It's six a.m. and your opponent is Garry Kasparov

4/7/2003 – A tale of two simuls. His website never made it to Wall St. but Garry Kasparov made it to the New York Stock Exchange anyway, for a 24-board simul. When it was done he had to catch a plane to Germany where he logged on to Playchess.com for an online simul. Four of his opponents were back in New York! Mig was on the scene for both events. More..

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Kasparov leaves the NYSE to take on early risers online

From a regular simul at the New York Stock Exchange Garry Kasparov jetted to Germany for an online simul. Four of his opponents were back in New York! Isn't the internet supposed to make things easier? The 24-board event at the impressive NYSE Luncheon Club was hosted by Belzberg Technologies. Sid Belzberg is a chess fan and a 2000-rated player himself and took board one against Kasparov.


Event host and sponsor Sid Belzberg asked for no mercy and got none.


The beautiful hall just meters from the famous NYSE trading floor.

Kasparov made his 24-0 score in one hour and 44 minutes, a speedy pace. He was anxious about making his flight to Germany and still had to go back to his hotel to pack. There is a reverse logic to the length of simultaneous exhibitions. You would assume that the weaker the players, the faster it would go, but this is not always true.

Many casual players, especially kids, never resign. The are happy to play on till mate, making the simul giver stop by their board for a few dozen extra trips. There was little of this at the NYSE since most of the players were strong enough to know when they were beat and there was only one junior.

Security was very tight, as it is all over lower Manhattan these days. Photo ID was mandatory and everyone stood patiently in line as their names were checked against the invitation list. Everyone is used to such protocol these days, except perhaps for Garry Kasparov! He had left his photo ID back in the hotel and there was some confusion at the entrance of the Exchange while they explained to the security guards that all the other people in line were waiting for this guy.

No problem. Someone produced a copy of one of Kasparov's books that had a big picture of him on it and this was good enough for security! In his opening remarks Kasparov joked that he's lucky he can still be recognized from a ten-year-old photograph.


Guess which player sells his old jackets to Peter Leko?

The smattering of chess people included (above, left to right) Lev Alburt, Grandmaster and trader Maxim Dlugy, and Michael Khodarkovsky. GM Ilya Gurevich and US Women's Champion Anna Hahn, who is starting her own career as a trader in a few weeks, were also there. (Discretion, and a strong sense of self-preservation, prohibits us from publishing an incriminating photo of Anna wolfing down a big piece of cheesecake. We'll save it for blackmail.)

Kasparov even had time for a few leftovers before running for the door Wednesday night. Soon we'd be watching him play again, but from thousands of miles away. Your scribe headed off to the hinterlands of Long Island to set up the computers on which four players would log in to playchess.com on Friday and face Kasparov in an online simul sponsored by the German tech company ZMD.

One of his Friday opponents was at the NYSE simul to size up his opposition. Author Paul Hoffman, pictured here with Kasparov, writes about chess for the NY Times. He has several prize-winning books to his credit as well as a 1950 rating.

He came out to the ZMD offices in Long Island with one mission in mind: "to not play worse than I usually play." A less-than-inspirational motto, but admirably realistic considering his opponent and the format. There were only six boards at a 25+10 time control and Kasparov has played clock simuls against six GRANDMASTERS with success in the past.

The night before the competition we had dinner with the other players and the charming folks from ZMD, who put us up at the local Hilton in Huntington, Long Island. This was necessary because the games began at six o'clock in the morning New York time!

Paul met his fellow Long Island competitors and was a little chagrined to find that he was older than all three of them combined (and taller). Two youngsters, Jimmy Zheng and Matthew Masino, qualified from the local "Chess Nuts" club and teen Sean Finn came through the tunnels from New Jersey. Maybe the fact that Sean's coach is one of Garry's long-time assistants, Michael Khodarkovsky, would be our ace in the hole? (The German side of the event, where Garry and the other two players were, is documented here.)

Above, l to r: New ZMD America President Frank Cooper, Marketing Manager Gabriele Taschler, Paul Hoffman, Sean Finn, Matthew Masino, Jimmy Zheng

Recently appointed President Frank Cooper gamely tried to explain ZMD America's operations to us and I'm sure we would have been better pupils had it not been so terribly early in the morning! We salute him and his staff for doing a great job on the event and for their enthusiasm for chess.

This was a clock simul, so Kasparov had white on three boards and black on three. Since this was a team competition it was correct to play to the bitter end to help your teammates even when you had a completely lost position. This was no problem for the kids, but for a different reason. Jimmy revealed the secret after the game when he said, "I don't even know where the resign button is!"


In action at the ZMD offices.

Soon it all came down to our top-board, Paul Hoffman. He had set up a passive and slightly cramped position with the white pieces but it wasn't clear how Kasparov was going to break through. The crowd of bleary-eyed players, parents, and ZMD employees gathered around as Paul's time trouble helped settle the issue in the endgame. On the train back home he lamented not having played more aggressively against Kasparov's Sicilian.


Sean Finn battles a queenside squeeze.


Matthew Masino played till the bitter end.


Jimmy Zheng's Petroff didn't hold up against a mating attack.


Paul Hoffman, the last man standing.


 


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