04 April 2012

Kasparov Comments - Part 1

A few days ago, Chessbase ran an interview Tkachiev had with Kramnik. In the interview, Kramnik reviewed his epic 2008 World Championship Match with Anand. His praise for Anand brought back good memories for me as I had followed that match closely, and followed the active dicussions at the Daily Dirt Chess Blog.

The Daily Dirt Chess Blog was the most active, by far, discussion site in the internet chess world. The blog is run by Michael Greengard, popular known as ‘Mig’, who doesn’t need much introduction to fans of great chess writing. The regulars at that blog are pretty knowledgeable chess people and loves a good banter. Good, insightful comments are appreciated, on the strength of what is being said rather than ‘who’ the commentator is.

I occasionally visit that blog in years past, mainly lurking around. I do not participate primarily because the topics discussed usually hold no interest for me. I think I have only commented a few times, once when China’s ascendancy in the chess world was being discussed, and another as described below.

Post Game 8 - World Championship Match 2008
Anand and Kramnik had just drawn their Game 8 game, with Anand now leading 5.5-2.5. You see, Mig and most of the commentators on Mig's blog were rooting for Kramnik. Anand fans were a minority. The pro-Kramnik commentators had been, since after Game 5, saying how Anand was winning because Kramnik was playing badly, off-form, not at his peak, etc. They were insinuating that the y2k version of Kramnik (yes, the one that beat Kasparov in the World Championship Match) would have thrash Anand, and so on. To Anand fans, the Kramnik fans were downplaying, and not appreciating, Anand’s excellent play.

Things got so bad for Anand fans, of which I was one, that I decided to intervene with a post (or long comment) to give my perspective of the 2000 match. My comment went as follows:

Post Game 8 Comment
I had the impression that Kramnik caught Kasparov at a bad time in 2000. I saw it much more as an ill-prepared Kasparov losing rather than an excellent Kramnik winning.

Kasparov was at his peak in the 1990s when he was building his rating towards 2851. This meant he had to be consistently operating above 2850. However, by the time of the 2000 match with Kramnik, other distractions and guilt was already preying on Kasparov’s mind or conscience arising from, inter alia -
1)  Certain quarters calling into question the legitimacy of his continuing hold on the World Champion Title considering the lack of a title defence after more than 3 years;
2)  His inability to find a sponsor for a World Championship match with Shirov;
3)  The fact that Shirov was not paid for his match with Kramnik that was supposed to be a qualifier for a World Championship match with Kasparov;
4)  His guilt over his decision to split with FIDE contributing to the chaotic situation surrounding the World Champion Title;
5)  The failure of his PCA body which he had banked on as a continuing platform for an alternative (to FIDE) World Championship Cycle;
6)  His heavy involvement in arranging the World Championship match with Kramnik which must have been a great drain on Kasparov’s energy and adversely impacting any technical preparation for the actual match; and lastly but not least
7)  His increasing involvement with Russian opposition politics.
Kasparov’s rating had plateaued by then and was starting to drop at the turn of the century. Arguably, the dropping rating meant that he was operating at below 2850.

Kramnik did not display anything really special in his match with Kasparov. To paraphrase Mig, Kramnik greatest achievement seeming only to be remaining unbeaten against Kasparov over 16 consecutive games. Of course, winning 2 Whites in the process.
Furthermore, I do not recall anything of the combative, enterprising chess or sacrificial play that Kasparov was famous for, in that match, or even any discussion in this respect. To my mind, it was really all about a low-energy Kasparov losing to a very solid Kramnik who was well-prepared to just set up a barricade and who managed to take advantage of two moments of weaknesses in Kasparov’s play. In soccer parlance, Kramnik’s match strategy was just to park a bus in front of goal and hope to score a lucky goal in a counter-attack. Well, whaddayuknow, it worked.

Post-match, Kasparov was too big (or too proud) a man to give any extraneous excuses for his loss. He readily acknowledged that Kramnik played better in the match (which of course is undeniable as the score shows) and thus deserved his victory.
All Kasparov then asked of Kramnik was a rematch. That he (Kramnik) gives him (Kasparov) the same opportunity that he (Kasparov) had given him (Kramnik) for a World Title Match without having to go through any qualification cycle.”

I was happy that my comment was appreciated as in the response below:

“Why so much hate towards Kramnik guys? edfong makes sense but some of the other posts are just rediculous. Looks like this is a chance for some people to settle some personal grudges. ”

(To understand this comment  by iampc (about hating Kramnik), a number of Anand fans had taken to attacking Kramnik instead of just praising Anand. I believe my comment returned some civility to the discussions. At the end of the day, it is just all banter and we should just move on.)

Kasparov Comments
What thrilled me most was, however, that Kasparov himself  actually commented on  my above comment after the Kramnik-Anand match was over.  He gave his side of the story of what happened regarding his 2000 match with Kramnik, addressing some points raised in my above comments. Mind you, I was the only one who brought up these matters during that time so Kasparov had to be addressing my comment.

It is not often that you have the best player in the history of chess actually taking note of what you had to say, and actually responding, even though indirectly. A moment to treasure for me.

I was searching for the posting in Mig’s archives this morning for Kasparov’s comments which I recalled, were posted a week or two after the Kramnik-Anand match ended.  I couldn’t find that post in Mig’s Archive anymore. For some reason, it was taken down.

(Note: This post is primarily to archive one of my previous writings and also a memoir)

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