When discussing whether chess is a sport, I have often used that Karpov lost a reported 22 pounds (10 kg.) during the match as a point to show that chess can be physical. While 22 pounds is significant, I think it is even more significant because Karpov was a man with a very slight stature, meaning it was a much higher percentage of his total weight than if he had been a 250-pound man, but nowhere have I ever been able to find what his initial weight was.

Does anyone know Karpov's initial weight at the start of that match, or even his final weight, which would also tell us that information?

Here is one such story.

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    The real question is: Did he really lose 22 pounds or is this just the addition of some writer, which was in turn added by many other writers to embellish the story? I couldn't find any reliable source where either Karpov nor Campomanes state that Karpov had lost that amount of weight during the time period. – waka Jan 13 at 16:00
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    I am not going to get into conspiracy theories. This was widely reported by all the top chess sites, so I am going to take it as fact until otherwise proven. – PhishMaster Jan 13 at 21:09
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    I wasn't aware of this - it lends more weight to Campomanes aborting the match. – Inertial Ignorance Jan 14 at 3:53
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    @PhishMaster I wasn't going to try and get into conspiracy theories either. It's just that the only sources I could find to Karpov losing weight is that "he reportedly lost 22 pounds". But no one states who it was that reported the weight loss. – waka Jan 14 at 10:51
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    It is unlikely anybody lost 22 pounds during a match. Unless he was very overweight and ate very little but still that is a stretch to believe. – edwina oliver Jan 14 at 17:05

That's a lot, if validated. Karpov was rather slight at the time, something around 60kg or less, so that represents something under 20% of his body weight.

And actually, that's consistent with other facts, given that was a 50+ game match. Fabiano Caruana says he can drop around 10% of his body weight during a difficult tournament. (Said to an ESPN reporter.) Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford researcher, has measured some players at burning 6000 calories per day in a tournament.

Another unverified data point is Rustam Kasimdzhanov losing 17 pounds at the 2004 championship.

A lot was made of this recently, made "sexy" because Magnus Carlson sought the advice of Olympic trainers for his physical conditioning, but it's not a new discovery. Petrosian would also drop a lot of weight during the championship match cycle, and other champions like Botvinnik and Spassky made getting in physical condition an important part of their match preparation.

ESPN, NPR ("The Chess Grandmaster's Diet"), Men's Health, seems like every magazine got in on it last year.

I don't have anything verifiable on the Karpov bit, but the other work I've seen, taken with the comment from Caruana, means I'll accept it as true until someone can disprove it. It's been verified to happen to players other than Karpov, so why not him?

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    Minor correction: The match was 48 games, not 50+. – Akavall Jan 14 at 4:20
  • I should have checked. I started to write 50 as a nice round number estimate, because the number was escaping me, then for some reason 56 came into mind as the number, so added the plus. Thanks for the correction. – Arlen Jan 14 at 14:16
  • If I recall correctly, one of the proposals was to extend the match to 56 games and who ever had the best score (or tie for Karpov) at the and got the title, so that's where that number might be coming from. – Akavall Jan 14 at 17:02
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    Tour de France riders burn 14000 calories a day. The most I ever did when I was riding my bike was 5000-6000. And I rode more/harder/faster than any but the lean A class riders. I never lost any weight during a chess tournament. Could you lose some ? Of course. Could you lose 22 pounds? I am very skeptical. Studies show lots of stress and other factors playing chess but none of them I saw claimed you burned a lot more calories. Using the brain uses some but not that much. Fidgeting and walking around use some but not that much. I call that one 'Busted'. – edwina oliver Jan 14 at 17:08

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