Anatoly Karpov
World Chess Champion 1975-1985

Chess in Russia Is Like Baseball in America

To embed this video, copy this code:

The board game has been a national pastime in Russia since well before the Bolshevik Revolution.

Anatoly Karpov

Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov was the world chess champion for a decade, from 1975 to 1985.  He won the title when Bobby Fischer, the American grandmaster and reigning world champion, failed to show up at the chessboard.  Born in 1951 in Zlatoust, a Russian industrial city in the Urals, Karpov is widely considered to be one of the greatest players of all time.  He finished first in more than 160 tournaments and occupied the Number 1 spot on the world chess rating list for 90 months, a record surpassed only be the man who dethroned him as world champion, Garry Kasparov. Today, two and half decades after his reign as world champion, Karpov is still an active and strong grandmaster (rated Number 155 in the world, as of June 2010). Karpov is running for president of FIDE, the world chess federation. 
Question: Why has Russia dominated the chess world?

Anatoly Karpov: Because of long time traditions and chess was... chess was part of intellectual life in Russian Empire.  And so big writers, great writers they were playing chess and so this was privilege in part of top society, in top society people. And then after the revolution, new power, they saw in chess the tool of bringing knowledge and education because it was easy, it was cheap and if you recall the time when revolution happened, most of educated people and top society people they left the country.  And so new power should work out something to make new intelligencia and new intellectual people. And so they believed that with the help of chess they could do it, and especially it’s very cheap compared to any other things.  I don’t talk even about sport, but about other subjects and sciences.  And that’s why it was supported and even during civil war, when we had civil war in 1920, first championship for Soviet Russia took place.  And later it became part of education system, before World War II. And after all chess became national game.  Like you have here in America, you have baseball, and so Russia had chess.

Recorded on May 17, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman