08 February 2010

Theatrics in Professional Chess

The next post in the series on World Championship Opening Preparation continues the previous posts on the 1990 Kasparov - Karpov match (KK5) -- One Hundred Days for an Opening Repertoire and The Chief Trainer -- with input from a recent post on chess960 : Fischer: 'The *Old* Chess Is Dead'. Karpov wrote about the 1990 World Championship match in the last chapter of his book 'Karpov on Karpov'. Here's an excerpt (p.214).

Several key moments [of the 1990 match] stand out. The first game is always used for intelligence gathering, for checking yourself and your opponent, for checking stability, energy, depth, and mood. The game was fierce and compact. We both showed that we weren't opposed to winning right off the bat, but neither did we rush to do it: a win in the first game is a bad omen.

I lost the second game. Kasparov caught me with his home analysis. None of the spectators in the hall knew this. They only saw how Kasparov sweated, racked his brains, tormented himself, squeezed his temples. But during the game, information leaked from the press center that Kasparov's variation was being developed by his team right up to the moment of his sacrifice of a Bishop -- somewhere around the 30th to 40th move.

His plan turned out to be an excellent one. Give Kasparov's team credit for discovering and developing this variation and bolstering it with some profound analysis. As far as this game is concerned, it is all right to speak of an excellently conducted prematch preparation and of an excellent home analysis. Just don't talk about the playing. Because the playing was only on one side -- mine. Kasparov can only be lauded for execution.

Compare Karpov's personal experience with Fischer's general observation.

You have very interesting, beautiful pre-arranged games being created by very intelligent players, working with computers, working in teams. I have no objections to people creating such games, but they must say these are pre-arranged games, but they must not claim that they are finding the moves over the board.

Karpov's observations were from 1990, Fischer's from 2002. Although computer analysis was still experimental in 1990, and we don't know how big a role it played in Kasparov's preparation, the 13th World Champion was a pioneer in that area.

Assuming that some portion of Karpov's criticism is just sour grapes, I still had to smile at his description of Kasparov's theatrics (he 'sweated, racked his brains, tormented himself, squeezed his temples'), because other players have described similar behavior sitting opposite Kasparov. Is professional chess on the same path as professional wrestling?

For the complete game mentioned by Karpov in the excerpt, see...

Garry Kasparov vs Anatoli Karpov; World Championship Match 1990

...on Chessgames.com.

No comments: