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25 Years On, Kasparov vs Karpov 2009

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Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov will renew their rivalry at the board in Valencia, Spain tomorrow to mark the 25th anniversary of their first world championship match. They will play two days of two rapid games each and a third day with eight blitz games. The official site is here. Being a Spanish chess site we can pretty much assume it will be un wreck de tren. [There are reports of the official site being "hacked," as apparently some people are getting an ad page. But that's just a host's parking placeholder, not a malicious act. They either moved servers very recently, screwed up DNS propagation, or someone in the chain of registrar-host-server admin screwed it up or set a very slow TTL. If it's just a recent server move it will fix itself as the world's DNS servers update their caches. Try a hard browser refresh, too. Not to be paranoid, but there's a chance this sort of behavior could be caused by a DDOS attack on the site (common against Kasparov's political news sites like the one I run), but no way to know that from the outside.] Let's just hope the live games function. Both players give simuls on Monday evening. The play dates are the 22-24 and the games begin quite late, 7pm local time, 1pm EDT. Rapid time control is the standard 25'+5" and the blitz is 5'+2".

Photo AFP

I'll try to toss up some of the piles of coverage coming out in the Spanish press. There have already been several good interviews. As often happens, they feel freer to cut loose with the international mainstream press. (Karpov: "If the 1984 match hadn't been played in the USSR I would have won easily." Also, "I don't care [that I've fallen out of the top 100] because I know I can beat any of the top 100 players. The difference is they dedicate all of their time to chess and I do not.") Some more culled tidbits: The match is part of "Valencia: Birthplace of Modern Chess," with several days of symposiums. Yuri Averbakh and Lothar Schmid are two participants you'll know. Sulaiman Al Fahim, president of the UAE chess federation and all-round rich guy, is one of the major patrons of the entire event and is there to watch the match. One rumor has it he's also there with some sort of chess-related business plan under his arm. He was tipped to be working on Linares 2010. Also, he might be trying to recruit Spanish football star Villa for the UK team Portsmouth he owns.

Karpov arrived well before Kasparov and has a formidable team of seconds: Riazantsev, Onischuk, and Bologan. He's been training on the Spanish coast for a week. Meanwhile, Kasparov just arrived Sunday from a session in Norway with Carlsen, but you know he's serious because his mother Klara is there! Much is being made in the Spanish press about how Karpov and Kasparov aren't staying at the same hotel and are avoiding seeing each other until the opening day. Both players have pointed out this is simply tradition. Dutch veteran arbiter Geurt Gijssen is overseeing the match. He was also the arbiter of the last two K-K WCh matches in 87 and 90.

Kasparov is the prohibitive betting favorite, which to me shows significant ageism. I'm not at all sure four years without pushing a pawn in anger is worth less than 12 years of age. Chess is about concentration and regular practice is required to maintain it. Plus, you just know these guys would get up for each other were they 92 and 80. Karpov hasn't been playing well, for Karpov, but at least he's been playing.

It's difficult to overstate the supremacy of Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov in their heyday and the impact of their five consecutive world championship matches. The first pawn in the saga was pushed on September 10, 1984, in Moscow. Karpov was the defending champion in his prime at 33. He had battled through the legends of the previous generation and completely dominated his peers. Until Kasparov arrived Karpov's only real competition was the specter of Bobby Fischer. By 1984 Karpov was the veteran of two bitterly contested world championship matches against Viktor Korchnoi -- not to mention long candidates matches against Polugaevsky, Spassky, and again Korchnoi.

Kasparov had been touted as a future championship contender since he was 10, though few imagined he would make it so far so fast. He tore through his much older candidates opponents. But he was no match for Karpov in 1984, that much became clear very quickly. In an unlimited-length match with the winner being the first to win six games, Karpov won four of the first nine without a loss. It was over and the only question was how long it would take for the chastened and punch-drunk Kasparov to succumb. The string of draws that followed were at first a curiosity, then a comedy, then a head-scratching record. 17 draws, from game 10 on October 8 to game 26 on November 12. Obviously Kasparov was just trying to survive, but why did Karpov also start to play cautiously? The prevailing theory on this is that Karpov wanted the clean sweep, the 6-0 humiliation that would scar his young challenger forever. It would also imitate the famous 6-0 scores of Fischer's candidates match victories, in a way matching the opponent Karpov was never able to face.

That looked even more likely when the month of draws ended with another Karpov win in game 27. Now it was 5-0. But after four more draws Kasparov finally won his first game -- after an incredible three months of play. (I've long said Kramnik shutting out Kasparov for 15 games in 2000 was one of the greatest feats in chess history. Obviously the man and the situation were very different in 84, but Karpov shut him out for 31 games!) I won't get too far into the various controversies and irregularities that occurred during and after the match, such as interrupting it for a state funeral. There are plenty of books and long accounts on the web for all the details. Suffice to say there were 14 more draws in a row and the match moved into 1985. The "who was more exhausted?" argument usually goes to the slighter and older Karpov, and the four very short draws he took with white during this stretch would seem to back that up.

Kasparov then won again, game 47 (!) at the end of January, but the score was still 5-2 in Karpov's favor. The match was then postponed for a week, providing plenty of fodder for conspiracy theories present and future. Karpov hadn't won since game 27 back in November and Kasparov clearly wasn't the same overconfident youth who had started his first world championship match nearly five months earlier. The slugger had become a boxer, courtesy of 47 intense personal lessons from the world champion -- an impression verified by Kasparov in Valencia, where in an El País interview he called Karpov "my great teacher." The extreme difference in their playing styles was a factor in this effect as well. Karpov's unique positional genius baffled just about everyone, but after so many games Kasparov had absorbed so much from his opponent he could finally grasp, even predict, his opponent's moves. Just how much he had learned would only become clear in future matches, as this first one, known forever as the Marathon Match, ended abruptly after Kasparov won again in game 48.

Football has Maradona's "Mano de Dios." American football has Franco Harris's "Immaculate Reception."(It hit the ground, god damn it!!) In 1985, the first Karpov-Kasparov world championship match saw the "The Termination." The players had rested for eight days after the 47th game. After the 48th, the score now 5-3 Karpov, the organizers announced a six-day break. On February 14 came this stunning announcement from FIDE president Florencio Campomanes: "The match is terminated without any announcement about the result. A new match will begin from a position of 0-0 on September 1, 1985."

The real epilogue to this was Kasparov winning that second match (limited to 24 games), and its very first game, and becoming, at 22 instead of 21, the youngest world champion ever. But at the time, and still today, The Termination is one of the most controversial events in the long history of chess and many things about it are still disputed. (Mostly revolving around whether or not Karpov had lobbied for or at least accepted the termination in advance.) Kasparov protested loudly, though he admitted later his chances of winning the match were still poor. But there's no simple answer to his question at the time, "if they are only concerned about the players' health, why are they canceling the match now and not when it was 5-1 two games ago?"

With such a launch, how could their rivalry fail to become one of the greatest in sports history? All the controversy in the world, however, can't substitute for chess quality. The five K-K clashes (84-85, 85, 86, 87, 90) were between two of the most dominant sportsmen ever. The quality of the chess, especially the 85 and 86 matches, was the highest ever reached at the time. Add the drama, especially Kasparov having to win the final game in 87 to draw the match, and you have a six-year span that established an entire era. I was a bit young to follow the first matches myself, but I do sort of pity those who missed it entirely -- and what "K-K" meant. Older folks might say much the same about the original K-K, Karpov-Korchnoi. Karpov himself said he never felt as motivated by Kasparov as by his "natural rival" Korchnoi. But it was Karpov and Kasparov, riding the waves of the the chess boom launched by Fischer, who turned chess into a multimillion dollar concern and put it onto front pages around the world. We're certainly seeing how much their names and rivalry still resonate today, as hundreds of news stories pour out from Valencia.

On that topic, I'll give Karpov, in an interview from Valencia, the last word:

"There are few sports in which a duel like Karpov-Kasparov is so well known around the world. We have a degree of popularity like Pelé y Maradona. Today, the players who are numbers one and two in the world are very good. But they lack the character that would allow them to cross over the borders of the game."

Macauley is in Valencia for the ICC and will be filing video reports and more at the Chess.FM blog.


What I find pretty laughable was Fischer's demand that the World Championship be the first to win 10 games, and that they nearly made that the rule! Fifty game matches would have been the norm.

I wonder why Karpov thinks he would have won the first match easily if it were played out of the USSR. Does he elaborate on that?

I'll try to post more later. Basically it's the argument both Karpov and Kasparov have used and abused for years, that the political allies of the other guy made life difficult for them. Of course they also took turns boasting about their own political connections, so I don't pay too much attention to anything other than what was actually visible or made public later.

In this case Karpov is typically vague with his reasoning: "The organizers didn't respect their work or their obligations and [the match] should have been played outside [the USSR]." Since this is a translation of a translation and doesn't really say anything I don't find it all that interesting. But the "I would have won outside the USSR" bit I hadn't heard before or have forgotten.

Very unique and illuminating perspective on chess history. Beautifully written, Mig!

I have the Soviet 84-85 match book. Really beautiful with lovely B&W photographs.
Btw, does anyone remember that 3D match some years ago which Karpov won? With a desperado sacrifice.

Nice write-up.

"Rapid time control is the standard 25'+5""

Ahh, at least that's good. I thought it was going to be something more blitz-like even in the "rapid" games.

A series of matches, against Anatoly Karpov, at "standard rapid" time controls (well at least this one - and plus some blitz). Matches that both players take seriously. Closer to a Kasparov "comeback" than I had expected. Of course he did say he'd play rapid events, but it's not like he is going to play in Amber or Mainz, is it?

Does Kasparov have any seconds?

I wonder if seconds are really important during (not before) a match with this format?

Is it me or is the official site down?

Ah, the pull-down menu "Latest Headlines" on Firefox shows the Kasparov-Karpov coverage by BBC. Yay, for chess in the mainstream!


I disagree about Garry being out of practice. Pratice is not only about the OTB rated games played but should also include the time spent on chess, particularly analysis. I am sure Garry has done a lot of the latter for his various books, articles in NIC etc. and of late working with Carlsen.

That, IMO, makes age a predominant factor and Garry the predominant favorite.


Kapalik, none of that can compensate for actual OTB play. You can be a blitz fiend on the net but when you sit down at the board things are subtly different. Mig was saying that Karpov despite his recent woeful play has that experience. Kasparov would not have lost his calculating abilities but the rust will show in simple mistakes.

Hey, is Short playing a variation of the Open Ruy massacred in Karpov v Korchnoi many years ago??

@playjunior TWIC has this just now:

There may have been an attack on the official website: http://www.matchkarpovkasparov.com/ a friend in Germany is seeing a spam site now. It takes time for these things to spread but he is seeing a completely different DNS to me. parkinglot.information.com seems to be the site the address is being re-pointed too

@cat, yah it looked vaguely familiar, remember it from the Keene book on the Bagiou match!

As an active player I can attest that jaideepblue's view trumps Kapalik's: there is no substitute for serious playing, to keep one sharp for serious play. "Time spent on chess" simply does not cut it.

Maybe it's different at their level than at mine. But think back to what you've read high-level players write and say on this topic in the past. ALL of it suggests (doesn't it??) that if the importance of regular practical play is different in top-level competition than at strong-amateur levels, the difference is that it's MORE critical - NOT LESS CRITICAL. That's what we've all heard top players say with quite a bit of consistency, in one way or another, over the years...isn't it?

jaideepblue and flyonthewall have got it right. There is no substitution for OTB. You can study all the books and DVDs in the world, and play 24 hours a day online, but when you walk into the tournament room and sit down at the board against a live opponent with the clock running, things become very different.

beautiful write up Mig! Thank you for this!

Kasparov may be the one who hasn't played competitive chess for a while, but my impression is Karpov is the one who went on with his life and left chess behind.

That was a great post, Mig. As if we weren't already psyched enough for this match.

Beautiful summary and explanation, Mig. Thanks!

Evidence, not proof. The ball is not in the frame of the camera when Harris touches it. I believe he caught it, but the video doesn't prove it.

In the meantime Short won. Maybe 24-year old Efimenko doesn't know the predecessor game at all - unlike Karpov at the time he did not sacrifice his e-pawn. Short might/should remember the earlier game and may have had an improvement prepared?
Predecessor game @ http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1068075

"Being a Spanish chess site we can pretty much assume it will be un wreck de tren".

Brother you can say that again. While the graphic design is reasonably pretty, information content is structured like... eh, click on "Schedule" on the main page, then you get a link to "Program", and that... tells you to download a Word file??? *sigh*

Site has been hacked. This url:
gives me: (copy paste of the text, they are all links)


What you need, when you need it

September 21, 2009

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That's not a hacked site. That's the placeholder their host puts up on any parked site. So either they moved servers so recently their DNS change hasn't had time to propagate worldwide (72 hours to be 99% sure, usually) or they screwed up their DNS settings or their host or registrar screwed them up. No telling which. But it's not a malicious thing. Unless you consider incompetence and laziness to be malicious, which is a separate argument. I just sent this info to Mark at TWIC.

Thanks for the kind words above. Totally justifies my violating my usual nine minutes per post maximum!

More kudos for Mig - thanks!

Mig, actually-for me it opened before, the same day, so it's probably not about DNS change not being propagated.

I'm willing to believe the explanation by Mig, sounds plausible.

But: the site was perfectly fine for me a few days ago, then it got worse, now it's totally gone, even the front page which previously (when I posted earlier) ran some badly cobbled together html with pictures of Kasparov & Karpov.
So my question is: are the DNS servers updating towards the good version or towards the bad version? ;)

Play starts tomorrow!

They may have changed servers or hosts just recently for some reason. But the error page people have sent resolves to a well-established parking ad company server. Someone in the chain may have configured things wrong, but if it's a hack it's a very subtle one.

DNS propagation is dependent on many things, which is why different people in different places can see different things at the same time. If your regional and/or local DNS server updates its cache slowly, you can get a lot of lag. Even days. Some companies save money by running non-compliant configurations, though that's usually third-world jank. There are also various ways you can screw up your own configuration if you mess with it and some DNS servers are better than others at making sense (or not) of the bad configurations. Lastly, since you have multiple machines and load-balancers, you can get a different result just by refreshing sometimes, but that doesn't last long.

There's a chance something like a DDOS attack could hammer down the domain and default the host into putting up a placeholder on a different IP. No way to know that from the outside though. Certainly wouldn't be the first time a Kasparov site was hit like that. Our news sites get pummeled by Russian botnets just about every time there's a big story. Geez, now you've got ME thinking conspiratorially. I'd better not mention this to Garry or he'll be all over their admins.

Most excellent writeup, Mig once again proves his fantastic writing/journalistic skills.

Forget NFL Films: look at the darn STATUE.

(Hey, I was raised Catholic.)

"I'm not at all sure four years without pushing a pawn in anger is worth less than 12 years of age. Chess is about concentration and regular practice is required to maintain it. (...) Karpov hasn't been playing well, for Karpov, but at least he's been playing."
Before the Fischer-Spassky 1992 match, didn't Fischer not "push a pawn" for--what?--20 years, while Spassky kept playing competitive chess? And Fischer still won.

Nice post Mig. But Villa to Portsmouth ????! Not sure where you got the rumor from. The top Spanish striker doesn't just join the worst EPL team...not even for a buck load of cash...

True, though Spassky's play was truly horrible at times. He simply wasn't used to such exertion at that point. And not to be too glib, but I imagine Fischer worked more on chess than Spassky did by then! Were Kasparov and Karpov to play a few dozen games at a classical control like Fischer-Spassky 92 (30 games!) Kasparov would be the big favorite. He'd be able to get back into fighting mode and there's no reason he wouldn't be back to at least top-5 level. But with this format it could be over before he shakes off the cobwebs. Garry should kill him in the blitz unless Karpov really has been working hard. Anyway, I'll leave of making excuses in advance and just hope it's a fun event that lives up to the hype in at least a game or two.

It's just an exhibition - right? Do we expect a high level of play, including opening novelties, like real top 100 players? No. And neither player is used to having Rybka rip their games to shreds, especially Kasparov. 10 year olds will be saying to Kasparov, "You're stupid, Rybka says f4 was better." Is he ready for the post-computer game? Is he ready for Manu to tell him he'd have a better chance as a soccer star?

In OMGP IV, Kasparov seems almost to hint that Spassky threw games or at least played worse on purpose not to "lose his opponent". I don't think that's what he means but reading it you can't be sure.

Spassky had a 3-2 lead and a completely won position in game 6, which should have been his third win in a row. But somehow he allowed a draw and after this instead lost three games in a row ("displayed genuine 'magnanimity'" - Kasparov.)

@tjallen: Rybka was already the top program when Kasparov retired and I think Garry, of all people, understands the power of chess computers! Plus, he uses them extensively in his book analysis and his computer guru cousin always keeps his machines up to date with the latest programs.

I'd be surprised if there weren't a few interesting opening ideas in Valencia. Probably little to get Anand's attention of course, mostly because Karpov hasn't played cutting edge material in years.

@acirce: I think Garry, like most top players at the time, found it hard not to be too dismissive about the play of the 92 match. There were a few very nice moments (game 1), but overall "rusty" is about as polite as you can be. I think some of the conspiracy vibe comes from Spassky's constant idolizing of and deferring to Fischer in the press conferences. At best it left a strange impression. How could someone so clearly in debt to his opponent play his best chess against him?

On a more prosaic note, Spassky had turned the 20-move draw into a trademark by then (at the Barcelona World Cup in 89 he played 12 draws averaging 17 moves in 16 games) and probably hadn't played three fighting games in a row for years before that match. He may have just been worn out. Anyway, getting a bit off topic and Kasparov hasn't been gone for 20 years yet!

That's right. Spassky has explained later in German Chess magazines that at the time he had financial problems (Hohen Schulden)and therefore badly needed the money from the match. And he was afraid that Bobby would abandon the match if Spassky's winning streak continued...

Rybka was not 300+ points higher rated than K at the time of Kasparov's retirement. But now, at 300+ points better means K would only win one game of 100 against the computer.

What I really was getting at is ego and self-doubt. We already saw self-doubt and ego destruction in his last computer matches, and now the computer is MUCH better... and will the man be able to handle it, in the sense that he sits there thinking, and creating, but plagued by the thought, would Rybka play this? He hasn't had his creative output instantly judged like this, by a better, since he was a pre-teen!

That said, imho I think Kasparov should handle Karpov easily (Karpov is "only" a 2620 player these days), and this is from a fan who likes Karpov. Good luck to them both, but Korchnoi aside, age eats the brain rapidly after 40! Luckily, it's just an exhibition, for nostalgia's sake.

Surely Rybka did not even exist yet when Kasparov retired?

But what is this "300+ points higher rated"? What does it even mean? Obviously Rybka is stronger than Kasparov, but you cannot directly compare computer ratings to human ratings in a meaningful way, since they play in different pools.

Hmm, maybe it wasn't quite out yet? I thought Rybka played in a comp championship at the end of 2004 but I see that was the end of 2005. Anyway, not really the point since Kasparov is certainly at least as familiar with it and other engines as any current top player. (Heck, I showed him a set of games of Rybka beating Junior when Rybka was still in beta.) Only the games he mostly analyzes today are his from 25 years ago and not last week. But he certainly isn't going to be thinking about computers while at the board with Karpov.

300 points, hmm. First off, computers have their own separate rating list so it's apples and oranges. Rybka might well play at a 2900 level if dropped into Corus, Linares, etc., but it might not. Top GMs playing for a draw against a computer at a classical time control, especially with white, aren't going to leave many openings for mistakes. And if the contempt factor is set high, the comp could get into trouble. For all their impressive strengths, we've never had the situation of an engine playing against top humans for enough time for them to work out strategies against it. And they would. Computers are clearly stronger than the top humans now, but even Rybka is far from godlike.

Speaking of the retro trip, did people see the Korchnoi variation by Short?

Dennis Monokroussos on Chessmind called this line of the open Ruy Lopez "once thought dubious but since rehabilitated". In the game notes, he mentions a number of games played later than Baguio 1978 - with Korchnoi himself as well as others having black.

Will we see a Zaitsev Ruy Lopez in Valencia? If I had to single out one contribution of the "Ka-Ka" matches to opening theory, it would be this line (which has not one nostalgic retro interest, but is still hot at the top level).

@Mig: Another reason why I don't believe we will see "opening ideas ... to get Anand's attention" today, tomorrow and Thursday: Kasparov has said he will keep the best secret for Carlsen!?

Perhaps the greatest travesty of revisionist assessment yet? The Guardian's current link to the "way they reported the games back then", which has the frontpage tag of "bored games".


kasparov does have the upperhand considering the age gap...i just hope karpov gives a good match

Karpov drank his prune juice and socked his old enemy. Respect!

недорого куплю надувные батуты в Киеве

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 20, 2009 10:30 PM.

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