superior position, but could he break Karpov’s fortress, win the match and save his world title?

During the overnight adjournment, the chess world, divided into supporters of Kasparov or Karpov, was in suspense, with slept nessun applying to anyone who might get their hands on a chess set to analyze the unfinished game. When the Spanish television program about the game, hosted by the world’s greatest chess journalist, my good friend Leontxo Garcia, resumed live transmission the following day, it was avidly watched by millions of viewers.

As the great Praeceptor Germaniae Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch rightly said: “Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men [and women] happy.”

The mention of Anatoly Karpov brings me to the rumors currently abounding regarding the state of health of the former Russian world champion, who is believed to be recovering in a Moscow hospital from brain and other injuries. . Reliable information in Putin’s Russia is hard to come by. Here are some facts that I believe we can rely on.

Having already played in major events in the USA, in 2003 Karpov opened his first American chess school in Kansas. On March 2 of this year, the school announced a name change to: The International Chess School of the Midwest due to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Karpov was a member of the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Russian State Dumas. Since 2005 he has been a member of the Public Chamber of Russia. On December 17, 2012, Karpov supported the law in the Russian parliament banning the adoption of Russian orphans by American citizens. So far, nothing outrageous to annoy the US, and some support for the Russian regime, unlike Garry Kasparov, of course.

After that, Karpov’s stated views became increasingly pro-Putin. He thus expresses his support for the annexation of Crimea by Russia and accuses Europe of wanting to demonize Putin. In August 2019, Maxim Dlugy, whom we caught up with in last week’s column, said Karpov had been waiting nine months for approval for a nonimmigrant visa in the United States, despite frequent travels. in the country since sharing first prize at a famous tournament in San Antonio in 1972. Karpov was to teach a summer camp at the Max Chess Academy.

According to Dlugy, Karpov had been questioned at the US Embassy in Moscow about whether he planned to communicate with US politicians. Karpov was among Russian State Duma members placed under EU sanctions before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In March 2022. Following the invasion, the FIDE Council (paradoxically guided by its Russian President, Arkady Dvorkovich) suspended the title of FIDE Ambassador for life.

Earlier this month, Karpov received a severe head injury that left him concussed; according to some sources, he was placed in an induced coma. Sources vary widely on the cause of the injury, including claims that he was attacked or that he was heavily intoxicated. Karpov’s daughter, Sofia, claimed he fell accidentally; this innocuous explanation was taken up by the Russian Chess Federation.

What remains suspicious is that in public, Karpov had recently regretted the invasion of Ukraine: “I wish [the war] would end sooner, so peaceful people would stop dying. He added that he had many Ukrainian friends. As I’ve pointed out in this column, many of my friends who I had previously considered Russian were actually Ukrainians, like Leonid Stein and David Bronstein. Attacks on Ukraine sympathizers are commonplace in Russia, but at present the truth about Karpov’s fate remains tightly sealed. To paraphrase Churchill on Russia: it is an enigma, shrouded in mystery, inside an enigma.

Raymond Keene’s latest book “Fifty Shades of Ray: Chess in the year of the Coronavirus”, featuring some of his best pieces from TheArticle, is now available at
by Blackwell

His 206th book, Chess in the Year of the King, with a foreword by regular TheArticle contributor Patrick Heren, is in the works.


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