Stolen analyses

GM Malev212
Mar 26, 2014, 9:08 AM |

Garry Kasparov was the best player of the last century, and despite his advancing age (at almost 42 years old he was one of the oldest player at the top level) he had continued his success in tournament chess.  In his last Linares tournament in 2005 he needed only a draw in the last round to take clear first. To play for a draw does not suit his style.  Despite his surprising loss to Veselin Topalov he took the honors anyway on tiebreak. 

After the game, he made the announcement that he was retiring from professional chess.  His status as a legend was already certain.

What had stood behind his success?  He obviously had exceptional talent, but that alone is not enough.  Only with the backing of the Soviet chess school, the best coaches and government support helped him to achieve the goal whatever it was.

We do not know much about what was going on behind the curtains, but we do know that he had a tremendous ability to work; and not only at the chess board.  In addition, he had always a team of grandmasters helping him, and—according to rumor—basements full of ‘electronic grandmasters’, analyzing the critical positions in popular openings day and night.  What kind of analyses this formidable team has created is a good question.  Could the greatest player ever, helped by numerous theoreticians and supercomputers, be coming close to finding the ‘ultimate truth’ in chess?

            Every chess player has dreamed of finding a novelty and executing it at the proper moment.  Matches at the highest level involve a great deal of teamwork—since the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match, the value of chess information has grown a lot.  Success between two equals is often decided by their preparations.  Thus the greatest nightmare is that your opponent knows your secrets.

The seconds and coaches of a world champion are carefully selected to avoid betrayal.  There was never, to my knowledge, any damning evidence against the team members of a world championship candidate; but accusations have been made.  Most famous was when Kasparov accused his second Yevgeny Vladimirov of selling secrets to Anatoly Karpov during their World Championship match inLeningrad, 1986.  Kasparov made this accusation after he had just lost several games in a row, and it is not clear whether it had any justification or was purely emotional.  Vladimirov was fired in accusation that he wrote down the notes which were used to prepare against Karpov. However later Vladimirov did not publish or reveal in other format the notes he supposedly had. During the era of the Kasparov-Karpov confrontation, another GM, Josif Dorfman came under suspicion as well.  As like Vladimirov, he was supposedly selling the analyses to Karpov.


            When following the Linares 2005 tournament, the game Anand-Kasparov caught my eye. The currently popular Pelican line was played, and out of curiosity I checked the stolen Kasparov analyses I bought a few years back on the chess market.



After seeing this I was really astonished. Many questions arose. Why did Kasparov play a line that, according to his own—supposed—analysis, is good for White?  Did Anand also have access to these analyses?  Was the game Novik-Filippov played before Kasparov did his analysis of the line, or after?

            GM’s who are specialist of these lines mentioned that the move 18.h4 is considered more critical than 18.0-0.  Possibly Kasparov’s team was only prepared against the modern 18.h4, which occurred in the game Ponomariov-Kramnik in the Wijk aan Zee tournament in January 2005, and did not pay much attention to other lines.  Also, you cannot always trust Fritz’s evaluations—probably Garry did not have any real problems against Anand anyway.

            The origin of the stolen analyses is mysterious. They started to circulate in a very small chess market, with the initial price of 2000 USD.  They did not immediately find buyers.  Hence these analyses may just be somebody’s homework with the help of a computer. Like the way someone succeeded in impersonating Fischer on the Internet Chess Club by using a powerful computer. $2000 is probably enough motivation for someone to forge the analyses. 

On the other hand, there are simply too many of them—1097 separate lines, to be exact.  Some of them are just well-known theoretical lines, copied from other sources; but you cannot expect over 1000 novelties.  When the late Lev Polugaevsky said that he is not weaker than Kasparov in correspondence chess, Garry himself replied ‘that it is not true, because you also need to know which line to choose.’  Opening preparation encompasses not only the discovery of novelties, but also the evaluation of known lines.

            Later, the secret files went on the market for 500 USD. Their origin was still unknown, as it is today.  There are various possibilities—they could have come from Vladimirov or Dorfman, but why would they wait so many years to start selling them?  Definitely, Karpov would pay more than $2000 when the stakes were over a million.  Also, many of these analyses are dated later compare to these ‘thefts’ supposedly occurred. 

            Life is usually simpler—most likely one of Kasparov’s seconds allowed someone too close to his computer, and the files were simply copied.  It is possible that some genius generated them, but how likely is it that Anand and Kasparov would follow his analysis for 24 moves?  I did not care to check all of the stolen lines with actual games; but probably there are many other such cases.

            I believe this product has today only historical value.  With 1097 files dated between 1981 and 1994, I wonder how many lines Kasparov has in his computer today.  The only ‘outside’ people who can have access to his computer are probably Microsoft officials who can accuse him of using unlicensed software, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who might want to check the next article Garry is writing about him.  The best work done by Garry—the ‘not-yet-stolen analyses’—has apparently been missed by both parties.   If Kasparov holds to his promise not to play again, perhaps the young players will still be ‘discovering’ the novelties hidden on his computer in twenty years! You may find the analyses here

            What to conclude about the old ones?  You may find some new forgotten ideas and also it gives a glimpse how many working hours are behind the lines.