Was Fischer afraid of Karpov?

12/21/2004 – Garry Kasparov's "Great Predecessors" series is out, with the long-awaited volume IV "On Fischer" hitting the bookstands. Kasparov devotes 200 pages to the lives and careers of Sam Reshevsky, Miguel Najdorf and Bent Larsen. But then he digs into Fischer, with stunning analytical intensity and startling conclusions. Review and interview with Hannon Russell.

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Garry Kasparov on Fischer
My Great Predecessors

Part IV: Fischer by Garry Kasparov with Dmitry Plisetsky

2004 Everyman Chess, Figurine Algebraic Notation, Hardcover, 496pp.

Price: US $35.00

A Pair of Kings

Hanon W. Russell

Ever since the appearance of the first volume of Garry Kasparov’s My Great Predecessors series, historians, analysts, theoreticians – not to mention the average chessplayer – have subjected the books to tremendous scrutiny. Regardless of anyone’s opinion or reaction to the first three volumes, most readers have one common question: ‘What will Garry have to say about Bobby?’ The wait is now over. The volume about Fischer, Volume 4, is now out. And it has been worth the wait.

Much like the previous three volumes, this is a handsomely produced hardbound edition of almost 500 pages. The first 200 pages or so focus on the lives and careers of Sam Reshevsky, Miguel Najdorf and Bent Larsen. The rest of the book is all about Bobby.

Kasparov traces Fischer’s life from early childhood through the second match with Spassky and beyond. There is even a discussion of Fischer’s parents, particularly his father, whose true identity has very recently been discovered. It is not uncommon for Garry to explore several different sources to present differing views of the same events. And he is occasionally abruptly candid, leaving no doubt about his personal opinion. The controversy surrounding Garry’s assertion that Karpov would have defeated Fischer in 1975 will rage for a long time.


Garry Kasparov with Predecessors IV in his New York hotel room

And what about the games themselves? They are annotated in extraordinary depth; Garry’s analytical microscope is as sharp as ever. It is also interesting to see Kasparov occasionally take a step back and make a more personal observation. So, on page 14, it is as if he is almost making a plea for understanding as he says, “Well, world champions are only human, which means that the can also be mistaken…” Later (p. 46) he opines, “The player who becomes champion is truly the one who, all things being equal, is eager for this more than the others!”

The book includes indexes of players and openings, and, for the first time in this series, a bibliography, a sign that Garry is taking the historical and literary value of his work more seriously. In a conversation we had with Garry immediately after the conclusion of the interview, he thought that the fifth volume of the series (six volumes are planned) would be out in the fall of 2005. That gives you almost a full year to examine and savor what is sure to be regarded as Garry’s best work yet.

On December 9 Hannon Russel had the opportunity to interview Garry Kasparov in New York City. Kasparov was animated and focused, discussing his new book with vigor and intensity, pouring his energy into the discussion as if he were doing battle – and winning – against a rival over the board. An audio file of this interview is also at the link given below.


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