Sorokhtin takes on Kasparov

1/31/2004 – He asked for it, now he's getting it – in full force. After the appearance of Garry Kasparov's book, My Great Predecessors, the author invited readers all over the world, even if they are amateurs, to send in analysis and corrections. Nobody has taken him up with such vigour as Sergey Sorokhtin, a construction manager from St. Petersburg. Read about it all in our Analysis Focus #5

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Analysis Focus #5

GM Karsten Müller presents readers' feedback on Kasparov's book

Analysis Focus #5:
Garry Kasparov's Great Predecessors

By GM Karsten Müller and Frederic Friedel

When Garry Kasparov's Lebenswerk, the monumental "My Great Predecessors", appeared it was greeted with unprecedented popular interest. The first edition easily surpassed the sales expectations of the publishers, who in some countries (the book has so far been translated into ten languages) had to quickly do new print runs to keep up with demand. Booksellers who had been cautious about stocking too many of these relatively high-priced volumes were soon sold out and scampering around for new stock. We witnessed this at the tournament in Wijk aan Zee. The book stand there had brought along 35 copies of the brand new Volume 2, with the owner feeling apprehensive about the prospects of selling that many during a tournament with just a few hundred visitors. But within three days all the copies were gone and the book-seller was desperately phoning around for more copies to be sent to Wijk.

My Great Predecessors is not only selling vigorously, it is also being read more thoroughly and scrutinised more carefully than any other chess book in recent times. And it is not just the critics or professional chess analysts who are doing this. Amateurs all over the world are also going through the huge amount of analysis contained in each volume with a fine comb, correcting stray errors or adding interesting lines. This is happening at the explicit behest of the author, who has invited them to join in and submit the fruits of their research. As Garry Kasparov explained: "Just a decade ago hardly anyone who was not a Grandmaster or professional chess writer would have dared to comment on analysis presented by the strongest player in the world. They would just read the text reverentially, maybe sometimes feeling uncomfortable about something, but not daring to voice an opinion. Today the situation has changed dramatically. Even an average player, who loves chess, can join the discussion at the very highest level. This is because everyone now has access to computer programs which very sharp analytical assistance. I want thousands of people all over the world to go through each line of my book and send me any discovery they make." In fact Kasparov will be providing personal prizes to the best submissions by non-professional analysts.

Sorokhtin takes on Kasparov

One candidate for a prize is Sergey Sorokhtin of St. Petersburg, Russia. The 34-year-old manager of a construction company is an untitled player who takes part in blitz tournaments, occasionally beating a GM or IM in the process. He also photographs chess events, and has some of his photos published in chess magazines.

Sorokhtin regularly visits the chess school of Alexander Khalifman, who is interested in helps with the historical analysis that Sergey brings along. Of course they make extensive use of the computer. Sergey writes: "Certainly my main helper is Fritz. But analysis with the computer not quite simple. It is necessary to understand the critical positions in a game and have a feeling for the most promising lines, even if Fritz is mistaken about them. But with careful work it is possible to come up with interesting ideas. Some years ago I saw some commentary by Garry Kasparov on Pillsbury-Lasker 1896 in ChessBase Magazine and sent in some of my analysis. To my surprise I got a letter from Kasparov himself, who praised my discoveries and encouraged me to keep sending material. This was the main stimulus for my further study of historical games. And of course it was a great honour that in the second volume of Great Predecessors Garry included some of my analysis. Now I am eagerly waiting to get to work on Volume 3, when it comes out."

A few weeks ago we received a ChessBase file from Sergey containing analysis of critical positions he found in volume one of My Great Predecessors (and a couple from Vol. 2). Here we bring you a selection, which you can also view and download on our JavaScript board at the bottom of the page. There you will also find a link to the full Sorokhtin file with all the analysis.

Pillsbury – Lasker [Game 41, p. 132ff]
St Petersburg (4), 29.07.1896

Position after 27...Kg8-h7

Here Pillsbury played 28.Kxa3?? Kasparov writes: "For some reason no one has pointed out the saving 28.Qf5+! 28...Kh8 29.Kb1! Rxa2! (29...Bxd4 30.Qf8+ Kh7 31.Qxa3) 30.Rxa2 Qb3+ 31.Kc1 Bg5+ (31...Qxa2 32.Qc8+ Kh7 33.Qc2+) 32.Rad2 Qc3+ 33.Qc2 Qa1+ 34.Qb1 Qc3+ with a perpetual check."

However Sorokhtin gives a winning line for Black: 28.Qf5+ Kg8 29.Kb1 (29.Qe6+ Kh8 30.Qe8+ Kh7 31.Kb1 Bxd4 32.Qe2 Qb4+ 33.Rb2 Bxb2 34.Qxb2 Qe4+ 35.Ka1 Ra6–+) 29...Bxd4 30.Re1 Qb4+ 31.Kc1 Qc3+ 32.Qc2 Qa1+ 33.Qb1 Rc3+ 34.Rc2 Be3+ 35.Rxe3 Qxb1+ 36.Kxb1 Rxe3 37.Rd2 Re5–+.

Karsten Müller: Sorokhtin's analysis shows that 27...Kg8-h7 does indeed win and so deserves an exclamation mark.

Mieses,J – Alekhine,A [Game 111, p. 343ff]
Scheveningen Scheveningen (3), 29.07.1913

Position after 30...Ra8-c8

Here Mieses played 31.g5, to which Alekhine writes: "Against the threat 31...Rcc2. White's only defence was 31.Rg2 Rb1+ 32.Kd2 Rb3 33.Kd1 (33.Ke1 Rc1+! 34.Kf2 (34.Bxc1 d2+) 34...Bxh4+ and wins) 33...Bc3! 34.Bc1 Bb4! and White is helpless against the threats 35...d2 and 35...Rb1"

But Sorokhtin found 31.Qe4! Rb1+ (31...Rcc2?! 32.Qxd3 Rc8 33.Re1 Rd8 34.Qxd8+ Bxd8 35.Bc1 Rg2 36.Re8++-) 32.Kd2 Rb2+ 33.Kd1 with a draw.

Karsten Müller: 31.Qe4! does indeed draw.

Capablanca,J – Bogoljubow,E [Game 102, p.302ff]
Moscow Moscow, 1925

Position after 15...Kg6-h6

Here Capablanca played 16.g4? Kasparov writes: "An alarm bell: unable to withstand the tension, Capablanca commits an oversight. And yet happiness was so possible, so close – 16.Qf7! with the threat of Rh5+ and mate. " He quotes Panov, who he feels was actually right in regarding this line better than the game continuation 16.g4?. The critical variation is 16.Qf7 Qxe3+ 17.Kh1 g6 18.Rxf6 Nxf6 19.Qxf6 Re8 20.Ncd5 Qf2 21.h4. "with a winning attack" (Panov).

Analysis diagram after 21...Bc8-d7

Garry Kasparov disagrees with Panov and writes: "After 21...Bd7 nothing of the sort is apparent".

But Sergey Sorokhtin concludes that Panov was right: 22...Rac8 23.Rxc8 Bxc8 24.Kh2 Bd7 25.e5+–.

Karsten Müller: Panov was right as White's attack and his passed e-pawn give him a winning position.

Treybal,K – Alekhine,A [Game 117, p. 359ff]
Bad Pistyan Bad Pistyan (8), 1922

Position after 39...Kg8xPf7

Treybal played 40.Qb3+? and resigned after 40...Kg6! Kasparov writes: "By 40.g6+!! Treybal could have regained the rook, since in the event of 40...hxg6 (40...Kg8? 41.gxh7+) White forces a draw by perpetual check: 41.Qb3+ Kf6...42.Qf3+ Ke7 43.Qa3+ Ke8 44.Qa4+! Kd8 45.Qa8+ etc.".

But in the above line Sergey Sorokhtin spotted 45...Qc8! and Black can escape easily from the checks and wins. Leroy Yves of Tervuren, Belgium, agrees: Black can improve with 45...Qc8 winning; 44 Qa8 is a better try but I am not sure white can achieve a draw there too.

Karsten Müller: Sergey and Yves are right.

Anderssen,A – Steinitz,W [Game 13, p. 52ff]
London m1 London (13), 08.08.1866

Position after 26...h6-h5

Anderssen played 27.Ng1?, to which Kasparov writes: "Probably the decisive error. After 27.Nb5! nothing terrible for White is apparent: 27...Ra6 28.Nc7 Ra7 29.Ne6 etc."

Sorokhtin disagrees and gives 27.Nb5 Rb7! as winning for Black. 28.Qxa4 Rxb5! (28...g4!? is Khalifman's advice: 29.Ng1 f3 30.hxg4 fxg2+ 31.Kxg2 Qh4–+) 29.Rxb5 g4 30.Ng1 (30.Ne1 gxh3 31.gxh3 f3 32.Nxf3 Bxb5 33.Qxb5 Rxf3–+; 30.hxg4 hxg4 31.Ng1 Qh4 32.Qb3 Bxb5 33.Qxb5 f3 34.gxf3 Ng5 35.Bxg5 Qxg5 36.Qb1 gxf3 37.Nxf3 Rxf3-+) 30...f3 31.hxg4 (31.g3 gxh3 32.Nxh3 Bxh3+-+ 33.Ke1 Bd7-+) 31...fxg2+ 32.Kxg2 Qh4 33.f3 hxg4 34.d4 g3–+. You can replay all of this on our javascript board below.

Karsten Müller: The St.Petersburg Chess School has done a good job again!

Rubinstein,A – Capablanca,J [Game 64, p. 198ff]
San Sebastian San Sebastian (13), 1911

Position after 15.Nc3xPd5

Here Capablanca played 15...Qh6, to which Kasparov writes: "Not 15...exd5? 16.Qxd5+ Kh8 17.Bxc8 or 15...Bxf2+? 16.Kg2 Qf7 17.Nf4."

But Sorokhtin shows that Capablanca could have saved the game with 15...Bxf2+! to be holding a draw after 16.Kg2 Qe5! (instead of Kasparov's 16...Qf7): 16.Kg2 Qe5! 17.Rxf2 Rxf2+ 18.Kxf2 Rd8 19.Ne7+ Kh8 20.Qb3 Nxe7 21.Qxe6 Qd4+ 22.Kg2 Nd5 23.Kh1 Ne3 24.Rd1 Qd2 25.Qe7 Rb8 26.Bg2 Qxe2 draw.

Karsten Müller: I could not find a way for White to get an advantage against 15...Bxf2+!.

General Remarks

Michael Byrne, Secane, PA USA
Just a note that I have really enjoy both volumes so far, but it will take me years to get through them! The book is really like having two books in one. On one hand you just read through the book - a very interesting read in its own right - or you take just one position from the book and spend two or three hours analyzing the annotations and checking them out on a computer. There are three or four diagrams on very page turn and with over 400 pages, it will take me a while to get through just one book. I'm eagerly waiting for the other volumes - I know there is concrete plan for a Volume 3, but my understanding now is that he may go to Volume 4 or 5 - is that true? I hope it is. PS I saw Garry play Deep Blue in Philadelphia in Game 6 of the first match against Deep Blue on 1996, it was a lot of fun being there.

Karsten Müller: I think it is true: there will be 5 volumes.

Jeffrey Minarik, Chicago, Illinois USA
Although the concept is a good one, the first book was a bit of a disappointment to me. First of all, all the games examined have been published many times and if you are an avid chess reader, you will have come across them multiple times. The commentary to the games and about the players themselves have been "lifted" from other sources; without footnotes either. I was very disappointed to have acquired very little "new" insights about the players or their styles or how they changed the game of chess. I hope the second book is more insightful for me.


If you have doubts about this or another analysis in Kasparov's work, please write. Garry welcomes all suggestions! Your remarks and analysis will be scanned by GM Karsten Müller, who will pass the most interesting contributions on to Garry Kasparov for evaluation. We will publish our conclusions on these pages.

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