16 November 2009

The Vladimirov Affair

In Opening Preparation - Between the Lines, I remarked, 'We'll see in other World Championship matches that the problem of betrayal occurs frequently in match preparations'. Betrayal has always been a perception rather than an established fact. It is difficult for a player to prove that one of his trusted seconds has been less than faithful in serving the cause.

A case arose during the 1986 Kasparov - Karpov Title Match. Leading +4-1=11 with eight games to play, Kasparov lost the next three games -- the 17th, 18th, and 19th. The match was tied. Any player who had just lost three games could be expected to take a time-out, but the opposite occurred. Here's how Keene and Goodman introduced the 20th game.

After his elegant demolition of the Gruenfeld in game 19 Karpov took a surprise time out, postponing the 20th until the following Monday. The decision mystified observers who had expected the former champion to keep pushing against a weakened Kasparov, but grandmasters suggested that Karpov wished to use the weekend to prepare himself psychologically for the final phase of the match now that he had gained a real chance to win. Rumors that Karpov was ill were soon quashed that evening when Karpov was shown on Leningrad TV visiting an exhibition by the famous Soviet artist Ilya Glazunov with his girlfriend Natasha and close aide Vladimir Pischenko. ['The Centenary Match: Kasparov - Karpov III', p.112]

Kasparov gave more detail from an insider's point of view.

Before game 20 Karpov took his last postponement, and thus the match moved into the finishing straight -- the day of each subsequent game was now determined. Clearly, by his decision Karpov gave me time to "lick my wounds" and he lost the psychological initiative. Why did he do this? Later Karpov explained that he had problems in the opening, and perhaps this explanation will satisfy people who are remote from chess. [...]

Another factor, which gave rise to false rumors, should also be mentioned here. There were changes in [Kasparov's] training group, which was abandoned by Timoshchenko and Vladimirov. But whereas Timoshchenko's departure departure was 'planned', a serious conflict occurred in my relations with Vladimirov after the 19th game. To me he seemed to be behaving strangely -- copying out the analysis of openings employed in the match. I cannot assert anything, and I have no grounds for accusing him, but equally I can no longer trust Vladimirov as I used to. We parted company precisely the day before Karpov's postponement was announced. ['London - Leningrad Championship Games', p.112]

Even though Kasparov could not 'assert anything', he dropped enough hints to make his thinking crystal clear. This is from his introduction to the 19th game, where he discussed the choice of opening for that game:

A change of opening would have seemed more sensible. This was made in game 21, but there is reason to think that the employment of a new opening in game 19 would not have affected the opponent's preparedness. [p.109]

Karpov's prepared opening surprises in games 17 and 19, plus his 'amazing perception' and 'second sight' (Kasparov's words) in the analysis of the adjourned position in game 18, were enough to convince Kasparov that Vladimirov had to go.


Michael Goeller said...

Fascinating stuff. An interesting case of match-second-betrayal I recall was Geller's (likely Soviet-ordered) betrayal of Spassky before the 1974 candidates match with Karpov. Byrne (who lost a quarterfinal match to Spassky) documents this very well in his NY Times book on the matches.

Mark Weeks said...

That's a story I hadn't heard before. Thanks for the tip. - Mark

Offramp said...

Kasparov is making totally groundless accusations, as he himself admits:
"I cannot assert anything, and I have no grounds for accusing him..."

Mark Weeks said...

Offramp - See also the last section of...

Kasparov's Child of Change by Edward Winter

...with a clipping of an IHT article that appeared during the match. Winter addresses the same phrase that you do.

Note that the rest of Kasparov's sentence was 'but equally I can no longer trust Vladimirov as I used to'. For Kasparov, the threat was as strong as its execution. Note also that the losses stopped with the departure of Vladimirov. - Mark