Kasparov: The quality of the games was not so high

11/25/2014 – The match between Carlsen and Anand got enormous public attention – not just in the usual chess outlets, but also in the straight press. For instance Der Spiegel, Europe's most influential news magazine, broadcast the moves live on their Internet portal, and after the match asked Garry Kasparov (and Women's World Champion Hou Yifan) to summarize the action in Sochi.

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Europe's biggest and most influential news magazine and portal, Der Spiegel (International edition), has always been interested in chess. But this time they set a new standard, broadcasting the games live, with expert comments – among others from Garry Kasparov, Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Judit Polgar, Hou Yifan and, surprise, Carlsen second Peter Heine Nielsen in Sochi. After the match they asked Kasparov, who has been one of Carlsen's most important trainers, to give a general evaluation, which the 13th World Champion delivered promptly. We have his original text, from which the Spiegel article was translated, and bring it to you in its original form.

Of course I followed the World Championship closely. I couldn’t see every game live due to my trip from the Wyoming Business Conference to Warsaw for the Security Forum, but it is the world championship. I may not be a player anymore, but I will always be a chess fan.

This year's match between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand proved that time doesn’t run backwards. It is extremely difficult to overcome a gap of a full generation between the players. I believe Magnus Carlsen is a special talent, and even though he didn’t play his best and Anand played better than he did last year, Magnus won. The score was a little closer than last year mostly due to Carlsen’s nerves in a psychologically difficult rematch after he beat Anand so easily last year.

Did the run of the match surprise me in any aspect? Before the match began I predicted [to a number of newspapers and to Frederic Friedel of ChessBase] that Carlsen would win by two points. Magnus had one important advantage on his side: he is the better player. But it was atypical for Carlsen to not make the most of his chances in several games. I blame that on tension. For him this match was psychologically not easy, after he had beat Anand so decisively in 2013.

Vishy was very well prepared, that was clear. On a personal note, I find it ironic that 14 years after I was criticized for not beating Vladimir Kramnik’s Berlin Defense, when I lost my title in London, the Berlin has become an absolute standard at the highest level. Amateurs may find it boring, but it is really not an endgame at all, but a complex queenless middlegame that can be very sharp, as we saw in the final Carlsen-Anand game.

The quality of the games was not so high, due to nerves, though for some fans this uncertainty and the potential for mistakes creates drama. Anand missed quite a few chances, and had he found them all, Carlsen would have been pushed to the limit. As it was, Magnus did not have to play his best chess to win the match.

Having a young and ambitious world champion in Magnus Carlsen is a good advertisement for chess, so in this regard the result is important. But I am very critical about the role of FIDE and Agon, and their marketing of chess. Did they do a good job? If they did any job at all, beyond organizing the match itself, I am not aware of it. Nobody even knows where the prize money comes from! They could not find single bid for what should have been an attractive event so they bailed out to Putin’s Olympic ghost town. No legitimate sponsors want to work with this shady gang. Agon was just sold for one pound and the reputation of Ilyumzhinov’s FIDE is worth even less than that.

Chess is popular and growing globally, with great potential in education and as a sport. The success of the Kasparov Chess Foundation proves that chess doesn’t need marketing to thrive, it just needs competent, honest managers.


In addition to Garry Kasparov we did a quick post-match interview for Der Spiegel with the reigning World Champion and second strongest female chess player in history, GM Hou Yifan, Beijing.

Question: Did you follow all the games of the world championship match between Anand and Carlsen?

Hou Yifan: Of course I saw all the games, but some of them not live, because of the time difference. That was a great pity.

What do you think about the match in general?

It was a quite solid match for most of the games. Probably both of the players were under big pressures so some of their decisions were based more on safety and because of this there were draws that were not that interesting. But it does not mean there was no fight between them. We saw some deep preparation (Game three), some technical positions (Game two), and of course some times mistake could not be avoided. (Game six).

Did the run of the match surprise you in any aspect?

Not really, if we ignore the sixth game :-). That was a big surprise for most spectators I guess. But frankly speaking, in such a key event, under pressure, we can understand there are many factors that influence a player's performance. It's just a coincidence. And besides this Kd2 and ...a4, during the whole game White's control skills were very good!

What do you think about the choice of the openings?

As I mentioned above the opening preparation of Vishy seemed quite deep. In most of the games Carlsen didn't get any advantage from opening, but he always managed to get something later in the game, and that worked! But this does not mean that Carlsen's preparation was not serious. In the match there were some very focused opening battles, especially in the Berlin.

How was the quality of the games? Was it a high standard?

Well, in general it was quite a thrilling match. Although the positions were not always attractive, we can find interesting details in the moves, and actually both of the players showed a good performance. According to my experiences, in key events, normally the games' quality is not as high as other major events. Most brilliant games are not found in championships at present.

Do you think the match was a good advertisement for chess?

A: Of course! It catches people's attention all around the world, and because of it more people from different age groups, from different fields are getting to know much about chess. I hope that women's chess could be promoted like this in the future. I cannot imagine what it would be like if the Women's World Chess Championship would be as popular as this, and when, if that would ever happen. Probably the number of girls learning chess would then be many times higher. :-)


And finally, if you have a command of the language of Goethe and Schiller, and even if not, you may want to watch the following video report on Germany's largest TV sports channel:

Click to watch (in different sizes)