1998 FIDE World Championship Karpov - Anand

Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov the reigning Champion. In the late 1990's Karpov's strength slowly but steadily decreased. Also with his several disputes with FIDE (over the World Championship system) he became increasingly disillusioned with chess, limiting his play to mostly exhibition events. He also revamped his playing style to specialize for blitz chess.
Nevertheless, in 1998 he was still a very formidable opponent (with more experience in World Championship match play than anyone else in the history). Afterall he was still ranked at number 5 on the world at that time, and mantained in top 10 with a +2700 rating until the end of the century.

Viswantahan Anand the challenger. By 1998 Anand has firmly established himself as a player of the highest calibre - he was ranked in top 5 since 1992 (most of the time as #2 or #3). He had a very good 1997 year, finishing 1st (with Kramnik) at Dos Hermanas, winning both blindfold and rapid section in Melody Amber tournament, winning Chess Classics in Mainz, finnishing 2nd (behind Kramnik) in Dortmund, 1st in Biel, sharing 1st place (with Ivanchuk) in Belgrade, and winning the above mentioned FIDE knockout tournament in Groningen. The only set back was in Linares where he finished on 6th place. Anand eventually won the Chess Oscar for 1997 (an award which goes to the best player of the year).

Match conditions:
  • match was played from January 2nd to January 9th, 1998 in Lausanne, Switzerland
  • time controls were the same as in the Groningen tournament (see above)
  • the winner will get 1.370.000 USD, runner-up will get 768.000 USD
  • best of 6 games
  • in case of 3-3 tie, tie-break games at faster time controls will be played (see above)
Since the match was only 3 days after Anand's last game in Groningen (where he played 23 games in 21 days), the match was widely perceived as unfair towards Anand (in addition Anand lost at least half of his 2 rest days because he needed to fly from The Netherlands to Switzerland). Some even claimed that this circumstances were even a bigger advantage for Karpov than if he would face a fresh Anand and had draw odds. Kasparov dismissed the match as between "a tired player and an old player".

FIDE promised that for subsequent World Championships, the reigning Champion would enter the elimination matches in the second round.

The Match
Download games

Against all odds Anand managed to force the rapid tie-breaks where he lost 2-0. So Karpov retained his FIDE World Championship title.

Impact on the future

For the next FIDE World Championships, the reigning Champion had absolutely no advantage. He had to qualify for the final like everyone else. Karpov eventually refused to defend his title under such conditions and ceased to be the FIDE World Champion after the end of 1999 championship.

Before the 1997-98 FIDE World Championship all participants had to sign a player undertaking which prevented them from playing for world championships titles of other organizations in the following year. While some players considered this clause as only some words on the paper, one man kept his word.