One of the most anticipated publishing events of the year is the release of the new book by Garry Kasparov. Published by Everyman Chess, it is the second volume in the series entitled Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess.
On Monday, September 29, 2008, accompanied by Mark Donlan, we had the opportunity to interview Kasparov. In discussing his new book, Garry was candid about the sometimes painful lessons he learned from his first two matches with Anatoly Karpov, and how these lessons helped transform him into the person he is today.
Hanon W. Russell
Hanon Russell: It is Monday, September 29, 2008 and I am pleased to be with Garry Kasparov. It is right after the publication of Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess, Part 2: Kasparov vs Karpov 1975-1985.
Garry Kasparov: In fact, I think there is a little confusion with this Part 2, because people assume that it is Part 2 of Kasparov versus Karpov, while this is Part 2 of the Modern Chess series.
HR: Part 2 is Kasparov versus Karpov.
GK: Yes. But this will have three volumes. Personally, I think they made the wrong decision by having Part 2 next to Kasparov vs Karpov in the title. It should be next to Modern Chess. Because there is a very tentative split in these volumes; when I ended My Great Predecessors I couldn’t have other books under the same title, so we needed a new name and, as we discussed last time, it was the Modern Chess series. But the Modern Chess series includes some mini-series inside it. I think that for a lot of people three volumes of Kasparov vs Karpov might just be a separate addition. I think a lot of people will be buying just that.
HR: That’s a very good point. Let me clarify for people reading this interview, My Great Predecessors…
GK: Five volumes and there might be one more without any chess, just anecdotes.
HR: There were five volumes of My Great Predecessors which examined the historical significance and games of chess players beginning from approximately Morphy through the current world champion.
GK: Karpov-Korchnoi was the last one. That’s the end. Technically, My Great Predecessors is before Garry Kasparov.
HR: Exactly. And then we went into a new series. The first one is Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess, Part 1: Revolution in the 70s and this is the second volume in that series, and, as you’ve just explained, this Part 2 is actually the first of three volumes on your matches with Karpov.
GK: Yes and again technically the Modern Chess series will include three volumes of my best games and man versus machine. So that’s why for some chess fans it is an important warning, because they would like us to have Kasparov-Karpov separately and Kasparov’s best games separately. Just for the sake of convenience, all are included in this Modern Chess series. But again it is very tentative.
HR: For those who may not know, and I’m not sure there would be many who are reading this interview that would not have any knowledge, you played five title matches with Karpov. This book covers the first two, and in my opinion there is a lot of curiosity and interest in this particular volume, because the first match that you played was unique in the history of the world championship series. First of all it was unlimited. It was the first player to win six games.
GK: As Alekhine-Capablanca.
HR: Except that ended after thirty-four games. After forty-eight games there still had not been a resolution here. And then that was followed by the more traditional twenty-four game match later in 1985, which officially gave you the title.
GK: To avoid any possible confusion, these books are not just about the world championship matches. They include all games played against Karpov, beginning with a simul game in 1975, when I played for the Baku team and faced a new World Champion Anatoly Karpov and there will even be two blitz games that we played after my official retirement from a Zurich event.
HR: You also had some rapid games in New York.
GK: Yes, all the games. The real value of these games is probably very small, if they are valuable at all, but I think for the sake of history all games should be included.
HR: Sure, because there are very few players and maybe there aren’t two players ever who played this many serious games.
GK: It’s by far the record and this volume includes the first two matches and also the four games we played before them. The simultaneous game in 1975 and three games prior to the world championship match. The next volume, which I am working on now, will include the London-Leningrad rematch, Seville, and then one game played in the Brussels Swift tournament and the two blitz games played there. So that is the composition of the second part of Kasparov-Karpov trilogy.
HR: Basically the next two title matches and games that were played in between.
GK: Then there will be one remaining match in 1990 and all other games. In calculating all these other games, it would almost be another world championship match, because there are twenty games, without counting rapid and blitz. And those games are full of life; no short draws, that’s why it is probably more than even one world championship match. Plus, I will have stories of the tournaments where we played, so there will be three volumes of almost equal size.
HR: It will be a unique event once it is finished, because you’ll not only have games played by the two of you, who at one point were the two best in the world, and maybe that changed in the early 90s when Karpov wasn’t as strong, but be that as it may…
GK: Up to 1996 he was clearly second. He lost to Short in the semi-final, but I think there was little doubt that Karpov was still ranked really high.
HR: Short had a very amazing two matches.
HR: Ok, let’s get back to this volume. It holds particular interest for readers in the West, because they’re watching an unlimited match that gets terminated as things start happening towards the end of the match. We’ll get to the end of the match in due time. And the very beginning of the book and throughout the book, we see the late former world champion Mikhail Botvinnik referred to, and particular his school and your contact with Botvinnik. Let’s start at the beginning. For readers who may not know, tell us a little bit about Botvinnik’s school: how it was set up and how someone was able to be invited to train there.
GK: There were no formal rules. It was Botvinnik’s attempt to build up a foundation for experienced players to share their experience with the younger generation. He actually inspired other schools to follow. We had a Petrosian school, a Smyslov school, but I think the Botvinnik school was the only one where this work was done in a regular and very professional basis. The Petrosian school also had many prominent players and proper structure.
Again, there was a very informal process of selection from all over the country and I understand that it had three stages; one in the early 60s, when Botvinnik was still world champion; then from 1973 to 1978 came the real history of the Botvinnik school, a lot of great players came out of this school, although many of them were not so sure about the input from the Botvinnik school and from Botvinnik personally.
HR: You mean the value of it?
GK: It was not a school as some people think, with regular training sessions. There were three sessions a year. Botvinnik gave advice and there was very little follow up. We came back in three or four months for another session and he would evaluate our progress.
HR: When you say “evaluate our progress,” were there other instructors (grandmasters and masters) with him?
GK: He always had an assistant. In the 70s it was Dvoretsky and that’s how Dvoretsky built a relationship with Yusupov and Dolmatov because they we also there. That is were they met. Dvoretsky never valued it as something really important, but he worked there and he spent time with other kids. He made quite a good contribution because it helped Botvinnik. He had other players helping him, but for me it was all about Botvinnik – just giving advice…
HR: When was the first time you came into contact with him?
GK: In 1973.
HR: When you were about ten-years old?
GK: Yes, I was ten-years old; after my first appearance on the All-Soviet Chess Arena.
HR: So what does a great champion like Botvinnik, who is now an instructor, do with a ten-year-old boy who has promise?
GK: It’s exactly what I’m trying to do now with kids. You look at their games and you give advice. Sharing time with a great player always helps, and if he is willing to contribute by giving advice and explaining certain things the way he sees them, the way he evaluates the position, that’s more than you can dream of. Then after the school closed in 1978, it was restored after I won the world championship match, and it was already Botvinnik-Kasparov. So I worked with him and I helped to organize it.
HR: In 1985-86?
GK: The first one was in March of 1986 actually, before the rematch in London. In 1986-87 we had six sessions and we had an amazing collection of young players: Shirov, Alterman, Kramnik, Akopian, Tiviakov, you name it. The change was that there were two great players making comments and sharing their experience; also I played simultaneous exhibitions, because it always helps when you have the opportunity to play exhibitions and you can find out more about these kids. When they show their games, you never know whether they are trying to make the best impression or whether they are trying to hide something.
HR: There’s no hiding on the chessboard.
GK: They all showed four games; eventually Botvinnik came up with the rule that you should show two wins, one draw, and one loss. Because everybody wants to come up with the best games, but still playing this sort of exhibition was a very, very useful experience. And I played a lot of games; I think I played almost sixty exhibition games. So it was quite an experience. It helped me to prepare myself for the future simuls against national teams. Because having Shirov and Kramnik on one side, even as kids (laughs)…
HR: A little daunting. How long did the second phase of the school last, where you participated with Botvinnik?
GK: Six sessions in 1986-87. That was it.
HR: I was struck by the number of times you referred to Botvinnik about being in contact with him. I want to briefly touch chronologically: you had the interzonal, you had the candidates matches. A lot of us in the West saw Niksic as sort of a watershed for you, where it wasn’t clear going into it how well you would do, and then you dominated it. Do you see it the same way? Do you think Niksic was your proclamation to the world that you were the next one to be recognized?
GK: Niksic saved the cycle, because after Niksic it was very difficult for FIDE and their Soviet counterparts to keep me out outside of the game. The victory in Niksic was a proclamation that unless Garry Kasparov is part of the cycle, the cycle has no validity. I won Niksic very convincingly, and no world championship cycle without me having been in it would carry any validity in the eyes of the world of chess. In Niksic all the players signed a petition to FIDE demanding that the cycle be restored.
HR: The cycle was already in limbo at that time.
GK: Exactly, yes. I went to Niksic expecting to do well, but it exceeded my expectations. But I was well prepared. I did a lot of preparation for the Kortchnoi match and I felt good. I remember that Niksic was the tournament where everything worked, even despite this terrible loss to Spassky when I was totally winning. It’s some kind of spell that after winning five games I always had problems (laughs). I broke it only once, in Wijk aan Zee where I won seven, but still after this I had a terrible loss to Sokolov. It’s probably inevitable. After the long run of winning and spending energy and just being at the cutting edge and pushing your nervous system to the limits you collapse.
HR: And you never impressed anybody as one who would settle for a ten-move draw.
GK: Sokolov was just another example, many years later. But it’s a pity because I had a very good game, totally winning, a number of times, against Spassky.
HR: Let’s talk a little about the Kortchnoi match. This was a politically difficult match for the Soviet authorities to deal with. On one hand they had the defector who they tried to blackball, prohibit from various tournaments, and then they had you, who they also weren’t thrilled about, because their boy was world champion at that time. So it was like they had a choice of evils from their perspective. How did you feel going into the match with Kortchnoi, very confident, did you feel you had to be cautious? What was your state of mind?
GK: I was confident. I was probably overconfident and it showed in the beginning of the match. I played well at that time. I had done a lot of work with my coaches and I believed that it was my time.
HR: He had enormous experience at that point.
GK: Enormous experience, but I worked a lot. I did a lot of important work. I worked on my endgames. It actually showed in the match that in the endgames I managed to resist and not to let Kortchnoi dominate. Two of my first victories, in games six and seven, were in the endgame. So I worked on endgames, I worked on positional chess, and I prepared the Classical Queen’s Gambit. I was already laying down the foundation for the matches with Karpov. I worked on the Catalan openings. I had a lot of fresh ammunition for the match; I couldn’t actually use it in the beginning of the match, so it didn’t go well for me. But it was a good lesson and I recovered fairly quickly.
HR: Well, you got by Kortchnoi, and then lo and behold you’re playing Smyslov. You were clearly a big favorite in that match, but people were sentimental that he made it that far. It’s really remarkable; his chances of defeating you were not very good, but in fact had the impossible happened, he’s now fighting for the world championship again, thirty years later. It was interesting. Did you do a lot of preparation for Smyslov?
GK: Of course I did a lot of preparation, but at that time no one had any doubts. Actually, there was a contest organized by the magazine Ogonyok where they asked chess fans and the readers to make predictions. The winner was someone who guessed by games, the man actually had all twelve games correctly, but then he put 9-4.
HR: That’s thirteen… (laughs)
GK: Yes. The most amazing thing about this contest is that they asked Karpov, and he signed an envelope that they put in a safe: 8½-4½. Karpov had no illusions and he was quite objective in evaluating my strengths.
HR: I think people could look at the challenge of Kortcnoi, where maybe you’re the favorite and maybe you’re not, but that’s a battle. Smyslov was …
GK: Kortchnoi was a real test. Smyslov was important, it was tough …
HR: So you defeat Smyslov and now you’re the official challenger and in your wildest dreams of preparation, you know you’ve got the world champion and despite the fact that you may not agree with his politics or other personal things about Karpov, this is clearly at that time the world’s strongest player – the champion. The match starts and after nine games it’s a disaster already for you.
GK: I describe it in this book. It was a great experience, it was painful, but a great experience. It actually made Garry Kasparov who he is now, because surviving 4-0, and it’s not just 4-0, its being under this huge pressure from the system. There is more and more evidence coming from different people. Recently I saw a story sent to me from an ex-KGB guy who was in charge of some of the operations, and they are revealing stories that we suspected. It’s amazing.
HR: That was going to be one of my questions. There’s a book that came out a few years ago about everything that was going on when they were trying to prepare Spassky for Fischer in 1972, and those were files that had been secret. Have you discovered information about secret activities to sabotage your efforts?
GK: The telephone calls were recorded, the rest room was screened, so they had a record and followed every step, so it was a game plan to make sure that Garry Kasparov didn’t have a chance.
HR: Did you assume that this was going on?
GK: It was something that you suspected, but you don’t want to think about it.
HR: Also, with all due respect, you’re twenty-one, but you’re still very young and maybe idealistic.
GK: We were born in the Soviet Union, but the scale of the operation was beyond our imagination. It was a whole machine. Now we know it was quite natural. Karpov was the world champion of the system and Garry Kasparov’s challenge had to be defeated.
HR: Do you think Karpov participated in those secret activities?
GK: I think that there is no doubt about the information he received regarding my opening preparation. As for the massive scale of the operation, I don’t think he was needed. It was not him, but he was happy to be confident because of this massive support.
I think at the end of the match Karpov’s psychological collapse, he wasn’t physically exhausted the way some people describe he could have played, but psychologically he was defeated because he couldn’t believe that after all that happened: 4-0, 5-0, this massive surveillance program, and all sorts of tricks that they used – I was still there. I was even collecting points. It’s the fact that I survived under this enormous pressure that made Karpov tremble.
HR: There’s the old saying by the holocaust survivors that says something that doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.
GK: This is true. That definitely made me stronger.
HR: The openings – what information was given to Karpov about your opening preparation?
GK: We assumed that there was the regular recording of the information that was available in our rooms. That some of the staff there – the maids – were working for the KGB, which is normal behavior in Russia. Today some people say Garry Kasparov was paranoid. I’m not paranoid; I’m just giving you the harsh realities of the Soviet Union, which unfortunately are resurrected in modern Russia as well. They were doing their regular search and I’m sure the information landed in the hands of people who passed it to Karpov. But also the story about Dorfman’s being part of this betting line and offering inside information. It was clear that in game eleven Karpov decided to avoid the Grünfeld by playing Nf3, which had no other explanation unless he knew…
HR: You think Dorfman passed information?
GK: He was playing this betting line. He confessed later that he was offered nice conditions at the betting line, and he was participating, and in game eleven he said the dark-squared bishop would be fianchettoed – and Karpov played Nf3. There’s only one explanation for a professional player.
HR: He knew what was going to happen.
GK: To make sure whether it was Grünfeld or not. If I want to play Tarrasch, Nf3 doesn’t make any difference.
HR: On page 95, in the notes to the seventh game, after 1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5, you write “the time was spent hesitating, even though I had decided beforehand to play the Tarrasch Defence. Of course, Karpov was expecting this system: both in Niksic (1983) and in the Candidates matches (1983-84) I employed it with great success. In addition, as it later transpired, from the 1st to the 11th game one of my helpers, Iossif Dorfman, secretly played on the match totaliser, and before the 7th game he bet that in reply to 1 d4 it would be a Tarrasch Defense, but the totaliser was run by a man who was close to the Karpov camp…” This paragraph by itself is very confusing to someone who doesn’t have any information, so please explain what is the totaliser?
GK: There are many betting lines no matter what you do. There was a betting line on the openings, on the sealed moves, and Dorfman participated. He provided vital inside information.
HR: So what you mean is that in the seventh game of the match, he put his money on your playing the Tarrasch?
GK: Yes. Which, by the way, was not a big deal; Karpov could have anticipated the Tarrasch. It helps when you know the openings, but still there was an eighty percent probability that I would play the Tarrasch if I faced 1 d4. Actually, we prepared well. In game seven I had a very good position; we had an excellent opening novelty and I used it, but I spent too much time. After this horrible defeat in game six, my confidence was shattered. The problem is not game seven, the problems occurred later, especially game eleven, and other games where I assumed Karpov had very specific knowledge of the ideas. But that’s not what happened in 1986. In 1984-85 there was a general knowledge, but there was no access to my notebooks. After game eleven Dorfman stopped, because he recognized that it was a trap. He went to play the Soviet Championship, the first league, and he came back after game thirty-two. The irony is that the Karpov team – a huge team – almost disappeared at the end of the match, and I had all my coaches back. It also showed the mood. At the end of the match I had my team, and Karpov’s team was also shattered.
HR: On page 146, in your notes to the twentieth match game, you had white, after 14 Rb1!? you write, “the 13th game went 14 Ba3 Nc6 with equality. When I spoke on the telephone to Botvinnik after it, I was taken aback by the question: ‘What would you have done if White had played 14 Rb1 ?’ I wasn’t able to answer immediately, and we decided to analyse this position.” It’s a little unclear, when did you speak with Botvinnik?
GK: After game thirteen.
HR: Tell us about that. What are the circumstances surrounding a conversation between you and the ex-world champion?
GK: I spoke with him regularly. We had excellent relations and he was always helpful by offering his advice throughout almost all my career prior to the world championship match.
HR: Is it safe to day that before the match he is a supporter of you to win?
HR: Are you discussing analysis with him? Is he giving you general advice about how to steer the game?
GK: It’s very hard to offer specifics, but he was very helpful. The experience of a man who played so many world championship matches always helps.
HR: You have the first nine games, was there a conscious decision before game ten to change your strategy? Or, and this is in the context of the seventeen draws, after a few games were drawn did you realize “This is not such a bad thing if I don’t lose” ?
GK: It’s somewhere in between. You can’t say “Let’s start making draws,” but the idea was already discussed about how to slow down this demise, and making draws was natural. Game ten was the first time that I recognized if things are not looking promising – offer a draw. That’s how it started. Then later on, in games eleven and thirteen, with black I just had to defend myself, with white I’ve been looking for an opportunity. I didn’t have a game plan every day saying offer a draw in ten moves. I was happy to proceed, just to get myself back into the fight to recover after this psychological disaster, and also learn more about the match. It was like a training session. I was treating it as free lessons.
HR: When we found out there would be a second match starting at zero, one of the first things that I said was Karpov just took Garry to school for forty-eight games and we’re not sure if Karpov realizes how well Garry learned his lesson.
GK: I think Karpov realized it. I explain in the book at the end of the first match I already played much stronger, and that’s why I won. It is total nonsense this opinion, even among professionals, that at the end of the match the quality was low. If you ignore all these stories about the players being exhausted and just look at the games, I insist that game forty-eight is the best game of the match, because the loser played a very decent game. Most of the games that were lost in the match had a major blunder or low quality weak defense. So in terms of strength of the play of the loser, game forty-eight was by far the best, because Karpov didn’t make any serious blunder. He made a lot of decent moves. Game thirty-two was also OK. I’m not trying to diminish the importance of Karpov’s victories, but they all are accompanied by terrible blunders.
HR: Do you think that in the first nine games you had the excitement and the passion of youth, but not the stability of experience?
GK: I don’t know. Whatever it is, take game six for instance, is one of the most difficult games for me to explain. I could have won this game, playing Qh5 instead of Qd4, in 1980 in Malta, I would play by hand. I think it was the excitement of the world championship match that I couldn’t handle. As for my chess strengths, I could have won these games with my eyes closed and with two minutes left on my clock. There are certain moves that I always did automatically, and I’m amazed that in the beginning of the match, in game two and especially game six, I failed to deliver the final blow; although, it was not that difficult. The difference is that at the end of the match I was more balanced; I already sensed Karpov as my opponent and I avoided blunders. So Karpov didn’t have big gifts, and he failed to change. I was winning because I changed and he didn’t. He lost the second match because he made some changes but not enough. I was improving faster than Karpov. Karpov’s big change begins in 1986 and especially 1987. When he took it seriously and he spent time rebuilding his opening repertoire; he quit 1 e4, he moved to 1 d4, he studied my games. He was building a very different playing platform. That’s Karpov’s perestroika.
HR: You can also argue or point out that until his first match with you, or maybe his second match with you, he really had no reason to restructure everything.
GK: Absolutely. That’s true. Karpov played on his natural talent and on the ideas that he learned and worked out in the mid-70s playing Spassky and Kortchnoi, and then preparing for Fischer. But after our first two matches, Karpov restructured his playing style and that’s why he stayed on top for another ten years.
HR: Let’s spend a little bit of time on games thirty-one and thirty-two. After game thirty-one, which was a draw, you still hadn’t won a game yet, you write on page 175 “This draw was a great moral victory for me … it marked a psychological turning-point.” Can you elaborate on that?
GK: When you play matches, especially long matches, the psychology is very important, because it brings the pendulum to one side or another. No doubt before game thirty-one, you could see in the audience, in this Hall of Columns, Karpov had to be crowned again. Every element of his game, his body language showed that’s it. The people in the hall, the cameras – moral – everything was there. They built up big expectations. And he got an excellent position. Not a winning position, actually this book refutes the myth that he was winning and just blundered. But he had very good winning chances. The difference with other games that were lost at the beginning of the match was that I didn’t panic. I was playing to the very end. It was the last game if I would have lost, but I never had the feeling that it would be the last game of the match.
HR: That’s a very interesting comment because at that point any game could be the last game.
GK: Karpov was close, but the fact was that he couldn’t deliver the final blow. I could sense this during the game that he was almost shocked. The draw for him was a major psychological defeat, because he expected to win and it failed. Not that it was the turning point of the match, but game thirty-one should be discussed with game thirty-two, because in game thirty-two Karpov also wanted to win. He wanted to finish the match. He knew that the trend was changing. In game thirty-two he wanted to take some risk with black. He was looking for complicated positions, even with substantial risk. Remember that in game two and game six he was in terrible trouble and I failed to benefit form Karpov’s risky and sometimes dubious moves. That’s why these two games signify the end of this part of the match.
HR: That’s where you turn the corner.
GK: I turn the corner. It was no longer zero wins for Garry Kasparov, but most importantly Karpov realized he had to face a different opponent. I learned, I improved, and he knew. Games thirty-one and thirty-two were a very important message to Karpov, and he was the one who couldn’t be mistaken about the message.
HR: Let’s talk about that for a second. You knew how you felt and you knew what the benefit psychologically to you was of game thirty-one and game thirty-two. Do you really think he appreciated that also?
GK: I saw his face in game thirty-one and I have no doubt that game thirty-two was a big blow. In game thirty-two, Karpov resigned without resuming the game. Yes, it’s a lost position, but you don’t resign. You could play a queen ending and it could be forever. So he could have played it for six hours, because we saw that it would be queen and two pawns versus queen and pawn, you never know. It might be six hours, a very long adjournment.
HR: You mention on page 182, after the sealed move 41 g5, “By the laws of the match Karpov was obliged to resume the game, especially since no forced win for White was apparent. But apparently he did not want to waste the remnants of his strength, or to resign in public.” This is an interesting remark.
GK: Again, no matter what is true of these two explanations, maybe both partially, the fact is that Karpov didn’t take the chance to fight. That shows that his psychological confidence was in doubt. It’s lost, but you’re playing a world championship match and you could protract your resistance, so why not go ahead.
HR: In your words, after the game you’re “jubilant.”
GK: Absolutely, jubilant. There is no more ghost of 6-0. It’s no matter what happens I’m OK. I stayed on, I survived this terrible start and I’m playing on par with the world champion.
HR: The problem is that it is still 5-1.
GK: It’s still 5-1 and I managed to stay on. I came up with some new ideas. In game thirty-three I just played the Meran, and then I played the Rauzer in games thirty-five and thirty-seven. So if you look at these openings and the general trend of the match, Karpov had to struggle. He exhausted his opening ideas and I was coming back with new plans, with new strategies. So I was actually leading the match psychologically. Not being ahead, but leading the momentum.
HR: You had the initiative off-the-board.
GK: And he is a great player, it couldn’t be mistaken.
HR: In my opinion, the next part of the match starts around game forty-one.
GK: Game forty-one actually ends the next phase. We can look at game thirty-two as ending one phase of the match, and then we have games thirty-three through forty-two, but maybe game forty-one is the most important there. That is the period where Karpov was preparing for one big finish and game forty-one was crucial, because in this game Karpov failed to use his chance. Not that he deserved to win because he played a great game. It was a dead draw, but I made several weak moves, resembling what happened at the beginning of the match, and Karpov could have won. He had enough time to find 33 a6 and that would be it. So Karpov missing this opportunity was accidental, it was not a logical development of the game. But still, he could have won, and I think that was a great psychological shock to Karpov.
After game forty-one he was all on defense. Game forty-two was a quick draw so I could recover my emotions, and during the last games of the match Karpov was on the ropes. He was defending; he didn’t even come close to me. It was still 5-1, but the initiative was on my side. I was attacking; Karpov was trying to not play badly. If you look at the quality of the games, it’s not that his moves are really bad. Again, the way he played the first half of game six is as bad as game forty-seven. If you compare game six and game forty-seven, his game was lousy. The way he played in game six with Qa5, Ba3, pushing all his pieces on the queenside and keeping the king unprotected, but I failed to use it. In game forty-seven he played a lousy game; no doubt about it that game was very weak, but I played well.
HR: When you talk playing well or playing badly this is a very relative term, because you two are playing on a level that no one else is playing at.
GK: I’m trying to be objective. It’s about the quality of the moves made by the losing side. That’s how I evaluate whether it’s a good game.
HR: That is essentially the same approach you took when you analyzed Karpov’s chances against Fischer based on the quality of play of Spassky in the semi-finals of the candidates match.
GK: It’s the same algorithm, and Karpov played relatively well. Definitely in game forty-eight he played much better than in many of the games at the beginning of the match. I was very proud that game forty-eight was a final blow. The way Karpov lost game forty-eight made the continuation of the match almost impossible for him, because he lost without making a serious mistake. The way I played – the determination, the energy – he didn’t want to face me again.
HR: Then we enter into a phase that has been the source of discussion for two decades.
GK: And probably for another two decades.
HR: Gligoric makes an interesting comment. Now one doesn’t get the impression that he was your supporter through all of this.
GK: He was not.
HR: He was doing what he had to do as arbiter, but if it was a close decision it didn’t go for Garry. That makes his comment even more interesting, because he says that had Kasparov not taken a time-out before game forty-nine the match would have continued. What do you have to say to that?
GK: I don’t know. This decision is absolutely vital, because I needed to adjust to the new situation. Some people just don’t understand that. It’s not just a shock for Karpov: 5-3.
HR: Now you have a respectable score for any championship match.
GK: For the first time now you have a very remote smell of victory: 5-3. It’s not 5-1, it’s not 5-2; one more win and it’s 5-4. So you’re close and you’re playing a great game. I’m very happy with the last six games. I’m doing well. I found a good solid opening against Karpov’s 1 e4, the Scheveningen. So we are making it stronger. We are also working on our openings on 1 d4. I’m ready for a big match. I keep my team together. It’s an important thing that we brought all the coaches back. Karpov had his team going back and forth, so I think there was less strength behind him, because there was a kind of panic. They didn’t expect this to happen. You have to make sure that all this energy is channeled in the right direction. I needed this time-out for me to recover and not to be over-excited in game forty-nine. I remember for game forty-nine we analyzed the Scheveningen, the opening that actually happened in game two in the match in 1985. We looked at this complicated line. So I was very happy, and I wanted to take my chances with both black and white.
HR: When you took the time-out, did you have any idea that some sort of fiasco would occur?
GK: I thought it was all over after game forty-seven when they first had this attempt with Kinzel and running back and forth. I turned it down. I had no interest in doing that. For me, the fact that I rejected all these back door maneuvers proved that that’s it. Campomanes taking the decision was not part of my consideration.
HR: When I finished that part of the book, what I concluded was that the Soviet Federation was pressing hard to get the match stopped. Campomanes allied himself with them, and so did Karpov; although Karpov for the public perception was acting if he was against it.
GK: He still signed it. He signed Campomanes demand.
HR: And you refused.
GK: I refused, yes. As Campomanes said, the champion agrees and the challenger will abide. I remember that in that room I had no allies. You can ask Averbakh, he was very quiet. They all wanted this just to be over, because there was a clear order. I remember Sevastyanov saying, “Anatoly, sign it. It is a good paper.” As I said in the book, Karpov’s only problem was the rematch; he wanted to make sure the rematch was guaranteed if he loses the match in September. That’s it.
HR: It was very interesting the way he repeatedly focused on the next match. It was as if he had already accepted or knew as a certainty that this match would not continue.
GK: One thing that we can still argue is whether Campomanes had another decision to announce, and upon seeing me in the audience he changed it. You never know.
HR: Realistically he says let’s talk for ten minutes at the press conference, but nothing happens.
GK: But with me in the audience the momentum could have changed. I was not supposed to be there. It was Rona Petrosian who called my mother and said if Garry is not there he will not forget it for the rest of his life. He must be there, because anything can happen.
HR: Focusing on that press conference, if you had to do it again, would you do it differently?
GK: No. I think my instincts worked well. Actually, I made a pretty decent statement. Some people have tried to use it against me, when I said – my chances to win are twenty-five to thirty percent but for the first time I had the chance. Some of my opponents said that I was still downgrading my chances; it’s not that he was winning. The message was yes its twenty-five to thirty percent, but it’s the first time in six months I have a shot. Twenty-five percent is a decent chance for someone who was trailing 5-0.
HR: I agree, but the math is pretty hard to get around.
GK: I think now that my chances probably would have been better because Karpov psychologically was in shock.
HR: There were three alternatives at the point. One was clear, where they just take a break for a few weeks and then come back, which is completely unfair to you.
GK: That’s exactly what they wanted, a two-month break.
HR: Or they could continue normally, which Karpov was not going to allow, or FIDE was not going to allow, or the Russian Federation.
GK: The certain one was to stop the match, and probably there was some expectation to start at 2-0. I think that was one of Campomanes’ options, because …
HR: Do you think the chess playing public would not have screamed bloody murder if a title match …
GK: Who cares? They would tolerate it. The Soviet Union did many terrible things and I learned in my chess career that there was more than one justice. There will be a lot of screaming, but at the end of the day, who cares? That’s an attitude. Campomanes knew that it would be very difficult for him. That’s why he was so hesitant. And when he saw me in the audience, he came up with this decision. That’s why Karpov opposed it, because Karpov’s statement at the press conference was very clear – you did something different, Mr. President. Then when Karpov recognized there was no way back, he very pragmatically concentrated on the rematch. If I lose that match, do I get a rematch? That’s all he wanted to know.
HR: So he’s guaranteed of either keeping his title, or having a second shot at it.
GK: Absolutely, and he has draw odds, plus a rematch.
HR: The old style match.
GK: Exactly, old style plus the rematch, even Fischer didn’t have it. That was a very pragmatic solution for Karpov. And again what could I do? Now Karpov can scream loud that he was cheated because victory was in his grasp.
HR: But this was all an act.
GK: Of course, we know that.
HR: Then there’s an interesting period between the matches, where you realize you’re sort of in a no-man’s land.
GK: But that’s also part of the game. You have all the things signed, but there are a lot of problems. Karpov was back in his territory…
HR: But you gave an interview in West Germany and again in Belgrade.
GK: Yes, I did an interview. I get instinctive. Again, these matches made me what I am now. I recognize that the only way to fight the mafia is to make it public. You have to go public and to disclose the information, to make sure they will be driven from the back door negotiations into the public debate. It worked already for me in the press conference in 1985, so I instinctively did it again in Germany.
HR: But the comment you just made about who cares also applies.
GK: Yes, it’s who cares when the decision is made and then it all settles down. But you have to make a decision and I sensed that Campomanes was still a part of the Free World, and he didn’t feel comfortable. The reason he didn’t make a decision was because I was there and there were many journalists. I figured it out that for Campomanes, facing the world press during the decision making might be too painful.
HR: Between the forty-third and forty-fourth game of the first match you give a statement from Averbakh: “What was it that helped Kasparov to hold out on the edge of the precipice? After watching him for months on the stage, I observed something that went completely unnoticed by his opponent. The difficult trials suffered by Kasparov in the initial months of the match had imperceptibly transformed him from a rather disorderly Baku youth into a purposeful, self-confident man. It was noticeable that even his gait had changed. Now he looked like a genuine, battle-hardened fighter.”
GK: Karpov didn’t have to look at my face, he looked at the moves.
HR: You then have the second match. The match gets underway and immediately you start with a win, and the whole world at that point knew that this was different. You didn’t expect Karpov to go undefeated or not score a win, but we knew at the very outset that this was a different Kasparov starting the match.
GK: Unfortunately, I couldn’t capitalize on this success. I missed a win in game two, which could be a different ball game.
HR: Then he has the possibility of being shut out at some point.
GK: Then games four and five, was a very weak performance. In game five I just blundered a pawn. When you analyze the position now, White had no advantage, but it was still a perfectly playable game. All this admiration for Karpov’s great strategy in the opening – he equalized comfortably, but that was it – so not a winning or not even any advantage if I just played very natural decent moves. That was another big test that showed I was already a different player, because trailing again 2-1, it’s minus two because of the draw odds in his favor and being under pressure I played five very, very decent games. A lot of fight; Karpov tried really hard. He played well. He couldn’t complain about it, and he missed chances. I also missed a chance in game seven.
HR: When do you think the psychological turning point is of the second match?
GK: You can’t have one climax in this match, because there were many of them. The most important period was games six through ten. That’s where I sensed that I was definitely as good as Karpov, and now just time to hit him hard. Game eleven was a big blunder, but we all make blunders. It was a logical result of this pressure, and Karpov couldn’t cope with that. I think 6-6 after the first half of the match was a fair score. He missed chances; I missed chances; but I think that was the good foundation for the second half of the match. And I totally dominated the second half of the match.
From game thirteen I was totally dominant. I almost stumbled at the end because I trembled, it was just too close. But I had total domination; not only game sixteen, from game thirteen to game twenty-one Karpov was on the ropes. It was minus two and I think it could be worse. Karpov was a great fighter; he was doing his utmost the way he fought back in game twenty-two and game twenty-three. Actually, game twenty-four in the match took place only because of me getting trembles at the end, because from the rational point of view when you analyze the match it could have ended early. In game twenty-two I had a very decent position, I didn’t have to lose. In game twenty-three I was almost winning. It’s not for us to shape the final battleground, and I’m happy that game twenty-four took place.
HR: Well, it was also clear that you had matured as a world champion, you remarked about a move that you made against Karpov that you never would have made against Tal, because the way Tal would have played. That suggested that you were playing the man, not only the board.
GK: It was very clear that I was very different. It was not an accident. I won the match because in the second match I was dominant. In 1986 I was also dominant. The Seville match, which we will discuss later, was a very hard fought equal match, because on one side I was psychologically exhausted. For me it was a rematch; 1986 was a continuation of that part of our battle. But 1987 for Karpov was the beginning of a new era, because he regrouped. The 1985 match was marked by my dominance, which continued in 1986. So arguably this was the peak of my career. I probably played stronger chess later on, but the dominance in the world of chess that was tremendous. I was very happy now, looking at these games, analyzing them with computers, and I was amazed and very, very proud.
HR: It’s stating the obvious saying that you deserved to win. You played brilliantly and it was clear that you had matured as a true world champion by the time of the second match. He had put you to school; you had learned your lessons well in the first match. Let me change the subject very briefly: if you want to comment about your political activities.
GK: My political activities are very much moved by the political climate in Russia. Unfortunately we are still in survival mode; it’s political survival; for some of my colleagues it’s not only political survival. I can tell you my chess writing plans.
HR: When can we expect the second book about your games with Karpov?
GK: It will be one book a year. It’s almost ready. The manuscript will be delivered early January to the publisher. It’s already done, so I’m just doing the final checking. I discovered a lot of interesting things from these matches. I spent six weeks this summer analyzing these games. It was an amazing experience; there was a lot of interesting things.
HR: Did you enjoy doing that?
GK: It’s not only great memories, but it’s also important because a lot of chess games are not properly analyzed. Now with computers chess players tend to do very formal work, and I wanted to look for ideas and just to understand the nature of the fight, and I was very pleased with the work I did. I think that will be a very important book and there will be a third one, and I hope that my work will not be interrupted by other disasters because I want to finish. There are five more books to go. Two more with Karpov and three with my best games, because I want to split my career into three periods: 1975-1985, 1985-1995, and 1995-2005. Then also man versus machine, so there is a lot of work. I’m always excited to seclude myself from these political storms and sit at the computer and analyze these games, and discuss it with Plisetsky just to go over it again. There are a lot of things to discover. I think it’s important that these matches are given proper coverage, because it’s the beginning of modern chess.
Mark Donlan: Were there things you discovered about yourself in reanalyzing the matches that you had not seen before?
GK: No, I think it’s more objective evaluation of the games, because old analyses are very often distorted by psychological influences. There are also some old evaluations that move from book to book and from article to article, simple mistakes made because humans couldn’t do as well as computers. Now you can clean up this mess and you can see the truth. It’s not the ultimate truth, but you can see the clear picture. I’m very pleased just to understand it. Some games were not as bad as we thought; some games were not as good as we thought. That’s the normal process of discovering things.
HR: In a couple of weeks Anand defends his title against Kramnik: give us a prediction.
GK: It’s hard to predict. I would think Kramnik is a slight favorite in this match, because he is more stable as a match player.
HR: You think he is more suited to match play than Anand?
GK: Also, I don’t know whether Anand can quickly recover after his disastrous performance. Kramnik doesn’t care, he can play a poor event and then he sheds it off. Anand might be more sensitive. There’s not a real favorite, it’s not Obama-McCain, Anand-Kramnik is much closer, maybe 52-48 within these numbers.
HR: And Topalov-Kamsky? There seems to be some doubt about whether it will take place.
GK: There are more than doubts. There’s no venue from what I read. Here Topalov is a clear favorite. Kamsky’s stubborn, but Topalov is far more creative. It’s easier to pick a favorite in this match.
HR: Garry Kasparov, we want to thank you for taking your time to meet with us today. It’s been a terrific interview and on behalf of ChessCafe.com readers worldwide, thank you very much.
GK: More books to come, more interviews (laughs).