15 March 2010

Kasparov Reminisces

In this series of posts on World Championship Opening Preparation, I've already mentioned the second Kasparov - Karpov match (KK2-1985) several times -- Two World Champions in Combat, Who Has the Richer Store of Ideas?, and The Appeal of a Certain Strategic Pattern -- and, almost as if on cue, Kasparov himself discussed the same match in a recent interview published on Chessbase.com: Bisik-Bisik with Garry Kasparov (Part 2; I linked to the first part for my post on The Chief Trainer in this same series).

Q: You are well-known for your intense, thorough and deep pre-match and competition preparations -- especially in your matches against Karpov. As 2009 is the 25th anniversary of the first K-K match can you perhaps use the 1984 match against Karpov to illustrate the depth and breadth of your preparation on the eve of that match?

A: I had a five-month time before the match to rest and to prepare for the unknown test. I had a group of four chess trainers, Nikitin, Shakarov, Vladimirov and Timoschenko throughout my preparation. Dorfman came to assist me at the start of the main match, while Adorjan participated in the final pre-match training session. This was a very small team compared to the resources that Karpov had, but still, what mattered was that we had a plan to prepare for the match.

Initially, my trainers and I looked at Karpov's games and drew up a competitive and creative portrait of him, picking out the strong and weak aspects of his play. After that, we compiled a list of chess openings that were most likely to occur in the match, with a preference to variations leading to complicated and at times intricate positions. From here onwards, we began concrete chess opening preparations. This is a most important part of the preparation for any important chess match, and our work here included studying a number of variations for both the black and white sides of the same chess opening. All these work, which were the result of hours and hours of prolonged brainstorming together with my highly-qualified trainers throughout a five-month period, helped me greatly in the critical situation, which arose soon after the start of the match

But, the biggest achievements in this pre-match preparation were above all, my ability to start the match with Karpov with a creative approach to solving a broad grasp of chess opening problems as well as a readiness on my part to engage in a battle with Karpov in any chess openings' dispute in the most varied situations.

Q: Against Karpov in the 1984 match, you came up a little short in the dynamism vs. long-term advantages' struggle. You learnt well and about a year and a half later in the 1985 match, you were a changed man. What specific plans did you put in place prior to the 1985 match?

A: One of the key challenges the Kasparov team had prior to the second match was time. We realized that time was short and we began preparations began virtually the day after Campomanes' announcement of the match. We drew up a six-month schedule that included both relaxation and independent work, besides three twenty-day sessions with my trainers and helpers. As part of my preparation I also played two training matches with GMs Hubner and Andersson in May 1985. And, thereafter began my first of the three twenty-day sessions with my trainers. Here, we continued our work on chess openings, besides working to improve my positional technique. We also included as part of the session some form of physical training, whereby we went running barefoot along the beach besides swimming in the sea, cycling and football.

Q: In 1972 Fischer was known to be always carrying a red-colored book containing Spassky's games wherever he went. This represented the most extreme of chess preparations. Can you please share with us on what you think is the ideal preparation plan of a modern-day chess professional prior to competition?

A: You can't prepare without the computer. You must be constantly updated with all the improvements in the modern-day game of chess. Now that I am working with Magnus, Alexander Shakarov and I will always go to TWIC and we will look at the regular issues, just to see the games -- all the relevant ones. You have to follow, you have to update your database and you have to be aware about the improvements. And, those are just general tournaments. As for, big tournaments like Moscow, I am always following them. You can't be behind. It's not like 20 years ago, when you knew you could benefit from a game that was played somewhere where nobody else saw it. Today, in a week, or in 24 hours, or live, people can see all these games. So that's why you have to be very creative, because everybody has access to the same information. Your creativity is more important, because you have to process these games and invent something new.

One of the striking features of these reminiscences is how consistent they are with previous reports from 20 years ago on the same match.

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