Russian chess player and world chess champion (1975–85; 1993– ).
Karpov was only four when he learned to play chess. A Soviet candidate master at the age of eleven, he became full master at fifteen, international master at eighteen, and grandmaster at nineteen. In his mid-teens Karpov was brilliant at ‘lightning’ chess and greatly feared, even by grandmasters.
In 1969 Karpov won the world junior championship. Within two years he finished equal first with Korchnoi in the Leningrad interzonal tournament and thus qualified for the Candidates Series – the eliminating competition to find the best challenger to the reigning world champion. Karpov beat former champions Spassky and Polugayevsky easily but Korchnoi made him fight hard. In all Karpov played forty-three qualifiers before establishing his right to challenge Bobby Fischer for the world championship. Fischer argued about the conditions and in the end did not defend his title. Karpov thus became the twelfth world champion (the first by default) in April 1975, aged twenty-three.
Karpov successfully defended his title against Korchnoi in 1978 and 1981. The 1984–85 world championship tournament, between Karpov and Kasparov, was abandoned after a record five months with Karpov needing one more win to retain the title but suffering from nervous exhaustion. He lost the title to Kasparov later that year and failed to regain the championship in challenges in 1986, 1987, and 1990. However, following Kasparov's expulsion from FIDE, the game's ruling federation, in 1993 Karpov once more became the official world champion (Kasparov is held to be world champion by the rival Professional Chess Association). He successfully defended the FIDE title in 1996. Karpov was a member of the Soviet Congress of People's Deputies from 1989 to 1991.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).