Reports | 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

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Brecht's picture

I always taught Kasparov 'hypnotises' his opponents with his eyes? not much chess involved i think...

Kasparov's picture

No problem. I only charge $100,000/hr.... still interested?

Septimus's picture

Put it on my tab.

George's picture

“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.” [Naka]
“In his book The Test of Time Kasparov repeatedly points out how, in complex situations, his intuitive appraisal of a position would turn out to be right. He is evidently proud of his intuition and considers it his strong point. ... a careful study of Kasparov´s games has convinced me that his flair is by no means impeccable. Even in his best games he would often 'lose the thread' at some point and give his opponents extra chances (which, to be sure, they didn´t always utilize)”. [Dvorestsky & Yusupov, Attack and defence, p. 62-63]

Roberto's picture

Exactly! Absolutely perfect quote, imho. Because the main point, that even SuperGM like Naka and Carlsen seemed to miss, is that Kasparov is probably not so good as a coach simply because he was one of the best players ever. Beeing a chess coach is a very serious, difficult and somewhat different profession than beeing number one, and most of the greatest coaches are of course great chess players but not necessarily only that. They need a great ability and feeling to communicate with their students, they need to understand their strong and weak points and THEN and only then to teach them and help them to grow.
In some cases they could even help them to grow up not only as chess players, but as human beeings as well, but this is another story.
So no mistery that a relationship built on the wrong premises has inevitably to end and quite soon indeed.
Could be Kaspy should do a better job (probably less money involved, but more honesty for sure) simply selling a collection of his databases and analisys, letting the serious job of trainer to the professionals that are really good at that.

Zeblakob's picture

I do not see clearly the pozitione of things oO.

Milton Cobo's picture

Do Kasparov and Nakamura argue about the openings played at London? Nakamura decided to play
non-solid openings and follow his own style, Kasparov probably desagree with this...

Shane's picture

Nakamura and Carlsen are too strong for Kasparov to offer any game changing advice, I think Nakamura is being honest when he said the primary strength Kasparov has to offer them is his opening preparation, and it makes sense. Also, Kasparov is retired, Nakamura and Carlsen are still active. Nakamura and Carlsen also have big egos, and want to win events on their own talent and merit, and not because they "were trained by Kasparov", but I think that's what Kasparov wants, a piece of the pie. It would look really good on his historic resume to have "trained" the World Champion for example. Kasparov is trying to take a page out of Botvinniks teachings.

mishanp's picture

It seems to be a pure coincidence, but Carlsen recently gave an interview where he goes into detail about working with Kasparov, including:

"What was the main benefit you got from working on the game with him?

Carlsen: Thanks to him I began to understand a whole class of positions better. It’s clear that he knew much more than me… At times it was difficult to keep up with the speed and depth of his analysis, but more often than not we were on the same wavelength. What can I say: it was a unique experience for me. Kasparov gave me a great deal of practical help."

Ashish's picture

It seems to me that Nakamura may be better served by getting a coach who is really a *coach*, and not just a superstar player, who can help him identify and work on those parts of his game that have room for improvement.

Nakamura plays exciting chess and has such wonderful fighting spirit - it would be great to see him continue to give Carlsen and the other kids some real competition.

Anonymous's picture

In the new long interview for ChessPro (in Russian), Carlsen has something totally different to say about Kasparov's strengths in middlegame: "thanks to him I gain better understanding of a whole class of positions", "he gave me a lot from practical point of view", and "I have never seen someone who feels dynamics in complex positions like him". Compare with Nakamura's "the guy was best only in openings".

Niima's picture

Well said. The above comments that imply Kasparov was not of much use to Carlsen are nonsense according to Carlsen himself. In another interview (see link below), Carlsen said:

" I want to stress: the last 12 months have been of immense value to me, and I continue to listen to Garry‘s advice."

Kamalakanta's picture

Regarding Kasparov, and which player could benefit the most from his coaching, Wesley So comes to mind. He has expressed the need for coaching, but is lacking the monetary funds to afford it.

hcl's picture

I think many people have pointed out Naka needed a GM coach in his teens. He didn't get it, and now it's too late for that. He has a "Coffee House Style", albeit at 2750-level.

Zeblakob's picture

I know why Naka said dat Kaspy iz weak in the middele-game: coz he picked his money.

tarjei's picture

Where does he say Kaspy is weak in the middlegame?

Zeblakob's picture

"Weak" according to champions standards.

Guest's picture

So, you all fell for the prank? Of course, they continue to work, but now with others thinking they are offline, resulting in Naka becoming World Champ in next 24 months. Cheerio.

raving_mad's picture

The problem with Kasparov is that he is too intense and bossy to be a good co-worker to western-style players.
He has this eastern-style that suits better with the Botvinnik-school.

Arvin's picture

Cooperation of this kind is based on trust. The student trusts the teacher that the teacher can help the student, and the teacher is expecting for the student to learn from the teacher. From the Nakamura interview, it appears that Naka did not believe in Kasparov. Why did he hire Kasparov in the first place if he did not believe in him?

Anonymous's picture

Because someone else was footing the bill so he figured "what the hell, maybe I'll learn some new opening lines".

Septimus's picture

Lot of talk about Kasparov's bank account. Is there any evidence that Nakamura actually hired him or was it more like Kasparov who sought out Nakamura like he did with Anand?

adam's picture

i hope nic isn't planning a new 8-page report on this :S
on the who's next question: giri may not be an utterly wrong guess
radja-kasparov, now that would be serious fun! :D

Septimus's picture

Radjabov would be a very dangerous opponent if Kasparov takes him under his wing. He is already playing at a very high level. Pity that he does not get as many invites to big tournaments.

k.j.h.'s picture

That Magnus Carlsen, who has a better understanding of the game than all but about at most ten people in the World said he learned a lot positionally ("a whole class of positions") is interesting. That he also said that it was difficult to keep up with the speed and depth of Garry's analysis makes me restate a point I made elsewhere. Hikaru should be careful about what fighting words he throws down, because if Garry issued a challenge to him - even after all these years - Nakamura would have trouble turning it down w/o looking bad, and if they played a match, the result might not be in his favor.
What he said was said straight from the hip. It was uninformed and dumb.

Excalibur's picture

Septimus: Radjabov (my fav player) got invited to TATA (now that should be a tournament!) Radja is world class of course he gets invited to many super tournaments. 2008-2009 especially.

k.j.h.'s picture

For some perspective, you all should check out Colin McGourty's Russian-to-English translation of the post 2011 Tal Memorial interview of Magnus Carlsen. Thanks, Colin!
Here's that link again (from above):

Anonymous's picture

@Tony: what do you mean by 'an intense study of Kasparov's games'? If we just go at Nakamura's comment, he hasn't for example studied Kasparov's analysis of his games with Karpov. Here he more or less shows that it was in fact Karpov who was better prepared in the openings and Kasparov who was being more creative in the middle game and endgame. That at least is his well-founded, well-argued for perspective.

I think it is for the best, that Kasparov doesn't waste his time with Nakamura. It is about time he did something about FIDE first.

Spasskyfan's picture

The comments from Nak about Kasparov relying on openings for his superiority rings true ... Kasparov's response to Chess960 was revealing, and showed (as Bobby pointed out) how Kasparov simply misses the point of Fischer Random. In Kasparov's response to Chess960, he said it would perhaps be okay, but not the total random selection of a start position, and he went on to suggest that one of the Chess960 start positions should be chosen and used in all tournaments for a period of time (I think it was like a year?!). What a joke! Of course that would give his openings preparation team time to do extensive investigation of opening methods from the selected start position, feeding Kasparov prepared lines. I think the comment Nak made regarding Kasparov's reliance on openings is totally consistent w/ Kasparov's response re Chess960. Clearly Kasparov is naked without his prepared lines, which shows lack of self-confidence in chess, and how Bobby had more!

jimknopf's picture

If someone likes Chess960 or not, is completely irrelevant for the question if he is able to deal with a wide scope of middlegame positions. And it is ridiculous to base a judgement of Kasparovs middlegames not on the the games he played, but on his view on Chess960.

Nakamura's comment was immature, like from a 13 year old boy, and surprisingly ignorant towards the history of chess. There Kasparaov has shown more than capable to deal with a wide scope of middlegames including Karpov's positional chess or Korchnoi's inventive way of treating middlegames, and I doubt that he would easily have lost endgames to Smyslov or anyone.

Nakamura sounds rather like someone becoming aware that he himself is the one who is lacking deeper chess understanding beyond tactical skills, and hardly ever being capablke to become a number one or even two, as long as poeple like Carlsen, Aronian and others are around.

I don't think frustration about his own limitations is no good reason for silly talk about Kasparov.

jimknopf's picture

sorry for the typos, of course I meant: Naka's frustration is no good reason for his silly remarks


Latest articles