Review: Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov Part 1: 1973-1985
Hikaru Nakamura was recently interviewed by Daniel King about his cooperation with Kasparov (which, as we now know, is already over). To my surprise, the American super grandmaster repeated the old, long refuted cliché that Kasparov’s main strength was in openings.
I mean you look at middlegames or endgames and I’m quite convinced there are other players who are better than he was, but he was able to get advantages out of the openings so that was his main strength.
Did he really say that about his respected trainer? Was it some kind of smoke-screen, or did he actually mean it? If so, Nakamura surely hasn’t yet found time to read Kasparov’s latest book, Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov Part 1: 1973-1985 (published by Everyman Chess). This volume contains 100 games in which Kasparov’s creative genius is displayed in all aspects – opening, middlegame and endgame. Compulsory reading for young Hikaru!
There are two possible ways for reviewers to respond to a new book written by Kasparov: the first is to lyrically describe all those beautiful games and analyses, and be gentle on everything else he writes. The second is to ignore most of the chess and scrutinize his prose for errors, blame the editors of sloppiness and conclude that it’s all been done before, and better.
I’ve always been in the first camp, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I cherish my autographed copies of Kasparov’s books. His latest work covers the period 1973-1985, from his early childhood games (when he was still called Weinstein) to his first match with Karpov, and again, I felt helpless against the power of Kasparov’s games and became enthusiastic already when looking at the very first game in the book.
I remember being terribly proud of this far from obvious move. ‘It turns out that the h2-h4 advance also contained a positional threat. White unexpectedly seizes control of the d-file takes play into a highly favourable ending. (…)’ – Nikitin.
To immediately answer the critics, of which there are many: yes, this book, too, contains many and sometimes rather lengthly quotes from others, and many games were already analyzed in earlier publications such as Kasparov’s Fighting Chess, and, most conspicuously, The Test of Time. Yes, the book lacks a bibliography to check all this properly. (This is a serious omission.) And no doubt, it is probably factually incorrect when discussing the (political) context of some situations.
But all this is to a large extent missing the point. Any neutral chess lover picking up this book will be stunned and seduced with some of the best moments ever seen in chess history – and most of them are completely unrelated to opening preparation. Here’s a fragment from a game which featured the Alekhine Defense, where Kasparov was out of book as early as move 8:
In the period of my chess youth I rarely refrained from such spectacular blows. And for a long time, under the impression of the rout which followed, I considered this move to be the shortest way to the goal. (…) But I couldn’t help thinking that it was possible to manage without ‘brilliance’.
When, on my return to Baku, I showed this game to Vladimir Andreevich Makogonov, he suddenly asked: ‘But wouldn’t it have been simpler to play h2-h4?’ Thus another solution to the position was found, one not involving any sacrifices: 23.h4! f5 24.exf6 Nxf6 25.hxg5 or 23…gxh4 24.Qh5! f5 25.exf6 Nxf6 26.Nxf6+ Rxf6 27.Nd5! exd5 28.Qxd5+ and Qxa8.
This continuation is undoubtedly more practical, but then there would not have been the fireworks with the sacrifice of both bishops, and an attack in which all (!) the white pieces participated. (…)
23…hxg5 24.Qh5 f5 25.Nxg5 Rf7
After making this move, Palatnik unexpectedly offered a draw! I was very surprised: it is patently obvious just how strong White’s attack is. Perhaps the tournament leader, realizing that his position was hopeless, was trying a last chance? At any event, my silent reply was a new sacrifice.
The crux of the combination. The sacrifice of the second bishop conclusively destroys the black king’s defenses. 26.d5!? Bxe5 27.Nxf7 would also have won, but the move in the game is both prettier and better. (…)
Note Kasparov’s objectiveness, which nevertheless doesn’t diminish his enthusiasm after all these years (though some would no doubt call it arrogance). This willingness to look at these youthful games from a mature perspective is also reflected in the many corrections Kasparov has made to his earlier annotations.
A particularly striking example of this critical look is Kasparov’s analysis of his famous loss against Petrosian from 1981, where Kasparov improves on his old commentary in The Test of Time by quoting analysis work by Timman, Bologan, Zviagintsev, and Yusupov and Dvoretsky.
This brilliant defensive move was made by Petrosian almost without thinking. White’s attack peters out, since his rooks are stuck on the queenside.
On seeing that the endgame after 37.Qxe7+ Kxe7 38.Rxa4 Rd6 39.g3 was too depressing (…), I tried to confuse matters.
‘Petrosian is again equal to the occasion: after 37…Qxe6 38.fxe6 Bd7 39.exd7+ Rxd7 40.Rf2 White would have managed to save the game,’ I wrote in The Test of Time. But now I am not so sure: 40…Rf7! 41.Rf5 Rxf5 42.exf5 Kf7 followed by ..a5-a4-a3, …Kf6 and so on. Besides, Black is also better after 38…Bc6!? 39.Rf2 Ke7! 40.Rf7+ Kd6 41.e7 Re8 42.Rf6+ Kd7! 43.Rxc6 a4. (…)
Of course, Kasparov was also in a league of his own with regards to opening preparation. The most famous example probably being his two Botvinnik Variation games in the 13th and 14th rounds of the Soviet Championship in 1981, first against Timoshchenko and then against Dorfman. Here’s how Kasparov describes what happened after his win against Timoshchenko:
A lively analysis after the game involved not only Timoshchenko and me, but also Dorfman, and Sveshnikov, who as usual was showing where and what should have been moved. His voice resounded louder than the others and the variations he demonstrated looked convincing enough (…) and in the end the grandmaster consultation dediced that 30…e5 was the decisive mistake, and that 30…Be5 would have parried the attack. All my attempts to refute this were unsuccessful, and Sveshnikov publicly declared that he was prepared to defend the position after 30…Be5 against me in the 16th round!
On returning to the hotel, for a long time I was unable to get to sleep. Thoughts about the game just played would not leave me in peace. Was 30…Be5 really such a good move that it killed White’s entire plan?! Without interruption I analysed this position in my head, and only by two in the morning did I find peace: analysis showed irrefutably that 30…Be5 also did not save Black (I remember even that, when this happened, I said to my mother: ‘Found it!’). (…)
And sure enough, Kasparov was able to beat Dorfman the next day with his discovery:
30…Be5 31.Rc5! Rxc5 32.Bxc5!
My night-time discovery! The fact that the quiet ‘backwards’ capture was stronger than 32.Qxc5, and that now Black has no defense, was not easy to grasp (I don’t know whether I would have found it at the board if the previous day Timoshchenko had played 30…Be5…).
And here’s another beautiful (though some would no doubt call it irritating) home-preparation example in the QGD, from his quarter-final Candidates Match against Beliavsky:
This was the novelty we had found – the fruit of three days of preparatory work. (…) I remember how on the eve of the game Botvinnik arrived at the Azerbaijan permanent representative’s residence in Moscow, where our team was living during the match, and I showed him the main variations that were possible after 12.Bf5. Botvinnik studied the position carefully and approvingly murmured: ‘Hmm… A good idea!’
There is so much chess to enjoy that this alone is a good reason to pick up this book. But Kasparov also says interesting and personal things about his youth. I was moved by his remark that he always carried a picture of his deceased father with him. I also didn’t know (or else I’ve forgotten) that Kasparov had serious health problems in his youth. This makes his phenomenal rise to fame, documented in this book, even more impressive.
Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov Part 1: 1973-1985 is more than a revised edition of The Test of Time. It is a book that not only Hikaru Nakamura, but every chess lover should study. A perfect Christmas gift.
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