The Titan speaks his mind

12/4/2004 – Garry Kasparov talks the way he plays chess: straight-forward, self-critical, telling it the way it is. In a extensive, in-depth discussion the 2004 Russian Champion touches on his magnificent victory in the Super Final, his upcoming match against Kasimdzhanov, Kramnik, and Fischer Random Chess. Take time off to read this remarkable interview.

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The Titan speaks his mind

Interview with Garry Kasparov

This interview was published on the Chess Pro web site, in Russian language. It was translated by Aryan Argandewal and is being published here with the kind permission of Chess Pro.

It is good to see “The Greatest” back with his throne. He looks very good on it, very good indeed. He is not just a great name, he is a great Fighter. Even without the final result in the Super Final we have to say that he gave every single game every ounce of his energy. He fought like an all-time great. He deserves not just the Gold Medal and the title of the undisputed Champion of Russia, but the genuine respect of millions of fans around the globe.

Kasparov talks the way he plays: straightforward, self-critical, telling it like it is. Below he talks about his magnificent victory, his upcoming match against Kasimdzhanov, Kramnik’s winning strategy with the black pieces – and Fischer Random Chess.

A note for non-Russian speakers: in Russia it is a sign of great respect when you address a person by his first name followed by his middle name (patronymic or "otchestvo"), which originates from his father’s first name. "Gary Kimovich" shows more respect than "Mr. Kasparov", as does "Anatoly Yevgenyevich" when referring to Anatoly Karpov. Here's an article on Indian and Russian names.

Question: Gary Kimovich, you have won everything in the world but now for the first time you’ve become the undisputed champion of Russia! How does it make you feel?

Kasparov: First of all I am satisfied with the result. And not just quantity-wise, but also in terms of quality:. Last year I managed to win only one game in the entire season, whereas here – five in all! Besides, finally I received a “reigning” title. It makes me feel proud before my son. Dad is the Champion of Russia! It’s interesting that this is my first “clean” victory. I shared the title of USSR champion twice in 1981 with Psakhis and in 1988 with Karpov.

Question: are you satisfied with your game?

Kasparov: Yes, in general I played well. Of course, there were lapses, I made many errors, like other contestants. The pressure during the championship was immense. Not once did I manage to play a whole game, I could only manage to play a few “slices”. It’s not surprising though. With every year chess is becoming increasingly tougher, more sport-like. The increase is not just the amount of home preparation, but also the resilience of your opponents on the board.

In this tournament I stood my ground. You could say I was lucky against Tseshkovsky and, to some extent, against Grischuk. But then, on the other hand, I had an enormous advantage against Morozevich and I am not going to say how many times I was winning against Motylev. In any case my positional play stood at +4 or +5, and it was fair enough that I scored it. After a string of chronic failures in the last two years (since the days of Linares 2002 I hadn’t won any tournaments), this victory is all the more important!

Question: Would you say this result is comparable with those you showed in Super Tournaments in Wijk aan Zee in 1999 and Linares?

Kasparov: This result is, of course, inferior in comparison. Back then the situation was totally different. First of all, you have to take into account the increased level of preparation, second of all and more importantly, in 1999 I was world champion and was at my peak.

Question: It looked as though you entered the tournament cautiously and then found your form and began to win game after game. What did consolidate your game?

Kasparov: In actual fact I played well from the very start. In the first round I won a good though slightly nervous game against Bareev. It’s hard to judge, but in my view the quality of my game against Bareev did not differ from that against Dreev. It seems to me that opponents felt that I was in form and got scared! It just didn’t cut through in the opening stages of the tournament. The only game that stands special is the one against Motylev. At one point I mentally wrote myself a full point on the score sheet. And I was sitting there wondering: how come the game is still going on? After the sixth hours it is, generally speaking, difficult to play. Nowadays, preparation takes an enormous amount of time – realistically no less than two, three hours. Ten working hours a day is quite a pressurized schedule, beyond any health norms. That is why, at some point, I simply switched off. I believed that White was winning in more than one way. As it turned out, I was right in my positional judgement. But I underestimated my opponent’s concrete defensive resources.
My next game was against Epishin. He put up a tough fight and played very well. It ended as a draw…

Question: the key game was against Dreev?

Kasparov: Absolutely. Had I not won that game, it’s hard to say how the tournament would have ended for me. He came up with a powerful new idea, but refused to continue with the principle line – one associated with queenside castling. White is definitely not losing but it is white who has to fight for a draw! Instead he opted for the endgame. And here, just like in the game against Motylev, I managed to outplay my opponent. I definitely had a better understanding of the problems posed by this particular endgame, and eventually I won.

Question: And the next day you almost lost to Tseshkovsky…

Kasparov: Yeah, the duel turned out to be particularly nervous, very tense. I made a number of impulsive moves and put the game on the verge of losing. My only hope was that White had too many opportunities – and in the end, Tseshkovsky did manage to miscue! But I, too, miscued in this game, miscued gravely. I also failed to materialize my advantage in the game against Svidler. Perhaps, the only ‘clean’ game at this point was against Timofeev, although even there I created some flaws in my own position. I had an overwhelming advantage, but let the opponent off the hook.

Question: What can you say about the game against your main rival, Grischuk?

Kasparov: Psychologically it was very difficult for me to play in the last round. During the tournament I tuned myself to be a point to point and a half ahead by the time I would play Grischuk, who by then would have guaranteed himself second place and who could easily stake everything on the outcome of our game and go for it. I had some new openings ideas for that contingency. But when the tournament situation changed and did not require playing aggressive chess, I still decided to play the Najdorf, an opening that I have been playing all my life. My only hesitation was which variation to play. With the black pieces I play practically all variations, I wanted to examine every variation! So I never really made up my mind as to which variation to play, right until the very last minute! I played 6…Ng4 in response to 10…e6. I could also try 10…e5. But I wanted to check some nuances. Grischuk, however, has an excellent positional understanding, and he put before me some serious problems. It has to be said at once: what Black did in that game is not tough play. There are much tougher schemes that I would have deployed, had the situation necessitate it. I just wanted to play chess, have some fun. Having won the title earlier that day, it was immensely difficult to play. You tune yourself that this is THE decisive game, but your body gives you a different command: that's it, the tournament is over. Even during the game against Morozevich, when Grischuk had already lost, I was trying to rid myself of the thoughts that I had already won the championship. But the feeling is there, there’s nothing you can do about.

Question: What is your winning secret?

Kasparov: I made fewer errors than my opponents. I repeat: situation was very tense, every contestant wanted to give the fight all they had, every ounce of energy, and everyone committed errors. With the exception of the game against Tseshkovsky, I did not make any decisive errors (although the game against Grischuk was not an easy one for me). On the whole, I came up with a great many good moves. Given the specific nature of the tournament, I played exponentially throughout all stages of the game.

Question: After the game against Morozevich, having secured the title, you said the words: “I have no more dreams”. What did you mean?

Kasparov: At some point I realized that really, apart from the Russian Championship title, I had no more dreams. It was the last missing title from my "collection". I was the World Champion, Champion of the USSR, Olympic Champion, Team Champion in Europe, the USSR and the Russian Federation. What else is there? Nowadays I look at the development of events in the chess world rather philosophically. If in the future I’ll have the opportunity to play for the FIDE world title against Kasimdzhanov, and later in the reunification match, I will do so. If not, I won’t. Since a while now I take these things philosophically. I simply realized that another victory is not going to add anything new to my autobiography.

Question: Anand, answering the same question, said “I am satisfied with my life.”

Kasparov: In contrast to me, Anand has never been the World Champion! At least not the undisputed World Champion.

Question: You were the second oldest contestant in the championship. Strike Tseshkovsky out you would’ve been the oldest. How do you feel playing against GMs who were born after you became the world champion? What gives you the motivation? How, at the age of 40+, can you sit at the board to prove, prove and prove?

Kasparov: In this respect the hotel Rossija helped me a lot. Twenty years ago, during my first match against Karpov, I would enter the hotel with a score of minus 5. This time I scored plus 5. As the saying goes, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The fact that the championship was organized in the very same building gave me sort of a motivation.

Question: You didn’t check in to the same room by chance, did you?

Kasparov: No, this time the room was different. Back then I stayed a few floors higher up, though I used the same Northern entrance.

Actually chess is a process of self-discovery. As long as I feel involved I will have the motivation. It’s not even a question how old my opponents are, although sometimes it does begin to worry me… I still feel deeply involved in what goes on at the board. As long as I am involved I am interested in the game!

Chess is constantly evolving, demanding more and more from the players. Opening databases are exploding in size. Sometimes when you do your preparation for a match game, you think back about the year 2000, when there was nothing like this. In 2000! What can you say about 1985? And then you remember, how here in Hotel “Russia”, (I am beginning to feel nostalgic, nothing I can do about that), twenty years ago, we prepare for the match thinking: what an advance preparation we have, no one except me and Karpov knows this! Put it this way: even the level of preparation for my match against Kramnik in 2000 would not be sufficient to meet the modern demands of preparation for a game today.

Question: Are you changing along with chess?

Kasparov: of course I am.

Question: Are you changing as a chess player?

Kasparov: Naturally, with age I don’t have quite the same energy that I used to in my younger years. But it is sufficient. Incidentally, you can always compensate the lack of energy by bringing in some other element. Like better understanding, higher tenacity. But then again, it is imperative that you have inner motivation, desire to do something interesting. As long as you have this inner motivation everything’s in order.

Question: Could you point at two-three best moves you came up with during this tournament?

Kasparov: Very important, I believe, was my decision to decline a repetition of moves in the game against Bareev, and instead played 33.c5!

Kasparov,G (2813) - Bareev,E (2715) [B19]
57th ch-RUS Moscow RUS (1), 15.11.2004

The game continued 33...Be7 34.Nxa7 Nxa7 35.Rxa7 Bf8 36.Ba5 Bxc5 37.Rxg7+ Kxg7 38.Bxd8 and White won in 48 moves.

Timofeev,Arty (2611) - Kasparov,G (2813) [B50]
57th ch-RUS Moscow RUS (9), 25.11.2004

I think I found a powerful plan in the opening against Timofeev: 10…Nd7 and 11…a4!

Grischuk,A (2704) - Kasparov,G (2813) [B90]
57th ch-RUS Moscow RUS (11), 27.11.2004

Very important seems to me the move 28…Kd7! in the game against Grischuk: the King is evacuated from the danger zone!

Kasparov,G (2813) - Motylev,A (2651) [C42]
57th ch-RUS Moscow RUS (4), 18.11.2004

By the way, I played very well in time trouble the endgame against Motylev, somewhere from move 35 to 50. Objectively speaking the endgame was slightly worse for White. But I managed to outplay the opponent. The position was rather imbalanced, but I was able to successfully carry out my plan, beginning with 35.g4!

In this game I played well right until 54.Rc6? instead of the instantly winning 54.Rh5 (because of the mate threat to the black king). Perhaps, this was the most solid play by me in the whole of the championship.

Question: Among your opponents, who made the biggest impression on you?

Kasparov: Grischuk played very confidently. Unfortunately for him in the game against Korotylev he sort of reevaluated his position and began to force things. All in all Motylev and Timofeev played well. I think the Super Final has revived the tradition of Soviet Championships when young GMs who were little known in the West make their names by playing well against the strongest players. It was obvious that both players, Motylev and Timofeev, were maturing during the tournament. Both improved their games and will do so in the future.

Question: Perhaps, no need to ask who disappointed in the tournament?

Kasparov: Of course the biggest surprise was how unsuccessfully Svidler and Morozevich played. Although in the last round both were noticed for good play.

Question: In your opinion what is the reason for their poor results?

Kasparov: As far as Svidler, you can relate his performance to tiredness. After Dortmund and Mainz Peter spent several months helping Kramnik, and then played in the Olympics. By the way he played there very well. And then two weeks later here in the Super Final. As far as Morozevich goes, here the question is of a slightly different category. It is one thing is playing in Biel and beating Bacrot, and altogether another playing in a dense tournament like the Russian Championship…

Question: In your view, how did the absence of Kramnik influenced the championship?

Kasparov: The number of decided game went up! This, in my view, is a direct consequence of Kramnik’s refusal to play. 47% decided games – 26 games out of 55 ended a victory for one of the sides. This was quite fantastic! With Kramnik there would have been a completely different battle going on.

The truth is, it’s very difficult to hypothesize how would the tournament have turned out with a heavyweight like Kramnik added to it. One thing’s for sure: all the attention would have been concentrated on our personal rivalry. However, if I played at the same level as now in the Super Final, I don’t think that Kramnik’s participation would have changed anything in the outcome of the championship. He doesn’t like to play in tournaments where there is a race for a +2 or +3 advantage. In Linares when he scores +1, it is more than sufficient for him to win the tournament. +1 is not enough to win the Super Final.

Look, here in the Super Final, no player came to draw with the black pieces. They gave all they had to win! If Kramnik had agreed to play in the Super Final, due to his status he would have had to play for the first place. I don’t think he is ready for such a fight at the moment.

Question: Were you happy that Super Final had the classical time controls?

Kasparov: There is no need to explain that the quality of games under classical time controls is much higher. With FIDE time controls after 20 to 25 moves you are already in time trouble! I am not saying the FIDE time control is bad or good. In fact it is more dynamic, easier to play under – after all there’s something called the “dictate of time”. But the FIDE time control is not even rapid, but rather “classical transforming into blitz!” What’s missing is the transitional stage. The player has no chance to analyze! Players who are used to the normal seven-hour time controls can’t adjust. They still, as in the old days, want extra time after move 40. But there isn’t any! You keep on playing and playing, and when the position gets to the crunches – the most interesting part of the game – suddenly it is blitz!

So it’s very hard to say that you can create quality games under FIDE time controls. In my opinion the classical time controls must stay. Even if it is in a limited capacity, only in certain tournaments. We all know that fewer people go to operas than jazz or other popular music, but nevertheless no one is shutting down the opera houses. I think we need classical chess. And it’s very good that we could organize such a championship in Russia. It seems to me that in terms of the number of interesting ideas the Super Final succeeded well. There were many quality games, creative ideas, things you simply do not see under FIDE time controls. There’s just not enough time for it. In my view it is precisely the creative approach to the game by the Super Final contestants that makes it comparable to the world famous championships of the Soviet Union!

Question: Gary Kimovich, you are now holding the title of the Champion of Russia. Do you not have the desire to defend your title in a year time?

Kasparov: Alas, in the modern chess world one can no longer afford to think whole year ahead. Right now I can’t tell you for sure whether I am going to play for the FIDE world title in a month and a half! So it’s entirely irrelevant to suggest what will happen in a year. I know for sure that I am going to play in Linares. That’s it! I know nothing else. All other chess plans are in the fog. Practically I can’t organize schedule of my appearances in tournaments. And the situation is the same for everyone. I would like to think that in a year's time I will defend my title of the Champion of Russia, but Linares aside nothing else shows on my calendar. Unfortunately due to chaos surrounding my match against Kasimdzhanov I couldn’t accept the invitation to play in Wijk aan Zee. Because formally around the same time the championship for FIDE title was supposed to take place. It may well be that the FIDE match will not have taken place, and I would have to miss Wijk aan Zee again. The third year in row! I really wanted to play there, the organizers waited for my reply until October 15th, but as you know I couldn’t give them any answer.

Question: One more question regarding the chess community. How can we explain that it is so cowardly with regard to the situation with Bobby Fischer?

Kasparov: The chess community is hiding not just from the Fischer tragedy. A lack of desire to discuss any questions whatsoever, is characteristic of the chess community as a whole. Though in this particular regard I don’t quite see what concrete steps the chess community or even FIDE can take. I wrote an article about it. Very tragic situation indeed. Actually the Fischer saga is a tragedy for the game of chess. What an unrealized potential! What a talent! I really do not want this tragedy to negatively affect the game, which is not going through the best of its periods in history anyway. All this puts even more pressure, has a negative impact on the image of chess.

Question: from Fischer to Fischer Random. Chess theory is evolving at hurricane pace. Do you think “Random-960” is the future of the game?

Kasparov: I don’t know. I heard that the idea had been recently debated in Germany regarding the possibility of playing not all 960 possible positions, but to downsize them in number to 20-30 positions. Simply pick a position and play it for a year. Next year a different position. In actual fact from the 960 positions 95% of them, frankly speaking, are poison to your eyes! The rest, to a large extent, satisfy our understanding of "chess geometry”. If such an idea were to be materialized, it would make sense. For instance one could declare a week before the tournament: we are going to play this and this position. You will have some time to prepare. You can’t be prepared seriously, of course, but new ideas will emerge not on the first but on the forth or fifth move. In order to realize this we need the political will and a different environment in chess. Right now there’s a kind of chaos in chess that to speak of any radical changes in chess would be premature.

Question: Your answer sounds more like a recipe: how to save Fischer Random!

Kasparov: This is not a question of saving or advocating Fischer Random, it is the call of our times. The volume of opening theory has reached threatening proportions and calls for need to find a way to alleviate the pressure of the endless opening databases. Already today your database contains several million games. It seems to me that Fischer Random is one possible way to resolve the problem. I just heard about this and also that the reaction of chess players was, strange as it may seem, negative on the whole.

From my viewpoint Fischer Random is entirely acceptable. Put up a certain position and play it for a year. We could put it on a server and organize tournaments accordingly. It goes without saying that a year later this whole “theory” that has developed will be of no use to anyone: move a single piece and the entire position changes radically. But at the same time, to entirely exclude preparation from the play is unimaginable. Chess in that case will turn into a very strange spectacle.

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