01 March 2010

'Did You Consider Just Playing Chess?'

The previous post about World Championship Opening Preparation, titled Specialization and Secrecy, covered the 2000 Kramnik - Kasparov match from the point of view of GM Bareev, one of Kramnik assistants. Kasparov's thoughts on the same match can be found in an interview from 'The Day Kasparov Quit' by Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam. I've already mentioned the book in a post about Insiders' Perspectives on World Championship Matches. The interview took place on the day of the last scheduled game, a game not played because Kramnik was already assured of winning the match (p.198):-

Every free minute [Kasparov] has he is putting in the analysis of the match, he says.

Q: Are you analyzing the match technically or psychologically?

A: Both. It's clearly not as much Kramnik's win as my loss. I made so many mistakes and did not anticipate what he was going to do. Basically everything was about preparation. The first two games had a devastating effect, when I understood that I would have to play endgames.

The story is simple. I had two successful years. I believed that what I had to do was add volume. We had great ideas in [any opening] you can imagine. With Black, frankly speaking, we relied on the Gruenfeld with the Queens's Gambit Accepted as a reserve. So, when after game two you realize that your main Black opening is not going to work, and the guy is going to trade Queens with White, this doesn't have a good effect. Still, I think I played relatively well. [...]

The problem was I burned myself down, because we had to rebuild my entire opening repertoire. I worked for hours and hours. I had a parallel training session and then I had to go and play Kramnik. [...]

Q: Before the match I said to Kramnik that one of his biggest opponents was he himself, burning himself while trying to keep on preparing during the match, as he has done so often at tournaments. Instead it happened to you, despite all your experience.

A: Our preparation was absolutely wrong. For the past three years I have been concentrating on winning tournaments with plus seven [+7, shorthand for wins minus losses, a measure of success], while he was concentrating on creating a very good opening repertoire with Black. He created a very small parameter. These victories worked against me. I didn't want to change anything. [...]

Q: Did you consider forgetting about all opening preparation and just playing chess?

A: A good recommendation. At one point I wished we could change Bishop and Knight in the opening position, because then I had no doubts I would win the match.

After interviewing Kasparov, ten Geuzendam conducted another interview with Kramnik, when the subject of opening preparation was again a central theme of the discussion. I'll cover that in the next post. (NB: The start position (SP) that Kasparov mentions in the last paragraph is known in chess960 as 'SP524: RBNQKNBR'.)

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