A few reflections more (and a cocktail of Caissists)

by Jonathan Speelman
7/4/2021 – Star columnist Jon Speelman reactivates his “mirror”, a potent if imaginary artefact intended to reflect the best chess players ever. This week, a couple of games by Garry Kasparov, “an (un)caged tiger who revels in violent conflict”. | Pictured: Kasparov with ChessBase’s Matthias Wüllenweber

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Volcanic energy

[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]

A fortnight ago, I activated my “mirror”, a potent if imaginary artefact intended to reflect the best chess players ever. It has more work to do today, and first I must thank readers for a very lively and interesting discussion in the comments afterwards.

As I mentioned in those comments, I didn’t have a very strong opinion myself as to who was/is the best of the best, which is partly why I asked. People seem to divide into roughly four different camps: Fischer adherents; those who advance the claims of other recent top players; a few shouts for Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine; and some mentions of the great players of the past who can’t be directly compared to the modern crop but were way ahead of their time — Morphy, Philidor and even El Greco.

Of course, I know most of you only through your handles, but I was very pleased that my old friend Yasser Seirawan gave his opinion: Kasparov, Karpov, Fischer, Carlsen and Anand — and am very happy to exchange virtual fist bumps.

Yasser Seirawan

Yasser Seirawan at the Hoogeven tournament 1980 | Photo: Fernando Pereira / Anefo / CC0

As an aside, I hope I’m not being impolite by reviving the memory of St John New Brunswick (where the Candidates matches were held in 1988 and I beat Yasser), and in particular the chess-player-themed cocktails which were served in a bar there. These came up recently when I had lunch with my son Lawrence and discovered to my surprise that I’d never mentioned them to him before. I can’t for the life of me remember the names (possibly Speelman’s Surprise, the Benko Bomber?) let alone the ingredients. And  I was hoping that Yasser or maybe some other reader might have better memories than me (or indeed my second in St John, Will Watson).

Garry KasparovBack to business, and this week a couple of games by Garry Kasparov. I should add that the fact that I had just one game each by Fischer and Karpov wasn’t a value judgement just kicking things off — I may well come back to them, and I’d be more than happy if readers made suggestions.

Following the meteor that was Fischer and Karpov’s decade-long reign, Kasparov was the next magnificent player to dominate the chess firmament.

It wasn’t an easy transition, as the two played an epic series of matches, with Kasparov first learning a vast amount from Karpov in the heat of battle before he finally overcame and arguably surpassed him.

Karpov liked/likes order (or rather his version of order) on the chessboard, and my first stab at an epithet last week was “deft control”. In complete contrast, Kasparov was/is an (un)caged tiger who revels in violent conflict. I tried “volcanic energy” last time, and in the comments readers suggested “brute force” and “power in action”.   

I’d already said that I’d look at his Nxg7 game against Predrag Nikolic, and I’m very grateful to reader MeisterZinger for reminding me of the wonderful king hunt against Veselin Topalov, which follows it.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

How I became World Champion Vol.1 1973-1985

Garry Kasparov's rise to the top was meteoric and at his very first attempt he managed to become World Champion, the youngest of all time. In over six hours of video, he gives a first hand account of crucial events from recent chess history, you can improve your chess understanding and enjoy explanations and comments from a unique and outstanding personality on and off the chess board.


Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.


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