A WALK WITH GARRY KASPAROV
(Internet, may 1995)
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 approach.
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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