Last round, VSB Tournament, Amsterdam, 18 May 1995.
After resigning against Piket, Kasparov does not immediately come to the analysis room where
Piket, grandmasters and other observers are waiting. I can understand that.
This new defeat, the second in a six-round tournament, must be a terrible
blow to him. But just as Piket starts to explain his win by himself, the
World Champion comes in after all. I admire him for that. As always, he
analyses politely and objectively, admitting that after his 19...Re4?,
20.Bg3! was probably already the winning move.
But his heart does not seem to be in this analysis.
He gazes away from the board several times, muttering into himself, seemingly
unaware of the TV camera he is directly staring into. 'I'm trying to reconstruct
this,' he repeats. 'We mathematically checked every move here, eight years
ago in Seville. It is in my notebook. But I can't remember. I'm trying
to reconstruct. We analyzed this for days.'
If that is true, this is also the second time in
three days he forgets his analysis - against Lautier with the inexplicable
16.Nd6+?? where he knew his computer says 16.e5 is practically winning.
He seems subdued, in mild shock, analysing rather
timidly and forlornly, thinking of those forgotten lines somewhere in his
computer. Gone are the bravado of earlier sessions, with pieces slammed
down onto winning squares, broad laughs that accompanied his stunning ideas,
the triumph with which he revealed the most remarkable thing about his
crushing win against Topalov - that his queen had never moved from d8!
Even Dokhoyan, his second, who has always sat silently
through these sessions, now boldly grabs a pawn to suggest a move. He has
never done that before. Next time it will be a knight, maybe even a rook.
The kingdom crumbles.
The camera running, Dutch TV asks Kasparov why he
didn't play the Kings Indian. 'Good question,' he says. 'I don't know.
I planned to play it. But I changed my mind five minutes before the game.
I shouldn't have. The Grünfeld was a very bad choice.'
Indeed a few hours earlier, I had been wondering
why, after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4, Kasparov thought for five minutes before playing
g6. Some sort of psychological warfare? - did he want to suggest to Piket
he was still hesitating about what to play? So he had been hesitating.
I ask him: 'Do you mean to say that Re4 might be
in your computer and you forgot about it?'
'Maybe, maybe,' he says. 'I'm just curious to know.
Are you curious too?'
'Yes I am.'
'Then come to my hotel and we'll check.'
I'm very surprised at this. He hardly knows me.
That is, fourteen years ago, when he played his first major tournament
in the west, the Interpolis in Tilburg, I interviewed him. He remembers
that. He also knows that years later, I wrote an extremely unfavourable
review of his book 'Child of Change' in New in Chess magazine. Still, he
granted me a short interview during this tournament. I appreciated that
very much. And now he wants to show me his openings secrets?
When the analysis is over, he watches Topalov -
Lautier for a while on a monitor, analysing from the screen. Topalov is
winning, which would give Kasparov a shared first place with Lautier after
all, but he does not betray any excitement about this. We watch in the
small room where the Dutch Teletext man is working - not in the VIP-room
where, after games, Piket, Lautier and Topalov will chat and drink with
the tournament entourage. Kasparov has never been there, and he also didn't
come to the tournament dinner. He doesn't mix, he's not a man you easily
He asks me once more if I will come with him.
Then I lose track of him for a while but ten minutes
later, he storms into the analysis room again, a heavenly smile on his
face as if he has been told he has been awarded the win against Piket after
all. It turns out Dokhoyan has found a draw, beginning with 29...Qf8. Together
with Piket and others who come flocking back in, they analyse again. These
sessions used to be demonstrations, but now, apart from Piket and Dokhoyan,
lesser grandmasters make suggestions too. But not everything is permitted.
When a Belgian master has the temerity to suggest a move, Kasparov points
out it is refuted by Kf1. The Belgian still mutters something. Kasparov:
'King f1.' The Belgian: 'Yes, but...' Kasparov: 'I told you, King f1. Repeat
after me, King f1.' The analysis stops, everybody waiting, holding their
breaths, until the Belgian has said: 'I see, king f1.'
They find Piket could also have won after 29...Qf8.
Then the World Champion is asked to meet the public
in the demonstration hall, and he does. I admire him even more. He answers
a few questions, says Piket has played really well, is warmly applauded,
and leaves. He does not have time to wait for the end of Topalov - Lautier,
or the ceremony, even if he still might win a shared first prize. He's
in a hurry, later in the evening he will be driven to Cologne where he
will play the computer Chess Genius on Saturday. He beckons me to follow
him, to come and see whether 19...Re4 is in his computer.
It turns out we don't take a taxi, but go walking.
Kasparov and Dokhoyan must have made this walk several times before, but
now I have trouble keeping them from taking wrong turns everywhere. They
analyse. The pace is unbelievable, even if I already knew Kasparov has
clocked himself at 12 minutes for the distance, beating Lautier by 4 minutes.
He's not the kind of man to point out interesting
buildings to, or the unbelievably beautiful light shining in the streets,
at least not under these circumstances. He seems to have forgotten me,
doesn't speak a word to me, except for one moment in the middle of a square
when he stops me and says: 'f6. It draws, maybe. f6, instead of h5.'
I know that whenever I will pass that spot in the
future, I will think 'f6' for an instant, and remember this strange walk.
He's obviously grieving, and in that grief, boyishly vulnerable. What does
this king want, taking a total stranger to see his secrets in this dark
hour in his life? He knows I'm a writer, that I will do the tournament
book - that this walk will be in that book.
In his hotel, we head straight for Dokhoyan's room,
a broom closet next to Kasparov's suite. On a table there is a chessboard
with an abandoned position, clearly the remains of a Kings Indian. Kasparov
throws his raincoat on a chair, slumps down on a settee, and I sit beside
him. Without a word, he opens his notebook, types his password, leaves
Norton Commander, goes to ChessBase, navigates the Grünfeld tree to
the variation he has been playing this afternoon, for the first time since
he played it against Karpov in Seville, eight years ago.
Moves, positions flash by at incredible speed. Occasionally,
Kasparov glances, judges, remembers something, stops for a millionth of
a second. I can't believe what I'm seeing - no games, just raw analysis,
prepared for the World Championship match in '87, variations branching
off on and after move 19 - the vaults of wisdom. A name, Ivanych, often
appears in brackets with the leading moves of subvariations. Never heard
of - an analyst for Kasparov at that time?
Kasparov seems oblivious to the fact that I am seeing
all these Grünfeld secrets, perhaps rightly assuming that I will not
be able to remember anything. But can this really be the same person who,
a few days before, told me that he will never use the Internet to send
his analyses, for fear they might be intercepted by his enemies?
I feel overwhelmed, nauseated almost, by the sheer
amount of this knowledge, the amount of work that goes into World Championship
level chess. All these myriads of variations that have been invented, evaluated,
discussed, memorized, in the vague hope of ever improving a score by half
a point - but probably to be played never at all. And these are only the
sublines in a subline of a line in the Grünfeld. On d4, Kasparov also
plays the Kings Indian, the Queens Indian, the Nimzo Indian, the Slav,
the Queens Gambit, the Benoni. Not to speak of 1.e4. With White, he plays
1.d4 and 1.e4.
He is desolated, but he cannot find 19.Na4, let
alone 19...Re4. He's absolutely sure Na4 is in one of his computers somewhere,
but it doesn't seem to be in this one. He gives up - his curiosity about
19.Na4 will have to wait, and so will mine. He switches off the notebook,
shakes my hand - the audience is over. Doesn't show me to the door, doesn't
say another word. Without looking at me again, he sits down at the table
with the chessboard, and Dokhoyan and he start to analyse.
I'm back in the playing hall just in time for the ceremony. Late in
their endgame, Topalov has let Lautier escape, and Lautier is now the sole
winner of the 1995 VSB tournament.
The final position of Piket - Kasparov is still
on one of the demonstration boards and suddenly I realise Kasparov's queen
is still on d8 - and has never moved in all of the 41 moves of that game.
(c) Tim Krabbé 1995
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