Review: Karpov Move by Move, by Sam Collins

By Davide Nastasio

Sam Collins is a very interesting author. He has published several DVDs for Chessbase on how to deal with various pawn structures and openings. He is an International Master, but he has only two GM norms. In this book, Karpov Move by Move, he analyzes the games of his favorite World Champion, Anatoly Karpov, and through these games he hopes we will improve our play.



Sam Collins


Collins has used more than 20 books as reference, and of course many chess sites. He has also used two different chess engines to check the validity of his evaluations, so we can be sure he has done the homework for us.

From the introduction to the book, we discover that Collins has selected Karpov’s games based on the fact that he was an outstanding player, especially in the area of middlegame and endgame play. Of course there are many more ways to categorize a player who has won hundreds of tournaments, and the number of tournament games easily goes above 2500!

But Collins, in his great teaching experience, has divided the chapters for different motifs which could be useful for club players. For example, in the first chapter there are many wonderful examples of prophylaxis, opposite color bishops, and exchange sacrifices.
The following game is an example of Karpov’s prophylaxis and exchange sacrifice:



The goal for the reader is to absorb the material and the ideas presented, and eventually to build their own Karpov database to look for more examples of Karpov’s techniques in many of the other games he played throughout his career.

I find this book to be quite instructive, because the author clearly knows the important elements one should learn.  In chapter after chapter, Collins introduces us to different aspects of Karpov’s style, which can be beneficial to our formation as players.

In the second chapter, two pawn structures (with which Karpov really excelled) are put under the microscope: the Isolated Queen Pawn (IQP) and the Carlsbad.

Often in books dedicated to a champion, we see only the wins; instead, Collins focuses on the following crushing defeat because it is very instructive at all levels, but especially on how Black should have played against the IQP.



The third chapter is also interesting, because I’ve always found Karpov to be quite artificial in his choice of playing 1.e4 as an opening. Evidently, in that time the Russians were trying to create a copy of Bobby Fischer. The third chapter also investigates Karpov’s opening choices, and his change from 1.e4 to 1.d4. One should note that this change of skin was not isolated to Karpov alone. Spassky also played 1.e4 for quite some time, but then he realized that he was a 1.d4 player.

The following great positional win shows how Karpov finds himself comfortable with the 1.d4 opening.
Notice also how the pawn structure changes, from an IQP to two passed central pawns. Total magic!



The fourth chapter is dedicated to Linares 1994, likely the best tournament performance Karpov ever had. Surely Garry Kasparov’s blood pressure still rises today if one speaks of Linares 1994. Many young readers surely don’t know the story, but before the tournament there was an intense rivalry between Karpov and Kasparov.  There were many long matches, which had more draws than wins (Karpov played a total 178 regular games against Kasparov, with a result of +21 -28 =129!), killing the excitement everybody experienced thanks to Fischer, who would steamroll his opponents with 6-0.

Linares’ tournament organizer was famous for hating short draws (common between GMs), and he also offered extra bonus prizes for longer games. Linares 1994 was also the highest ELO rated tournament of that time, with an average rating of 2685! The field consisted of all the best in the world, the top of the top. Karpov won with an impressive performance:




But the tournament is famous for what Kasparov did and said. Before the tournament he was asked about the strength of the tournament, and his answer was that the winner could be considered the world champion, and Karpov won!

At one point during the tournament, Kasparov takes a move back in a game against Judit Polgar. His fingers briefly released the knight before realizing that the move was a blunder. Obviously, Kasparov took advantage of the young age of the opponent: Judit Polgar was 17 at the time. The arbiter did not intervene.



Judit Polgar, Linares 1994


The book is worth the price just for the fourth chapter, which shows us the following masterpieces played by Karpov in that legendary tournament. One in particular shows that, in chess, luck is clearly a factor.

Bareev, one of the top players in the world at that time, in a position which was quite drawish, blundered and got checkmated! Notice that Bareev wasn’t in time trouble.



The fifth and final chapter shows Karpov’s modern achievement. Although he is no longer at the top, he still produces some wonderful games from time to time.

Like the author correctly points out, Karpov has reinvented himself throughout his long career. He totally changed openings, and his games investigated nearly every possible pawn structure. No book can really cover such a giant, so readers are invited to learn more for themselves by watching other games played by Karpov. This will surely bring about progress in a player’s game.

This is a nice game Karpov played in a tournament which bears his name:



Collins makes reference to a short interview with Karpov, which can be found at the following link:
A Life Devoted to 64 Squares

In conclusion, this is a nice and easy book to read with lots of exercises, lots of useful questions, and lots of great classical games played by the best players in the world. A good addition to anyone’s chess library.


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