Review: Fitz Trainer Master Class Vol. 6: Anatoly Karpov

By Davide Nastasio

This DVD is what a book will never be able to be, or what all the books written about Karpov cannot really compete with.  It is the entire life of a world champion, with all the games he played, the openings, the combinations, the wonderful endgames, all together in just 1.5 GB!

Why do I say that a book will never be able to compete?  Well, maybe an encyclopedia would, but for only one book it is impossible.  For example, in the DVD I have all the games Karpov played as White.  Immediately I can see his opening repertoire, which is given as a tree, and also his evolution as player.  And the material is at once clear.




From the image we instantly see that Karpov is a 1.d4 player, not a 1.e4 player, like he was in the beginning, when maybe he was influenced by the legendary Fischer. We also see the number of games he played as White (1787), and we can consult them right away. What is great about the opening tree is that it shows me immediately what Karpov played as White, and in this way if I want to emulate his opening repertoire, I can just click and learn from his games without wasting time looking for them.

I’d like now to list the content of the DVD and its salient points, with a game or a position which will make this review instructive and entertaining for everybody.

The first four videos are made by Niclas Huschenbeth about Karpov’s openings. The first two videos are about the openings Karpov played as White, and the second two are about the openings Karpov played as Black. GM Huschenbeth cannot really show the entire opening repertoire used by Karpov over 40 plus years of hiscareer, but he shows some important points. For example, he shows how Karpov aims for a position which is playable, maybe with a slight advantage like a small space advantage in the center, and from there builds up. GM Huschenbeth mentions some of the games coming out from the positions shown, and I’d like to show them here because they are peculiar of Karpov’s style.




Here is a game Karpov won with the English opening.  Please stop before move 53 by White and try to guess the winning combination.



Now let’s move on to illustrate Karpov as White playing 1.e4.  As GM Huschenbeth correctly points out, Karpov played 1.e4 only till 1990, then passed to 1.d4.

GM Huschenbeth shows Karpov as White playing against the Pirc Defense, and asks us to note the pattern of piece development.  If you pay attention and watch enough of Karpov’s games, you will find such a pattern in other openings, as well.  However, I wasn’t able to locate any games played by Karpov against the Pirc with such moves or position, and I was using the database of 3954 games which came with the DVD.




Instead, I found four games Karpov played against the Pirc, and in all four he played 7.d5 which is consistent with his style of gaining a small advantage in the opening.  In this case, there is some space in the center, as in the following position, and game:





The next opening presented is Karpov vs. the French.




The following is a very important game in which Karpov demonstrates how to play against the IQP, as well as how to control the central file with the major pieces. The game is important because it was played in the Interzonal tournament, which qualified Karpov for the matches which would design the challenger to Fischer’s throne.



The next position comes from the Caro-Kann.  Karpov played both sides, and in this position he played many more times as Black than as White.   I’d like to show one game he played against Petrosian as White, which I found interesting, because it is clearly an entirely positional game.





Now I don’t want to spoil all the fun, and show a game for every opening mentioned by GM Huschenbeth. But clearly Karpov has been an important theory maker, thanks to the matches played against some of the most important names of the chess world. In this sense, this DVD is a must for those who want to understand how the theory of some openings developed, because clearly Karpov is the one who made the history of some lines.

After the openings, we have the strategy section covered by GM Marin, with 8 videos.  The first video is an introduction to Karpov, but there is a funny thing in it, a freudian slip.  At the end of the introduction Marin says “…some of Kasparov’s most outstanding strategic games…”  Since I know that GM Marin is quite precise in what he says, I stopped the video and began to think about what he may have meant. Obviously this video is about Karpov, why would he mention Kasparov by mistake?  After about 30 seconds I reached the following hypothesis: Marin was doing a Chessbase DVD on Kasparov, and the name Kasparov was still in his mind!  My hypothesis became a scientific theory, confirmed in the second video when Marin makes another “mistake” saying “check the Kasparov DVD….”  But to this day (May 2016) there is not a Kasparov DVD!  And the Karpov DVD was released many months ago.
After this funny anecdote, let’s come to the content, because GM Marin is impressive.  He always teaches me a lot. For example, he chose positions taken from Karpov’s games where we see a particular piece maneuvered by Karpov.  The second video is about rook maneuvering, the third about the knight, etc. Now this is important because he revealed how a GM generally watches an opponent’s games, and what he looks for.  From now on, when I watch Karpov’s games, I will also try to classify them for rook maneuvers, knight maneuvers, queen maneuvers etc.  This will surely open my mind to another way of seeing games.

I found an interesting point in the second video, in which Karpov was playing in the Alekhine memorial 1971.  In this tournament Karpov got first place with Stein (another champion who’s book I just reviewed, and who died prematurely).  This tournament is interesting for the differences between those who won it, with 5 wins, 12 draws, no losses; and for who came fourth: GM Vladimir Tukmakov, who had 3 wins, 14 draws (Giri style!), and no losses.   It is also interesting because had they considered the ELO rating important for determining the winner of the tournament, the outcome may have been different.  Karpov had 13 players in front of him, but he clearly emerged as the winner!

The following is an exciting game against one of the players I love more:



Then comes the tactical section which is covered by Oliver Reeh, with 24 video clips which are interactive. IM Reeh is the main tactics guy for Chessbase.  He covers tactics for the Chessbase magazines, and also for this series of DVDs on the world champions. I totally love the positions he presents, and my only sadness is that they end too soon.  I truly love the challenging positions he selects.
But fear not, for those who like the challenge the DVD is packed with 189 games, which have 472 training questions! Once again, the work produced by the Chessbase GMs and IMs cannot be surpassed by any book on the market.

For example, there are ALL the cross tables of the tournaments played by Karpov, divided into 4 historical periods. There are hundreds of pages.

The section on the endgames (14 videos), as always treated by GM Mueller, was very interesting to me because I came to the conclusion that my next rating jump will happen only if I study the endgames. Unfortunately they were clearly over my head. I felt that GM Mueller was going too fast for me, and in general I understood that such endgames were the source of huge debates between professionals. In this case some were analyzed before we had the 6 pieces tablebases or very strong engines.   The names of some hugely influential GMs, like Dvoretsky and Marin, were mentioned many times, letting me know that they spent hundreds of hours studying those endgames.   I need to do the same, if I want to be able to understand the material of this section.

The DVD has all the games played by Karpov up to the end of October 2015, a total of 3954 games! And here comes the fun part for the owners of Chessbase 12 or 13, because one can make the most interesting queries.

On Friday night, I ordered Indian, and while waiting for my order to be delivered I filtered the 3,954 games in the following manner: I clicked from 0 moves to 25, and then clicked on 2500 (as a rating of one of the players), and with a result 0-1 or 1-0 (no grandmaster draws!).  Immediately I had my book of Karpov’s miniatures!

I highlighted all the games and right-clicked on automatic replay.  I then enjoyed all of these games in a kaleidoscope of combinations and tactics.

I was happy with this DVD because it gave me the chance to know Karpov better.  Thanks to the Chessbase trainer system, I was able to learn from his creativity.

I’d like to close this review with a joke chess players will surely appreciate.  It is about Linares 1994, the first Category XVIII tournament ever held in history. When Kasparov was asked about the strength of the tournament he answered, “The winner can consider himself the world champion of tournament chess.”

Here the crosstable for those who love to laugh…



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