Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fischer?

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sat Sep 24, 2011 1:13 pm

Nigel played a "quickplay" match with Gazza in 1987, didn't he?? It was shown on TV too - those were the days :D

He didn't disgrace himself, IIRC.
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Nick Ivell
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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Nick Ivell » Sat Sep 24, 2011 1:22 pm

Nigel didn't disgrace himself either in his world championship match. As I think I recall Bill Hartston saying, he showed how Gazza could be beaten. Of course there was no doubt who was the better player. I have mentioned Kasparov's superior chess education before. To me this was apparent in the anti-Marshall positions which arose, where Kasparov was able to show his great understanding of such positions.

Nigel's greatest achievement was his victory over Karpov in match conditions - admittedly a Karpov past his prime, I think. There is little doubt that Karpov at his best was better than Short at his best. That Soviet-style chess education again!

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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Stewart Reuben » Sat Sep 24, 2011 5:28 pm

Matt >Nigel played a "quickplay" match with Gazza in 1987, didn't he?? It was shown on TV too - those were the days <

They did indeed play a rapdiplay match. Some of the games are available from Impala and I have the rest. Nigel lost the match 4-2. David and I were talking a long time before that about a standardplay match, when Nigel was still a youth. In the World Championship match in 1993 Nigel certainly didn't disgrace himself. It is a matter of great regret that he lost the first game on time because of the confusing Garde clock. Had he not done so, the match would not have started .5-3.5. Nigel took a long time to recover from the 1993 match. It wan't helped by all the preceding shenanigans. Nigel's continued zest for chess is admirable.

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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Nick Ivell » Sat Sep 24, 2011 6:45 pm

The greatest chess genius of all time? Bobby Fischer. The greatest player of all time? Kasparov, who learnt a lot from Fischer. When it comes to sheer talent I reckon Tal is up there too, but his poor health let him down. Misha certainly gave the young Bobby a lesson!

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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Craig Pritchett » Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:05 pm

Just a few additional points - for the record and see also my more considered take at a number of key junctures at http://sport.caledonianmercury.com/2011 ... rld/002187, which was also given at a separate thread on the Fischer DVD:

1. If my memory serves me right, I'm fairly sure that Harry Golombek was more or less under English instructions at the fateful March 1975 FIDE special general meeting to vote against both of Fischer's non-negotiable demands (perhaps subject, as I was for Scotland, to some leeway allowing us to assess any new or particulalrly persuasive comments made by either side at the FIDE meeting).

2. Even Fischer supporters at the 1975 meeting generally thought that voting for an unlimited match already granted Fischer a sizeable advantage ... as at the time Karpov was considered, rightly or wrongly, to be far less likely to survive such a punishing physical campaign. Most neutrals only voted for Fischer with some misgiving on that point. Having voted that way, fewer neutrals, felt inclined to give him the additional advantage of retaining the title at 9-9 ... see my article on this for the extremely powerful Russian objection that made me "abstain" rather than (also) vote "for" Fischer on this second "non-negotiable" demand.

3. My interest in the parallel between Morphy and Fischer arises from the facts that they are the only world champions ever to have a) abandoned chess at the height of their fame and b) tragically, to have suffered patent mental decline (amounting to possibly serious mental illness). All world champions, of course, (as Stewart Reuben posts above) decline as players of chess at some stage ... that's not my point. The Morphy and Fischer cases go far beyond mere chess and raise vastly different and much wider questions. Why only Americans? Is it only coincidence? I doubt it.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:11 pm

Nick Ivell wrote:The greatest chess genius of all time? Bobby Fischer. The greatest player of all time? Kasparov, who learnt a lot from Fischer. When it comes to sheer talent I reckon Tal is up there too, but his poor health let him down. Misha certainly gave the young Bobby a lesson!
Mir Sultan Khan has to be up there, if we are considering sheer natural talent alone.....
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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Dan O'Dowd » Mon Sep 26, 2011 7:57 pm

Craig Pritchett wrote:that they are the only world champions ever to have ... b) tragically, to have suffered patent mental decline (amounting to possibly serious mental illness). All world champions, of course, (as Stewart Reuben posts above) decline as players of chess at some stage ... that's not my point. The Morphy and Fischer cases go far beyond mere chess and raise vastly different and much wider questions. Why only Americans? Is it only coincidence? I doubt it.
Steinitz died penniless after several breakdowns (although ultimately he died of heart attack). At one time he claimed to have been giving God pawn-odds and playing the game through his telephone, along with various other oddities of belief.

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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Stewart Reuben » Mon Sep 26, 2011 8:19 pm

Concerning Steinitz. To support Craig's hypothesis, he did live out the last 18 years of his life in the US.
It seems to me the mental health of strong chessplayers is not worse than that of the general high-flying academics. If that causes somebody to start a list, please do not include living players or academics.

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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Craig Pritchett » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:14 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with Stewart. Chess players aren't an unusual bunch of crazies. In other sports you get plenty of folk who also go off the rails ... New York heavyweight boxers, George Best, Hurricane Higgins ... we're as "normal" as others .., well I'm sure I am!

Also Steinitz wasn't someone who suffered serious mental decline (possibly severe mental illness) noticeable, as in the quite different cases of Morphy and Fischer, many years (even decades) before their death. Steinitz essentially belongs in the "normal" category. If there was one thing that slightly annoyed me about the Fischer film, both Saidy and Evans (I think also) alluded to the "challenge to God" story as if it meant more than it actually does - they may have been goaded! Steinitz's mind only really snapped very close to his actual death when his physical health - never good for much of the 1890s - was also dire, both mental and physical collapse no doubt aggravated by his descent in his last few years into poverty.

And in case anyone cites Steinitz's period in a Russian sanatorium after losing his 1896/7 rematch with Lasker: this was, it is true, due to a nervous breakdown of sorts, which is explicable by a whole range of things, including his poor general health, the effects of a Russian winter, and the fact that the match was by then a complete sporting mismatch that marked the definite end of "his" era. Steinitz also cited a couple of other non-trivial, essentially health-related problems (which can be read by chess trivia buffs, for example, in the massive two volume German language work on his life and games by Ludwig Bachmann). Steinitz bounced back to health from that experience in the circumstances very quickly.

In my view, the Q remains why only Morphy and Fischer?

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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by George Szaszvari » Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:32 am

Stewart Reuben wrote:Concerning Steinitz. To support Craig's hypothesis, he did live out the last 18 years of his life in the US. It seems to me the mental health of strong chessplayers is not worse than that of the general high-flying academics. If that causes somebody to start a list, please do not include living players or academics.
Morphy, universally acknowledged the best player of his day, declared "world champion" by various Europeans, was an
ideal case study for Freudian psychoanalyst Ernest Jones. I don't know how valid the claims for his psychosis are but we
should not discount that the 1860s and post Civil War period was an extremely traumatic and defining time for many
Americans, especially survivors from the defeated Confederacy. A lot of less celebrated people might have also been
diagnosed psychotic in that turmoil. Didn't Fischer consider Morphy the best ever? Did Fischer identify with Morphy of
the CSA, increasingly so as Fischer totally repudiated the USA with the public spitting incident related to the Sveti
Stefan match?

Alekhine, too, was reportedly going off the rails in later life, although he did not give up chess. Examples are: "Excuse me
while I drunkenly urinate on the floor of the world chess championship stage" in 1935, or, my favorite, to a border
control guard (paraphrasing a famous bandit): "I don't need to show you no stinkin' passport, I'm the chess champion of
the world"... and some might include those infamous articles published in war time Europe. [Just as an interesting aside,
a Mr Griffith, grand old president of the Thames Valley Chess League from around the late 60s, early 70s, and WWI
veteran, made it very clear to me in conversation that "there is no doubt that Alekhine committed suicide, despite the
official reports." Anyone care to add to that one way or the other?]

But could isolating WC title holders be too narrow a sample? There are other world class grandmasters who come into
consideration, particularly Rubinstein, and weren't there one or two old (long deceased) Soviet masters certified insane
for bizarre behavior, too? Just a typically representative cross section of normal society, perhaps, and, sure, chess
players aren't collectively just a "bunch of crazies", but they do seem to me to have more examples of "nerdy", if not
neurotic, types than most participants in other hobbies or sports (which has been "touched" on in previous threads.)
In a game in which egotistical competitiveness can be extremely intense, with pulse rates of ambitious players running
abnormally high without burning off the adrenaline in physical activity, for hours on end day after day, is it so surprising
that certain health issues can arise? I recall that Jon Speelman used to talk about this high pulse rate and pressure
factor and took measures to manage it. Modern players are probably better informed on such matters and better able
to handle them, but the pressures are always there ready to push the unsuspecting to the edge...

As for the might have been 1975 Fischer v Karpov match I feel that being WC was too important for Fischer to risk
losing it in a match against the likes of Karpov. It has been pointed out that Karpov was a growing monster of a talent
that was taking the chess world by storm, demolishing virtually all before him at the time... that must have made Fischer
nervous and he was never going to play without a big enough edge... having said that I think Fischer probably would
have won the 1975 match had he just got on with it and played.

EDIT: to tidy up some typos...gettin' old [creak...]
Last edited by George Szaszvari on Thu Sep 29, 2011 5:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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John Clarke
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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by John Clarke » Thu Sep 29, 2011 9:59 am

Craig Pritchett wrote:The Morphy and Fischer cases go far beyond mere chess and raise vastly different and much wider questions. Why only Americans? Is it only coincidence? I doubt it.
I would suggest that it’s dangerous to generalise about Americans on the basis of the sample offered by Morphy and Fischer. Both ethnic/family background and time-and-place were so different as to render any comparison almost meaningless.

Morphy’s father came from a Spanish family of originally Irish ethnicity, while his mother was of French origins. (The strong influence of these inheritances is evident from their given names - Alonzo and Thelcide respectively.) Morphy himself was raised in a settled, wealthy antebellum Southern household and acquired all the prejudices and attitudes common to “gentlemen” of the class.

Fischer, by contrast, was born to a peripatetic mother of East European Jewish ancestry, and never knew his father – indeed there seems to be some doubt lately as to just who his father was. If not exactly hardscrabble, his early life was far from affluent, and was lived in the heart of one of the most brutally competitive cities in the world. And his mother too was out of the picture by the time he was sixteen.

Chess, for Morphy, was a pastime, something to fill up his gap year until he was of age to start the legal career he’d intended. Making a career at it would have been seen by him as little better than donning a string tie and broad-brimmed hat, and playing cards on a Mississippi river boat. His mental deterioration seems to have begun from the time he discovered that his fame at chess was a serious obstacle to getting on in the law.

For Fischer, chess was life itself, an escape from the rut or at best years of uncongenial hard slog to get qualifications and experience. By the time he attained his majority, he was ill-equipped for virtually any other occupation.

Chess forced itself into Morphy’s life and wouldn’t leave. Fischer forced out everything else (except, for a time, religion – but that too ultimately had to go).

Yes, they both became unbalanced, even probably certifiable. But their both being American is to my mind no more than unhappy coincidence.
"The chess-board is the world ..... the player on the other side is hidden from us ..... he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance."
(He doesn't let you resign and start again, either.)

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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Mark Hannon » Sat Oct 08, 2011 8:48 pm

A point to bear in mind is that in the vast majority of matches from 1921 until 1978 the defending champion did not win the WC match , otherwise either the challenger won or the defending champ held on to a 12 12 draw.

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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Craig Pritchett » Sun Oct 09, 2011 10:00 pm

In contrast to John Clarke, I'd suggest that it's at least as "dangerous" to speculate on the putative outcome of a Fischer-Karpov match that (to some extent with hindsight) it's evident was never going to come about (for a vast range of chess and especially non-chess reasons)!

But I'd definitely doubt the statement that for Morphy chess was only a "pastime". One of the most famous quotes in chess history is Anderssen's summation following his match against Morphy in 1858 in a post match letter to von der Lasa including words such as "...chess is a sacred duty (to Morphy) ... never a pastime [that's not a literal translation but it conveys the impact of the German used by Anderssen] ... but always something to be taken with the greatest seriousness ... always a seriously professional task ... and an activity by which [Morphy] realised his "mission" in life..."

Anderssen thought He and everyone else in the serious chess past were amateurs in their approach to chess in comparison ... Morphy most definitely worked awfully hard at the game!

You can read the fuller German text in the von Gottschall 1912 work on Anderssen ... that work made a huge impression on the teenage Fischer, by the way, and directly influenced his final win in the 1972 match against Spassky ... he made Gligoric go double-take when he revealed just after that historic game, that he [Fischer] had only played "as in the old days ... I got the idea from Gottschall" ... see e.g. my chapter on Fischer in my book "Heroes of Classical Chess".

There were a hell of a lot more similarities between Morphy and Fischer (and even Anderssen) than you might think!

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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Brendan Brown » Mon Oct 10, 2011 7:52 pm

Wasn't Morphy's offer of marriage turned down with the words:-
"You're only a mere chessplayer!"

I think Staunton also chided him for being a "chess professional" to some extent.

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Re: Who would have won had Anatoly Karpov played Bobby Fisch

Post by Craig Pritchett » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:20 pm

Re: Brendan Brown's post

The Morphy marriage rebuff story has, I believe, little or no solid substance behind it - best we have on that is David Lawson's book on Morphy (now reprinted / edited by T Aiello 2010), which could establish no basis for it ... and he spent half of his life on the research. Also keep reading Ed Winter's Chess Notes on such things ... there are so many unfortunate chess legends, not least going this far back in chess history, alas ... and he's generally sound and reliable at debunking them!

I don't know what you may be referring to re: Staunton. He was really an old chess pro himself too, of course, for many years ... his wider writing interests (much of his Shakespeare research, in particular) appear to stem from a switch away from the game (as his playing strength and world standing declined) in the early 1850s ... but I'm not an expert in Staunton's life and would be more than happy to stand corrected on this.

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