Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Return of Anatoly Karpov

The last Karpov visit to Singapore was in 1997, just after his 1996 triumph over Gata Kamsky in Elista.

This weekend, Karpov is once again on Singapore soil in a goodwill tour of Asia,accompanied by Richard Conn and Hamid Majid. They will be here to meet chessplayers and Karpov shall play a short exhibition blitz tournament with 7 Singapore juniors.

Playing Karpov, whether in a simul or one-to-one, is a great experience which I thoroughly enjoyed back on 28 November 1997. As 1 of the 26 boards, I prepared for this encounter by studying 3 opening systems to 1 e4, 1 d4 and 1 c4. Karpov was alternating these 3 opening moves and when he came to me, it was 1. c4.

I essayed the same variation that he played against P Nikolic in 1988 and lost. 12 moves passed and when he say the position in front of him at my board, he froze. The picture above said it all.

Trying to compose his thoughts he looked at me wryly and stood there for a good 2 minutes. Photographers saw it as a perfect photo opportunity and shots were fired from everyone's camera, which added to his indignation. Finally he moved and the rhythm was restored.

Though I was winning the exchange at one point, I was the first to offer a draw. But Karpov smiled at me impishly as if he knew I had fallen into a trap and said "NNNOOO!" and proceeded to play his move. I then realised that I would lose in 6 moves. Sigh, there goes my little claim to chess immortality. Resignation was imminent but I had the picture above as a fond memory of the little scare I made to the 12th World Champion.