Garry Kasparov: 'kicking and screaming'

by Albert Silver
9/1/2015 – It was a relaxed and good-humored Garry Kasparov who appeared in the live commentary beside hosts Yasser Seirawan and Jennifer Shahade, and to the delight of spectators, he seemed in no hurry to leave. He spoke openly about a variety of topics including opening advice to Nakamura (to not repeat his mistake against Kramnik), effusive credit to Vishy Anand, and chess in the USA.

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Opening advice

Jennifer Shahade: If you were working with Nakamura before this game (round eight with black against Magnus Carlsen), in light of the tournament score, what openings would you recommend for Nakamura…against Magnus specifically?

Garry Kasparov: (Instantly) The King’s Indian.

JS: We were speculating that he might try that again.

GK: You have to play your openings. It’s nothing against the Queen’s Gambit Declined. It’s very solid. I think that for Hikaru to play the Queen’s Gambit, it requires a lot of patience. Also, it’s the preparation: you have to know all the details, and Magnus has played it with both colors. Of course Magnus can play the King’s Indian, but there’s always a chance to complicate things, to create some counterchances. And even if you go down, you will be kicking and screaming. While here, you know, you will be just screaming. (laughs).

Yasser Seirawan: Without the kicking (laughing).

Garry explains that the Queen's Gambit is not ideal for everyone, and requires expert knowledge
in its many subtleties. Perhaps a private class with him?...

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GK: I think that the moment the queens are off the board, Hikaru is… less enthusiastic, which is natural because he’s a great player, a tactical player, very resourceful, and positions without queens offer less opportunity for him to show his strengths. You always want to make sure that your strengths will be on display, and you don’t want to play into your opponent’s strengths. This was a mistake I made while playing Kramnik.

About Anand

GK: With all due respect, he is not a young man. He is the oldest player in the Grand Prix and he is 46. He was a World Champion in his forties, while the competition is much younger, I think that tells a lot about his chess ability, his strength. Even with his composure, and his ability to deflect the tension, it’s tough, it’s very tough. He’s competing with young boys who are twenty or more years younger than he is, and there are also all the expectations… it’s tough. We have to give him credit, but 46 is a tough age.

YS: What age did you retire?

GK: I was 41.

YS: Wow.

GK: Yes.

Kasparov tips his hat to Anand, calling him a 'creative force'

YS: So you retired way too early…

GK: That tells you more about the credit you should give to Vishy. For playing and playing so successfully. It’s not so much the success though. Karpov played for quite a long time, but the games were not very educational for professional players. Some tough games that could go on and on, but it was more about Karpov’s technique. Vishy is playing creative chess. There are many games where he comes up with new ideas, so he’s still not just a strong player, one of the top players in the world, he is also a creative force. So you can learn from his games. He’s good with computers, and he’s always looking for new ideas. That’s why when you look at the way he is playing the openings, it’s not just entertaining, but also very educational for other players.

The fall of the Soviet chess armada

GK: In the Soviet Union, chess was a very important factor. A social, cultural, and also political factor. There was a huge investment by the communist state to make sure the great talents were found. That’s why there was the network… Not chess and education, let’s not confuse these two things, but to make sure the talent, from almost anywhere could be noticed and eventually brought into the system, and given the opportunity to realize his or her potential. It is gone with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it’s happening now in other countries.

(Jennifer and Yasser gesture to indicate the United States)


YS: like China….

GK: But China is more like the Soviet model. Here in America it’s different, but the game is gaining ground. (…) Now, chess has become a factor. So parents are looking at chess as a potential opportunity for their kids, which means more kids, especially from the Asian families, where the parents are looking for every chance for their kids. This is a country with 310 million people, so there is so much talent, and it creates big opportunity. The moment chess is being considered by 5% of this population…

Kasparov noted that England, a force in international chess, currently does not even have
an International Master under 18

YS: …15 million people.

GK: Yes,  the advantage of the Soviet Union was that millions of kids went through the network. If you look at the former Soviet Union, one of the most successful countries was Armenia with only 3.5 million people because chess was mandatory in the schools for a few years. And Armenia with such a small population won three Chess Olympiads, Ukraine won two…. And Russia won none since I left the Russian team. So it just tells you that what’s important is not having a massive population like China, it’s about the number of kids that are interested in the game, and parents that would love their kids to have this extra opportunity.

Players from the past

JS: If you could take any player from the past to play in the Sinquefield Cup, who would it be?

GK: Look, Karpov in his prime. He was a very strong player.

YS: (laughs) Yes, he was.

GK: I would say Karpov from 1974-75, when he played Spassky. For fun, Tal from 1959.

YS: Of all your predecessors, who would you like to have dinner with and maybe play a blitz game.

GK: Dinner? Lasker. Blitz? Maybe with young Tal.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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Reynaud Reynaud 9/4/2015 06:19
Paranga75 makes many observant points that any future Kasparov biographer will have to wrestle with: who cares about Azerbaijan? Does Kasparov have blood on his hands? And the most damning and difficult question - isn't chess teachable? The internet strikes again with profound insights worthy of deep investigation.
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 9/4/2015 04:08
karpov..... a real chess great..... no doubt.......but he will go down in chess history as the player who most enjoyed the chess privileges return seeding to WCC finals to face the visibly tired vishy anand! thanks to the kasparov-short match, he again was made world chess champ!!!!
Paranga75 Paranga75 9/3/2015 11:39
It pisses me off that media have always been and still promoting this arrogant man from Azerbaijan, a product of a team, a man trying to prove something in a teachable game. i would never want my child to have this - thirsty for blood - man as a chess prototype. Players like Carlsen are much more humble, amiable, down to earth advocates of the game
cptmajormajor cptmajormajor 9/3/2015 10:55
Watched it live, was entertaining. Kaspy getting worse at chess but better as a person with age :)
ff2017 ff2017 9/2/2015 06:55
@Daniel Quigley You are taking the context out of that statement. Kasparov is referring to an old Karpov still playing for a long time and not being a creative player in his old age unlike Anand playing in his mid-forties. not about Karpov's creativity playing during his prime years.
Rational Rational 9/2/2015 04:42
I like that Kasparov would have picked Lasker to have had dinner with. I think it would have been great to have had the sort of interviews Kasparov gives with Lasker . I know there is a great book available on Lasker but only in German.

And imagine seeing Kasparov and 1959 Tal in a Blitz chess session. Of course there's that amazingly touching video where Tal beat Kasparov on time at blitz just shortly before his death.
Daniel Quigley Daniel Quigley 9/2/2015 04:17
This is the comment which I find untruthful: "Karpov played for quite a long time, but the games were not very educational for professional players. Some tough games that could go on and on, but it was more about Karpov’s technique." I find Karpov's games to be very educational. Kasparov's comment is disingenuous. How did Kasparov become such an expert on the Queen's Gambit? I think he did it studying Karpov's games because he knew he had to have as deep or deeper an understanding of that opening as Karpov because they played it more than any other opening in their World Championship matches. To say Karpov was all technique and no art is a caricature. Stereotypes may be popular. They may make things easier to understand for the simple, but they have so many exceptions they become useless. This diminishing, two-dimensional stereotype of Karpov being portrayed doesn't hold up to any objective examination of the body of his games.
Captain Picard Captain Picard 9/2/2015 01:55
Someone wrote below about Kasparov "smearing" Karpov. Not in this interview! He said he wanted to see Karpov in his prime play in the Sin. Cup! He is always saying how amazing Karpov was! Also, Daniel Quigley, are you claiming to know more about Karpov than Kasparov??!! Kasparov has played hundreds of games against him! XD Just too funny!
Reason Reason 9/2/2015 12:24
Daniel Quigley, Kasparov does not put Karpov down. On the contrary, he keeps praising him. He even picked the 1975 Karpov as the player he would have liked to play the Sinquefield tournament. Of all the greatest players of all times - he chose Karpov. The only negative remark was the that OLD Karpov stopped being a creative force, like Anand, which is perfectly true.
amarpan amarpan 9/2/2015 09:18
Kasparov, does not realize that age is increasingly less of a barrier today than during his time. Forget chess, look at a physical game like tennis where Federer defies all odds of what Kasparov would refer to as "old".
luishon luishon 9/2/2015 08:34
CostaMaison 3 Mr. Super GM Gary Kasparov needs no body to speak on his behalf
what ever he says are his words
his mind speaking as it is
what else we may want
I wish the little ones listen well
and listen deep when Mr. super GM Gary Kasparov talks
it is him and I will take it as it comes
CostaMaison3 CostaMaison3 9/2/2015 08:01
"Russia won none since I left the Russian team" said Kasparov. Well, is that the reason?
Kasparov was one of the best players if not the best. However, he needs a spokesperson to talk on behalf of himself.
scoobeedo scoobeedo 9/2/2015 06:54
Daniel Quigley:

I do not agree with your comment.

He does not put Karpov down. He say it as it is. Karpov was a monster, but his technique was his strong part, not his creativity. Other players like Anand find still new good moves, Karpov was a machine. And that is all what he mentioned.

I do not see in his words any critics or disrespect. He say in this interview even that Karpov would be his first choice as player from the past that he would include in this tournament!

It is his point of view and that should be respected.

And one thing is sure:
I trust the feelings in chess of Kasparov more as the feelings of Daniel.
Daniel Quigley Daniel Quigley 9/2/2015 06:30
I am amazed at how Kasparov never passes up a chance to put Karpov down. Even at his advanced age and with all these years to reflect, he still does not see how hurting Karpov's reputation only diminishes his own greatest achievement in taking the crown from Karpov. More and more young players will buy Kasparov's portrayal. Only 50+ year olds like myself who lived during the time will remember what a dominating force Karpov was from 1975 to 1985, and the quality chess he played all the way to 2000. Karpov was above his generation in a way that Fischer before and Kasparov and Carlsen after him have been, but Kasparov's smear job has caused people to forget this. Kasparov has somewhat successfully convinced the world he beat a relatively weak World Champion, and that by the narrowest of margins!
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 9/2/2015 03:56
a good interview! i see even a mellowed kasparov!
luishon luishon 9/2/2015 01:05
I must agree 110% with Mr. super GM Gary Kasparov
when I used to play tournaments I study openings
today I play against my computer most of the time
but I don't care what or where my computers is going
I play my Opening regardless
I have few Ideas but I sharpen my few Ideas that I have