There once was a star reporter, who wasn’t granted any courtesy whatsoever by the European Youth Championship organisation. That tournament was held annually in the city of Groningen between 1972 and 1987. When Max Euwe in 1968 made the first move on Anatoly Karpov’s board, the tournament was still called the ‘Niemeijertoernooi’, and carried no FIDE-status.
Often they played in the cantine of that tabacco manufacturer, in later years they moved to the Martinihal. FIDE-president Max Euwe became a regular guest of honour, and on one occasion gave a simul for the local ‘journaille’. To indulge Max -none of them could play a decent move – yours truly was told he was not to play, but Max himself was having none of it. ‘Please be seated over there’, he said friendly, and after he tried to move a pinned piece quickly offered a draw. Now you will never guess who was the guest of honour in 1987? The one and only, Anatoly Karpov!
I was thrashed, but looked great in the picture, and so did Jannes van der Wal, the famous Dutch world champion of draughts.
To understand some more of Karpov’s game I bought myself his book Wie ich kampfe und siege. That came in handy come 1999. Karpov was the legend-player in that years crown-tournament in Hoogeveen.
His opponents were Judith Polgar (strongest female player), Jan Timman (best Dutch player) and Darmen Sadvasakov (youth world champion), the usual tournament formula in those years. Just getting the book autographed, and perhaps Karpov would enjoy having that beautiful photograph? ‘Send it to my Moscow address’, he kindly suggested, but that somehow never materialised. By the end of that same year the belongings of the ruthless Romanian dictator Ceaucescu were auctioned, 10 years after his execution. And what did we see? A brilliantly expensive chess set, gifted by … Anatoly Karpov.
Countless miles he fell from his pedestal, my hero. I will never see him again, I told myself firmly. Untill in 2003 a huge envelope was dropped in my letterbox containing a photograph of former world champions Jannes van de Wal behind his draughtsstones, and Karpov behind the chesspieces, on one and the same board!
And so I went to Hoogeveen, what else could I have done? I still see Karpov in my eye, after yet another defeat, walking by the boards of the GM Open tournament. Not unlike this fallen ruler of the 64 squares does nowadays at the Tata tournament, when handing over the same prices he used to win himself.
Now you tell me, if his broad laugh is no hesitant smile?