A Meeting with Salvador Dali

In the first week of February, when Anatoly Karpov was playing a two-day rapid match against Hou Yifan in the Chinese city Harbin, I found an interesting interview with him that I had missed when it had appeared a few years earlier. It was taken in 2014 by the Russian magazine Sobesednik (Companion) and it was translated almost in full, together with another Karpov interview, by Colin McGourty of Chess24 on the page https://chess24.com/en/read/news/karpov-on-fischer-carlsen-anand-and-meeting-dali

Karpov spoke about his meeting in 1979 with Salvador Dali in a restaurant in New York. Dali was accompanied by two chic female fans, who imbibed all his words as gifts from heaven. About these women Karpov said, “I would not say there was any sexual nature to the artist’s relationships with these ladies, they were unlikely to be possible. Dali then was already at a serious age – 74 years – which was noticeable in his hands. But he moved, I must admit, quite cheerfully, and his head, despite everything, worked brilliantly.”

Karpov’s doubt about Dali’s sexual energy at an advance age may be justified, as already in 1929 Dali made his famous work The Great Masturbator, ostensibly a painting of a rock, but generally interpreted as a self-portrait.

Dali came with his women, Karpov with a KGB officer. In the interview he said, “Such was the norm back then: for example, not long before his death, Mikhail Tal said that when he helped me in my clash with the “undesirable” Viktor Kortchnoi in Baguio, the threat of ending up in jail was hanging over him – that’s how he felt it would all end up if I lost. Of course, that seems far-fetched, but there were a lot of such burdens for us to bear in those years.”

For younger readers: Baguio was the city in the Philippines where in 1979 Karpov played his first match for the world championship against Kortchnoi.

Dali certainly had some interest in chess. He used chess themes in some of his paintings and designed a chess set with most of the pieces cast from his own fingers. Many of his artist friends, such as Marcel Duchamp and Samuel Beckett, were avid chessplayers, and Dali himself played regularly with his wife Gala, though observers noted that this was probably more for Gala’s pleasure than for Salvador’s.

On the other hand, Karpov was quite knowledgeable about Dali’s work, so the two great men had a lot to talk about .

Back in 1979, Karpov knew an anecdote about Dali and the Armenian composer Khachaturian. After a concert in Spain, the composer had expressed a wish to meet Dali and when his request had been granted, he came to one of Dali’s mansions in Spain and was admitted inside by a servant. In a big and empty hall, the composer waited two hours until Dali suddenly arrived, galloping completely naked on a broom as a horse and waving wildly with a sabre to the tones of Khachaturian’s famous Sabre Dance. Quick as a flash, Dali disappeared again and then the servant entered the room to tell the composer that the audience had ended.

This anecdote is almost certainly just a funny tale, but anyway Karpov was prepared for strange things. But nothing spectacular happened. Except that Karpov was quite surprised when the women accompanying Dali made a big drama when they had ordered eggs with caviar and got only three eggs for $20. “Robbery!” yelled the immensely wealthy widow of a perfume king.

Nowadays Karpov rests on his laurels. In January, he was in Wijk aan Zee to hit the gong at the beginning of the last round of the Tata tournament, something he had also done in 2017. Occasionally he still plays for pleasure; a simul here, a rapid tournament there. Shortly after that Tata tournament, he played the match against Hou Yifan to which I referred at the start of this article. Karpov won 3½-2½.

In the game viewer you’ll find the third game of the match. As in all six games, the time control was 15 minutes + 10 seconds per move.

Click here to view Karpov-Hou Yifan, Harbin China 2018