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Karpov - Sokolov Candidates Final Match

Anatoly Karpov7.5/11(+4 -0 =7)[games]
Andrei Sokolov3.5/11(+0 -4 =7)[games] Chess Event Description
Karpov - Sokolov Candidates Final (1987)

This match took place in Linares, Spain, from Tuesday, February 24th to Thursday, March 26th. It was a FIDE Candidates Final Match to decide the World Championship Challenger for 1987, who would face Garry Kasparov. The experienced Spanish master Antonio Angel Medina Garcia was the arbiter. Lots were drawn on Monday 23rd February. The purse was 5,250,000 pesetas for the winner and 3,150,000 pesetas for the loser. (1) It was to become a match of a comet versus a star.

The players

Sokolov (23) was 12 years younger than Karpov. He had risen quickly winning the 1982 World Junior Championship in Copenhagen and the 51st USSR Championship (2–28 April 1984; +8 -0 =9), so becoming the third-ranked player in the world. Perhaps only Mikhail Tal and Kasparov can compare with the speed and accomplishments of his emergence into the elite. He had tied for first in the Montpellier Candidates (1985) in France. Then in the Candidates matches, he had first dispatched the 34-year-old Rafael Vaganian (+4 -0 =4), and defeated his contemporary the 26-year-old Artur Yusupov (+4 -3 =7, see Game Collection: WCC Index (Sokolov-Yusupov 1986)). Both of these opponents were then enjoying their peak years of performance. Despite Sokolov's rapid and impressive achievements, the ex-World Champion Karpov (35) was stated to be the favourite due to his playing strength, technical ability and vast experience. It was felt, however, that it would be a tough match.

Kasparov reportedly stated that a year ago he would have bet on Karpov, but now he was not so certain. Sokolov played the opening aggressively, which might cause problems for Karpov. (2) "A recent poll among grandmasters for the French chess magazine gave Karpov a 60 per cent chance to beat Sokolov and face Kasparov for a fourth time. But Sokolov said in an interview in the magazine: "I've won all the matches where I was not the favourite. If these prognostications are the same, then the result will be the same."" (3)

Karpov was seeded into this match, as the loser of the Kasparov - Karpov World Championship Rematch (1986). He was supported by long-term trainer Igor A Zaitsev, as well as having new seconds: Elizbar Ubilava and Mikhail Podgaets. Sokolov's coach was the experienced Soviet Grandmaster Gennadi Kuzmin, who had come third equal in the USSR Championship (1972) and second equal in the USSR Championship (1973).

The players examined the playing hall, and were not particularly pleased. "Both raised identical problems: the narrowness of the playing table and the colour of the carpet, a green judged to be too shrill and therefore unsuitable for calm concentration ... During yesterday morning, the two main contenders visited town's furniture store in search of seating more to their liking and both were satisfied with what they found." They also rejected the clocks, demanding the German Garde clocks and threatened to not play if the organisers did not provide this equipment. (4)


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 Karpov ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 7½ Sokolov ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 3½

Progressive scores:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Karpov ½ 1½ 2 2½ 3 4 4½ 5 5½ 6½ 7½ Sokolov ½ ½ 1 1½ 2 2 2½ 3 3½ 3½ 3½

Sokolov did not win a single game. Karpov advanced to the Kasparov - Karpov World Championship Match (1987).

Contemporary reactions

Raymond Keene : "Before the Candidates' super-final match started in Linares, Spain, I had expected Andrei Sokolov to put up a stern fight against Anatoly Karpov, perhaps even win. After all, Sokolov, just a few weeks older than Kasparov, has had a meteoric rise to the top and he has the distinction of never having failed in his major aims. He won the USSR championship when he had to, at the age of 20, then came out at the head of his Interzonal and the Montpelier Candidates' toumament. Finally, he disposed of Vaganian and Yusupov in Candidates' matches. But Karpov's subtlety is proving too much for him. With White, Sokolov has been making no impression, conceding draw after draw, while, as Black, his Queen's Indian Defence is almost imperceptibly failing to equalise. In fact, Sokolov is hardly putting up any kind of fight ... It is all highly reminiscent of the way Kasparov failed to adjust to Karpov's methods in the opening nine games of their first match." (5)

unknown player : "The 35-year-old Karpov won three of the five games in which he played White by capitalizing on a vastly superior grasp of the endgame. He carefully stopped the 24-year-old Sokolov every time he had Black, and in the 11th game of the 14-game series refuted a wild, desperate attack to take the final point with Black." (6)


Sokolov never came to terms with Karpov's style in this match. It became apparent that Sokolov suffered from a narrow opening repetoire whose positions were unfortunately to the taste of his opponent. Furthermore according to Zaitsev they purposefully avoided sharp positions and relied on Karpov's mastery of positional technique and endgame virtuosity. (7)


(1) Leontxo García in El País, 27 March 1987,
(2) Leontxo García in El País, 24 February 1987,
(3) AP report by David S C Goodman, 20 February 1987,
(4) Leontxo García in El País, 24 February 1987,
(5) Raymond Keene in The Spectator, 21 March 1987, p. 45,
(6) Robert Byrne in The New York Times, 31 March 1987,
(7) Garry Kasparov, My Great Predecessors, vol. 5, p. 411.

This text by User: Chessical. Games were first compiled by User: TheFocus.

 page 1 of 1; 11 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. A Sokolov vs Karpov ½-½351987Karpov - Sokolov Candidates FinalB10 Caro-Kann
2. Karpov vs A Sokolov 1-0611987Karpov - Sokolov Candidates FinalE15 Queen's Indian
3. A Sokolov vs Karpov ½-½221987Karpov - Sokolov Candidates FinalB17 Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation
4. Karpov vs A Sokolov ½-½421987Karpov - Sokolov Candidates FinalE15 Queen's Indian
5. A Sokolov vs Karpov ½-½381987Karpov - Sokolov Candidates FinalB17 Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation
6. Karpov vs A Sokolov 1-0901987Karpov - Sokolov Candidates FinalE15 Queen's Indian
7. A Sokolov vs Karpov ½-½411987Karpov - Sokolov Candidates FinalB17 Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation
8. Karpov vs A Sokolov ½-½411987Karpov - Sokolov Candidates FinalE15 Queen's Indian
9. A Sokolov vs Karpov ½-½751987Karpov - Sokolov Candidates FinalB12 Caro-Kann Defense
10. Karpov vs A Sokolov 1-0631987Karpov - Sokolov Candidates FinalE15 Queen's Indian
11. A Sokolov vs Karpov 0-1251987Karpov - Sokolov Candidates FinalB10 Caro-Kann
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
May-08-15  SpiritedReposte: Looking through Sokolov's games he was a very creative and talented player. But the big Ks were in a league of their own during the 80s.
May-08-15  offramp: Good match! Many complained of the unfairness of, for the first of two times, Karpov being seeded to the final (as with Anand). But he won by a distance (as with Anand) and went on to play what's-its-name again.

Poor Sokolov, the hawk, never really recovered. There is always the odd thought running through players' heads who have lost a match such as this:

"After I've lost this match by such a margin, if I DO become world champion, who will take me seriously?"

May-08-15  offramp: An odd match also in that over 11 games only 2 openings were used, the Caro-Kann and the Queen's Indian.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Not so strange, really, in that by this time, Karpov's repertoire against opponents of the highest class had begun to narrow, while Sokolov always stuck to a narrow repertoire, in the manner of Taimanov.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: "They also rejected the clocks, demanding the German Garde clocks and threatened to not play if the organisers did not provide this equipment."

What were the original clocks that Karpov and Sokolov rejected?

Jan-01-21  fisayo123: This match probably scared Kasparov away from playing 1. e4 in the 1987 match with Karpov. At that time, the advance variation had fallen out of favour (before Short revived it) and Karpov seemed invincible in any of the other mainlines (of that pre-super strong chess engine era).
Mar-19-21  alshatranji: "shaded to be the favourite". I'm sure they mean "slated". And does Chessgames use British spelling now? Not complaining. Just curious.

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