Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | September 25, 2011 20:46

Back in the ring

When I was offered the opportunity to play alongside Laurent Fressinet an exhibition match to get the right to play against the King Garry, the offer was tempting enough so that I put only one condition to it, though it was still not tempting enough for me to hope for this condition to be satisfied : that I should be eliminated of the World Cup, as cloning is still not a technology we people are mastering :).

As it happened, I was eliminated pretty early in the World Cup, so here I was in Clichy to play against Laurent in front of a rather crowded audience, expectably enough. After all, Kasparov's OTB play has rarefied over the years so that his last public exhibition was already two years ago!

As it happened, Laurent was also quite motivated to get this ticket, and I was confronted to all kind of problems in the first blitz game, which I somehow managed to survive. Unfortunately the game is not complete, which is why I can't find the apparently winning line Kasparov showed to Laurent after the game. I somehow got myself slightly on top in the second game, but nothing big and it was a draw.

So we had to play an Armageddon tie-break, and Laurent won the toss. We actually had some discussion about what is the best color, and I was arguing that theoretically black is better but that in practice white had never failed me. Anyway, it's probably more a matter of feeling - as well as not the main topic here :) - and so Laurent chose to get white, and I decided in reply to help him get things very unclear, which is not the usual habit, but I didn't want a long game where I could suffer and be in real time trouble with Laurent still comfortable on time. Well, that time it worked pretty well and thanks to some tactics I got on top. At some point I thought there were still some troubles with the little time remaining on the clock, so I decided to play it safe, but realizing immediately that I just had set a cunning trap, which happened to work perfectly - and it was esthetic as well!

Fressinet - Vachier-Lagrave
Clichy, 2011

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So with some difficulty I managed to pass the test and get the right to play against the king, and here we go to the part you probably were waiting from the start ;)  The rate of play - which was Kasparov's choice - was 5 minutes + 3 seconds per move, with the not so tiny difference that instead of being Fischer it was Bronstein mode, which meant that you cannot get more increment on the clock than the time you spent for the move. It's not the place to elaborate about the differences between Bronstein and Fischer though it would be quite interesting to compare, but I actually think that for blitz and rapid games Bronstein mode is very interesting and maybe it would be worth giving it a try.

The first very obvious thing is that even if it was only an exhibition, he definitely came with the idea of not losing, as was showing his determination and fighting will during the games, which was showed by his outstanding concentration, his displeasure at a move he had not expected and his general attitude dominating the board reminiscent of the time where he was world  #1. It also was pretty clear that he had been preparing for this match, and although I don't know how carefully, I think that he did more than some internet blitz. It's kind of admirable to think that this man is such a perfectionist that in any OTB game, even blitz exhibitions 6 years after he retired of professional chess, he will hate losing and prepare carefully to avoid that, where many people wouldn't care, or at least wouldn't care as much as he does.

As for my general feeling during the first game, it was clear that I never had experienced such a thing during a game, but it was a blitz so I was not at all scared as after all I've had more than decent results in blitz games in the past, and generally speaking anything can happen, so I focused in getting an interesting and complicated game, which I managed with a good pawn sacrifice, though unfortunately I didn't manage to find the right follow-up. I think that despite many inaccuracies, the game was overall very interesting, especially as inaccuracies also were caused by the fact that the position was very complicated from all points of view.

Kasparov - Vachier-Lagrave
Clichy, 2011

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For the second game, I decided to play fast and to stay calm, but maybe this wasn't such a good idea as it's generally good to be slightly excited during blitz games, and the game was of a much worse quality overall:

Vachier-Lagrave - Kasparov
Clichy, 2011

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To summarize it all, it was a very nice and instructive experience for me, who never had the opportunity to watch Kasparov playing live, to see a reminiscence of Kasparov's fighting spirit and determination, though I'm also pretty sure that it was not even comparable to what he showed before retiring.

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Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's picture

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is a French chess grandmaster and the 2009 World Junior Chess Champion.

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Comments

Daniel's picture

Very nice insights!

Janis Nisii's picture

Agreed, Daniel.
It's always good to read first hand accounts, especially if by a brilliant player like Maxime.
Since he's also a brilliant and humorous person, I advise him to let his sarcasm flow a bit more in his future entries (libel being the limit, of course ;) ), this one having a little bit the flavour of a school essay. Great stuff, anyway.

Frits Fritschy's picture

Something going wrong here, I only see empty diagrams and no game moves.

Peter Doggers's picture

We've just noticed that there's a problem viewing the boards in IE7 and IE8; we'll try and solve it a.s.a.p.

mishanp's picture

You were right about the preparation, Maxime! From Mig Greengard's Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/chessninja/status/116148400872882176

"But Garry being Garry he actually did substantial preparation for the two blitz games! More than some GMs do for classical events, probably."

bronkenstein's picture

Welcome to the site Maxime . Always nice to see ˝insider story˝ from any game (especially against mr Kimovich ) Just keep it coming.

PS I always considered commenting on blitz kinda pointless , but not in THIS case...=)

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