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One Blow to Beauty, One Blow to Manners

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Every year at the end of the Linares supertournament, a prize is given for the most beautiful game. It is voted on by the attending journalists and awarded at the closing ceremony. This year it was given to Teimour Radjabov for his win over Kasparov in the second round. Of course this was the crucial game of the standings (all the other top players beat Radjabov), and the world #1 losing to the teen from his hometown made news around the world. So a "most important" prize would have been fine. But a chess beauty prize for a game in which Kasparov was winning until he blundered is horrible. They should have found another way to congratulate Radjabov for his landmark performance.

Then things got weird. According to David Llada, a Spanish chess writer (who also does Paco Vallejo's website), in the Spanish magazine Jaque, Kasparov marched up to the stage to protest during the closing ceremony when the prize was awarded to Radjabov! The following is a translation of Llada's translation (and my friend David would be the first to admit he doesn't have perfect English, which is what Kasparov was speaking in), so word-for-word accuracy is not going to be possible. (Reprinted at the Spanish-language ChessBase site here. Update: Spanish GM Miguel Illescas, one of Kramnik's trainers, gives a more detailed account here in Spanish.)

Kasparov at the podium: "I don't believe that this was the best game of the tournament. It has been selected only because it was the only game that I lost and I consider this to be a public insult and humiliation."

While everyone looked on in shock, Garry walked over to a group of journalists and worked his rage up to shouting level. "This is the worst insult you have ever done to me in my life! It is an insult to me and to chess! You consider yourselves chess journalists? If you think this was the most beautiful game of Linares, you are doing a great deal of damage to chess with your reports and articles. Radjabov was completely lost in that game!"

Apparently this was all videotaped by.... Radjabov's mother (who went to school with Garry in Baku). Kasparov's mother asked her to stop and tried to calm Garry down. What to say? I and a few other people also thought that the selection of the Radjabov game was a slap in Kasparov's face, even if it was intended to recognize the kid's big moment. Kasparov losing his first Linares game in six years on a blunder in a winning position was bad enough! Giving a beauty prize to that game IS an insult to chess and every other game to ever win a beauty prize. But that doesn't excuse Kasparov's behavior there in front of Radjabov and the world. You wait until you get the journalists alone and then rip them apart! And of course he would have many of these same journalists eager to carry his opinions and outrage in editorials and interviews.

According to Illescas, Kasparov even went after Australian journalist-GM Ian Rogers, asking if he had voted and exploding when Rogers acknowledged he had voted for Radjabov. Then it was Spanish journalist Leonxto Garcia's turn. Also according to Illescas, Kasparov departed with the famous words, "Don't count on me for next year."

Kasparov blew up more than once over the Wijk aan Zee audience prizes as well. These were voted on every round and usually went to short, tactical games that the amateurs in the crowd found entertaining (as do most of us). Kasparov complained loudly several times and even cancelled a press conference once when a game he considered unworthy won the audience prize. (Not that he always said he should win, he once protested when a nice Timman game didn't win.)

In the four+ years I worked closely with Garry, I often tried to tell him that his chess and his results spoke for themselves and that as the #1 he was always going to receive the lion's share of the criticism too. Most people don't like to cheer for the favorite, and journalists can get bored with the same guy winning all the time. Let the dogs bark, take the high road, winning is the best revenge, etc. Nope! Kasparov has always worn his emotions on his sleeve and is very sensitive to any criticism, even after nearly 20 years at the top. It drives him to succeed, but his hair turned gray years ago.

Anyway, it's Leko and Kramnik who should be complaining. They both had very attractive games worthy of a beauty prize. Both of them wins against Radjabov! As GM Illescas puts it, ".. at the end of the day Kasparov was right: his game with Radjabov was not beautiful, it wasn't even a good game. Kasparov was better, Teimour offered a desperate piece sacrifice as a last resort, Kasparov didn't take it and later he committed a tremendous blunder that cost him the point. Kasparov is partially right when he says it takes a certain level of chess to comment well on a game. Leonxto told me later that he had quite liked the knight sacrifice. About taste one cannot argue, but evidently the appreciation of an expert would not be the same."

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    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 10, 2003 9:49 AM.

    Matchmaker, Matchmaker was the previous entry in this blog.

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