Interview with Garry Kasparov (Part 2)

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
As promised, today the second part of Gert Devreese's interview with Garry Kasparov. This part is about Kasparov's chess career and especially about the matches against Karpov and Kramnik. It hasn't been published anywhere before. Enjoy!

Garry Kasparov on the highlights of his chess career ?¢‚ǨÀúFirst match against Karpov made me a super strong chess player'

How would Kasparov's chess career have developed if he had lost his first World Championship match against Anatoly Karpov with 6-0 ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú after all these years Garry Kasparov still doesn't like to think about it. "This is the reason I'm sitting here in front of you for this interview. That first WCC match made me the super strong chess player that I've become. I survived a completely hopeless situation. Being 5-0 down and still surviving is a unique experience for any sportsman, and something you'll never forget. It was decisive for the rest of my career."

In your first WCC match in 1984-85 against Anatoly Karpov, that lasted five months, it appeared hopeless for you at some point: you were 5-0 down and hadn't been able to win a single game. Did you ever consider the possibility of a 6-0 defeat and would it have meant the end of your career, before it had really started?

Well look, it did not happen. It didn't get to 0-6. Perhaps it was close. Hitler was also very close to conquering Moscow, during the second world war. But at the end he didn't succeed. Should you worry about the consequences, about what could have happened but did not happen?

Did you just decide to not think about it when the score was 0-5?

I saw a 0-6 score as a hypothetical result, but it wasn't really on my mind, simply because Karpov couldn't manage to win a sixth game. Maybe I was lucky. But in world history you come across many sitations where a small change could have had dramatic consequences for the whole world. But these small changes just didn't happen.

It didn't get to 0-6, but instead you came back to 3-5. Then the match was stopped and a year later a brand new match against Karpov followed. Precisely this scenario gave you the opportunity to start a glorious chess career.

That's correct. That's the reason I'm sitting in front of you for this interview. That first WCC match made me the super strong chess player that I've become. Being 5-0 down and still surviving is a unique experience for any sportsman, and something you'll never forget. It was surely the most important moment in my career and it determined the rest of my chess life.

It taught me that I had control over destiny, that I possessed the enourmous mental strength to make a comeback after being 0-5 down, at the moment I was only one step away from total disaster. That was perhaps my best achievement ever: surviving a totally hopeless situation. I had a chance of one to?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ how much? Surely very little. By not losing anymore after 0-5, I saved my dignity and eventually even the match.

And don't forget that in '85 I was perhaps not yet as strong as Karpov, but I was one of the best chess players. It wouldn't have been very logical to lose 6-0 against him, this result I didn't deserve. I survived this tough test and then I stayed at the top for twenty years.

Was the hatred between you and Karpov created during this long match?

To me, Karpov is a symbol for a system, the suppressive, totalitair communist Soviet system of that time. The same system Putin is now keeping alive. Karpov surely was one of the best chess players ever, but he was also helped by the communist regime to stay at the top.

I actually did not have a personal relationship with Karpov. He was the sort of man that's really not interesting to me, he always wanted to be part of power. My system of values is completely different from his.

Karpov doesn't really exist by himself, Karpov alone isn't more than a carcass. He only functions when being part of the system. I, for my part, am a true individualist. Karpov symbolizes something I detest, because it was wrong.

Karpov, as a person, doesn't represent anything. I'm leading my own life, I'm building up opposition against Putin in Russia, I'm fighting for something. Maybe it's wrong, but at least I'm the one doing something. You can criticize me, but in any case Garry Kasparov has created something.

Another milestone in your career: Kasparov-Topalov 1999, the Pearl of Wijk aan Zee, one of the most beautiful games of chess history. Topalov has said that during the game he didn't realize yet that the two of you were creating a masterpiece. How about you?

For me that was different. Immediately when I went for that long combination I realized something very special would come onto the board. When I started to sacrifice all those pieces, the sort of feeling of large inspiration came over me, something that Big Writers sometimes experience when they are writing. Because I had seen the final position of the game far in advance, although it's is not possible at all to calculate in advance that long line that leads to the final position. But when I saw that position, I realised: Wham! Now something is about to happen. I could see forward fifteen moves, although at one point I didn't play the strongest move and I could have won quicker.

I think it was different for Topalov. I think he hadn't seen the final position in advance, but he did see a great game was developing. He then just decided to join, with the idea "when I lose, I lose", although he hoped I had miscalculated somewhere. Because it was such an unusual series of moves. I consider it the most impressive game I ever played.

In the world championship match in 2000, against your young compatriot Vladimir Kramnik, you lost the world title. With his Berlin Defence he removed the attacking potential from your play by forcing an early queen exchange. But you never considered to play something different, even after you had lost two games.

When you need to make a decision in a situation that appears to be hopeless, you need time to look at the problem again. I simply didn't have that time against Kramnik. I was shocked by my play, which was below my level. In the fifth and seventh game I tried to get different openings on the board. And I did think I had some good ideas to approach his Berlin. I wanted to prove I could also fight on his territory.

But you didn't make any progress.

I admit, playing that Berlin all the time was a mistake. In that match I made too many mistakes in my preparation.

And Kramnik's team of seconds was much stronger than yours. You underestimated this.

[Grumbling.] It wasn't just stronger. It was also ten times bigger as mine. That's certainly true. [Referring to the fact that Kramnik not only had helpers in London, but also regularly received help from friends - top chess players - by phone.] I know a lot of top players were helping Kramnik. For me, this wasn't the case.

Photo: Andrew Redington/ALLSPORT

It's clear I made many mistakes in my preparation. For one thing, I underestimated Kramnik. In the year before, I had proven that I still was the best player in the world, so I must have made mistakes. And I paid the price. OK, Kramnik might have received a lot of help, but if I had prepared like I did for my matches against Karpov, it would have gone differently. But I didn't.

Has Toiletgate damaged the image of chess?

I live in a very dangerous world. You have the physical dangers: my colleagues and friends are constantly living under the pressure of the police and the KGB. I don't care what top players like Kramnik and Topalov are doing with the organisation of top chess right now. In my world we're running much higher risks than those pathetic little ego problems of top chess players. I'm now dealing with matters of life and death: we fight for the future of our country against a corrupt, suppressive regime. Sure, I want to give my opinion about chess issues if people ask me, but only in my spare time. Much more important things are on the agenda now.

The Belgian Chess journalist Gert Devreese writes for De Standaard and Schaaknieuws.
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