Greengard's ChessNinja.com

20 Years to the Minute

| Permalink | 46 comments

It has gone unremarked as far as I can tell, even at ChessBase (which I'll fix in a bit if they are snoozing on the job). 20 years ago to the minute, at 21:55 Moscow time on November 9, 1985, Garry Kasparov became World Chess Champion. That officially began a new era that his exciting chess had already began to usher in. I remember not finding out until seeing a small note in the paper the next day. I'll put up some pics and games in an item on ChessBase in time for 9:55pm NY time at least...

Just talked to Garry for a while. He sounds both proud and melancholy remembering those days. Amazing he was only 22. He doesn't seem much older than me now, just six years, so it's strange to remember when he was the new champion chess god and I was still in high school. I'll include his comments in the ChessBase.com item I'll put up if Frederic doesn't do something. Freddy has all sorts of great materials to use so I hope he's doing something.

Links to coverage including video and game notes in the comments. Thanks everyone.


There is a nice article on chesspro. Shipov analyzes the final (24th) game of the match.

There's a nice video at http://www.chessbase.de/

I put the 1985 and 1987 game 24's in White Belt last week and then forgot to mention the anniversary. Oops.

Direct link to the quick video clip at ChessBase:


Tremendous battles, the K-K matches -- enough to make subsequent matches pale in comparison. Really, what could match the drama of two all-time greats duking it out?

Often overlooked is the fact that Karpov was an incredibly dominant player as well, and if Kasparov had not existed, he could have easily remained the dominant world champion until 1994 or so.

"Often overlooked is the fact that Karpov was an incredibly dominant player as well"

Karpov certainly was a great player in his own right. However, another thing that should not be overlooked is that he was a darling of the Soviet system and had the whole chess establishment at his disposal. Once the Soviet Union disintegrated, he lost a large part of his support structure. He could no longer order Tal and Polugaevsky to supply him with fresh novelties and he was never fond of working on chess himself, unlike Kasparov or, say, Korchnoi.

Being a huge natural talent, he could of course have lasted until 1994 as a dominant figure, but it would have been a very steep uphill battle for him.

"He sounds both proud and melancholy"

Mig, I think it should be "proud and melancholic", 'cause melancholy is the noun and melancholic is the adjective.



feeling or causing sadness: feeling or making somebody feel a thoughtful or gentle sadness

dz: you have a point. However, it's not like Kasparov came up with all his novelties himself (at least not after winning the title). The collapse of the Soviet Union would have stripped Karpov of his state-funded support network, but it would have also ushered in the age of capitalism, where he would be able to hire seconds to do some of the work for him. It might not be someone of Polugayevsky or Tal's caliber, but still, the difference might not be immense.

Without Karpov, Kasparov would have not become the player he was/is. I am sure GK would agree, particularly as he argues that Karpov lacked Fischer to reach his full potential.

The attacks on Karpov are ridiculous. Kasparov had the same advantages that Karpov had, if not more. The last time I checked Kasparov attended Botvinnik's school. He also had great seconds. He also had a huge staff that would come up with novelties for him - he is probably more famous for that than Karpov ever was. Also, unlike Karpov, Kasparov was a darling with the West - and that gave him early access to things like Chessbase database, etc.

Anyway, Kasparov is the greatest player who ever lived, but Karpov is a close second.

macuga: I agree with you - for the most part. The collapse of the Soviet Union stripped Karpov of the unfair advantage he was enjoying and so (arguably) leveled the playing field. Everyone with sufficient means could now hire help, most certainly Karpov and Kasparov. So the difference with the old world order was in fact quite significant.

Charles Milton Ling: you are absolutely right. If memory serves, they both (Karpov and Kasparov) described the first match - where Karpov was leading 5:0 - as a series of "free" lessons green Kasparov was getting from the seasoned maestro.

How can you rank Kasparov first and Karpov second. I seem to remember a certain American who set the chess world on its ear a few years before either of them held the title, and without him, I don't think either of the K's would have had the media and financial success they have enjoyed. And if HE had decided to keep playing (with or without the Soviet Union in one piece)who knows how long he would have held onto the title (probably longer than he held onto his mind at least).

Russianbear: I don't think it is absolutely necessary to start a war here. Being "a darling with the West" (whatever that is) must have done Kasparov a lot of good with the old guard. Do you remember the crowd that used to run the Soviet chess: Baturinsky, Pavlov, ...? Krogius is probably still around. Remember how they almost succeeded in disqualifying Kasparov and stripping him of his title? The only thing that saved him at the time was that the political changes already started to take root.

Russianbear: I don't think it is absolutely necessary to start a war here. Being "a darling with the West" (whatever that is) must have done Kasparov a lot of good with the old guard. Do you remember the crowd that used to run the Soviet chess: Baturinsky, Pavlov, ...? Krogius is probably still around. Remember how they almost succeeded in disqualifying Kasparov and stripping him of his title? The only thing that saved him at the time was that the political changes already started to take root.

Fischer would have cemented his place as #1 if he'd played his match with Karpov... real, real shame for chess lovers everywhere that didn't happen.

(not that there aren't arguments to say Fischer isn't #1 anyway.... just not in my book)

I also put Karpov as a close second, although he suffers simply from having so much of his peak time during Kasparov's time. Had he managed to finish Kasparov off in the 84 match or won even one of their matches it would help his cause. But he basically played Korchnoi to Kasparov's Karpov, if you will. But his tournament record and his matches against both Korchnoi and Kasparov cement him beyond a doubt. The other knock against Karpov isn't his fault, which is that there was no one of his generation to give him a run for his money. Until Kasparov came along Karpov's main competition came from players 15-25 years older.

Fischer's record doesn't stand up because of the lack of longevity. It is based on two sensational years and a lot of "could have been" that just doesn't count. Karpov dominated the chess world for almost ten years; Kasparov did it for twenty. There is little doubt that Fischer was further beyond his peers than anyone since Morphy, and that's one definition of greatness. And his impact was tremendous considering how little time he spent at the top. But he is given extra credit because of his nationality and the sensationalism around his rise and conquest.

I'm an American, but I still think there's no question that Fischer is NOT the best ever. How many games did he actually win in his career? How many major tournaments? Imho, Kasparov far outstrips Fischer. If you want to claim that you're #1 all time then you have to PROVE it year after year.

Another thing: How many official tournament or match games did Fisher win as World Champion? ZERO, ZIP, NADA.

Last thing: Chess understanding is far ahead of where it was in 1972. Fischer made his contribution, but I don't think a serious argument can be made that his understanding ever reached the level of Garry Kasparov.

Few would make that argument anymore. Chess is a shoulders-of-giants game and the next generation is always going to have an objectively superior level of play. You can't fairly compare quality across generations. So it's about accomplishments and also about quality relative to peers.

It would be interesting to speculate how long the shoulders-of-giants thing can continue. We have seen a steady increase in chess understanding over the last 150 years, but I think we're close to our limit. Perhaps we'll make an additional leap or two as we learn the intricacies of "concrete play" from computers, but I doubt humans can get much stronger than they are today.

We need some sort of rivalry that at least tries to emulate the great K-K matches. Those were definetly the most electrifying matches the world has ever known. The quality of the games is also extremely high. One can even say that never has chess reached the heights seen in the K-K matches.

Karpov deserves as much praise as Kasparov for those matches even if he never won a single one. Kasparov was the ONLY player who could have beaten him. I doubt even Fischer could have beaten Karpov.

The aura of Fischer rests largely on the fact that he is American. Him being a citizen of the richest country in the world did a lot to spread his fame. Had he been something like Austrian his mystic would be halved by more than half.

And I believe Karpov may have remained world champ until at least 1998 if Kasparov never was. The current generation of players (Topalov & Co.) laregely developed their skills because of the the K-K matches. With those matches the dynamic style existing amongst the super-GM's today would have evolved much later allowing Karpov to dominate.

if dz's argument is accepted, then Anand's achievements will be even more spectacular, coming from a country which had no chess infrastructure whatsoever.

I know that there are millions of Martins in this world and that I don't have any "copyright" to that name, yet I would like to indicate that the "Martin" above (the Fischer-comment Martin) is not the same who commented here for many months (i.e. me...). I did give the video link, though.

In my opinion, Karpov would have had good chances in a match against Fischer, because the latter hadn't played any chess for a considerable time. However, I do think that a sane Fischer would have dominated chess for many many years.

Having listened to all Fischer's available radio interviews in the last couple of weeks, i'd like anyone claiming he's insane to point out how does it exactly come out? Right or wrong about his accusations, i am in no position to tell, he has very good reasons for saying the things he does, and doesn't appear the least bit insane if you listen to his "rantings" for more than five minutes, enough time to see that he's not just ranting randomly but makes up a cohesive whole...too many little details and circumstances for all it to be coincidental.
There's no way to justify what has been done to later editions of his book, how his stuff was confiscated...

As for Kasparov becoming World Champion 20 years ago...i don't know. i don't know anymore, since i have started doubting the legitimacy of their matches (which is very hard for me to accept since Kasparov has been my idol since i got into chess).
It might be kosher, but in the light of Karpov-Korchnoi revelations, it might just as well be not.

Evans: I also seem to remember that American chickening out, not defending his title, which he only held for three years. Three years of no play by the way. Ranking such player as the first is crazy, although acknowledging his potential as first is another thing.

Sacateca: some sociopathic paranoids can produce well-supported conspiracy theories (which they will discuss with you at great length). You do not have to be a gibbering, incomprehensible lunatic to be mentally disturbed.

Dear friends,
I agree that Karpov was a lovely child of Soviet authorities till 1985. But even before and during his with Karpov Kasparov had actively used the huge direct support from Geidar Aliev, one of the most influential Soviet leaders, who's son is currently President of Azerbaidzan. Without this support Kapsarov would never succeed.
And after 1985, thanks to, Perestroyka, Kasparov had successfully replaced Karpov as a lovely child of Soviet authorities AND society, and his influence was tremendous, even being not such absolute, as the Karpov's one before. His influence was somewhat limited only because there was still Karpov & Co. around there.

Kasparov also used a huge team of chess analysts, and not only them, nobody except Karpov can be compared to him in this ever.

By the way, it looks like everybody knows about tight relationships between ChessBase and Kasparov, but it is not very well known that Chess Assistant was created during 1989-1994 by the programmers of Moscow State University with active participation of Karpov to help him in his preparations, and only later it became publically available.

Regarding top players forced to share their findings with Karpov, you'd better read "Russians vs. Fischer". There are very interesting documents published there, including reviews of Fischer ordered by Soviet Chess Federation from top Soviet GMs for use by Spassky before 1972. Content of these reviews clearly shows that top GMs did perform their job very perfunctory. I am positive their reports to Karpov were not much better. Only willingful cooperation of chess seconds had given real valuables to both Karpov and Kasparov.

John Nunn's article at CB contains some vicious little shots at what I can only imagine to be Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Leko.

please all,

stop these useless comments? lovely child of the Soviet Republic? and that made them play chess better? a huge team of analysts? and that made them world champs?

just give them the credit due! have you ever tried to listen to a team of people? did that make you better? didn't it take a lot of you sorting out the information and making decisions?

Mig, you may need a logic IQ, because sometimes, discussions on this forum border on the illogical.

or am i missing it? this is just arguing for the sake of saying sth? i should be deported to an alterverse.


Please try trying a little logic of your own before demanding it of others.

1. "lovely child of the soviet republic". Firstly, what was said was "lovely child of the soviet authorities" - this is a russian idiom, of the sort - "the poster child of american chess".

2. No one is claiming that Kasparov, Karpov et al were not exceptional chessplayers. However, if you are playing at their rarified level, and a team of analysts presents you with findings that your opponent has, let's say, a propensity for less than optimum play in 4+3 vs 3+4 pawn structures, obviously this information is valuable and can be used.

3. Normally you would not "..listen to a team of people". Say 50 analysts go through your opponents games (...if only.*sigh*), this analysis is distilled and presented - you never actually "listen to the team".

Teams are even more helpful than BabsonTask would suggest. Opening novelties can be crushing at the highest levels. Numerous examples abound of a player emerging lost, or seriously inferior, from the opening due to an opening novelty by his opponent. Also, teams were *very* helpful in the days of adjourned games.

I forgot to add - it is a law of chess forums that anyone who insults another poster's intelligence tends to do so in broken English. For instance, "you may need a logic IQ."

dz, it is strange to see someone say that Karpov enjoyed great support of the Soviet system while implying that Kasparov didn't. Kasparov benefitted greatly from the Soviet system and arguably got more out of it than Karpov did. Kasparov was doing just fine - got into the Botvinnik school, got the best coaching in the world for free, dirt cheap chess books, etc etc. Of course later in order to become a darling of the West, he started to claim that he was disliked by Soviet authorities, but the fact remains - Kasparov got as much out of the Soviet system than anyone could have gotten out of any system chess-wise, so it is somewhat strange to claim that Soviet system somewhat impeded his chess improvement or career. If anything, Kasparov was even more a favourite than Karpov - the USSR chess federation and the FIDE allowed their champion Karpov get screwed by stealing Karpov's 2 point lead in 1984 match and canceled the match, giving Kasparov a fresh start in 1985. The Soviet system got Kasparov into the title match and then in the critical moment (if we are to assume that it is Soviets who canceled the 1984 match) stole 2 point from Karpov, who was the reigning champion, thus allowing Kasparov to become the youngest world champion in history. Kasparov doesn't exactly come off as a persecuted dissident to Karpov's "darling of the Soviet system". Kasparov was always a master of saying whatever suited him best at a given moment and he was a darling with both the West and Soviet system.

Or course, the fact that both Kasparov and Karpov got state support doesn't change the fact that Kasparov and Karpov were the best players in history, with Kasparov being the best of all time and Karpov closely behind. Someone brought up Fischer, but Fischer only had a great 2 years. Karpov and Kasparov had great careers. To even imply that Fischer may be on the same level as these two giants is laughable. Fischer's only claim to greatness are the matches against Taimanov and Larsen. His tournament results were not that great compared to Kasparov or Karpov. Kasparov probably had years where he won more tougher tournaments more convincingly in one year than Fischer won in his entire career. And Karpov I believe has more tournament titles than any other two world champions combined - that includes probably the greatest tournament performance ever in Linares 1995. Kasparov and Karpov never won any matches by the margins Fischer beat Taimanov and Larsen by, but that is a combination of Fischer's luck in those matches and the fact that neither Karpov nor Kasparov never faced such weak opposition in match play in their prime. In their prime, Kasparov and Karpov only played for world championship so they would only face at least the 2nd best player in the world. And in their prime, they achieved as much or greater superiority against their very top competition as Fischer did - Karpov's 1981 win over Korchnoi was as convincing a win as Fischer's 1972 victory over Spassky and Kasparov's victory over Short was even more one-sided. And speaking of 1972, Spassky was in crisis and was far from playing the best chess. He played much better a couple of years later against the up and coming Karpov and Karpov, who was still very young and pretty far away from his prime, was able to beat Spassky more convincingly than Fischer did in 1972.

Fischer was the best player for 2 years and he was a 1-time world champion for 3 years. Karpov was the best for about 12 years (from 1973 to 1985) and a world champion for 10 years. Kasparov was the world champ and the best in the world for 15 years. Clearly, not only is Fischer not in the same league with those guys, he is not even close. Fischer had some amazing results, but his peak was, his period of dominance was very short. For similar reasons, one has to put not only Kasparov and Karpov, but also people like Lasker, Alekhine, Capablanca, Botvinnik and Steinitz above Fischer. That is why I wouldn't put Fischer in the top 10 of all time. He was one of the weaker champions, along with Euwe, Spassky and Tal.

Anyway, I can't believe it has been 20 years already.

Russianbear: curiously you are evading the direct question I asked in my last post. Do you remember the episode when Kasparov was nearly disqualified by the Soviet chess bosses and was only saved at the last minute by direct intervention of Alexander Yakovlev, the chief proponent of "Gorbachev's" reforms (sadly, he died very recently)?

Your allegation that Karpov was cheated of 2-point lead is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long time. In reality, it was Kasparov who was cheated out of victory in first match, that much was clear to all observers at the time. By the time they reached the 48th game, Karpov was more dead than alive, it was obvious that he was physically unable to go on with the match. That was why he was taking time out after time out even after he had exhausted his allotted limit (technical time out, Campomanes' time out, etc.) Campomanes got a phone call from Gligoric, I believe, informing him of Karpov's condition, rushed to Moscow, granted Karpov yet another time out and then did whatever the Soviets demanded. The match was interrupted against Kasparov's will with the only purpose to save Karpov from humiliation.

By the way, Linares 1995 was won by Ivanchuk a point ahead of Karpov, hardly the greatest ever achievement of Karpov's.

Russianbear intended to refer to Linares 1994, where with 11/13 (+9) Karpov obtained the highest tournament performance rating of all time according to Jeff Sonas's metrics.

This myth gets a bit tiring to hear repeated time after time. The match was interrupted against Kasparov's *and* Karpov's will when the latter only needed one more win to seal the match. Of course, there had been suggestions to

FIDE didn't do "whatever the Soviets demanded". The USSR Chess Federation had asked in February -85 for the match to be suspended for three months. FIDE halted it altogether, blatantly robbing Karpov of a 5-3 lead.

For a better view of the entire story I recommend http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/termination.html

I meant to say above that the first suggestions to terminate the match had come from Kasparov's camp.

I often see the arguments about “THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME” in many places. What is the meaning for this words.” The player who dominates his entire career.” Three names often used for this place in modern times. Incidently those 3 players were successive world champions.
The 1st name Mr.Robert James Fisher, In those 70’s he definitely ahead of his generation. (by far). This champion conquered the Soviet Union with his powerful play. For quiet sometimes Chess peaked at his understanding and immediately he disappeared. For the first time chess appeared in news papers all over the world. A FANTASTIC CHANCE TO PUSH THE GAME FORWARD in professional way. He could have done anything he wanted. After becoming Champion he simply stopped chess. Chess needed a champion like him at that time. Can you imagine if he had played continuously, what would have been the level of chess now. he simply stopped chess. For this reason fisher is a bad world champion at all.
Next player Anatoly Karpov , actually he didn’t beat the previous world champion. Any way he started to win tournaments like world champion. This trend followed by Kasparov in a perfect way. Karpov won the world title by default, (Anyway Fisher refused to play, is not Karpov’s fault). Then how can we compare him to all time great. Ok he was the No.1 player for 8 years. To become a world champion some one have to beat the previous champion. In this regard we can’t accept as true world champion. If we exclude the 5-0 advantage against Kasparov, he is not dominant in his matches with Kasprov.
The advantages Karpov had during the world championship matches.
1.He won the title by default
2.He had rematch clause against Kasprov in 1985 match.
3.He was directly seeded for candidates final match in 1987.
4.Again in 1993 he got a perfect title shot against Timman (when Kasprov broke the title), Both Karpov and Timman were eliminated by Short)
5.In 1996 against Kamksy he won a dull match with greater match experience. I doubt if he had faced Anand at the time, he may have lost the title as well.
6.Even in 1998, he faced the tired Anand.

His tournament results were good before Kasparov coming to the scene. But after Kasparov’s arrival he didn’t beat Kasparov in tournaments. (I mean after 1987). Look at Kasparov and Karpov’s tournament results in 1988. Kasparov was clearly dominant. (Age at that time were Kasparov – 25, Karpov – 37.) Both of them were at their peak. Even why I consider Karpov at his peak is, Kasparov at 37 he still defeated younger players and Karpov at 37 already world champion for 10 years). Even after 1988 Kasparov’s results were excellent. (Until 1993 before the break with Fide). For another 3 year period Karpov’s results improved, I think that’s mainly due to his FIDE title. Karpov’s career had certain amount of luck. (particularly in 1993). Actually Karpov didn’t beat his predessor (Fischer) and his successor (kasparov). so we should not compare him with Gary’s career.
Now come to the point, Kasprov’s career. He started to win so early in his career.
A challenger at his first shot in his cycle (1982-1984). and the matches with Karpov were well known. He won 15 tournments in a row in 80’s. and 10 tournments in a row at the turn of 21st century. He played almost best opposition each time (in 1995 against Anand, in 2000 against kramnik). The clear down fall for him from 2003 is mainly due to the lack of real goal . If his match with ponomariov had happened he still would have played very good chess (I think). He won on all type of tournaments every where beating the likes of Anand, Kranmik, Topalov, Ivanchuk on many occations. His matches with computers were more popular. Garry did a lot good things to promote the game as well.
And Garry should be the BEST of all.

Acirce, my friend, I am so glad you joined the debate. I was worried why you went MIA (I gather, you all right then with the cruel Stockholm police?)

The link you provide supplies many more questions than answers. The conclusion that "The truth about the Termination has not been established, and may never be, and thus the only reasonable attitude is agnosticism" seems very reasonable to me.

I guess, the only thing left to us is to ask still more questions. If, as you claim, both Karpov and Kasparov were against the termination, how come Campomanes declared during the final press conference that Karpov agreed with his decision and Kasparov submitted to it?

The fact that the match was terminated at a moment when after many weeks of 5:0 and 5:1 Karpov lost 2 in a row and it suddenly became 5:3, is a mere curious coincidence, right?

The fact that after receiving this huge favour of having his 2-point deficit erased (according to your theory) Kasparov became Campomanes' mortal enemy (so much so that a few years later he decided to leave FIDE altogether) is nothing but another curious coincidence, isn't that so? At the same time, even more curiously, Karpov and Campomanes remained best friends.

What can one possibly add to that? "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

The last shot was made by Karpov in New York in 2002


Termination was probably a reasonable thing to do. Karpov might have gotten really, really ill if he had to continue on the spot. On the other hand, Karpov had obviously invested too much in the beginning and had failed to pace himself properly. Therefore, in this case, adjourning the match and continuing it later is not an option because that would be like handing Karpov a massive lead in a new match. Of course its possible that if they had continued Karpov might have won the very next game, reminding us of his victory against Korchnoi. Such decisions are never easy and good judgement is definitely required.

I should also add that I think finite 16 game matches with sudden death after the 16th game are the opitimal format for the world championship.

DP: I fail to see how termination was a reasonable thing to do. If Karpov got ill and could not continue he should have forfeited the match. Cruel, but c'est la vie. And that is exactly what would have happened had the match been played under fair conditions.

Not really, it's just that the match between such tough guys revealed the flaw in the match formula. A well organized chess match should not be turned into a purely physical contest where the last person to drop to the ground wins. Of course you can't hand Karpov the title in that situation, either.

Dear frieds,
Just my 2 cents:
1) My biggest disappointments in Spassky is in absence of real preparation for Fischer. He got great training in drinking, playing tennis and poker, but not chess. He was there just for money, not for chess. And this is why he even came against Soviet authorities when agreeing to all Fischer's demands.
2) Karpov is the greatest tournament player of the second half of 20th century. Just count the number of top events won.
3) Regarding importance of seconds and openings preparation. What is the typical game by Kasparov? Carefully prepared novelty in opening, leading to the position sometimes equal, but much more favorable to his style of play, and mostly leading to his definite advantage only after 15 moves. He is definitely one of the greatest if not the greatest player of all times, but the role of openings (and therefore seconds and computer use) in his leadership just can not be overestimated.

I find myself in a very interesting position in all K-K debates, since Karpov is probably my favorite player chessplay-wise and Garry in everything else. It is of course obvious to everybody, and I believe Anatoly Evgenyevich himself admitted, that Karpov's weak health ultimately sabotaged his condition in the match. So the remainder would have been a rather sad spectacle, a sick world champion trying to win one before the challenger could win 3--which he was probably on his way to doing. I am kind of glad the match was stopped. But in accordance with competition rules, it should not have been.

Cartagena de Indias , January 24 of 2006


Greetings from Colombia.

I write to them from Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, South America.

I am supporting a group of children in my city, for the practice of the Chess. I want to know if I can obtain some videos of Garry Kasparov playing Chess, which you send to us for email or airmail.

We will be eternally grateful by this gesture with the children, which it helps to strengthen the practice of this wonderful game in our city.

Being grateful in advance for your help,


Jorge Marquez F.

My address :

Bocagrande Cr 3 No 7-61 Apto 2A, Edf Kawica,
South América.

Email: jmarfacio@yahoo.com

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on November 9, 2005 1:55 PM.

    Kasparov in The Atlantic was the previous entry in this blog.

    Russia Returns is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.