Mirror Mirror on the wall…


Fischer and Karpov

[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]

A fortnight ago in the previous column I watched a couple of games by Magnus Carlsen in which he had to make decisions and thought them through. I also recorded the “Immortal Bulls ** t Game”, in which Michael Basman exposed Ulf Andersson to such an outrageous provocation that Ulf overwhelmed himself and lost it.

In the following comments, I expected a mild reaction to my appeal, but the thing that obviously stood out when I discovered that while Carlsen had lost those games, “of course he’s the world’s best player – and arguably” the best player, who has ever lived ”.

A die-hard Fischer supporter stated that Fischer was by far the best of all time – and would have been even stronger if he had had access to databases and chess engines. While one reader pointed out exactly what I meant (well means that one could argue for it, not that I directly assert it myself), and another noted that if Fischer had lived later, his opponents would have had the databases and computers too.

Wassily IvanchukHistorical comparisons are very difficult, but I think most people would agree that the strongest players in recent times are Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov and Carlsen. If you just stick to the world champions, you can add Anand and Kramnik too, while personally I think the most talented player I have ever faced – of course his nerves were far too fickle to ever become world champion – Vassily Ivanchuk. was [pictured].

Further back there is Alekhine, Capablanca and Lasker and at the very back there is Morphy. However, there is a problem that most of their opponents really weren’t nearly as strong as the cutting edge players. Capablanca was an incredible endgame player, but his opponents tended to turn around and die in ways that the top players today generally avoid, even with much faster time limits.

Instead of starting a firestorm, readers here might enjoy listing their top 5 – or more, if you’d like – in the comments. You might also want to characterize their styles in a few words. I’ve probably left out at least one favorite and I apologize (humbly if you wish, aka the Magic Roundabout) for any offense.

For the moment when we are not asking the mirror who is the most beautiful but the strongest, here are a few reflective games. I can imagine that the mirror will be in operation for a few more columns. So if you have favorites that you would like me to see, please add them to the comments as well.

Today we’re going to see an amazing game by Bobby Fischer that I would call “precise force”; and one from Anatoly Karpov – “skillful control”. Readers may want to improve on my somewhat fancy characterizations and feel free to do so.

Next time we will start with Garry Kasparov – “volcanic energy”. I thought the first game might be Kasparov versus Nikolic (the game with Nxg7), but please make other suggestions. It was only after I had selected Fischer and Karpov’s games that I realized that they both had Boris Spassky on the losing side, so maybe readers can suggest some of his favorite wins too?

Boris Spassky

Boris Spassky (right)

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Master class vol.6: Anatoly Karpov

On this DVD, a team of experts investigates the secrets of Karpov’s games. In more than 7 hours of video, the authors examine four essential aspects of Karpov’s great play.


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