04 January 2010

The Appeal of a Certain Strategic Pattern

It's taken a few posts to arrive here, but my series on World Championship Opening Preparation has identified the five Kasparov - Karpov matches (last post: Who Has the Richer Store of Ideas?) as the first extended testing ground for the importance of opening preparation in matches at the highest level.

The following is from Kasparov's account of the second match, 'New World Chess Champion' (Pergamon, 1986, p.97).

The six month interval [between the 1984/85 and 1985 matches] had not been wasted. During this time my trainers and I were able to plan a new match strategy, based in particular on the features of my opponent's style and his tastes. Revealing in this respect is the creative debate in the Nimzo-Indian Defense. In the opinion of many, my success in the first game was determined by the factor of surprise, but subsequently too, throughout the entire match, Karpov experienced serious difficulties in this opening. The strategic pattern obviously did not appeal to him, and it was precisely this factor that we had taken into account in our preparations.

At the same time, Karpov did not prepare for the match anything new, but restricted himself merely to insignificant improvements in variations which had occurred in the first encounter. What told here was evidently Karpov's dislike for serious analytical work. Regarding this one recall's Karpov's controversy with my teacher, ex-World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik, who has always emphasized the exceptional importance of the research tendency in chess. Karpov retorted that Botvinnik's views were hopelessly outdated, and asserted that in our day it is only constant practice that can be a source of the raising (or maintenance?) of chess mastery.

I should mention that it was easy for Karpov to make such a criticism -- he himself had available a large team if highly qualified helpers, who regularly supplied him with fresh ideas. Well, our encounter at the chess board can be regarded as a practical solution to this theoretical argument...

I can only marvel at the insights, both chessic and psychological, that equip a player to determine that a certain 'strategic pattern obviously does not appeal' to a world class opponent. What are the clues? How much of it is guesswork?

1 comment:

Tom Chivers said...

Indeed the level at which Kasparov out-chessed Karpov still seems mysterious after all these years - yet the way Kramnik did the same thing to Kasparov, and then Anand to Kramnik - these don't seem mysterious at all.