22 February 2010

Specialization and Secrecy

In my last post, 'An Enormous Investment of Effort and Time', I quoted from Bareev and Levitov's 'From London to Elista', regarding the pre-match effort involved in World Championship Opening Preparation. Bareev, who served as Kramnik's second in 2000 and in 2004, continued his explanation of pre-match preparation with a discussion of the team of assistants who helped Kramnik prepare his openings for the 2000 match with Kasparov (p.16):

Team Politics

Levitov: On what principle did [Kramnik] form his team before the match with Kasparov?

Bareev: On the professional principle -- those who were capable of work, could withstand the serious physical and psychological burden, and wouldn't give up. A limited number of people participated in the preparation. The team that formed was international, on the whole each person worked at home, and Kramnik himself held several study and coaching meetings with various chess players. [...]

In general, each person answered for his own sphere. I worked on the white color [e.g. Nimzo-Indian], with the exception of the Gruenfeld Defense. Dolmatov and Kramnik prepared the Berlin Wall together in about two weeks. Neither Lautier nor I knew what, specifically, would be our main weapon against 1.e4.

L: That's nice! [Kramnik] trusts you!

B: I think that in the first place, [Kramnik] himself didn't even know what would happen. In the second place, experience suggested how he should behave. It is well known that Kasparov -- a representative of the Soviet chess school -- is a pupil of Botvinnik and Karpov. They were famous for intrigues and behind-the-scene squabbles, which they won on most occasions. That's why it was impossible to absolutely exclude the possibility that an attempt would be made to -- I'm not afraid to use this word -- swipe something. In case of a loss in some area, Kramnik divided the field. That way something would always remain. [...]

Continuing the subject of who was responsible for what, I'll tell you that Kramnik and Lautier worked on the Scotch Game (Kasparov didn't play this opening, but it came in handy later, in the match with [Deep Fritz 2002]). If we're talking about the main opening for White, then Illescas worked on the Gruenfeld, and he did very serious work on it.

Based on the assumption that it was impossible to look at everything, Kramnik determined which openings might occur and which wouldn't, and cut out the unnecessary. He thought that 1.e4 would be Kasparov's main weapon. 1.c4 [Kramnik] himself plays as White, so he didn't put any particular work into this move. And about 1.d4 he simply decided that it wouldn't happen in the match -- a mistake that almost cost him a loss in game 15.

The degree of specialization and accompanying secrecy is surprising until we recognize the unfortunate incidents that occurred in previous matches, e.g. The Dorfman Affair and The Vladimirov Affair. Kramnik won the match +2-0=13, both wins with the White pieces, proving that his strategy was successful.

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