Carlsen On Working With Kasparov

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.


  • 3 years ago


    The probem is that Kasparov, although a great player, had little to teach a player like Magnus.

  • 5 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    @Netzach: I think you are wrong on 3 points. 1. As an American, I don't appreciate people from other counrtries insulting our president(s) on  a chess forum. Can we keep to the topic? There are many millions of Americans who think and know we were much better off 4 yrs ago.

    2. I also dispute the claim about Nakamura's nationality(posted in the thread on him and Kaspy).

    3. " & restrict egotism until you are placed in the top 10 worldwide"

    Nakamura was 10th when he made these comments, and has been higher. You posted the Jan2012 list. You might want to use a more current version, where he is now 5th.

    BTW, I agree 100%, these atre much more mature comments by Magnus.

  • 5 years ago


  • 5 years ago


    Sounds like Garry's ego has not shrank much in 20 years

  • 5 years ago


    What I think this shows more than anything else is how much more Carlsen got out of the relationship because of the way he choose to approach it.  These comments seem far more mature than some of those made by Nakurama, who wrote Kasparov off as merely being good at openings!

  • 5 years ago


    Kasparov could coach Korchnoi. Whippersnappers can wait.

  • 5 years ago


    & whilst I understand American competiveness & desire to win ( after all my own home country is very patriotic & we will stand alongside each other & die if neccesssary for a worthwhile or principled cause ) It can be a mistake to defend your countrymen if the behaviour is wrong ( George Bush 2nd term ? )

    Here is an excerpt of the FIDE rating list for this year:

     Name Nat Elo
    1  Carlsen, Magnus  NOR 2835
    2  Aronian, Levon  ARM 2805
    3  Kramnik, Vladimir  RUS 2801
    4  Anand, Viswanathan  IND 2799
    5  Radjabov, Teimour  AZE 2773
    6  Topalov, Veselin  BUL 2770
    7  Karjakin, Sergey  RUS 2769
    8  Ivanchuk, Vassily  UKR 2766
    9  Morozevich, Alexander  RUS 2763
    10  Gashimov, Vugar  AZE 2761
    11  Grischuk, Alexander  RUS 2761
    12  Nakamura, Hikaru  USA 2759
    13  Svidler, Peter  RUS 2749
    14  Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar  AZE 2747
    15  Tomashevsky, Evgeny  RUS 2740
    16  Gelfand, Boris  ISR 2739
    17  Caruana, Fabiano  ITA 2736
    18  Nepomniachtchi, Ian  RUS 2735
    19  Wang, Hao  CHN 2733
    20  Kamsky, Gata  USA 2732
    21  Dominguez Perez, Leinier  CUB 2730

    So USA do not forget about Kamsky, ( amidst Nakamura's controversy ), as is good prospect for your country & restrict egotism until you are placed in the top 10 worldwide.

  • 5 years ago


    Who is the next person Kasparov will coach?

    hmm Carauna,Lagrave, or Giri?

  • 5 years ago


    It's interesting and I'm seeing this from the standpoint of high level coaching in tennis (also a similar individual sport) where at the highest levels (Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and, for us in America, Andy Roddick, it's not unusual to see a top player take a coach for a year or so (a relatively short time) and then end that relationship when they have gained a special insight into either the other players on tour or a specific special aspect of the game that that coach was known for. Example, how to train for world championship cycle and how to do in-depth opening preparation would be obvious strong points Kasparov would known for.  He's perhaps the greatest ever so it would be a pity not to enlist his services at the highest level.

  • 5 years ago


    Informative read & Magnus comes across as a pleasant & well-mannered person.

  • 5 years ago


    This was an interesting read. But, just like with Nakamura, one may find it interesting that by now two top level players have cooperated with Garry and both have ended their coaching in a relatively short time. Yes, Carlsen is more "polite", but I could not help but notice that his politeness was covering possible significant disagreement and perhaps even personality clash (I admit, I perhaps read the latter into it). Maybe at this level one can truly improve only of their own as no one knows their thinking process better than themselves. You may learn an approach of training, what to focus on, how you ready yourself, but the technic, the knowledge could only be improved (I should say adjusted)slightly. If Kasparov compares the young and natural Magnus to the mature world champion Karpov, it says a lot about the style, personality and individual approach to the understanding and practicing of the game.

  • 5 years ago


    "Gentleman" immediately came to my mind, but I see that Pokernator beat me to it!Smile

  • 5 years ago


    Interesting blog!

  • 5 years ago


    Magnus is  more of a gentleman than Hikaru...

Back to Top

Post your reply: