25 July 2012

Kasparov's Thoughts, Emotions, and Perceptions

I'm not sure how many books I have that document specific World Championship events, but it must be around 40 to 50. The content of these books is similar and is invariably drawn from the following list.
  • Background to the event (usually a match).
  • Biographies of the (two) players.
  • Table of results.
  • Moves of the individual games, usually with notes.
  • Aftermath, if worth a special note.

In The Question of Old Material, with specific reference to online material, I mentioned,

There's more to say about [...] how best to document a World Championship event. Through the years I've given this a lot of thought and might come back to it for a future post.

The most recent addition to my book collection is the series on Kasparov's Modern Chess. Making this series unique is how Kasparov has woven his thoughts, emotions, and perceptions into the record of the games. The second volume in the series, published in 2008, covers the first two of the Karpov - Kasparov matches, KK1 (1984-85) and KK2 (1985). KK1 was the marathon 48-game match where Kasparov was trounced at the outset, but gradually found his bearings. Here is his personal note inserted between game one, where he played Black, and game two; both games were draws.

Despite the successful outcome, the discomfort I experienced during the course of this game forced me to seek other ways of defending. Later I realised that such a rejection of a perfectly acceptable opening variation [Sicilian Defense, Scheveningen Variation, Keres Attack] because of purely subjective, sometimes inexplicable, feelings is a normal phenomenon in serious matches.

Even so, a draw with the black pieces added to my optimism, and I arrived for the second game with a desire to engage the world champion in a large-scale battle. Alas, however, I was unable to overcome my nervousness, which told soon after emerging from the opening.

Between games two and three, which he lost.

Raymond Keene called this game 'one of the most violent and tempestuous I have ever seen in a world championship.' In the middle we reached the type of position which I would usually convert into a win, but here, in the words of Keene, Kasparov went 'berserk' . Trying at all costs to cling on to my fading initiative, I made several blunders, and only the opponent's mistakes in reply allowed me to avoid defeat.

My nervous condition also let me down in the 3rd game (before it Karpov took a time-out - the first of three he was allowed in the first 24 games). I employed a dubious novelty in the opening, and then, in an attempt to solve the resulting problems as quickly as possible, I incorrectly sacrificed a pawn. Karpov exploited these mistakes with surgical precision, permitting me to experience for the first time his ice-cold scalpel.

Between games three and four.

Thus in the 1st game Karpov avoided all my novelties, in the 2nd game he himself 'delighted' me with an unknown move, and in the 3rd he proved excellently prepared for a variation that had not previously occurred ... However, my play in that game was not nearly at the standard of a world championship match. Emotions overcame cold rationality, which is so necessary for such matches.

The two players arrived for the 4th game in different moods. I needed to come to after my defeat in the previous game (for this I even took a time-out). But Karpov, no doubt wishing to build on his success, for the only time in the match chose virtually the most complicated variation in the Queen's Indian Defence, leading to tense and unclear play.

After losing the sixth, seventh, and ninth games, his match situation seemed hopeless. Here are the notes between games nine and ten.

Thus the score had increased to 4-0 in Karpov's favour. This was a disaster! For me it came as a great shock to lose four of the first nine games, without a single win (just imagine: during the preceding two years I had lost only three games, and here I had already lost four!). I was just two steps away from a humiliating rout. Not surprisingly, everyone had already written me off and had begun talking about me as though in the past tense. 'Keene and I had hurried to join the match in the middle, but it seemed we were just in time for the end,' Jonathan Speelman lamented. 'Karpov has always played well, but this I hadn't expected. As for Kasparov, he probably lost his nerve. He's still young. His nerves are not good. He hasn't developed an iron will.'

And on the pages of The Times Harry Golombek came out with the unexpected claim that the Soviet authorities had supposedly demanded that I should lose to Karpov. 'Perhaps Kasparov has been warned not to play well and has been given to understand that the consequences for him and his family would be disastrous,' he wrote. Yuri Mamedov, the leader of my delegation, wrote to FIDE rejecting this nonsense. Campomanes described the story as 'unfounded and absurd' (at last he and I had found something we could agree about!).

Golombek, like many others, could not understand why I was losing seemingly without putting up a fight. He correctly observed that 'something abnormal' was happening in the match, that in the initial games I had launched into an attack with- out proper preparation, and that some of my openings had been familiar to Karpov. But to look in my play for some hidden political meaning was simply ridiculous. The reason lay with me, and in my incorrect initial stance. No one forced me to play that way - I contrived it all myself.

Yes, I was playing badly. As a player Karpov was more cunning and resourceful than me, to say nothing of his experience in general and of match play in particular. I think that one of the reasons for my collapse at the start was precisely my lack of experience at the world championship level. Even the Candidates matches cannot be compared with the final. Here Karpov was a professional, whereas I was an amateur. I could only guess about the laws of struggle at the highest level, whereas Karpov knew intimately all their nuances. He was calm and confident of victory, whereas I was merely hoping for success. Before the start of the duel not only did I not have the necessary experience - I did not even have a clear impression of what that experience was! All this came later, at great cost: specific knowledge, the correct evaluation of my powers, the ability to determine the critical moment of the play and to plan the correct strategic course, and the ability to retain objectivity and composure . . .

However, the match was not yet over and, in order to hold out for as long as possible and restore my strength of mind, I needed an urgent change of tactics. From then on I began acting extremely cautiously, endeavouring to exclude even the slightest risk. It was not in my character to play colourlessly, but I had no other choice. When you are drowning, there is no time to think about how attractively you are swimming.

Between games ten and eleven.

Draw agreed on White's proposal. Times: 1.03-1 .10.

In an evening telephone conversation Botvinnik called the draw offer my strongest move in this game: Black had a comfortable position. But Karpov went along with the peace proposal, probably having decided to avoid any complications and to pin his hopes on the white pieces, especially since at that moment in the match my black defences seemed shaky.

It only remained, so to speak, for the champion to wrap up and dispatch his opponent, i.e. me. But here Karpov violated an undisputable law of the struggle - the opponent must be finished off. Having decided that I myself would ripen and drop off, like a mature fruit, he lessened the pressure. If Karpov had continued playing as he did at the start of the match, I think that it would all have been over by about the 20th game. In this case he might have lost a couple of games, but this would not have affected the outcome. In an interview after the match Karpov admitted: 'With a lead of four points, I also did not aim for sharp play. Perhaps this was a mistake on my part: one must strike while the iron is hot.'

The ease with which Karpov had managed to achieve an overwhelming advantage in the very first games reduced his fighting spirit. Intoxicated by success, he set himself a high objective: to win by a 6-0 whitewash and disable a dangerous rival for a long time. This was no longer a contest only with me, but also with the shadow of the legendary Bobby Fischer, who in his time won by the same score (true, without any draws) in his Candidates matches with Taimanov and Larsen.

Looking ahead, it can be said that the opponent's decision not to take risks played into my hands. It was important for me to come to, and to regain my composure and confidence. Hence the record series of seventeen draws, many of which justifiably provoked the dissatisfaction of the fans. Karpov was waiting for my next mistake, while I was psychologically not yet ready to seize the initiative.

But before the 11th game I was still in a state of semi-shock, I had no idea about my opponent's mood, and the idea of making several draws in succession had hardly occurred to me. First I had to 'tame' 1 d4 - find a worthy replacement for the Tarrasch Defence. A couple of days before the game Andras Adorjan flew in to Moscow to help me, and we urgently got ready to employ the Gruenfeld Defence - 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5. This was risky: until then I had only played it a few times, and that had been much earlier and only against the variation with g2-g3. But we took account of the fact that this sharp defence had also occurred rarely in Karpov' s games, and we were hoping that his knowledge here would not be deep.

But with his very first move Karpov sprang a surprise, which demands a separate commentary.

What was the surprise?

1.Nf3 For the first time in the match! This move, a rare one for Karpov, put me on my guard: what was his reason for avoiding the successful 1 d4 ? After all, 1 Nf3 does not exclude the Queen's Gambit (including the Tarrasch Defence) and it reduces White's options against the King's Indian Defence (which at the time I employed extremely rarely), but it 'kills' the Gruenfeld Defence, an opening which was not part of my repertoire!

What was this? Foresight?! Alas, it was all far more prosaic. As I have already said, up to that day Dorfman had been secretly playing on the match totaliser, organised by a 'Karpov person'. Stakes could be made on almost any occurrence - the result of a game, the opening which occurred in it, the sealed move, and so on. Thus Dorfman 'exposed' my sealed move 42 ... f6 in the 9th game, by betting that White would exchange bishop for knight. Also my choice of openings was not a secret to my opponent. Before the 7th and 9th games my helper bet on the Tarrasch Defence, and before the 11th - on the fact that the black bishop would be developed at g7. By linking this inside information with the appearance of Adorjan (his arrival had not gone unnoticed), it was easy to guess that it was a question not of the King's Indian, but the Griinfeld Defence. In this first match Karpov did not intend to play against it: beginning with this game, he played (apart from 1 e4) only 1 Nf3 - fourteen times!

Game ten was the first in a long series of 17 draws, where Kasparov gradually recovered his composure. Although he lost the 27th game, it was Karpov's last win of the match, which was stopped by FIDE President Campomanes with the score at 5-3 after 48 games. It was the most spectacular reversal of form in the history of chess and we are fortunate to have Kasparov's personal recollection of how he accomplished it.

18 July 2012

2011-2012 Women's Grand Prix, Kazan

I added the Kazan event to my page on the 2011-2012 FIDE Women's Grand Prix. This was the fourth of six events in the series, where the previous event was the Women's Grand Prix, Nalchik

I also added the recent 2012 Anand - Gelfand match to my Index of players for World Championship events. This corrected an oversight dating back to my post on Anand - Gelfand Wrapup.

11 July 2012

The Question of Old Material

Even though I don't promote my chess sites on the social networking services, I received a comment about the World Championship site on Facebook.
I love your webpage about the world championship of chess. Will you ever add further material? I particularly like the "Highlights" sections... Sadly, that of the Capablanca - Alekhine match is void, and that of the Spassky - Fischer match is very scant... Will you ever beef them up? - S.T.

The comment refers to my page Match and Tournament Highlights, more specifically the 1927 Alekhine - Capablanca and 1972 Fischer - Spassky matches. These are pages where I collect material relevant to a specific match, above and beyond the basic crosstable and PGN game scores. Many of the pages, like the 1927 match, are simply a collection of references to specific games from well known chess literature, documented with a diagram to a critical position from the game. The most recent diagram on any page dates to December 2000. Some of the pages, like the 1972 match, are more detailed. I'm not sure which of these is the most recent, but I would be surprised to find anything after 2002.

When I created the material, there was no Wikipedia or Chessgames.com. These sites, with their legions of anonymous contributors, have far more resource available than I do. Here are links to their material that coincides with the Facebook comment.

What do to with old material like mine? There are three possibilities: update it, delete it, leave it. I've always taken the option to leave it alone, knowing full well that the material just gets older by the year. I see no pressing reason to change this approach, even though I've collected more source material to draw on than when I did the original work.

There's more to say about this subject, specifically how best to document a World Championship event. Through the years I've given this a lot of thought and might come back to it for a future post.