Atanasov was born in Karan Varbovka, Bularia in 1948 and in 1955 his family moved to Ruse where he learned to play chess in school and began taking lessons from an amateur player who schooled him in theory and loaned him chess books. Mostly he was self-taught which was done through studying chess books and playing over games of famous players, especially Tahl. Most of the books he studied were on the middlegame, but for several years he studied the endgame extensively. It is his belief that players must learn the endgame thoroughly in order to absorb a fundamental knowledge.
Atanasov developed into a promising junior player and during the period 1963-66 was the national junior champion of Bulgaria 3 times. Due to the political situation in Bulgaria he was not able to take part in any of the world junior championships. However, in the late 1960s and early '70s he did participate in three Student Olympiads playing on second or third board, scoring quite well. From 1976-1991 he was a professional chess trainer at the Danube Chess Club in Ruse.
It's not well known that Atanasov started to work with Veselin Topalov in 1986 when Topalov's mother approached him and asked that he take her son into his group of advanced children between 12-14 years old. So from then until the age of 16 Atanasov took over as Topalov's coach.
When he began training with he had a basic knowledge of chess, but was unfamiliar with more advanced principles and strategy. Initially Topalovs' lessons lasted two hours, three times a week, but gradually increased until they were spending 30-36 hours per week on chess.
In the beginning Topalov was trained to play 1.d4 and studied various black defenses. As black against 1.d4 he studied the Old Indian Defense. As black against 1.e4, at first Topalov was exposed to the French Defense, but later refused to play it, preferring the Sicilian.
From the beginning Topalov excelled in tactics and his favorite tactical motif was the sacrifice of the exchange. Eventually, Atanasov realized that his student needed a professional coach, so at the age of 16, Toppy started to work with IM Silvio Danailov.
Atanasov's favorite game was the following played against Juergen Dueball in the 1969 World Student Chess Team Championship in Dresden.