Amazingly, when Anatoly Karpov was 12 years old, he was accepted into Mikhail Botvinnik’s prestigious chess school. However, the legendary Botvinnik did not predict a bright future for the young boy and commented: “The boy does not have a clue about chess, and there’s no future at all for him in this profession.”
Of course, we now know how far away from the truth Botvinnik’s prediction turned out to be! Karpov hardly needs an introduction. Official World Chess Champion from 1975 to 1985, and again from 1993 to 1999, his decades at the very top of chess cements Anatoly as one of the greatest players of all time, without a doubt.
When Anatoly Karpov was only 15 years old, he was able to produce positional masterpieces like his game against the experienced player Grigory Ravinsky from the Soviet Union.
Karpov became the youngest Soviet National Master that year. In this video, a free preview of his new Master Method course, the legend himself analyzes the important game against Ravinsky and then analyzes two other impressive games from his youth.
The games brilliantly illustrate Karpov’s excellent intuition for positional aspects of the game.
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All these training methods have some merit. After all, why shouldn’t we learn from the very best chess players in the world? Isn’t their chess understanding much deeper? Don’t they know what really counts when fighting your way up the Elo ladder?
They are the ones who can give you tips that really let your ratings go through the roof! Stand on the shoulders of giants…
Anatoly Karpov’s Early Games – A Positional Chess Masterpiece Aged 15
Botvinnik’s assessment of the young Karpov couldn’t have been further away from reality. Only three years after Botvinnik’s comment, Karpov, aged 15, was able to produce positional masterpieces like the following game against the experienced player Grigory Ravinsky from the Soviet Union. In this tournament, Karpov became the youngest Soviet National Master.
The game brilliantly illustrates Karpov’s excellent intuition for positional aspects of the game. Let’s take a look:
Ravinsky, Grigory – Karpov, Anatoly, Leningrad 1966
The game started with the move 1.e4 e5. Karpov had a very classical style in chess and firmly believed in fighting for a share of the center with the Black pieces. 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5. We enter Ruy Lopez territory.
The idea is the rapid development of the kingside. White also creates the possibility of Bxc6 and Nxe5, winning a pawn. Later in his career, Anatoly became one of the World’s leading authorities on both sides of the Ruy Lopez. 3…a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Qe2!? (see the position on the right.)
The White queen protects her e-pawn and vacates the d1-square for a rook. White then follows with the plan to play c3 and d4. 6…b5
Must Black break the attack on his knight on c6 as 6…0-0? is strongly met by 7.Bxc6! dxc6 8.Nxe5 when 8…Qd4 9.Nf3 Qxe4 recoups the pawn for Black but after 10.Qxe4 Nxe4 11.Re1, the pin along the e-file costs Black a piece.
7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.Rd1
We now see White’s opening plan as he plans to expand with d2-d4 and his rook on d1 x-raying the Black queen on d8. 9…Na5 Karpov attacks the valuable White “Ruy Lopez bishop” and frees his c-pawn to fight for the center
10.Bc2 White preserves his bishop before expanding in the center. 10…c5 11.d4 Qc7 (see the position on the left).
The c7-square is an excellent location for the Black queen. She escapes the d-file and protects her pawns on e5 and c5.
12.h3 White takes time to prevent the Black bishop from coming to g4 to pin his knight and makes luft for his king. 12…Re8 Karpov’s rook on e8 now x-rays the White queen on e2, while vacating the f8-square for the Black bishop to retreat if needed.
13.dxe5 White releases the central tension by exchanging pawns. The alternative strategy for White is to close the center with 13.d5 and secure a space advantage.
White then tries to use his superior mobility to build up a kingside initiative. Karpov won many games with this approach for White.
13…dxe5 (see the position on the right)
A fairly standard Ruy Lopez middlegame has arisen. White usually maneuvers a knight to f5 or d5 or tries to build up a kingside attack. Black has a queenside space advantage to compensate for the slight weak square at d5.
14.Nbd2 This knight usually maneuvers over to the kingside and possibly to f5 or d5.
14…Rd8 Karpov contests the open d-file. 15.Nf1 Rxd1 Karpov exchanges rooks before White connects his rooks. The exchange of rooks seems to reduce White’s possibilities of creating a mating attack.
16.Qxd1 c4 (see the position on the left). Karpov gains more space on the queenside and creates the possibility of maneuvering a knight to d3.
17.Bg5 White often eliminates the Black knight on f6 which protects the key central light square on d5. White can then follow with Nf1-e3-d5.
17…Be6 Karpov prepares to “cover” the d5-square and aims his bishop at the White queenside.
18.Qe2 Nb7! This knight now has the possibility of moving to c5 where it will pressure the White e-pawn or threaten penetration via d3 or a4.
19.Ng3?! White has hopes of building a kingside attack. However, this turns out to be a waste of time. 19…g6! (see the position on the right). The pawn on g6 kills the prospects for the knight on g3.
20.Rd1 Rd8 21.Rxd8+ Bxd8. The recapture is logical as the Black queen must defend her e-pawn and the Black knight wants to head up to c5. 22.Qe3 With his queen, two knights, and bishop, it looks like White may have some kingside prospects.
22…Nd7! Karpov plays to the strategic requirements of the position. If he exchanges the dark-squared bishops then White will be left with the inferior light square bishop on c2.
23.Bxd8 Nxd8 24.Qh6 f6! (see the position on the left). The defensive move keeps the White knight off to g5 and vacates the f7-square so the Black knight from d8 can oust the White queen if need be.
25.Qe3 a5!? As White has no threats on the kingside, Karpov begins making progress on the queenside.
This was only the first part of a fantastic positional masterpiece by Anatoly Karpov who went to win this game in style. Be sure to watch the complete video for the whole game and two more brilliant games Karpov played in his young years, analyzed by the man himself!
The Karpov Method
There are few players out there who understand key topics like endgames with rook and bishop of opposite color, defensive play or dealing with a space advantage on the same level as Anatoly Karpov.
By analyzing plenty of his own games, Karpov provides you with deep insights into his thought process and explains you all the frequently recurring chess principles he made use of to make it to the top for more than 20 years.
If you’re a club player who aspires to greater things, to take your chess to that next level, study these areas with Anatoly Karpov and you will be able to play powerful chess in any type of position. A former World Chess Champion explains how to improve your chess! Click here to get instant access to The Karpov Method with 35% off.
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