Carlsen On Working With Kasparov

Dec 31, 2011, 12:13 AM |

Former world champion Garry Kasparov was still arguably the best chess player in the world when he retired in 2005, and he casts a long shadow over the current crop of players trying to make an impact.

Despite his involvement with Russian politics, Garry still promotes specific chess events and initiatives, and over the last couple of years has coached first Magnus Carlsen and then Hikaru Nakamura.

Nakamura's work with Kasparov ended quite recently, and it is interesting to contrast Carlsen's views on Garry with Nakamura's recent comments.

Translation from WhyChess:

What impressions did the work (with Kasparov) leave on you? If it’s not a forbidden topic?!

No, it’s not a problem. We started working together in 2009, and worked quite closely for over a year. We had meetings in person as well as constant conversations on Skype. We analysed a lot together, we played, exchanged opinions…

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

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.

Was he amazed by the level of your opening preparation?

Yes, he was shocked at how little it turned out I knew… But we didn’t focus on that issue. He shared his methods of working on the opening with me, and I’m grateful to him. Thanks to him I advanced in that area.

What else did Kasparov share with you?

He told me a lot about the peculiarities of the struggle, and a great deal about particular elite players. He has a very original view on the best players in the world.

Where you stunned by the energy he still has at 46?

Yes, he’s a very “energetic” man! It seems as though he’s simply sharing his opinion with you, but in actual fact he’s dictating how you should act…

How strongly did your views on the positions you looked at differ?

A great deal… Kasparov is a researcher, and he looks at every position as if it’s a theorem which should be proved, while I’m more pragmatic – I look for how best to use the opportunities for both players. He tries to bring everything to a final evaluation, +- or -+, while I’m not so meticulous, and the main thing for me is to find a path it’s worth following. From some things he said I realised that my approach is largely associated for him with the way Karpov took decisions. He knew him like no-one else – I can’t say it was unpleasant for me to hear such an assessment…

Did you often compete with Kasparov?

At the board? Yes, we played a lot of blitz games! It was an interesting battle. At times it was hard for him – you could sense he was out of practice.

From his games could you imagine how strong Kasparov was in his youth?

He’s a fantastic player. I’ve never seen someone with such a feel for dynamics in complex positions. And that’s in his 40s! Of course, it would have been very interesting to play against Kasparov back then, but as you know, we can’t turn back the clock… I think it would have been a wonderful challenge. They say Karpov was also magnificent in his youth. [...]

Do you regret that your cooperation with Garry ultimately came to an end?

I don’t know. There’s a time for everything… Kasparov and I split on perfectly friendly terms, without taking offence. I consider him to have given me a great deal of useful knowledge. I think it was interesting for him as well. […] No-one can say how things would be now if we’d continued working together. From where I am today I think splitting up was the correct step.

In a sense you’d got what you wanted from Kasparov?

That might be the case, although there are no guarantees. Perhaps at some point I’ll regret my decision. But perhaps I won’t…

From his coaches and acquaintances it was clear that Garry was disappointed that the cooperation ended, as if you’d turned your back on “sacred knowledge”…

It’s hard for me to judge. Perhaps I disappointed him, but such was my choice.

And life goes on?

Yes, exactly! It seems to me that it’s wrong to reduce your life to one or two choices. I took the wrong path – and that’s that. It doesn’t work like that… I don’t believe in “fatal errors”. And even if I make some mistakes, they’re my mistakes, and I’ll take responsibility for them.

More of the Carlsen interview can be found here.