11 January 2010

The Key to Kasparov's Success Against Karpov

Just like he did for his book on the second match with Karpov (see The Appeal of a Certain Strategic Pattern), Kasparov wrote a postscript to his book on the third match ('London - Leningrad Championship Games', Pergamon, 1987, p.139), where he addressed the topic of World Championship Opening Preparation. The following excerpt opens with the surprising insight that the difference between victory and loss in the second match was due entirely to Karpov's inferior opening preparation.

Without the slightest doubt, in the period between the matches [KK2-1985 & KK3-1986] Karpov did an enormous amount of work, and prepared a mobile opening repertoire, aimed at the development of theoretical discussions during the course of the match. Intending to battle for the demonstration of his rights in all fundamental creative debates, Karpov concerned himself very seriously over widening his arsenal of playing methods. I am convinced that all this would have been quite sufficient to give him victory in 1985, but by the return match I in turn had managed to work through the necessary amount of information and had largely eliminated those defects which had been revealed in my previous meetings with Karpov. Essentially, the return match broke the traditional stereotypes about 'home' and 'away' grounds in Kasparov - Karpov matches.

In the first instance it must be mentioned that Karpov managed to reach a new qualitative level of opening preparation, largely using the experience accumulated in our previous matches. My traditional advantage in the initial stage, declared by many commentators (and by Karpov himself) to be the foundation of my previous victory, melted away in the return match. Moreover, by skilfully combining purposeful work in the most critical directions with deep strategic anticipation of the opponent's plans, for the greater part of the match Karpov held the opening initiative. I think that now the causes of the fiasco suffered by the Gruenfeld Defense will be understandable [Kasparov lost three games].

In employing the new opening, we were counting on the conservatism of Karpov's opening outlook and on his unwillingness to engage in mutually dangerous theoretical discussions (of which I already had positive experience from my employment of the g2-g3 variation against the Nimzo-Indian Defense in the 1985 match). There was a danger that the new opening might well show signs of cracking, on encountering a fundamentally changed approach by the opponent to the solving of opening problems. This, of course, need not have happened, but during the match I, unfortunately, lacked flexibility and intuition.

The last paragraph answers a question I raised in the previous post on the second match: '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?' The clue was Karpov's 'unwillingness to engage in mutually dangerous theoretical discussions'.

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