Playing in Your Opponent's Backyard

Playing in Your Opponent's Backyard

| 24 | Strategy

In last week's column we discussed a hustler's trick where he would offer you a position where you could choose White or Black and the hustler would take the opposite side and beat you.

Sometimes top chess players borrow this trick from the hustler's toolbox.  Judge for yourself: 

This is game #38 of the first marathon World Championship match Karpov - Kasparov.  This wasn't the most exciting game to put it mildly, but look at what happened the very next day. Apparently, Karpov wasn't satisfied by his own treatment of this variation and he was interested to know what Kasparov considered the best defense for Black. Of course he could politely ask his opponent, but since it was the World Championship Match he pretty much knew how Kasparov would answer Smile. So, Karpov used the simplest method to find out the answer, he played the same variation as White!

So, Kasparov showed Karpov how to play this position for Black and therefore the case was closed, right?  Not so fast! Karpov knew better... he suspected that Kasparov didn't show everything and still kept an ace up his sleeve. So, when in the next game of their match the opponents had the familiar position Karpov deviated first!

Yes, Karpov suffered through the whole game, but managed to escape for a draw.  We'll never know what Kasparov had prepared in case Karpov followed their previous games, but I believe that somehow Karpov's legendary intuition saved him again. An indirect proof of some sort can be found in the next episode. The year was 1983 and Kasparov was facing Victor Korchnoi in a 'Candidate's match'. In order to win the match Kasparov needed just half a point out of the two remaining games, but as he admitted in his book, he wanted to finish the match with "an exclamation mark"!

Fastforward 18 years and the FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov used Kasparov's idea... against Kasparov! 

This game is very interesting on many levels.  First of all it is a very fine example of Kasparov's trademark energetic play, where his opponent virtually gets annihilated. Secondly, the game features a unique double blunder--both super GMs missed a simple move (10...Be5!) which won instantly. I truly hope that our readers would do much better since we discussed this typical pattern previously:

And finally, just like that hustler, Kasparov showed 'how to promote the pawn', but still had some surprises left for his opponent!

Even if you are not going to play Kasparov in your next tournament, the lesson is simple.  Say your opponent is an expert in a certain opening, it definitely makes sense to play some other variation, or even surprise your opponent before he surprises you! We discussed this approach in a number of articles, for instance:

Good luck!

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