Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
The world chess championships between 1975 – 2000 were dominated by Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. The Killer K’s ran rough-shod over everybody during these 25 years.
The only other serious contender for the crown was Viktor Korchnoi, but Karpov saw off this challenge in the late ‘70s.
Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov would prove themselves to be very evenly matched. Every World Championship match between them would be a very close contest.
Although he inherited the title by default, Karpov soon proved himself worthy of being the World Chess Champion.
Karpov Inherits the World Chess Title by Default
Although the chess public would have loved to see Karpov challenge Fischer in a world chess championship match, it never happened.
FIDE would not agree to all the match stipulations that Bobby Fischer, the current champion, wanted. The biggest stumbling block was Fischer insisting in the event of a 9-9 tie, he would keep the title.
FIDE delegates also voted against the possibility of an unlimited match.
Fischer wanted the same playing conditions used in the first World Chess Championship match between Steinitz and Zukertort. The winner was the first player to win ten games with draws not counting.
Max Euwe, FIDE president in 1975, set a deadline of April 1, 1975, but Bobby Fischer refused to play under the FIDE conditions.
On April 3, 1975, Anatoly Karpov was awarded the title by Max Euwe.
Determined to prove himself worthy of the title, Karpov played in every major chess tournament for the next ten years. He set a record of nine consecutive major tournament victories.
This record would later be broken by Garry Kasparov, who won 14 consecutive chess tournaments.
In the following video, GM Bryan Smith presents the 2nd game from the 1987 match between Karpov and Kasparov:
Defending the World Chess Title against Korchnoi
During the 1973-75 Candidates cycle, Anatoly Karpov defeated Victor Korchnoi to challenge Fischer for the title. In 1978 Karpov would defend his title against Korchnoi for the first time.
The match was played in Baguio, Philippines. The first player to win six games would be the World Chess Champion.
Sunglasses, Chairs, and Yogurt
There were three amusing incidents off-the-board during this 1978 championship match.
Because he found Karpov’s habit of staring intensely at his opponents, Korchnoi chose to wear mirror sunglasses during the match.
Karpov objected because he felt the sunglasses reflected the stage lights into his eyes.
Officials put on sunglasses and played for a bit to see if Karpov’s claims had any validity. They decided the sunglasses were fine. However, Karpov felt Schmidt, the arbiter, wasn’t taking him seriously.
Before the match began, Korchnoi voiced his intention to bring his own chair. He insisted chairs may move front and back but not swivel.
Karpov was using a chair supplied by the organizers. He insisted Korchnoi’s chair be examined before the match began.
The chair was duly dismantled and taken for an X-ray at a nearby hospital. No suspicious objects were found hidden in the chair.
During the match, Korchnoi complained that Karpov was swiveling in his chair. This was an attempt todistract him.
Karpov expressed his willingness to stop swiveling if Korchnoi took off his glasses.
The officials discussed the matter and decided swiveling or standing behind your chair were not allowed. Karpov stopped swiveling in game 16 when it was Korchnoi’s move.
These off-the-board incidents continued with Korchnoi’s team expressing that the delivery of violet yogurt to Karpov during game two could be a prearranged signal.
The delivery of yogurt at a particular time was allowed to continue. It was agreed that if the color was changed the arbiter would be notified ahead of time.
The World Championship Match
After the first seven games all ended in draws, Karpov gained the first victory in game 8.
The champion extended his lead with 5 wins, 2 losses, and 20 drawn games before Korchnoi started fighting back. Korchnoi won three of the next four games to level the match.
Sadly for Korchnoi, Karpov won the next game to win the match with 6 wins, 5 losses, and 21 drawn games.
Three years later, Korchnoi challenged Karpov for the title a second time. This time the match took place in Merano, Italy, in 1981.
Karpov had no trouble keeping his crown. He won the match with 6 wins, 2 losses, and 10 drawn games. In fact, the ease of his victory was such the match became known as the Massacre in Merano.
GM Bryan Smith presents the last game of the 1981 World Chess Championship match between Karpov and Korchnoi:
The Karpov and Kasparov Rivalry Began in 1984
In their very first clash for the World Chess Championship, Karpov and Kasparov would set the tone for all their matches.
Once again, the first to win six games would win the match.
After only 9 games, Karpov was leading 4-0. However, the two players would go on to set a World Chess Championship record for consecutive draws.
The next 17 games all ended in a draw, forcing Karpov to wait until game 27 for his next win.
There would be another lengthy streak of drawn games. This time 14 more games were drawn.
Kasparov would have to wait until game 32 to get his first victory. His second and third wins came in games 47 and 48.
FIDE President Florencio Campomanes decided to stop the match at this point in controversial circumstances, citing the player’s health. Both the players had made it clear that they wanted to continue.
After five months, Karpov led the match with 5 wins, 2 losses, and an astounding 40 draws, but the match was declared with no result.
World Chess Championship Match 1985
Once again, Garry Kasparov challenged Anatoly Karpov for the world chess crown. The match took place in Moscow from September 3rd to November 9th, 1985.
This rematch took place only 7 months after their first clash was called off.
After how the first match ended, FIDE changed the match conditions. This match would be the best of 24 games, with Karpov keeping his title if it ended in a 12-12 tie.
FIDE also granted Karpov the right to an automatic rematch because he was ahead when the first match got called off.
Kasparov chose to play an opening he’d never played against Karpov before. This proved a very successful tactic, and he won the game in 42 moves.
After two draws, Karpov won games four and five to take the lead 2-1.
Another string of draws followed until Kasparov won game 11.
When game 23 ended in a draw, Garry Kasparov was leading 12-11. This meant Karpov needed to win game 24 with the white pieces.
Early in the game, Karpov managed to launch a good attack. Kasparov responded with two pawn sacrifices to keep Karpov at bay.
The second pawn sacrifice allowed Kasparov to counter-attack. Under time pressure Karpov could not find the correct defense and resigned the game on move 42.
Kasparov became the youngest world chess champion at the age of 22.
Although game 24 was the decisive game, many consider game 16 to be a masterpiece by Kasparov.
What do you think?
Karpov – Kasparov, 1985, Game 16, 0-1
1986 World Chess Championship Rematch
When FIDE president Campomanes declared the rematch would take place in February 1986, Kasparov refused to play so soon after winning the title.
Previously, it was customary for there to be a 12-month break between matches. The Russian Chess Federation brokered an agreement between Kasparov and Karpov for the match to be held in July or August 1986.
The players agreed and signed an agreement without consulting FIDE. After the signing, they met with Campomanes and decided to start the match in July.
This world chess championship match became the first between two Soviet players to be played outside the Soviet Union. The match was held in London and Leningrad.
The match began on July 28th in London. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher conducted the color selection.
Once again, this was to be the best of 24 games, with Kasparov keeping his title if the match ended tied 12-12.
This time, Garry Kasparov had to wait until game 4 to get the first victory. Karpov responded immediately with a win in game 5.
With Kasparov taking a commanding lead after winning game 16, Karpov fought back with a string of three consecutive victories in games 17, 18, and 19.
Unfortunately for Karpov, game 19 was his last win. Kasparov went on to win the match 12 ½ to 11 ½.
Kasparov – Karpov, 1986, Game 18, 0-1
World Chess Championship Match 1987
For the first time since 1965, the format to determine the challenger was changed. A Candidates Tournament was played involving twelve players from three interzonals and four seeded players.
The top four qualifiers would play matches, and then the winner would play Anatoly Karpov to determine who would challenge for the world title.
Karpov defeated Andrei Sokolov convincingly by a score of 7 ½ – 3 ½. This meant a fourth encounter between Kasparov and Karpov for the World Chess Championship.
The match took place from October to December 1987, in Seville, Spain.
Kasparov vs Karpov, WCC 1987, game 2:
This best of 24 games was tied after 22 games. Karpov took the lead with a victory in game 23.
The pressure was on Kasparov going into the final game. He needed a win to tie the match 12-12 and retain his title.
Unlike Karpov in 1985, Kasparov managed to get the result he needed in the final game. No world chess champion had won the last match game to retain his crown since Lasker against Schlecter in 1910.
Here is that decisive game.
Kasparov – Karpov, 1987, Game 24, 1-0
1990 World Chess Championship Match
In this Candidates cycle, Karpov was only guaranteed a spot in the quarter-finals, not the finals. This meant he had to win three mini-matches before challenging Kasparov.
He defeated Hjartarson, Yusupov, and Timman to once again challenge for the title.
The match was scheduled to run from October until December. The first 12 games would take place in New York, USA, and the next 12 in Lyons, France.
When the match moved to Lyons, both players had one victory each. Kasparov won game 2 and Karpov game 7. The other ten games ended in draws, and the match score was tied 6-6.
Games 13, 14, and 15 ended in draws before Kasparov won game 16 and Karpov game 17. In the last seven games, Kasparov won two, and Karpov could only manage a single win.
In another closely contested match, Kasparov retained his title 12 ½ – 11 ½.
Karpov-Kasparov, 1990, Game 23, 1-0
1993 World Title Match
During the Candidates Matches, when asked who the challenger would likely be, Garry Kasparov responded “It will be Short, and it will be short!”
Nigel Short duly became the first Englishman to challenge for the World Chess Championship by beating Speelman, Gelfand, Karpov, and Timman.
Both Short and Kasparov were unhappy with FIDE’s handling of the match. They objected to a lack of consultation with the players, 20% of the prize money going to FIDE, and the bidding selection for the venue.
They made the decision to play outside of FIDE’s jurisdiction and formed the Professional Chess Association. FIDE responded by stripping Kasparov of his world title and holding it’s own championship match at the same time.
Although the games were very exciting, Nigel Short’s only victory came in game 16. By this time, Kasparov had built up a very big lead and won the match 12 ½ – 7 ½.
Here is Nigel Short’s win of the match:
Short-Kasparov, 1993, Game 16, 1-0
While this match was taking place, FIDE arranged a match between Karpov and Timman for the FIDE world chess title. Karpov defeated Timman 12 ½ – 8 ½ after 21 games.
1993 – 2000 Split Title
Once again, Kasparov and Karpov were dominating world chess. Now, they both held the title of World Chess Champion.
FIDE and the Professional Chess Association continued to run their own three-year chess championship cycles.
Kasparov would retain his title by defeating Anand in 1995, and Karpov retained the FIDE world chess champion title in 1996 by winning his match against Gata Kamsky.
In 1998, FIDE switched from Candidates matches and Interzonals to a large knockout tournament with shorter games. Karpov defended his title in the first of these tournaments but resigned in protest before the second.
Alexander Khalifman won the FIDE world chess tile in 1999 and Anand won it in 2000.
Kasparov didn’t play another title match until late 2000. His opponent for the match was Vladimir Kramnik.
Surprising everybody, Kramnik won the match, going undefeated. He scored two wins and thirteen draws.
The title would remain split until 2005.
The competition between Kasparov and Karpov led to very close world chess championship matches.
Kasparov managed to come out on top but only by the slimmest margins.
There is no doubt the impact of these two great chess players on modern-day chess will be felt for an extremely long time.