December 16, 2011 12:26

Cooperation between Nakamura and Kasparov already over

Cooperation between Nakamura and Kasparov already over

The cooperation between Hikaru Nakamura and Garry Kasparov was short-lived. Just before the start of the London Chess Classic the American grandmaster decided to continue working on his chess without the assistance of the 13th World Champion. This was reported on Thursday by Macauley Peterson in an article for Chess Life Online.

In 'Nakamura: Second, and Going Solo' Peterson wraps up the London Chess Classic for the American chess fans, and therefore focuses on Nakamura's performance in London. However, besides discussing his games the article includes the news about the end of the cooperation between Nakamura and Kasparov - a cooperation that was made public by Peterson as well in New in Chess Magazine issue 2011/07.

It basically started exactly a year ago in London. Nakamura said in the NIC interview:

I knew right away that I would definitely take up the offer simply because there are certain times – certain opportunities you have in life just don’t come around that often, and certainly having the opportunity to work with, at least what I consider to be, the greatest chess player ever, is sort of an opportunity you can’t turn down.

The following month was Nakamura's biggest triumph, when he finished clear first at the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee. However, the rest of 2011 was mostly disappointing for Nakamura, who rarely managed to reach the level he was capable of. Except for the 3rd London Chess Classic, where he finished clear second behind Vladimir Kramnik. Peterson:

But this success bookends his short-lived collaboration with Kasparov. Shortly before the tournament, Nakamura decided to strike out on his own.

During the 7th round of the London Chess Classic it was Nakamura's turn to assist the commentators. Naturally he was asked about his cooperation with Kasparov. Nakamura explained that the two had mainly been working on openings, as this was Kasparov's strongest point. The American then added that during Kasparov's career, other players had been stronger in the middlegame and endgame, notably Vladimir Kramnik. Here's the full dialogue between GM Danny King and Nakamura (thx to Colin McGourty):

Now we’re on that subject, tell us a little bit more about working with Garry Kasparov. Are you enjoying those sessions? Or enjoying is perhaps not the word. Do you feel you’re getting something out of it?

I mean there’s something to be gained. I think mainly it’s the opening preparation he did with his team over the past 20, 25 years of his chess career. That’s really the strength of working with someone like Kasparov. It’s his opening preparation, because a lot of his wins came from just getting good positions out of openings against players. So, it’s mainly just looking at openings and working from there. There are other things like studies and some endgames but it’s pretty much the openings.

Oh right, so he doesn’t sort of look at particular middlegames that much with you?

No, like I said, his strength was in openings. You look at middlegames or endgames and I’m quite convinced there are other players who were better than he was but he was able to get advantages out of the opening, so that was his main strength. And when he wasn’t able to do that that’s why he lost his title to Kramnik.

As simple as that?

Well, pretty much.

But your training sessions are continuing anyway?

We’ll see.

Garry Kasparov actually visited the tournament in London, where he signed copies of his latest book Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov Part 1: 1973-1985 (which will be reviewed very soon here at ChessVibes). According to Macauley Peterson,

he and Nakamura avoided speaking.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Szoker's picture

Well.. that was long..


christos's picture

Kasparov is probably a very expensive but simply bad coach. He has managed to disappoint his highly talented and certainly hard-working pupils (Nakamura, Carlsen), both of them in a short time.

Aingle Pack's picture

Well all these kids just go to Kasparov thinking that he will simply handover his openings database to them in a chessbase file and they don't need to work hard.

stevefraser's picture

Based on the just published Carlsen interview he needs to be taken off your list.

Rene van Alfen's picture

I guess this was te be expected and inevitable. Looks like Nakamura is not as dedicated to chess as Kasparov was (and maybe still is).

guitarspider's picture

Amateurs buy opening books, SuperGMs rent Kasparov.

Kind of depressing for Kasparov.

Bob's picture

Looks like an ego clash, doesn't it? And how good for the ego is borrowing Carlsen's coach, and having him inevitably make comparisons between them?

The only way was out.

James's picture

I do feel sorry for kasparov. By all accounts, it is not that he ripped off his pupils by not caring or working for them, but, in the case of carlsen, actually put too much in and expected too much work from his student. The carlsen/kasparov split up seemed seems quite different to this one. Nakamura's cheap jibe at Kasparov at the chess classic will forever sully his name with me. Very ungrateful of him after Kasparov took on what is arguably a dubious case with the aim of making him 2800, at substantial risk to his own reputation...... I think Nakamura comes out of this looking bad.

Richard's picture

Anything Naka does looks bad to you and some others here.

Anonymous's picture

Richard, few doubt that Nakamura has great talent but it is the things that he says that makes him look bad. Carlsen said (in private) about his training with Kasparov "Get me out of this!" but in public he is very gracious when talking about his former coach (ref: ) This shows a level of maturity that Nakamura lacks. As an American I want to root for him but he is going to have to try a little harder to control his tongue.

stevefraser's picture

Well said....I agree.

classic's picture

I think both Carlsen and Nakamura are right in their analysis of Kasparov. His strength was the opening preparation, and his style is a little to intense for good co-operation.
That said, Kasparov is still among the top 3 in chess-history, but not necessarily the best coach.

Jeremiah's picture

I don't think Kasparov is confined to openings as they claimed. If those two will play against gary, Gary would beat them in any level of the game. Gary is too strong for any player even at this moment. They just want a name for themselves apart from Gary..Something to do with ego.

Bernd's picture

Kasparov comes from a different age: the Botvinnik approach to chess which is super-hard work, and complete dedication to chess. Not sure with Carlsen, but certainly Nakamura is not willing to work in this style. Nakamura's comment about others being better than Kasparov in the middlegame(!) and endgame is cheap and uncalled for. Being world champ and clear No.1 from 1985 to 2000 is not too shabby.

Noel Kelleher's picture

Well said

steve's picture

you are totally right. naka is talented, but has the maturity of a 13 year old still.i guess he will never grow up. no wonder he is despised by so many.

Pieter Priems's picture

I agree with your vision

Jhoravi's picture

the whole kasparov teaching Naka is just a big excuse. kasparov just wanted a very strong blitz partner because its blitz chess thats hes participating these days.

The Player's picture

Who is his next pupil: Anand?

Brecht's picture

the next one will be Kramnik for sure! ;)

Tony's picture

An interesting assessment, and probably a true one.Kasparov probably worked harder than any other world champion other than maybe Fischer.
People are taking offense and jumping to defend Kasparov but Nakamura also said he was the "greatest chess player ever."
Nakamura was honest about his assessment of Kasparov's strengths and weaknesses. This was not based on speculation but, more than likely, a deep study of his games that is available to everyone. The differences in strengths and weaknesses is relative to the level (top 10-15 )Nakamura and Kasparov are at there is a fine line. Kasparov did lose to Kramnik due to opening prep, beating his head on the Berlin wall and as for his assessment of endgames Aagaard said the same about endgames and Kasparov as well. It is all relative.
As a bare minimum what they should take away from working with Kasparov is his passion for winning and work ethic.

Anthony's picture

Kasparov's attitude is inspiring. There is no doubt he has had a major influence on both players.

But it is also fully understandable that strong men like Carlsen and Nakamura would have difficulty coping with Kasparov's ways. He's one of those 'with me or against me' people and as long as you are 'with them' they are great fun, but they can get wearisome when you're (perceived to be) 'against them'.

I'd say the lads should just appreciate the input from Garry and I'm grateful to Magnus and Hikaru that they distracted him from doing the Banker's dirty work in Russia.

Coco Loco's picture

The guy Naka considers (considered?) to be the best player ever was not the best middlegame and/or endgame player. So openings are what chess is all about. So let's play the king's gambit, and e4 e5 Qh5! I wish someone would ask him the question: are you a better "middlegame and endgame player" (which must be very different from a regular chess player) than Kasparov was?

noyb's picture

I think that Carlsen and Nakamura dropping Kasparov as a coach is less of a reflection on Kasparov's coaching abilities and instead more of a reflection on the fact that young people today are less willing to work hard. Carlsen might make WC on his own talent, but not Nakamura. Bad move.

Remco G's picture

I don't agree. Would Kasparov once he was a top-10 player accept anyone as a coach? Of course not!

Nakamura and Carlsen obviously have big egos, you need that to reach the world top in any sport. They have very strong ideas of their own. I think they're beyond the level where coaches in general can be beneficial.

Rodzjer's picture

You did not think that over too well. One can be the "strongest" player (ie highest rated?), but every player as -relatively- strong and weak points. Carlsen and certainly Naka are no different. So if the right coach is chosen to work with, everybody can learn. Even the strongest player in the world.

As for Naka, I'd hire father time as coach. Clearly his greatest challenge is to divide his time over the game in an optimal way. And he may be a bit more humble when talking about great players such as Kasparov. He is nowhere near as legendary as Kasp.

Amos's picture

"Would Kasparov once he was a top-10 player accept anyone as a coach? Of course not!"

Actually, Kasparov had a coach for all of his career. One of Kasparovs great strenghts was working with numerous grandmasters, ex-world champions among them, and learning from them.

"I think they're beyond the level where coaches in general can be beneficial."

Have you actually seen Nakamuras games? One does not need to be a grandmaster to notice obvious holes in his chess education. The fact that he is top player despite this, is truly amazing!

chesschamp's picture

I think Kasparovs ego is what spoiled these cooperations. I don´t think naka or magnus are less dedicated to chess. They just go about it in a different way. Kasparov wants to get beck in to elite chess and has tried to do it by proxy. My suggestion to him is: start playing again Garry!

Morley's picture

I think the tutoring ended because Kasparov didn't have much left to offer them. I mean, Nakamura was 2770+, Carlsen was 2800+, and they were both capable of beating the world's best and winning the most elite events. What is Kasparov really going to offer such immensely strong and talented players for 2, 3, 4+ years? The lessons had to end eventually; one year is plenty for a top player to round out a few aspects of the game with help from a former world champion.

Pal G.'s picture

This makes too much sense! Good comment. However, if it is true why do they not look at or speak to each other?? Sensationalism by the press?

I think Kasparov's next client should be Gelfand ;)

redivivo's picture

Gelfand was always Kasparov's client, even more than Anand was :-)

Brecht's picture

Then i m looking forward to the Anand vs Kasparov (alias Gelfand) match ;)

Amos's picture

"What is Kasparov really going to offer such immensely strong and talented players for 2, 3, 4+ years?"

Any well educated Soviet school GM would be a benefit for Nakamura for many years. He still has so much to learn. Just look at his win over Anand - he was playing KID with a tempo down! Imagine how strong he would be, if he improved his openings? He has a lot to work on in engames and strategy also.

hcl's picture

The problem is:
1. Naka needed a GM coach in his youth, especially teens. He didn't get that, and that's a glaring gap, the cause of Carlsen's trash-talking.
2. Kasparov cannot patch up Naka's lack of a complete training program in a few sessions. Kasp is busy, and he's expensive.

It appears Naka will remain an untrained talent (relatively speaking to other 2700s) for the rest of his career. He doesn't outplay opponents in "regular positions" as others do, but must rely on raw talent in complex positions where he is worse. This is not a recipe for a long stay at the top. The moment his tactical sharpness declines, he will take a sharp dive.

The players who hang around have strong positional/universal styles.

Thomas Richter's picture

My take on this: As for most if not all "divorces", both sides probably have at least partial responsibility or blame for it. I see no need to feel sorry for Kasparov (if nothing else, his bank account benefitted from the cooperation), nor for calling him a bad coach. After all, he was rather successful with Carlsen, to the point that Magnus considered him redundant(!?), and not as successful with Nakamura. It's at least interesting that - over the whole of 2011 - Nakamura's best results were in January (at the very start of their cooperation) and December (when it was already over) - too much pressure in between??

What's next for Rex Sinquefield? Will he continue to support Nakamura the way he did?

What's next for Kasparov? Rather than the names mentioned so far (Anand and Gelfand), methinks his next customer could be Anish Giri whose working attitude may differ from Carlsen and Nakamura - at least that's my impression or semi-educated guess ... . But will Giri find a rich sponsor to cover the attached pay cheque?

redivivo's picture

"not as successful with Nakamura"

It wasn't a disaster either, Nakamura did win a very strong Wijk aan Zee and was an inch from winning also a very strong London, then some results in between were clearly worse but if not for that weird loss on time against Vallejo he might have won also the Grand Slam final.

Thomas Richter's picture

"Clearly worse" is quite an understatement with respect to Bazna, Dortmund and Tal Memorial: in all cases, Nakamura was at least close to last place (or last of the 2700+ participants) ... .

And I wonder how much credit for Nakamura's London result can go to Kasparov, actually for two reasons:

- Nakamura didn't get any advice from Garry during the event, and it seems that he didn't listen to whichever earlier advice he got. Particularly if it was indeed mostly or exclusively about openings - it certainly wasn't Kasparov's suggestion to play the KID a tempo down against Anand, and the King's Gambit against Adams!

- While the tournament went all right (rather than just alright) for Nakamura, it could have, again, gone all wrong: he couldn't really complain if he had scored 0.5/3 rather than 3/3 against the A-team Aronian, Anand and Adams ... unless Kasparov specifically taught him how to win from inferior positions. I don't mean to debate whether Nakamura was lucky or not - just make a point that the player, and not the coach won these games.

redivivo's picture

"Nakamura didn't get any advice from Garry during the event"

No, but you can benefit in other ways than by getting advice during an event, maybe Nakamura will score better results than in 2009-10 also after the cooperation has ended. Otherwise I don't think one can just compare the results of Carlsen and Nakamura and say that the cooperation with Nakamura was less successful because his results were worse.

Nakamura was #15 and 60 points behind third place when the cooperation started but 6th half a year later. Already months before starting the cooperation with Kasparov Carlsen had been only 5 points from first place on the rating list, and apart from that he was five years younger. Nakamura has been playing everything and everywhere in 2011 and his results have been uneven, but he has become a very strong top player with great results against players like Anand and Kramnik. Carlsen's cooperation with Kasparov was closer, but to me both cooperations were rather successful for those involved.

CAL|Daniel's picture

Giri? Really? Giri? Are you joking or dreaming? Both maybe?

Thomas Richter's picture

Actually I am at least half-serious: after all, Kramnik considered Giri a future threat and/or colleague at the absolute world top. Not sure though how much Kramnik's opinion matters to Kasparov ... another possibility (but now I am joking) is that a few years from now a retired Kramnik might become Giri's coach - he certainly knows Giri's remaining weak spots!

Anyway, who else? There aren't (m)any young players left who already reached the top10. I don't think Kasparov will work with Radjabov, no matter how much oil industry money the Azeris propose (which also seems quite unlikely). And Karjakin seems perfectly fine with Kasparov's former coach Dokhoian.

Brecht's picture

Gin tonic please!

Anna's picture

Anish Giri is very arrogant.. no way.

Mike's picture

I think ambition and curiosity made that both Carlsen and Naka thought something like: "..well, people say so much marvelous about this guy...let's see what he has in his wallet..." Then, after knowing what was inside Kaspy's wallet, they found: "...well, that's all? let's split..." Young guys want to pickup instantly all secrets of the world with no effort...

blah's picture

at the press conference in london, from what i saw, everyone avoided talking to naka. the rest of the gm's were talking and joking...

hcl's picture

Is it possible that Carlsen's blatant attempt to drive a wedge between Kasp and Naka worked? Remember the interview of a month ago? - in which Carlsen deliberately mentioned that Kasp did not think much of Naka's ability.

I think that may have done it. LOL. Carlsen 1 - 0 Nakamura off-the-board as well.

Anonymous's picture

Of course the most beneficial work with Kasparov would be in openings preperation and work ethics. I would be very surprized if Nakamura would be taught something in the endgame by Kasparov.
The difference between GMs and everyone below is their mastery of Endgames and Tacktics. Then there is a distinct difference between GMs and Super GMs, and that's all in openings to suit a player's specific style/temperament and specific strength.

I'm sure Kasparov can teach Nakamura developed lines and secrets in the Kings Indian. He used KI to remain on top for many years.

To draw the opponent into opening preperation (Homeorked lines) where a player get a small but game lasting advantage (Unless he blunders).
Once a superGM has a small advantage, they know how to build on it and keep increasing this into a full win (Kramnik is one of the best at this!).

Anonymous's picture

One thing that Garry cannot teach Nakamura or Carlsen is accurate calculation of lines (He is the best at it, but he can only do it in positions that are suited for his style...).
Obviousley, when Kramnik found he can exchange Queens, and draw Kasparov to a boring Berlin position where there are no takctical possibilities... and it's easy for Black to draw.. he used it to his advantage.

Anonymous's picture

With Carlsen and Kasparov it was rediculous media comparisons.
Carlsen plays 1.e4 and everyone jumps saying this must be something Kasparov has taught him. Or when he played scotch 1.e4,e5 2.Nf3,Nc6 3.d4 ("This MUST be Kasparov's influence...") Look,I'm sure Carlsen has played Scotch plenty of times before he met or worked with Kasparov... (specific subtle another matter).

CAL|Daniel's picture

Actually, Carlsen himself attributed that Scotch win over Leko at Nanjing 2009 DIRECTLY to Kasparov. Let it rest.

Parkov's picture

Hey Garry, you can coach me if you want ;)


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