Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Chess Reviews: 155

Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess Part Four
Kasparov vs Karpov
By GM Garry Kasparov
432 pages
Everyman Chess

This is the concluding volume on the great Kasparov v Karpov saga. It covers their fifth and final match for the World Chess Championship in great depth and includes all of their tournament encounters - including Rapidplay - between the years of 1988 and 2009. The annotations are excellent.

The chess world was changing. For a while it had seemed that Kasparov and Karpov would be still be battling it out on the highest summit for many years to come, on an exclusive table set for two with little sign of anyone else being invited to the party. Kasparov acknowledges the winds of change early on in the book.

'As always, the match took a very tense course, but, for all the wealth of ideas demonstrated, its influence on the development of chess was not so significant as our previous four matches, which by the early 1990s had produced a powerful new generation: Anand, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Short, Kamsky, Shirov, Kramink, Topalov...The composition of the chess elite underwent a drastic change, and Karpov and I were no longer able to dominate unconditionally in tournaments.'

The story is told in four main sections.

Tournament Races

This section looks at the tournament clashes between Kasparov and Karpov in the years between their fourth and fifth title bouts. Every game they played against each other is included and analysed, sometimes in great depth. There were some ferocious clashes during this period as the 12th and 13th World Champions tried to gain the upper hand.

Kasparov - Karpov
Amsterdam 1988

This game was a particularly bloodthirsty encounter. Kasparov was definitely in a sacrificial mood and he looks to have a vicious attack. However, Karpov hit back strongly with 24 ...Ba3! when after 25 Bc3 he could have won with 25 ...Bb2 but missed it, tried 25 ...Rxe1+ and eventually lost on time. The analysis of the game fills nine pages.

The tournament games weren't immune from the standard politics. For example, when the two players shared first place in the extremely strong USSR Championship of 1988, there is the case of the play-off match that never was, with Mikhail Botvinnik (in his role of Chief Arbiter) making a late return to the Kasparov story.

There was also the creation of the promising Grandmasters Association ('GMA') and the fantastic series of World Cup tournaments. Meanwhile, for reasons explained in the book, Kasparov found 1990 a difficult years and Karpov found himself having to battle through some Candidates' matches to ensure he had another crack at taking the title back.

The Fifth Match: 1990

This is easily the most substantial section of the book. The match was shared between New York and Lyon and Kasparov retained his title to the tine of 12.5-11.5.

The bare scores for the New York phase - games 1-12 - make the match look dull, with only one win each and lots of draws. However, this was far from the case. Both players were striving to win with both colours (quite a rarity for Karpov) and the main battle grounds were the King's Indian Defence and the Zaitsev Variation of the Ruy Lopez.

Kasparov - Karpov
Theoretical debate in the Zaitsev Variation of the Ruy Lopez

Karpov's match strategy was not expected the defending champion.

'I had not expected such an abrupt turn by opponent in the direction of maximum activity, and correspondingly, maximum risk when playing Black - this was a pleasant surprise!'

Maybe Karpov could feel that time was indeed moving on and this was his last chance to try and defeat Kasparov in a title match, which might explain why he went in with all guns blazing. If so, then he was right.

The second half of the match saw significant appearances by the Kasparov's Grunfeld - which came under severe pressure (the addition of Portisch to Karpov's team of helpers is seen as the main reason the Grunfeld and the King's Indian both felt the pressure in this match) - and the champion's surprising choice of The Scotch Game. Kasparov earned the lion's share of the five wins seen in the Lyon half of the match.

Some of the games have gone down as classics, such as this one.

Kasparov - Karpov
Game 20

Kasparov's brilliant attack concluded swiftly after 34 Qxh6+! (1-0, 41)

Passions around the Crown

This section covers the remaining tournament clashes between the Kasparov and Karpov. At time, many were played under the background of a probable sixth World Championship in 1993. However, events took a somewhat unexpected turn when Karpov was knocked out of the Candidates Cycle by Nigel Short and the latter collaborated with Kasparov to break the World Championship away from FIDE.

During this period, their game from Linares in 1993 is the most famous, due to the complete domination of the board achieved by Kasparov after just 22 moves.

Karpov - Kasparov
Linares 1993

The result was never in really in doubt and White lasted just five more moves.

End of the Duumvirate

The concluding part of the book rounds up the Rapidplay and Blitz games the two contestants played up to and including their 2009 match in Valencia to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their first title match. It essentially displays the dying embers of a once raging chess firestorm.

I sensed Kasparov's attitude changing towards his great rival as the book progressed. His opinion of his own powers seemed to change to. In their four-game Rapid match in New York (2002), Karpov took the lead with one game left to play. It's astonishing to read Kasparov's thoughts at this point:

'The score became 2-1. Thirty minutes later there began the 4th and final game, in which I had to try and draw level. But I no longer had the energy for a fight, and I did not greatly believe that I would win'.

That's definitely what we would have expected to hear from him just a few years earlier.

Their Rapid and Blitz match in 2009 was a distinctly one-sided affair, with Kasparov dominating. There was a whiff of Fischer - Spassky (1992 vintage) about the games, but there were occasional moments which shine brightly to remind us how things used to be.

Kasparov - Karpov
Valencia Rapid 2009
Game 2

Kasparov ripped open the Black King's defences with...22 Nf6+! and 1-0 (28)

Further matches - at any time limit - look extremely unlikely. Yet the K-K saga continues, albeit in a different form of battle. With Karpov, backed by Kasparov, waging a strong campaign on the road to the FIDE Presidency, it is clear that the lives of the two combatants are still strongly intertwined and always will be so.

Let us hope that this series will not finish now that all of the Kasparov - Karpov games have been fully covered. It would be great to read Kasparov's own version of his other matches and the curious defeat to Kramnik in 2000.

The high standards of the previous volumes in the series have been maintained and this is definitely one of the best books of 2010.

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