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K-K 1 at 25: Karpov Strikes, Kasparov Wins

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After losing twice on the first day by not playing and then by playing badly, Anatoly Karpov showed some spine and some teeth on day two by beating Garry Kasparov in a well-played third game in Valencia. That not only delayed the decision in the match and gave Karpov some peace of mind, but alleviated fears that total domination by Kasparov might make the exhibition look more like elder abuse in public and even put future matches at risk. Seeing the two legends back at the board is great, but it would be a little embarrassing if Karpov continued to look as helpless as he did on day one.

Both of today's games repeated the openings from day one. Kasparov sacrificed the exchange out of a Grunfeld in game three. He was holding the balance for a while until Karpov found the nice 27.Rxc5! piece sac to hyperactivate his rooks and threaten to get his d-pawn moving. Black's tangled minors couldn't get coordinated against the rooks on the open files and soon it was over. Good chess! Needing only a draw with white in the fourth game to clinch the match, Kasparov repeated the line from the first game and soon dominated the board, leading to a final score of 3-1 when Karpov's flag fell for the third time. I really hope Karpov has been practicing his blitz because if he hasn't, tomorrow could get ugly. Flagging in rapid with an increment in 24 moves is bad enough.

When I spoke to Kasparov after the rapid concluded today he sounded content. He considered Karpov's win in game three to be a quality game and the best of the match and was disappointed he hadn't been able to maintain the defense. In game two he said he was expecting the superior 21..Ne5 instead of Karpov's blunder 21..Nc5. Then he had planned 22.f4 Nc4 23.Qd4 b5 24.b3 Nxa3 and now the same 21.Nf6+! winning either the exchange or the black queen. Garry thought he outplayed Karpov well in the fourth game, though he criticized his 32.Be2 when 32.Rh1 would have been much stronger. I asked him if 10.f3 was a novelty and he said he wasn't sure, but "I always play f3 in those positions!" Just so, if you look at the stem game Karpov-Kasparov, Leningrad WCh (7), 1986! Well, he did say Karpov was his greatest teacher, after all. And he did play the structure with f3 later in this line on the white side the next year against Karpov in Seville.

Kasparov pointed out that one of the reasons for Karpov's time troubles in the first game was that he had never allowed this Grunfeld line with e4 against Karpov in the past, always going with 3..c6 or 3..c5 or playing 4..0-0 5..d6. The final position of the fourth game is just torture for Black. A computer might defend this for a while but it's difficult for a human to even look at. Since it's an exhibition I guess Karpov could have played some more moves, but after you look around for a while letting your time run out starts to feel awfully attractive. White has all sorts of moves to improve his position: f4, Bd1, Ne5, and Black can't do much of anything.

So on to the blitz! Garry declined to make any prognostications, but before the match I figured losing 2-6 would be a good result for Karpov unless he's been anonymously dominating the online blitz rating charts in his spare time. After seeing troubles in sharp positions and on the clock in the rapid, 1-7 might be optimistic. But hey, Karpov has already surprised us once. Let's hope we get some good games without too many time forfeits with plenty of play still on the board.


It's nice just to see the two K's going at it again! Make me feel 25 years younger. Wait... it's been that long?!

I have a feeling we might as well just find out the score of the blitz games after they're over, because I'm not optimistic about watching any of them live with any degree of accuracy or timeliness.

Yah, me too. Unless they have someone doing a manual relay it's pretty hopeless. Sometimes the sensory board gets lucky for an entire game, but usually it's a mess. The software has a "raw position" mode that can help, if they know how to use it. Basically it just resets after each move and transmits the position as-is without worrying about the score. That helps it recover if someone misplaces a piece on the edge of a square.

I doubt we get any decent live transmissions of blitz. Today watching the rapid had several obvious transmission errors (quickly fixed but still).

This match makes me sad, somehow. Karpov flagging in 3 games out of 4...

They named an asteroid after Karpov, I read here at the 12:30 entry http://tournaments.chessdom.com/kasparov-karpov-valencia-2009-day-3

In the 2007 World Blitz, Karpov finished near the bottom of the field, but still had wins over Grischuk (1.5 / 2), Mamedyarov (1.5), Ponomariov (1), Bacrot (2), Gelfand (1.5) and Dreev (2).

In the mid-90s we were told that Karpov was going to refashion himself as a blitz and rapid player, and I wondered at the time that this sounded ridiculous - as players age, they need more time, not less! Karpov was even then showing difficulties with the clock, and a reduction of the commitment needed to remain in the top 25. Karpov didn't become as careless, some say lazy, as Spassky, but Karpov became very inactive, and his rating plummeted when he did play. I felt bad for him, a formerly unbeatable champion finishing tournaments near the bottom.

Actually some say that rapid chess is easier for veteran players because they tend to make mistakes in classical chess in the fifth hour. They don't have the stamina for long games.

Right, good point.

Whereas in blitz, it comes in the fifth minute.

There is also something to be said for being able to play relying heavily on experience and feel, rather than hours of grinding positions down to a "best move".

It seems to me that as many great players age they have many problems to solve such as the lack of stamina, commitment and so on... however the main problem is one of of motivation. It is defined as the psychological feature that arouses one toward a desired goal. Professional chess at the top level requires such an incredible amount of work. Ironically chess at the top doesn't get easier with age and experience. What does get easier is expressing the opinion that chess is all computers, that players lack creativity and that chess is played out, solved and therefore dead. When you argue for your limitations, you own them. Then when the thrill is gone so is the motivation.

Planning to record all 8 games, so if my gear doesn't let me down we'll at least have all moves for a clean PGN at some point.

We are obviously going to need your help!

In the 2nd blitz game, Karpov again trotted out the tempo wasting ...Be7, ...Bd6 variation. But again, we witnessed Black passivity vs. White's straightforward and aggressive play. Why does Karpov continue with this nonsense?

Kasparov and Geller also advocated this nonsense, but I guess they didn't know how to play the QGD actively like you do.

vooruitgang's comment above shows great insight into human psychology (not being facetious here, I mean this straight).

The phenomenon he describes is a rather more subtle version of the excuse-making that's so enshrined in chess lore. There are ample incidents where even all-time greats like Alekhine and Steinitz made excuses for losing.

Fischer adopted the more subtle variant that vooritgang describes, with all his "Old Chess is dead..." piffle. (For the record, I view 960 as a healthy development, but not one that indicates chess is sick or in need of a "cure.")

Not too different from Karpov - and Kasparov, to a lesser(?) extent - declaring in one way or another that computers have robbed top-level chess of both beauty and fun (i.e., motivation).

Another loss on time! groan..he should have a mike fitted to his ear emitting tick tock noises which grow incrementally louder..

These games are a bit too one-sided to be much fun. If it's not time embarrassment it's quick massacre.

Okay, probably not a loss on time in game 5...

Karpov,Ana - Kasparov,G
Blitz Match Valencia ESP (6), 2009.09.24
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 c6 6.Bg5 Bf5 7.Qb3 Nbd7 8.Qxb7 Rb8 9.Qxc6 Rxb2 10.g4 Rb6 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Qa4 Bb4 13.Rc1 Be4 14.a3 Bxc3+ 15.Rxc3 Rb1+ 16.Kd2 O-O 17.Bg2 Rb2+ 18.Ke1 Nb6 19.Qc6 Nc4 20.Rxc4 Rb6 21.Qc5 dxc4 22.Kd2 Rb2+ 23.Ke3 Re8 24.g5 Rb5 25.Qxa7 Bxf3+ 26.Kxf3 Qd5+ 0-1

That's the chess equivalent of getting a bad leg cramp in the first mile of a marathon and then getting run over by a garbage truck. Not to use too much fancy jargon.

I guess it's a show for the live spectators on site, but Karpov had better get blitz taken off the menu for future matches. I was as surprised to hear about the blitz here as I was to hear he was playing in San Sebastian. In a way it's nice he doesn't care about it and that he's getting out there. Still, ouch.

Fun to see Garry go full 1.d4, btw. Didn't want to match up deep Petroff or Caro lines when he could get full-bodied positions with 1.d4.

It was nonsense for Karpov to adopt a passive defense against Kasparov.

QGD is a Karpov mainstay. Besides, GK has given his Nimzo enough beatings over the years. So, what opening do you suggest?

Yow, what a spanking. Bring on Nakamura!

If there any more nostalgic matches, I suggest Karpov should play Korchnoi, not Kasparov.

Hey, got my 6-2 on the nose! Just off by a half-point for the entire event.

Curiosity: of course this match was not rated, but going by their FIDE ratings, they both played LITERALLY exactly at their ratings (in both the rapid and blitz matches). Kasparov gains 2.5 points from a win and loses 2.5 points from a draw, which exactly corresponds to the result.

That Arpad's got some good ideas, it looks like.

Very aptly put. Nice post.

Evidently Kasparov and Karpov decided to travel light and only bring a copy of ECO D with them!

It was a delight to watch the games, when the various feeds were working. Hopefully the Paris organizers will work on improving the quality of the experience for online viewers/followers.

Anyway, I enjoyed the nostalgic event and look forward to the next one. Nice to see the two K's back at it again!

So what's the correct score of the first blitz game? Assuming 46..Rxa2+ instead of throwing the rook away. Still must be missing a move or two.

Any accurrate pgn of all 8 games? What was the final blitz score? 6-2?

Yes, 6-2. The scores of all the games except the first blitz game seem okay. Clear breakdown in the first blitz game. Apart from the obvious errors in the online score, apparently it lasted until move 64 or so.

Garry thought game three was the best of the blitz match. Of course he also liked game six ("like my old style"), though he was annoyed when I pointed out he could have played 20..dxc4 because after 21.Qxe4 Re8 is crushing. During the game he saw that 11..Rxc6 12.Bxd8 Bb4 looks good except for 13.Kd1! and "Black is in trouble." That's why he took with the g-pawn.

The blitz games are available at chessvibes. game viewer or download the pgns at the bottom.


Good find, so we shouldn't really be surprised about the result of the match - but maybe about HOW Karpov lost some of his games ... .
And if Karpov is currently overrated, as his San Sebastian result (TPR 2413) might suggest, then Kasparov would also be somewhat below his peak/retirement strength? Is it reasonable to subtract 10-20 ELO points per year of inactivity?

As I said it's just a curiosity. Predicting the exact result of a match looking at ratings is silly for more than one reason, as is similarly drawing conclusions about strengths from the result. As you suggest they are probably both "overrated". But of course 9-3 wasn't a huge surprise regardless of ratings, although I refrained from making any predictions myself.

Oh, it WAS that good. Seems Karpov was even WINNING when he lost on time in game 4. Tragic. I think someone at the scene said Kasparov was down to 5 seconds.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 23, 2009 5:38 PM.

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