The Value of Mental Toughness

Question: How would you describe your playing style?

Anatoly Karpov: So, I was, and I am, how to say—a \r\npositional player, but active positional player.  So, we had purely \r\npositional player who was Tigran Petrosian, world champion for six \r\nyears.  But I have active positional style and so I played quite \r\nstrongly endings.  So this was my advantage also and then I could defend\r\n difficult positions, which is quite seldom in modern chess.  So, and I \r\ncould resist in positions where other players probably would resign.  \r\nAnd I was finding interesting ideas how to defend difficult positions \r\nand I could save many games.  So, I never gave up.  I was... okay, I was\r\n stubborn as a chess player, and so I tried to defend even very bad \r\npositions, and in many cases succeeded.

So you played on in bad positions?

Anatoly Karpov: Yeah, so as a personality, I’m fighter, \r\nyou know.  And I don’t give up and if I believe I’m correct, I’m right, \r\nthen I work and I fight.  Okay, this could be over chess board, this \r\ncould be in life and so I defend my principles.  And in chess, okay, \r\nthis is a special, how to say, characteristic when you, when you try to \r\nfind the best move whatever the position is, because many people they \r\nsay, okay, this is bad and then they lose will to fight.  I never lost \r\nwill to fight.

How do remain calm after you realize you’ve made a poor \r\nmove?

Anatoly Karpov: No, this is a very important and this is \r\ngood question because many people would call back the situation, they \r\nmissed chances, and then of course it will spoil the rest of the game.  \r\nBut it is concerning not only special situation during the game, but \r\nalso the bad result of previous game for the next game you play.  So, in\r\n my life, I tried and I succeeded in many cases to forget everything \r\nthat was in the past.  So, of course you need to make some analysis and \r\nnot to repeat mistakes, but it’s extremely important to accept situation\r\n like it is, the real situation, not with thoughts of regrets of what \r\nyou missed and okay, two moves ago you had winning position now, you \r\nhave to defend a difficult position and probably you might lose the \r\ngame.  So, this thought shouldn’t be when you play chess game.  And so \r\nlater on maybe you analyze and then you will, how to say, make some \r\nconclusions.  But during the game... and this is also very important \r\npart for chess education because chess is getting ideas how to accept \r\nthe real situation and how to be objective.  To be objective and to meet\r\n unexpected situations and to adapt to this immediately and to start to \r\nthink and to solve the problems.

You have to develop this.  I \r\ndon’t think it comes from your childhood or with birth. 

Recorded on May 17, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman

The twelfth world chess champion says that, even when things were bleak, he "never lost the will to fight."

Related Articles

A controversial theory claims past, present, and future exist at the same time

Our experience of time may be blinding us to its true nature, say scientists.

Back to the Future.
Surprising Science
  • Time may not be passing at all, says the Block Universe Theory.
  • Time travel may be possible.
  • Your perception of time is likely relative to you and limited.
Keep reading Show less

Six disastrous encounters with the world’s most hostile uncontacted tribe

From questionable shipwrecks to outright attacks, they clearly don't want to be bothered.

Culture & Religion
  • Many have tried to contact the Sentinelese, to write about them, or otherwise.
  • But the inhabitants of the 23 square mile island in the Bay of Bengal don't want anything to do with the outside world.
  • Their numbers are unknown, but either 40 or 500 remain.
Keep reading Show less