The Wait Is Kaspar-over

The Wait Is Kaspar-over

| 88 | Chess Event Coverage

It has been 4539 days since GM Garry Kasparov played a rated chess game. Internet and St. Louis Chess Club audiences, neither of whom even existed a dozen years ago, will only have to wait one more day to see the 13th World Champion end the streak.

Photo: Emelianova.

You can follow the games live from 14 to 18 August at and watch the live broadcast at with commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade.


Want to grab a pic of GM Garry Kasparov with your iPhone? They didn't exist the last time he played rated chess. | Photo: Klein.

Most sporting elites have come and gone in that time span. Since Kasparov's retirement after Linares, 2005, Lance Armstrong won one more Tour de France, then lost them all. Tiger Woods won a few more majors but never got close to challenging the all-time record...

Sprinter Usain Bolt retired just days ago, and Michael Schumacher, before his injury, could win no more championships after his unretirement. Roger Federer, well, he's still Roger Federer as it turns out.


After the last autograph, Kasparov doubles over with laughter while chatting with GM Levon Aronian and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi. | Photo: Klein.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown but Kasparov unequivocally ruled chess for 15 years. He ended his career as one of the few historical sporting number ones to go out on top. He was still the highest rated in the world and shared first place with GM Veselin Topalov in Linares, 2005, despite losing to him in that final game. But now he's back.

Our video which covers all quotes from today's press conference.

This chess web site didn't exist in its current form and ownership then, so there's no news legacy to fall back on, but a check of ChessBase shows that on March 11, 2005, their report wrote: "The game he lost today...was the last we shall see, ever, in serious competition." No one will mind that that article needs a retraction.


Why was Kasparov signing on f3? Read on to find out. | Photo: Emelianova.

Today his public appearance began when organizers slotted him last in the 10-player autograph session's snaking line. This black marker battle proceeded much more efficiently than his afternoon-long signing blocks at the 5500-strong Supernationals scholastic tournament in May (today: one hour). No selfies were allowed and the signed squares were delineated. Kasparov, ever the classicalist, had "e4" reserved, but occasionally the block was mistakenly filled by a grandmaster interloper by the time it got to him. Kasparov chose "f3" as his backup, which was also a sage choice in his final world championship game in 1990.


The prized signature.... | Photo: Klein.


...from the prized pen, which was left unceremoniously on the table afterward. Historical memento, anyone? | Photo: Klein.

Now regular staples of the big international events in St. Louis, these autograph sessions have a way of showing fans a social side to the players. During a gap in the line, GM Levon Aronian turned to GM David Navara, and referencing the flag on the Czech grandmaster's placard, asked him:

"So you're not from the Philippines?"

"No, no," Navara said.

"But you could be!" Aronian insisted.


GM Levon Aronian: Grandmaster, humorist, and vexillologist. The Czech flag and Filipino flag are awfully close. Maybe GM David Navara and GM Wesley So can become friends with this pin?

Speaking of geography, Kasparov also had a two-flag situation, although this one was of his own accord. His name stand featured both the Croatian and Russian flags, which the club confirmed was his choice. His FIDE card still says "Russia" but since 2014 he has Croatian citizenship (Kasparov kept his Russian citizenship, too).

After the players capped their pens, a brief respite ensued, and then the grandmasters were back in front of fans and media. The 10 players crossed the street to the World Chess Hall of Fame for the official opening ceremony. As you would expect, 90 percent of the focus was on 10 percent of the field. And his name was Kasparov.

"There is tremendous buzz," GM Maurice Ashley intoned to lead off the proceedings. He compared Kasparov's return to two other sportsmen whose careers also had long interregnums -- Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan. Ashley also pointed out that GM Viswanathan Anand likely had played more games against Kasparov then the entire field combined (most of the field has never played him in a rated game).


GM Viswanathan Anand described the "two Garry's" that he's known. He's eager to see "Garry number one" return. | Photo: Emelianova.

Anand said he'd seen two different men over the years since they first met over the board in 1991.

"There was one Garry Kasparov from '91 to 2005," Anand said. "Then I met him (afterward) for many years and something had changed. He was more relaxed, more at ease. I got used to the second one, but I have to remember the first one again."

Garry showed more of the "second version" than the "first version" at the ceremony.

"I will be making preparation," he said. "Tonight, for example, I will be watching 'Game of Thrones.'"

"Thank God this will only last five days!" Kasparov said, reiterating that his re-retirement begins anew after the tournament ends. "I have no plans to come back."


Kasparov's first "move" -- selecting a book for his pairing number. | Photo: Emelianova.

He's well aware that the attention of the opening ceremony will carry through to the competition itself.

"I will be the most desired prey in the history of chess."

GM Hikaru Nakamura agreed.

"All of us want to beat him quite badly," Nakamura said.


GM Hikaru Nakamura got to pick first, and he picked first. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi can't believe the American's good luck. | Photo: Emelianova.

GM Levon Aronian was asked about playing Kasparov. The Armenian reminded that it would not be the first time, and then found a way to obliquely tell the result of a database-forgotten game.

"I have great admiration for Garry's chess," Aronian said. "I've only played him once in a blitz game in a tournament (Reykjavik, 2004, despite Kasparov's forgetfulness). It will be special to increase my good score!"


GM Levon Aronian's "perfect" score against Kasparov will be put to the test several times. | Photo: Klein.

Kasparov said he will be donating his winnings, no matter how large or small. Even he doesn't seem to know about his expected final placement.

"I'm the classical definition of a wildcard. I can do well, or I can do poorly."

When asked by if he was scouting some of his competitors over the last decade, he said that he'd enjoyed doing live commentary, but he realized that there's not the same kind of pressure of actually being in charge of the moves.

"Take it easy on me, don't be too harsh!"


GM Fabiano Caruana looks on as Kasparov is amused by his "duplicated" pairing number. | Photo: Klein.

As for preparation, Kasparov took many flights the last two weeks, traversing the Atlantic Ocean several times.

"It's more about your own form, your own instincts...I did some work, just to update myself on modern chess.

"I cannot even dream about recovering my form of the thirties. It's as naive as recovering my hairline!"

After the joking, the players drew separate lots for both the rapid and the blitz. Kasparov found it amusing that he randomly chose slot four for both events. Once all the numbers were taken, his demeanor changed.

Kasparov covered most of his face with his hands and focused on a spot on the floor. Ashley began drawing the ceremony to a close. The talk ended, but Kasparov's tournament had begun.


Kasparov's first game will be against fellow countryman GM Sergey Karjakin. He's White, and by the looks of it, he's on the clock. | Photo: Klein.

The drawing of lots resulted in the following pairings for the first round of the rapid tournament, starting tomorrow at 1 p.m. local time (11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. CET). Aronian-Navara, Nepomniachtchi-Dominguez, Anand-Nakamura, Kasparov-Karjakin, and Le-Caruana.

You can follow the games live at and watch the live broadcast at with commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade.

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