15 November 2023

Why 1993 Karpov - Timman?

In Small Projects 'On the Cover' (October 2023), I flagged,
2023-04-18: 'news of Kasparov's non-FIDE World Championship title; see also the letter from Karpov'

In this post I'll tackle the letter from Karpov. It shines a light on one of the most obscure matches in World Championship history. For the original post, see April 1973 & 1998 'On the Cover' (April 2023). For the circumstances surrounding the match, see FIDE/PCA Chronology (m-w.com). For the match itself, see 1993 Karpov - Timman FIDE Title Match (ditto). Following is the full text of Karpov's letter.

During my recent participation in the 1998 U.S. Amateur Team East Championship in Parsippany, NJ, I had time to read several American Chess magazines. In the January 1998 issue of Chess Life I came across an article about the history of the World Chess Championships. I don't wish to discuss the biased nature of the article, or the factual inaccuracies, which should be presented as the author's personal views. Instead the actual title portrays this as a historical account of the history of the World Championships. Even in this case, just to have a valid opinion you must know the facts. Therefore I would take a moment to correct the most serious mistake in the author's interpretation of modern chess history.

It was written that when Kasparov and Short left FIDE -- "Surprisingly FIDE ignored another player, Artur Yusupov, who lost in the same round as Karpov, but was not even given a chance." (Jan. issue, page 43, column 1, paragraph 2). This FIDE action had nothing to do with Karpov and favoritism as alleged in the article. Nobody expected that Kasparov and Short would not play under the auspices of FIDE. However, in any serious organization, you must be prepared for all contingencies.

As it happened, FIDE had regulations pertaining to exactly what did transpire. "In case the Challenger can not play with the World Champion, he will be replaced by another Finalist." That player was Timman, at that moment in chess history. In case both World Champion and Challenger could not or refused to play the match, then FIDE would organize a match for the World Championship between the second finalist and the highest rated player in the World. In the regulations you do not see any semi-finalist mentioned. For many years and at that moment in history I was the highest or top ranked player (considering Kasparov was out) in the world. Therefore FIDE was simply following the regulations established prior to each cycle and approved by the FIDE Congress.

Best regards, Anatoly Karpov

The four-page article in the January 1998 Chess Life was titled 'A Brief History of the World Chess Championship' by Michael Khodarkovsky. Nowhere in the article was the author's close relationship to Kasparov mentioned. In Michael Khodarkovsky (wikipedia.org), we learn,

[Khodarkovsky] was a member of Kasparov's coaching team during the 1995 and 2000 World Championship matches and during the 1996, 1997 matches versus IBM's computer Deep Blue.

In 1993, many observers of the international chess scene, including me, assumed that Karpov had received favorable treatment from FIDE in being invited to play the match with Timman. It took me 30 years to discover Karpov's side of the story.

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