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)

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thlai80 thlai80 11/27/2014 03:57
ulyssesganesh, yeah on hindsight, Kasparov should have played Shirov. It would be an easy match to him based on his stunning record vs Shirov. Kasparov did receive his just reward in the end losing to Kramnik, and in 'revenge' for Shirov, Kramnik flatly rejected rematch! I respect Kasparov for his chess, anything else is not for us to judge for we are not moral police afterall.
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 11/26/2014 05:23
mr. twotothe powersix..... believe it or not, you've said what i thought after reading the kasparov interview.....he doesn't have a decent mention of anand .....you are right that gary can't tolerate anand's presence at the top!
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 11/26/2014 05:20
mr.thlai 80 ... i agree that, over the board gary is a great player ...... but he committed a mortal sin by not playing the finals against shirov.... in stead, playing with kramnik!
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 11/26/2014 05:19
mr.thlai 80 ... i agree that, over the board gary is a great player ...... but he committed a mortal sin by not playing the finals against shirov.... in stead, playing with kramnik!
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 11/26/2014 05:17
mr.bbrodinsky ..... i agree with you .... may be to 16 games!
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 11/26/2014 05:15
gary should think of his insipid play against vladi in the BRAINGAMES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP(?)esp., his debacle with nimzo /gruenfeld ; his 10/15 moves draws with white pieces while trailing!
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 11/26/2014 04:23
gary should remember his own games played against kramnik in the "Brain games (!) WCC ; think of his short draws with white pieces ; his poor nimzo/gruenfeld games!
jcaleb jcaleb 11/26/2014 08:07
Is Kasparov still running a farm of engines to have opening preparation?
twotothepowersix twotothepowersix 11/26/2014 07:08
Reading Kasparov's interview gives me the impression that he simply does not like Anand. For example, he suggests that the quality of the games was not high and that Anand lost despite Carlsen not being at his best. May be true, may be not. Guess a similar argument can be made that Anand, likely due to nerves and his fear of Carlsen, did not play at the same level that he played in the candidates. I am of course not sure that is true either, what I am saying is that it is possible to argue in this other way. My personal feeling is that Kasparov never ever liked Anand given their contrasting personalities. Now he is jealous of the fact that Anand remains among the top players in world chess, hogs the limelight, and above all makes a lot of money, long after he himself retired from competitive chess.
thlai80 thlai80 11/26/2014 05:54
Daniel P, someone cannot just buy over to the top of a sport and stay there for over 20 years. Kasparov for all his arrogance was well deserved for his confidence because he was the top player for decades. Your attack on the man himself is uncalled for and seems a little personal/emotional/bias ... pick one. Indeed he failed to beat Kramnik's Berlin and his strategy by steering towards dry and queenless games, just like how Carlsen avoided Anand's main strength. But after that world championship in 2000, he continue to be the major tournament winners up to his retirement in 2005. The way you described him shows that you have over expectation of Garry as a man, when no one is perfect and he should be evaluated solely by his games. He is renowned as the dominant chess world number #1 and champion, now a moral guru.
Rama Rama 11/26/2014 03:24
Kasparov is still very relevant in top events. According to one famous chess site: "Carlsen exclusively revealed that former World Champion Garry Kasparov was helping him before and during the match..."
omid omid 11/26/2014 03:10
He is just pointing out that Berlin Line is the mainstream now, and at that time (2000) people failed to realize how great Kramnik's preparation was. I don't understand why people try to make a fuss over whatever Garry says.
Camembert Camembert 11/26/2014 01:51
"...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..."(Kasparov)
Oh ! We have now a second Da-Lie Lama ? Another Moral Teacher like Trotsky ?

Garik, you can wrote now a new book : How Chess imitates Life !
LOL !!!

jcaleb jcaleb 11/26/2014 01:28
cant just FIDE have different leaders every 4 years and can not re-elect presidents? Campomanes and Kirsan reigned for like 100 years together.
Captain Picard Captain Picard 11/26/2014 01:01
Yes indeed, longer matches will provide more attacking chess. In a 12 game match one loss might as well be 50 losses.
TMM TMM 11/25/2014 11:55
It's funny how Kasparov is asked about the Carlsen-Anand match, and he still manages to (1) brag about how important he is with all his congresses, (2) brag he predicted the final result correctly, (3) casually mention he was world champion too (and should not be blamed for losing against Kramnik), (4) complain about FIDE leadership, (5) complain about Putin, and (6) promote his own Kasparov Chess foundation. Such a contrast with Hou Yifan's humble comments.
Steven E DuCharm Steven E DuCharm 11/25/2014 10:24
The world champion should be the human who wins the most games over a calendar year imo.
PurpleUnicorns PurpleUnicorns 11/25/2014 07:46
Yeah, the excitement of Kasparov-Karpov with like 10 decisive games out of 90! That would be so interesting! On a more serious note I thought the level of play was actually really high with exception of the blunders in game 6 and Anands collapse at the end. Game 7 was actually an absolutely amazingly well played game.

High level =/= Interesting however. I disaggree with Kasparov about the level of play.
Werewolf Werewolf 11/25/2014 07:23
Why is everything these days presented for the casual spectator who doesn't really care about the game?

Does no one realise how statistically insignificant 12 games are? Any result is possible over so few games and the players concentrate on "not losing" rather than winning.

24 game match please.
PEB216 PEB216 11/25/2014 06:35
I agree with bbrodinsky, a match of 12-games for the World Championship is too short. A twenty-four game match would be more appropriate.
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 11/25/2014 05:00
The matches will never be as interesting as they formerly were, because of the short 12-game duration. The players feel the pressure not to lose a single game, for the loss of a single game can be decisive in such a short match. Thus, far less chances will be taken and the games will be relatively duller than in days past. Somehow, the matches have to be extended at least to 20 games. If this occurs, we will see the return of the excitement that brought us Fischer-Spassky, Kasparov-Karpov, Korchnoi-Karpov, even the Botvinnik matches.
luishon luishon 11/25/2014 04:35
Kasparov is right but for Carlsen he played low balls moves in order to make a win
and Anand found himself corral (trap) disoriented