The truly awesome Garry Kasparov

7/27/2007 – The Sicilian Najdorf is the system that mostly formed modern chess over the last centuries. That is why a course in the Najdorf can help every chess player's understanding of the game. Especially when you have the chance to learn right from the number one expert, Garry Kasparov. His new Najdorf vol 3 DVD is packed with six hours of deep analysis. Buy it now or read this review.

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Truly awesome

Garry Kasparov: How to Play the Najdorf vol 3 - reviewed by FM Steve Giddins

Amongst the most important of the "opening revolutions" of the last 3 decades has been the White plan of Be3, f3, Qd2 and 0-0-0 against the Sicilian. Previously considered effective only against the Dragon, it has now become almost a kind of auto-pilot response to many Sicilian lines, being used against the Scheveningen, Taimanov, and even Kan variations. However, it is as an anti-Najdorf weapon that it is most well-known, and still at the cutting edge of modern opening theory. Originally played by Robert Byrne, the line was then developed significantly by the trio of English GMs, Nigel Short, John Nunn and Murray Chandler, as a result of which it is usually referred to as the English Attack. Nowadays, almost all of the top players play the line, both as White and Black.

Naturally, Garry Kasparov made enormous contributions to his line, also with both colours, throughout his active career. As a result, there is nobody better to explain the subtleties of the line, and to take you through its various developments. Over the course of more than five hours, he explains the different set-ups adopted by Black, in his search for counterplay, and how White gradually modified his own play, to deal with these. That then led to new attempts by Black, and so on. The story is itself fascinating, and I speak as a player who does not play the line with either colour. For anybody who does, this DVD is simply indispensable.

But that is not the real value of the product. What is truly stunning is to see Kasparov demonstrate the depth and range of his preparation. Over and over again, he shows lines of analysis, 25-30 moves deep, which had been worked out as part of preparation for his world championship matches of the 1980s and early 1990s (in some cases aborted matches, such as that mooted with Shirov). In many cases, the analysis was never fully used. One occasion when it was occurred at the Thessaloniki Olympiad in 1988. Icelandic GM Johann Hjartarson repeated the critical line, in which Kasparov had suffered a painful defeat against Nigel Short two years earlier.  He walked into a line of analysis, that started with a new idea at move 12, and culminated in a favourable endgame for Black at move 25:

Hjartarson - Kasparov [B80]

Thessaloniki ol, 1988

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.Qd2 b5 8.f3 Nbd7 9.g4 h6 10.0–0–0 Bb7 11.Bd3 [11.h4] 11...Ne5 12.Rhe1 b4?! [12...Rc8 had worked out badly in the earlier Short-Kasparov game. 12...b4 was the start of Kasparov's new idea]  13.Na4 d5 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.Bf2?! [15.f4! was later found to be very strong here, but it took seven more years for this to be established]  15...Bd6 16.Bf5!? 0–0! 17.Nxe6 fxe6 18.Bxe6+ Kh8 19.Bxd5 Nxf3! 20.Bxf3 Bxf3 21.Bb6 Bxd1! 22.Bxd8 Raxd8 23.Qxd1?! Bf4+ 24.Kb1 Rxd1+ 25.Rxd1 Bxh2. Black has a clear advantage, although Kasparov subsequently failed to convert.

Click here for replay of a sample video from this game.

In addition to the above line, it is important to understand that, at almost every move, the two sides have alternatives, which were also analysed, usually to a clear conclusion. Countless hours of analysis, reaching ever greater depths. The effect is stunning.

Twelve years later, the game Anand-Kasparov, Linares 1999, saw what is perhaps an even more amazing example. This time, I will reproduce the full analysis demonstrated in this segment of the DVD::

Anand - Kasparov [B80] Linares, 1999

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.f3 e6 7.Be3 b5 8.g4 h6 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.0–0–0 Bb7 11.h4 b4 12.Nb1 [After the present game, the move 12 Nb1 did not appear at top level again, being replaced by 12 Na4!. The other retreat, 12 Nce2, had been the main line for years, and had taken much effort to defuse, as Kasparov relates on the DVD] 12...d5 13.Bh3 g5! [Kasparov's novelty in the present game]  14.hxg5 [14.Bg2?! gxh4 15.Rxh4 dxe4 (15...Nxe4?! 16.fxe4 Qxh4 17.exd5‚) 16.g5 Nd5 17.f4 Nc5 18.f5 e5 19.Bxe4 hxg5 20.Rxh8 (20.Bxg5 Rxh4) 20...Nxe4 21.Qh2 Qf6] 14...hxg5 15.exd5 Nxd5 16.Bxg5 Qb6! [16...Qxg5?! 17.Qxg5 Bh6 18.Qxh6 Rxh6 19.Bg2] 17.Bg2 Rxh1 18.Bxh1 [18.Rxh1 Bg7 19.Ne2 (19.Nb3 a5) 19...Rc8 20.Rh7 Be5 …21.f4 Ne3] 18...Rc8! 19.Re1! [19.f4? Nc3!; 19.Qh2?! Bg7] 19...Qa5!! [19...Bg7? 20.Nf5±; 19...Rc4? 20.Nf5±] 20.f4! [20.a3 Qb6] 20...Qxa2 21.f5 Nc5! [21...Nc3? 22.bxc3 bxc3 23.Nxc3 (23.Qe3? e5! 24.Nxc3 Qa3+ 25.Kd2 Rxc3) 23...Qa1+ 24.Nb1 Ba3+ (24...Bxh1 25.fxe6) 25.Kd1 Qxb1+ 26.Ke2 Qb2 27.fxe6 fxe6 28.Qe3±] 22.fxe6 Bg7! [22...fxe6? 23.Qh2!! Nd3+ 24.Kd2 Nxe1 25.Qh5+ Kd7 26.Qf7+ Be7 (26...Kd6? 27.Qxb7! Rc7 28.Qb8 Bg7 29.Bd8! Bxd4 30.Bxc7+ Kc6 31.Qc8! Be3+ 32.Ke2 Qxb1 33.Bg3+ Kb5 34.Bxe1 Bc5 35.Be4 Nf4+ 36.Kf1+-) 27.Qxe6+ Kc7 28.Bxe7 Kb8 29.Qxe1 (29.Bxd5 Qxd5 30.Bd6+ Ka8 31.Qxd5 Bxd5 32.Kxe1 Rg8) 29...Nxe7 30.Qe5+ Rc7 31.Ne6 Nd5 32.Nxc7 Nxc7 33.Qh8+ Bc8 34.Qd4±] 23.exf7+ Kxf7 24.Bxd5+? [24.Qf2+! Kg8 25.Qf5! Bxd4 (25...Qc4 26.Rd1 Rf8 27.Qg6 Rf1 28.Qe8+=) 26.Qg6+ Bg7 27.Re8+=] 24...Qxd5 25.Re7+ Kg8 26.Rxg7+ Kxg7 27.Nc3!! [27.Nf5+? Qxf5! 28.gxf5 Nb3+ 29.Kd1 Bf3+ 30.Ke1 Nxd2 31.Nxd2 Bg4–+] 27...bxc3 [27...Qh1+!? 28.Nd1 Bf3! (28...Be4? 29.Ne6+! Nxe6 30.Qd7+) 29.Be7! Bxd1! (29...Ne4? 30.Qd3) 30.Qxd1 (30.Qg5+? Kf7 31.Qf6+ Ke8 32.Qg6+ Kxe7 33.Nf5+ Kd8 34.Qd6+ Nd7 35.Qe7+ Kc7 36.Qd6+ Kb7 37.Qxd7+ Rc7 38.Qxd1 Rh7–+) 30...Nd3+ 31.Kd2 Qxd1+ 32.Kxd1 Nxb2+ 33.Kc1 Nc4 34.Bxb4] 28.Nf5+ Kf7 [28...Kf8!? 29.Bh6+ Ke8 30.Qxd5 Bxd5 31.Nd6+ Kd7 32.Nxc8 cxb2+ 33.Kxb2 Kxc8] 29.Qxd5+ Bxd5 30.Nd6+ Kg6 31.Nxc8 Kxg5 Black has a technically winning endgame, which this time, he did win, albeit not without mutual errors.

The above is amazing enough, but its demonstration takes just 15 minutes of the DVD - barely one twentieth of the total viewing time, every moment of which is packed with similar displays of in-depth analysis.

Watching Kasparov demonstrate this work is truly awesome. The combination of speed of thought, voluminous knowledge and sheer love of the game is captivating. As he hammers the keyboard (none too delicately!), positions flash before one's eyes at positively  epilepsy-inducing speed, and Kasparov himself seems at times almost to have trouble moving his mouth fast enough to keep up with the pace at which his brain is racing. And the whole time, one is thinking that this is just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of the total amount of analysis that Kasparov has done, just on this one variation. Watching the DVD, I was irresistibly reminded of a remarkable piece by Dutch writer, Tim Krabbe, describing how he had a glance into Kasparov's preparation in the Grunfeld, back in 1995. I was especially struck by Krabbe's description of how it felt, watching this analysis appear on screen. "I feel overwhelmed, nauseated almost, by the sheer amount of this knowledge. ...All these myriads of variations that have been invented, evaluated, discussed, memorized, in the vague hope of ever improving a score by half a point - but probably to be played never at all." His feelings were exactly like mine.

Whether or not you play the Najdorf with White or Black, whether or not you even play 1 e4 at all, even if you do not play competitively any more, I would urge you to get this DVD. It is simply awesome - an insight into the working laboratory of the strongest and best-prepared player ever. You cannot but be captivated by the story, and by Kasparov's endless enthusiasm and love for the game.

At the end, I am left with one unanswered question: how could anyone with such an obvious and overwhelming love for chess ever bear to walk away from the game, at the age of just 42?

"Mr. Kasparov" - The series of top-class training DVDs


Garry Kasparov: How to Play the Najdorf Vol. 1
The World Champion for many years presents nine video lectures dealing with typical ideas and variations, concen-trating on the Poisoned Pawn Variation (6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6). Total running time: approx. 2.5 hours.  

Garry Kasparov: How to Play the Najdorf Vol. 2
In 23 lectures on video, he presents the alternative lines which might arise 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 (7…Be7, 7…Nbd7, 7…Qc7, or 7…b5). Total running time: approx. 2.5 hours.  

Garry Kasparov: How to Play the Queen's Gambit
Kasparov has played the Queen’s Gambit both with the white and black pieces,  explo-ring its deepest subtleties. With great verve he speaks about variations and ideas of the Classical Queen’s Gambit. More than three hours of first-class private tuition.  

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