Chess Base, Germany
April 5 2005
The Garry Kasparov Interview, Part 1
05.04.2005 This is the one you’ve been waiting for. Actually, the
three you’ve been waiting for. Our epic post-retirement interview
with Garry Kasparov covers his best games, the future of chess,
retirement plans, Kramnik, Karpov, Deep Blue, computers, and much,
much more. And of course there are plenty of fantastic photos.
The Garry Kasparov ChessBase Interview, Part 1
New York City, the week of March 20, 2005.
Mig Greengard spent the week with Garry Kasparov and kept his new
digital recorder handy. After that came the typing up 20 pages of
transcript! (Yes, twenty.) Some of the questions were posed by New
York Times writer Dylan Loeb McClain, who also happens to be a strong
chessplayer. His NY Times article on Kasparov appeared on March 26.
This first part includes retirement, computers and Deep Blue, and a
look at Kasparov’s own chess and other chessplayers. Part 2 includes
Kasparov’s picks for his best games and career achievements, a look
back, and the future of professional chess. Part 3 focuses on his
political ideas and aspirations.
Kasparov with a print-out we gave him of comments from fans.
Why retire now? Many players have continued to have success later in
What is success? Winning occasionally isn’t the thing, it’s about
being on top for twenty years. It’s about my nature, making a
difference. I’ve done enough, more than I could have imagined, in the
world of chess. Now I want to do other things. I want to have a
target, to do things that excite me. I want to be able to employ my
talents and experience.
Could you face the thought of declining in the chess world?
I don’t think it’s too arrogant to say I could have stayed on top for
three or four more years. I think that’s fair to say, but there are
other important things and the time is right. There is a crisis in
Russia, there are books I want to write and promote. It’s important
for me to tell people that chess can be a tool for improving the
decision-making process with my book. It’s important to help the
Russian people reclaim democracy. These things are more important.
Unless I feel that my presence makes a big difference, I can’t excite
myself enough to continue giving 100% to chess anymore.
If the situation were different, if there were a possibility to play
for the world championship, would you have stayed?
IF the situation were different, IF the Putin regime were more
stable, IF How Life Imitates Chess could be postponed for another
year… There are too many `ifs’ and all of these things are
happening at the same time. It’s like as strange coincidence, all of
them happening at once. It’s not a decision you make overnight. You
don’t wake up in the morning and think `Ah, bingo, it’s over!’ No,
the frustration builds, opportunities come up. You analyze all the
factors. They all pointed for me to change my life.
It started with the frustration about the general situation around
the world of chess, that’s number one. Also I’m playing a more active
role in Russian politics. To my surprise I was elected chairman of
the Committee 2008 Free Choice in January last year. It keeps adding
up. Then the work with the books. I’m extending My Great Predecessors
from six volumes to ten. All these things add up.
How will things be different day to day now that you aren’t playing
In some ways it will be tougher to plan my life, so in a way I’m
busier. Russian political life is hectic, mostly without a fixed
Where would you rank yourself all-time?
I don’t like this question in general, it’s too subjective. By most
standards, number one because of the length of my high performance
and the strength of the opposition. The greatest gap between the
number one and the rest was Bobby Fischer in 1972, but that was just
one or two years and then came Karpov. I was able to keep up with the
new generation and beat them. I was able to stay on the cutting edge,
stay on top of the ranking for twenty years. I would say that
entitles me to be number one.
Who replaces you?
[Shrugs] I don’t know, it’s not my problem anymore! I have the
t-shirt Mig gave me that says, `I’m retired, do it yourself!’
What about Kramnik? He has your title, but…
I don’t know if you can say it’s my title. In 2000 my title had value
because I was the best in the world. In my book, Kramnik’s title
expired no later than 2002. He had to defend his title and did not.
More importantly, I won a few tournaments in a row in 2001 and he
failed to perform at the highest level, to prove he was the best in
the world. This meant expiration by higher standards.
He didn’t beat an official world champion, the match wasn’t
sanctioned by FIDE or anyone. He won a match against the strongest
player in the world, and that gave him an opportunity to continue to
prove he was the best. Without doing this, he needed to win a rematch
or a number of victories that could prove his dominance. He failed to
Isn’t that unfair to Kramnik? It was your doing it wasn’t under FIDE,
I don’t think `unfair’ is the correct word regarding Kramnik. It was
unfair to Shirov that he didn’t play the match, that’s important.
Kramnik didn’t qualify at all, he lost to Shirov [in 1998]. He was
lucky Anand refused to play and then I made a choice, under some
pressure from the British organizers, to pick Kramnik. They knew a
match with Shirov would be a massacre.
So Kramnik was selected because he was next on the list and had a
good score against me, with real chances of winning. It’s amazing to
remember Kramnik’s comments when he was selected and Shirov was
complaining. Kramnik said, `How can you judge the strength of the
players based on a match between them two years ago?’ Which is what
I’m saying now!
I never said my loss to Kramnik was an accident, and won’t. If you
look at our results before and after the match it looks that way, but
he won fair and square. He was better prepared and he did something
good for chess. He moved the game forward; he had some great ideas
that enriched our understanding of chess.
The problem is that from a wider perspective, looking at our later
results, it was an anomaly. So either he needed to play a rematch,
and if he beats me again then that’s it, he’s made the point and
shown it wasn’t a fluke. Or he can win tournaments, take the #1
rating spot, something to establish his dominance. He failed to win
tournaments and he avoided the rematch. So his title lost value
because if you’re fighting FIDE you have to present yourself as the
best player in the world. Unless you are best player in the world, it
doesn’t work without a system.
The rationale of the 2000 match was simple: number one versus number
two in the world. Kramnik was arguably number two then, but anyway
Anand didn’t want to play and Kramnik had a better score against me
and had good results in 2000. It was number one versus number two,
that’s the only real rationale to play a match outside of FIDE,
without a system. But later you had number two doing absolutely
everything to avoid playing number one.
After Astana in 2001, where I beat Kramnik in the last round to win
the tournament, I got a phone call from a friend who is a big chess
supporter. He asked, `so when is the rematch? I would like to make a
donation. It’s very clear now, you’ve won three tournaments in a row
after losing in London and you’ve beaten him now. He has to give you
New York Times writer Dylan Loeb McClain.
Did you actually call Kramnik, talk to him about a rematch?
Not directly, but through our representatives. He made it very clear
in public interviews that he was interested in `fair qualification,’
which is quite amazing coming from someone who lost every
qualification match in his life and got to play in 2000 anyway! His
statements were weak, and then he did everything to make sure there
wasn’t a fair qualification.
The tournament in Dortmund didn’t have the status as qualifier. They
had no guarantees for the final match at all. They sent me an note
asking if I’d like to play. My manager wrote back asking, `where is
the two million dollars for the final match, what are the rules for
the final match if he wins, etc. Send us a formal invitation.’
Nothing, no formal offer. So it was `would you like to play in a
tournament that, IF you win, you MAY play Kramnik, IF money is
available.’ Very nice.
Do you still speak to Kramnik?
Sure, why not? But I said it after the match in London that he would
make it his goal in life never to play Garry Kasparov again. He wants
to go down as the only player to have beaten me in a match, period.
He has no other interests.
How about Anand?
He’ll be the number one on the list after I retire. After him, it
will belong to the younger players. You have the teenagers, Karjakin,
Carlsen, Nakamura. The new generation is growing up fast. Anand is
36! When we were at the closing ceremony in Linares, I told him, `I’m
out, now you’re the oldest! You’re the dinosaur now!’
You can come back, you can play again. Michael Jordan famously came
Anand asked me if I was sure, if I wasn’t going to come back in six
months. I said that I’m not going to quit completely. I’m following
the games, doing some analysis, renewing my database, keeping my mind
fresh. And also I’m writing books, so I have to work with the
computer. I can play exhibition games, rapid games, just not
Can I imagine that in six months, twelve months, I wake up and go,
`oh my God, I can’t live without it’? I don’t think so, but I can’t
guess. I made a serious statement and it’s not a game. I’m not going
to sit and wait on the sidelines until people come up with millions
of dollars to lure me back into chess, that’s not the plan. I made a
serious decision to change the direction of my life and it’s a
transition. I have no intention whatsoever to play any more
competitive chess. Seriously.
I don’t know about how Jordan felt. He probably meant it at the time.
I have other things to do now. I have a huge program, with My Great
Predecessors, How Life Imitates Chess, promoting the books, Russian
politics, family, it will consume all my time.
I also have these DVDs to work on. [Points at the box, which is the
American version.] They have a lot of general teaching, plus a lot of
games attached. All the relevant games, and why they are the most
relevant. It’s like a guide, so you can get through this jungle of
variations. For average players, even for advanced players, the
number of variations are overwhelming now, it’s depressing. But you
can help yourself by going over the most relevant and instructive
lines. They’ve already been quite successful, at least for chess
software, and they haven’t started selling them in stores in America
I didn’t work on it before for reasons of both time and technology.
All the factors came together. I don’t think I’m giving away too many
secrets, but my state of mind has changed. I’m working on My Great
Predecessors, I’m making lessons, thinking more about sharing my
experiences and knowledge.
How Life Imitates Chess is similar, but with a much wider audience,
on a broader level. I’m trying to share my ideas, to analyze the
nature of the decision-making process, to help people find their
strengths and weaknesses, to find their own formula for success. One
prefers intuition, another more hard data, to analyze how these
formulas work and how they can be customized.
Even those things might not take so long. You’re only 41.
I don’t know! I still think I’ll feel more comfortable sharing my
ideas. I don’t know how I can help, how I can make a difference, but
I’ll find a way. Writing books, playing a role in Russia, those are
the first steps in this transition. But I’ll still be in chess. I’ll
be delighted to help promote the game, work with chess in schools and
achieve goals there.
What about the Kasparov Chess Foundation?
The original goal was to design a curriculum for chess in schools, a
unified program. That’s still our top priority. I always thought it
would be important to have a system to teach teachers to teach chess.
Manuals to help teachers present the game of chess. Not to just teach
the game, but to do it in a way that will help kids improve their
performance in every aspect. The quality of the teaching is the
How chess gets there, I don’t mind. If someone else has a program,
great. If someone takes ours and uses it, fine. As long as it
happens. Our school project is still the number one priority. There
are other things, such as our experiment working with the US women’s
team last year. We don’t want to continue because we think it’s not
exactly our turf, but we can help finding sponsorship. We got money
from one of our sponsors, and it was all financed by us, but at the
end of the day we decided our foundation is not here to finance
professional chess or professional teams. But at the same time we’ll
help them find sponsorship. Oh, and we also established an all-girls
championship in Chicago, the next will be the second one.
The project we are going to start this year is to make a version of
what we called the Botvinnik/Kasparov school in the USSR. To have
sessions with talented kids, to nurse them along and improve their
chessplaying qualities. It’s something we are tentatively calling
Team 2010. To help talented kids, and there are many here in America
now who could use our assistance.
Do you know anything about Karpov’s activities in Lindsborg, Kansas?
I don’t know much about it, but I’m delighted. I’m not here to
compete with him or anyone else. If he is supporting chess there,
How would you like to be remembered?
Well, my usual reply to this is that I would like to be remembered!
Everyone will have different memories. I was quite thrilled to read
the different letters to me from chess fans around the world. It
makes me happy, because if anything goes wrong at least I’ll be
remembered as a very good chessplayer who did a great deal for chess.
In 20 or 30 years, I don’t know. I just hope I’ll have made a
difference. I don’t know if my views will help people see the big
picture. But if I’m any help, I’ll be very happy I achieved something
outside of chess.
COMPUTERS, THE GARRYBASE, AND DEEP YOU-KNOW-WHAT
[Now we’re checking the Melody Amber games and results online. Later
he looks up the opening of Kramnik-Shirov in a ChessBase file with
exactly 16,729 variations. More on the Garrybase here.]
Ah, Anand beat Topalov today. 2-0! He’s inspired now! Topalov can’t
recover from Linares, it seems. He used up all his luck in Linares!
Against Adams he got a point and a half from two lost games. Adams
played quite well in Linares, he tried hard. He beat Anand with black
and was winning against Topalov with black and white.
If we played the tournament again I think I would score +4 again, but
Topalov, I’m not so sure. But he deserved it, because he had plenty
of energy and pushed to the last pawn and made his own luck. Now we
see chess is compensating him for it in Monaco.
If you look at the tendencies in chess today, you see the positions
that are being played. Slow Spanish games, lines where the machine
can’t make such a difference. Either you have to work very hard like
I did with the Najdorf, or you have to find safer lines. Very sharp
lines are slipping out of the mainstream because people are getting
scared. That’s due to computers and the limits of human memory.
Nobody wants to be surprised at an early stage and lose a game to the
superior analysis of their opponent. So the machines have a direct
effect on our analysis, but also on the psychological choices of the
How will how you play in the future be different? What does it mean
not to be a professional?
Competitive means to work hard, updating your repertoire, preparing
for each game. You’re a professional, you play to win and can’t miss
anything. Rapid chess for entertainment doesn’t require the same
determination and involvement. Playing blitz on the internet doesn’t
Did the match with Deep Blue change the perception of chess?
It was a sad day for chess. Scientifically speaking, the match was a
fake. IBM produced no evidence that it wasn’t and the burden of
evidence was with them. If I say there was human intervention they
needed to prove with printouts or reproducing the moves to show that
there wasn’t. Okay, I’m not asking for damages or anything, it’s
about providing information. Without full printouts of all the games
you can’t operate on a scientific basis.
Can I prove it? No. What I can prove is that Deep Junior and Deep
Fritz do better in analyzing those games. I don’t have anything more
than those six games against Deep Blue. But I can put those games
into modern software. For instance, in game four against Deep Blue,
according to them it didn’t see any danger of losing. Deep Junior
shows I was winning. This is one of the examples that show today’s
machines are much better. They are more sophisticated and offer
better moves. Deep Junior and Deep Fritz do better than Deep Blue at
every instance except where I suspected there was human intervention.
At the end of the day it’s not about me losing. I did what I could
and I’m retiring as a happy man. Back in 1997 there was no interest
in the media in pursuing the possibility of IBM cheating. Nowadays,
after Enron and Worldcom, the perception of big corporations is
different and things would probably have been different in the media.
IBM had a powerful PR machine, they bought a lot of advertising.
Maybe I’m paranoid, but there were some good claims about how IBM
failed to provide evidence. You beat the best human player, fine, but
now show the evidence. Show the process, the printouts, show the
entire process, play a few more games. They failed to answer all the
questions and at the final press conference they said they would
release everything in due course and they never did it.
I say it’s a tragedy for chess because the game was marred by this
image of the computer beating the best human player. While maybe it
was a computer and maybe it wasn’t, nobody knows. `I say, they say’
has no place in science. They had to provide evidence, not just PR.
I’m still angry about it because chess suffered dramatically. No more
corporations wanted to invest money into research. Three or four
years later we have the small programs doing a good job.
The irony is that the matches with me and the computers, and Kramnik
against Deep Fritz, those were real matches. You can trace those
programs from the day of their birth. They have played thousands of
games against other computers hundreds against humans, and you can
see the changes from version one to version nine. With Deep Blue you
have no information. It was like being in court and the prosecution
says, `you are too stupid to understand the evidence.’ I feel I was
beaten by IBM, not by Deep Blue. They dismantled the machine, the
program, everything. If you have something outstanding your share it,
you don’t hide it. You apply for a Nobel Prize. Why didn’t they?
Did you ever talk to Joel Benjamin about it?
No, why? I think he lied on a number of occasions. But it’s not about
talking to anyone, it’s about showing evidence. Show me the printouts
of all the games, don’t tell me we can’t understand them or they are
too complicated. We have enough scientists to figure it out. I don’t
want to debate anyone.
I don’t feel that computers are better than the top humans today. I
drew those two matches [against Deep Fritz and Deep Junior], I failed
to deliver, but I was very close. I feel we are still capable of
beating the machines. But as I’ve often said, the experiment is
whether or not the best human player can beat the machine on his best
day, that’s it. We don’t have to play a long match. You can’t
guarantee best performance on every day. Under those conditions, the
man versus machine experiment can continue for a long time. The day
when that can’t happen is a long way away. Machines that are
demonstrably better than Deep Blue are not yet superior to human
HIM AND THEM, THEN AND NOW
Will anyone else do what you have done in chess?
Ratings and even rating systems can change. It’s about staying at the
top, being ahead of the rest. Chess is changing fast. I don’t know if
anyone will be able to keep the top spot for more than five years.
That would already be a great accomplishment.
How’s your physical condition at the end of your chess career?
My lowest weight in the past 20 years was probably 82 kg [180 lbs.]
and the heaviest was maybe 87 kg. Now I’m about in the middle, so it
really hasn’t changed much. I’m a little thicker in the shoulders
because I started working out more in the 90’s. But overall in the
last ten years there hasn’t been much fluctuation.
I’m getting back to my training regimen now, I’m going to spend more
time on that. My best period was 99-2000, when I had phenomenal
results in training. My personal best was 102 push-ups. Then it
slipped, I didn’t spend the same amount of time. In the next six
months I’m really going to improve dramatically, if not reach the
same level as then.
Did you notice a difference in the way you played over the past 20
You can’t stay on top unless you change. You have to adjust. It’s a
natural process. You work a lot and you change. It’s not about
concentration, it’s more that your head is being overloaded with
other pieces of information and responsibilities. You have kids, you
have businesses, you can’t fix your mind in one direction. There are
always bits and pieces that are taking your mind from the target.
Would the Kasparov of today beat the Kasparov of `86?
Hard to tell! I would say my best year was `99-2000. `Kasparov `99′
was probably the best player I have ever been. `99 was the highest
quality I ever played. It’s not frustrating to me to leave this
behind, not being the best anymore now that I’m not in chess. I’m not
naïve, I know there is little chance I can achieve anything elsewhere
at the level of what I achieved in chess.
Kasimdzhanov played great in Libya last year, but looked outclassed
in Linares. What is the difference and how can a player like Bologan,
rated around the same as Kasimdzhanov, suddenly win Dortmund ahead of
Leko, Kramnik, and Anand?
I don’t know, but it’s interesting that prior to Dortmund Bologan
spent two months working with me analyzing and playing blitz games as
part of my preparation for my match with Ponomariov. Perhaps that had
something to do with his confidence in Dortmund! I called him up,
asked if he would be comfortable with that, because he used to work
with Ponomariov. I told him he should call Ponomariov first to inform
him. This was before the match that was scheduled for Argentina, in
the spring of 2003. It couldn’t have hurt his performance in
But Bologan is more solid than Kasimdzhanov. He’s well grounded, had
good coaches like Chebanenko, later Lanka and Dvoretsky. In fact, I
wrote an introduction to Bologan’s book, which is coming out. It’s a
nice, impressive book because this guy is a hard worker, he likes to
analyze games. Many players don’t like to analyze, to work, these
days. He’s searching for the truth and has a lot of positive
How does a player like him not become a top-10 player?
They have great qualities, but if there is something missing it
doesn’t work. Maybe confidence, maybe stability or character issues.
There are always gaps that prevent people from going further. But
these guys are good for making a big show sometimes. Look at
Kasimdzhanov, winning Libya and not by accident. Surviving against
Ivanchuk, Topalov, Grischuk, Adams, incredible! Bologan is different
perhaps because he knows the strength of the top players, he has
worked with a lot of the top guys like Kramnik and me.
Will there ever be another `total’ player of the type produced by the
All the components still exist and they can be reconstructed easily.
Look at the success of the US women’s team last year. Michael
Khodarkovsky reconstructed the conditions of the USSR training. He
built up a Soviet system, and look who worked with the team:
Kaidanov, Gulko, Novikov, Stripunsky, Chernin… old school. If money
is available to support these conditions it can be done. If the money
is there to support Carlsen, for example, it could happen.
Mig Greengard gets some cake with the interview.
Have we seen the best chess we will ever see already? Forget
adjournments, which artificially inflated the quality of endgames,
but with the faster controls and less emphasis on quality, is it all
downhill from here?
Well, I’m probably biased, but I think we have seen the best already.
The time controls and emphasis on the sporting element are lowering
the quality. The sport element now dominates the art and science
elements of chess. I think we saw the best quality of chess in the
80’s and 90’s.
In terms of matches, I think my matches with Karpov had the highest
quality, or not exactly quality… the biggest impact on the game of
chess. Quality you can argue, but there were amazing games played by
both of us. By impact I mean pushing the game ahead. The
Kasparov-Karpov matches, and I will argue this in My Great
Predecessors Volume VI, were the foundations of modern chess. All
these players grew up on these matches, that’s how the framework of
modern chess was created.
The word `karkas’ in Russian makes a good joke about this. It means
something like the internal structure of a building, the frame. Once
Roshal said that `Karpov and Kasparov are the `karkas’ of the Russian
team. `Kar-pov’ and `Kas-parov,’ `Kar-Kas.’ I think that these
matches were the `karkas’ of modern chess. It pushed it up a level,
to many new levels.
Today, the conditions for training can be reproduced. There are may
players and trainers from that school still around. One of the
projects of the Kasparov Chess Foundation is to work with young
American player in this way. If we have the finances we can ignite
this process here, restoring a Botvinnik/Kasparov school. It can be
done anywhere in the world. The talent is there, and computers can
help. But it’s about someone showing an interest.
But in the US you don’t have much of a career path for a chess
professional. You have to go to school and get a job unless you’re
good enough to make a living at it very young.
You have to look even beyond Nakamura for this, it’s a new era. I
don’t want to upset my colleagues, my older colleagues, but I think
the future of chess comes with these teenagers, not the players
currently at the top. Nakamura, Carlsen, Karjakin. It’s not just
changing politics or changing FIDE. It’s changing the philosophy of
the chess elite. It was dominated for too long by Soviet thoughts.
`Oh, we are professionals but we aren’t really. We just move the
pieces and don’t worry about any obligations.’ There was no
solidarity or shared responsibility for the game.
Now I’m in a good position. They criticized me for being an activist,
now I can criticize them without being part of the debate! There is a
general apathy of the top players for the game. They were all busy
watching me, what I was doing, and their horizon was covered up by
this, this rock. Now it’s gone, the sky is clear, so let’s see what
they can do. Do it yourself! They’ve been talking big, now we’ll see.
Look at the ACP, what have they done? The PCA was money first and
successful by any standard until it was killed by brutal attacks from
all sides. Now they have this ACP tour with no conditions, no
nothing. I believe we need sweeping changes, young players and new
faces with new attitudes, players who are real professionals.
Take those three names: Nakamura, Carlsen, Karjakin. I hope those
three can start a new era. They have energy and passion and come from
different, important areas of the chess world.
You mentioned before that you might be working on setting up training
Yeah, we might work with him. This is part of the Kasparov Chess
Academy that we have here and in Russia. I’m happy to work and to
share my experience because I want to promote chess. I’m ready to
mobilize people here and in Russia if there is support for them. If
the Norwegians support Carlsen I’m happy to work with him. We have a
lot of experience, and a good database! And I want to invest all this
into the future of chess.
You need a combined change, on the players’ side and the organization
side. FIDE in its current form is definitely not capable of solving
the problem. And the leading players have a long record of abandoning
the game of chess. You need different people in FIDE and a different
type of professional organization, not just a bunch of Kramnik’s
friends. And you need some new faces, like the three we already
discussed. I see my job as trying to promote this and make sure
interest in chess doesn’t disappear.
Parts 2 and 3 will appear in the coming days.
Chess Base, Germany
April 5 2005
The Garry Kasparov Interview, Part 2
14.04.2005 In the second installment of our epic interview with the
world’s highest-rated chess retiree, we discuss Kasparov’s picks for
his best games, tournaments, and years, his legendary opening
preparation, chess evolution over the decades, and the past and
future of chess and the championship. And what about Fischer?
The Garry Kasparov ChessBase Interview, Part 2
New York City, the week of March 20, 2005 – Mig Greengard spent the
week with Garry Kasparov and kept his new digital recorder handy.
After that came the typing up 20 pages of transcript! (Yes, twenty.)
Part 1 included retirement, computers and Deep Blue, and a look at
Kasparov’s own chess and other chessplayers. This Part 2 includes
Kasparov’s picks for his best games and career achievements, a look
back, and the future of professional chess. Part 3 will focus on his
political ideas and aspirations.
BEST OF THE BEST
If you could pick five of your games for the only chess book that is
going to be preserved…
It’s actually going to be quite a problem for me to collect my best
games. Even by my judgment there are many that qualify at the highest
standards. Let’s see, games 16 and 24 from Moscow, game 24 from
Seville, Korchnoi `82 in Lucerne, and the Topalov game. But then
you’re missing game 22 St. Petersburg with Nd7, the sealed move.
Okay, so those would five good and memorable ones. But really game 24
from the Seville match wasn’t a great game. So maybe cut that one and
I’d take Anand, game ten of the  New York world championship
What criteria are you using?
The Seville game would be just as a sort of heroic accomplishment.
Korchnoi was sort of a world recognition game. Games 16 and 24 from
Moscow were great ideas and important games. Also, the decisive game
of the match and a great novelty. Topalov, probably best combination
By pure chess standards it would be the two with Karpov, 16 and 24.
The Anand and Topalov games, and… hmm… I would add to this list,
the Astana game against Kramnik, the Berlin Wall with e6. Runner-ups
would be the Seville and Korchnoi games. But I had a problem making a
list of thirteen best games! I had modest aspirations of having
thirteen `best of the best’ games.
But in volumes nine and ten of my works [that include My Great
Predecessors], I think will include over 250 of my best games. I
don’t think it will be too hard to collect that many, honestly.
Game 16 vs Karpov in 1986 and vs Topalov at Corus, 1999
Replay and download Kasparov’s best of the best from the MegaBase.
Do you distinguish between games with great preparation and games
with great over-the-board inspiration? I know many fans are quick
almost dismiss games with brilliant novelties because they were
prepared at home.
This is a sort of myth, really. I don’t have that many of these,
although of course I prepared a lot. I don’t think in my matches with
Karpov that I outplayed him in the openings. Karpov probably had more
openings that influenced the course of the matches than I did.
How about the Anand game 10 novelty?
It was a great idea to sacrifice the rook; it came to me while I was
walking in Battery Park [NYC]. It’s part of history, an amazing game
that influenced chess. In the Anand game, nowadays the machine would
go through it in a second. Computers were too weak back then. But
what the machine showed then was 19.Bh6!
At the World Trade Center in 1995.
Doesn’t it cheapen things nowadays that computers are so strong and
contribute so many novelties? When a game ends the first thing
everyone wants to know is how much of it was preparation.
Anand told me a funny story that in 1982 they were studying the game
Kasparov-Korchnoi from Lucerne, 1982. He said they were amazed,
Anand’s word. (Maybe he was more relaxed after my retirement!) He
said someone said, `maybe it was all preparation!’ But come on, this
is part of the myth.
Well, there is some truth to this myth, no? How about your game with
black against Kramnik at Linares, 1999? All the computers were at +3
for Kramnik, he’s crashing through the center, it looks doomed. Then
you play the king lift, the rook comes down, sacrifices itself and
it’s a draw. You’d both looked at it in preparation, but you’d gone
further, despite the computer’s evaluation. That was 35 moves of
Well, at +3 sometimes the game is over, but there are situations…
It’s about your nose, you think you need to wait a bit, look a little
Game 10 vs Anand in 1995 and the draw vs Kramnik at Linares, 1999
What will you do with all the analysis you accumulated?
I won’t sell it, I may share it with some players if it’s
appropriate. It won’t be wasted, for sure. But I’ll keep renewing it,
I have to keep my brain fresh. I’ve been watching the Melody Amber
tournament and it was quite funny, the game Anand-Shirov, in the
Petroff. Anand beat him in the blindfold. It was this idea, taking
with the rook on e5. When we played in Linares, I played 22.Ne5 and
offered him a draw. That gave me the trophy, so it was hard to play
After the game I said to Vishy that if I take with the rook instead
of the bishop it could be interesting. The knight goes to g6, not f5,
and then I exchange the rooks, you control the e-file but the bishop
on g3 is well located and you have some problems locating your
pieces. Anand played Shirov and used it and it worked perfectly!
Okay, time to look back, although maybe it’s still a little early.
What regrets do you have?
1993, definitely. That was a mistake. Even though FIDE was corrupt,
the best way to proceed was to negotiate with them. What we tried to
do in 1995 from a position of weakness was different. There were
enemies who didn’t want me back by then. In 1993 I could have
negotiated from the position of undisputed world champion. It was
complicated by the fact that Nigel was very suspicious and Ray Keene
wanted to do anything to destroy relations with FIDE. I was also
pressed by the crisis in the Russian chess federation. So it was a
I was so frustrated with FIDE, and my mistake was thinking that Nigel
could carry the support of the western players. I still had images of
[the GMA meeting in] Murcia, when there was a split between East and
West. I thought we could build something, opposing FIDE and having
corporate sponsors. In fact we had corporate sponsors, that’s the
irony. We had sponsors but no western players supported us! Everybody
just played to make money but without supporting us. [Much more on
How different is the game now from when you found it?
It’s a brand new game, a new world. When I started out, the Informant
was the greatest collection of games, the most valuable thing,
especially in the USSR where there were few books available. Today,
PING!, one mouse click and it’s all there. And we had adjournments,
so much analysis. We analyzed games and had to learn so much on our
own. Now it’s all there for you.
Now information doesn’t belong to anyone, not for long. You don’t
have to collect bits of information on note cards. Unfortunately,
moving from place to place I lost all my old stuff in my own hand
from the early and mid-70’s. We had a few books and we had to pick
out the valuable games by our own evaluation. Now you have Garry
Kasparov on DVD, telling you how to play the Queen’s Gambit Declined,
can you imagine? Back then when Botvinnik told us any little thing we
would contemplate it for ten minutes! Now everything is on the
computer. Your analysis, your research. And you can play on the
computer now, go right over there and play on the internet.
How about the politics back then?
Chess was not just corrupt, it was a game that belonged to the domain
of the Soviet Union. It was a Communist-controlled game. The best
players all came from that part of the world and the Soviet influence
was so strong that it reproduced its cronyism. FIDE politics was
rotten, always rotten. It didn’t work on normal professional terms,
with commercial sponsorship, advertising, events in big cities. It
all stayed within this political domain.
That’s why the biggest events in chess were political events.
Fischer-Spassky, political. Karpov-Fischer, well, it didn’t happen,
but was also political. Karpov-Korchnoi, political. Why were my
matches with Karpov successful? Because they were political.
February, 1985 made these events highly political. Selling only
politics one day had to backfire on us. When there were no more
politics to sell, there was nothing. The last one was Nigel against
me in London, but it was more contrived.
And what do we have now? No business. My attempts to change the rules
failed, and I didn’t have much support. I spoke to many leading
players at the time and no one wanted to come on board. I explained
that we’d be in trouble, that we needed commercial sponsors and that
they need a total package, a calendar, conditions. Ten years after
Intel left chess we’re still at square one. Not even there, we’re off
I was bankable because I was a professional. People could see I was a
professional and I promoted the game of chess. I was not part of this
political system. I was ready to communicate and I was the best for a
long time so I could establish a brand.
Then are we going to see a negative impact from your exit? Will prize
Where? They can’t drop any further! Look at the Linares Open. It was
a very strong event five years ago. We had many Grandmaster of the
category of Beliavsky. Now, nobody, barely any 2600 players.
A winning team. Analyst Yuri Dokhoian and Garry’s mother, Klara
Tiger Woods recently said he would retire when his best wasn’t good
My problem was that my best was always enough to be the best! Maybe
now that I’m gone the rest will be inspired to a new level. I was
part of the debate and now maybe they can concentrate on the game and
do something different. They always complained that I was there, and
now Peter Svidler even said in public, `The big ego was among us, now
without him we can negotiate.’ Okay, fine, now it’s your turn to do
something. I made money from chess but I brought money into chess,
much more than I made myself. Now it’s up to them.
In My Great Predecessors you write about the evolution of chess over
the decades. As with evolution in nature it’s hard to see up close.
When you look at the top few players, the top five or ten, do they
play at the level you and Karpov were playing at in the early 1980’s?
Has there been an increase in sophistication and quality?
There is increasing sophistication, but as for quality… When I
played Karpov there were two of us well ahead of the rest. Today, can
you say Anand is so much better than Leko? You have Anand, Kramnik,
Leko, Mickey, Topalov…
Okay, but are they better than you and Karpov were in 1983?
Technically speaking, better because every new generation is better
than the previous generation.
But is the quality of the chess in the middlegame now better than 20
years ago? Openings are another matter. Any GM today could,
technically, play better in the opening than you did then because of
I think the quality of the chess we played in Leningrad in 1986 was
phenomenally high. I don’t think today’s players could beat that. In
my view that was the best match we played and I don’t think they will
ever reach it.
Today’s players know more even in the middlegame positions because
they learned from us, but in terms of the decision-making processing
in ’86, no way. I think of the great events I played in ’89, Tilburg,
Belgrade, the first half of Linares 1990, before I lost to Gulko.
That was very high quality. And of course 1999. I think that was
probably my best year. The quality of my decision-making and energy,
I think it was the highest ever in the history of chess. Wijk aan
Zee, Linares… I was well ahead of the rest with new ideas, and with
more determination. I think my all-time peak was in Frankfurt, 1999,
winning the rapid chess. That was the peak. I don’t think I ever
reached that again. Even descending I won quite a few more
tournaments in a row, maybe seven, not including the Kramnik match.
Another peak period was Las Palmas ’96 and Linares ’97, right before
the Deep Blue match. That was also a period of very high quality,
those are my feelings. There were moments in which I played amazing
chess, by my evaluation. Linares ’92 and ’93 were two more great
events. That’s another peak, Linares ’93. I played a good tournament,
but five rounds before the end I was tied for 1-3 with Karpov and
Anand. Then I scored 4.5/5! I beat Anand, Karpov, Gelfand, Kamsky,
and drew with Shirov. That was a good finish! All the wins were in
These were other moments, but in intensity 1999 was different and
special. Why? I think because in ’99 I faced younger opponents. Since
’97, when Karpov left, I was always the oldest. In ’93 there were few
young players, it was mixed opposition. Players like Anand, Shirov,
Kramnik, were all just growing. I was still facing Timman, Speelman,
Karpov, Ljubojevic, Jussupow… While in 1999 I was the clearly the
oldest. I was 36 and the average age of my opposition was maybe 26.
That’s why I value ’99 much higher.
Do you value it more because 1999 was a sort of comeback year? You
hadn’t won Linares in ’98 and didn’t play very much.
This is something that people will argue, but I’ve been thinking
about it because it will be in the book [How Life Imitates Chess]. I
believe there were two days when I played the best chess in my life.
I doubt people can even remember it. I personally believe the two
days I played the best if you add up all the components, was against
the Israeli national team in Tel Aviv in 1998.
If you look at the combined performance I don’t think anything even
comes close to that. I manage to play in two matches in a row, four
games by 2800 standards at the same time. The level of concentration
and precision and the power of the games were outstanding. Maybe I’m
wrong, but I consider this event as probably my greatest
accomplishment in my professional chess career. Competitively and
creatively, probably the best.
And this was 1998, a `bad year’ people say. I also played rapid chess
with Topalov, remember the score? 4-0. Not such a bad year! Even the
only game I won in Linares in 1998 was a good one. How many times in
your memory did Vishy Anand lose on time!?
Another Kasparov simul, against the Czech national team in 2001.
THE FUTURE OF CHESS
Where does the chess world go from here? Was the system in place
before 1993 the ideal? Is it feasible today? FIDE brought you in in
Prague, but still couldn’t get it to work.
No, probably not. But you don’t need Kasparov or any one player. You
need a structure. You can’t sell one player who will cover up the
entire corrupt and inefficient system. You need a system that is
plausible. You have to sell a package where no player is more
important than the system. That’s why I think that without me they
have a chance. Maybe not a big one, but a chance.
We have to give some credit for all the changes. Not that I’m in
favor of the knock-out or the rapid time controls, but the game does
need to be modernized. Any modifications need to be done in
accordance with the demands of the time.
For instance, I’m in favor of at least investigating doing one
position per year from Chess960. I know the reaction is `Aahhh,
horrible!’ Most players think it’s terrible, saying the purpose is to
start each game from scratch. I don’t think so, I think the point is
to create more space for creativity. If you have a position for a
year you can’t go too far in analysis. You can reach move maybe four
or five, that’s a lot of room for creativity.
That doesn’t mean classical chess must die. I think it should stay,
and the title should stay. But things have to be different now. Every
system has to be adjusted to the demands and judged by its financial
viability. That’s what other players don’t understand. A system is
good if it attracts the public, television, and money. Otherwise the
system is not good, at least for professional chess. Kramnik said he
wants to `paint.’ Okay, paint, but don’t ask money for it.
Ilyumzhinov’s system, is it good or bad? I think bad because there’s
no money, except Libya or other exotic locations that do little to
build a commercial model, or from Ilyumzhinov himself. Unless the
system is commercially attractive it just doesn’t work. You have to
have something attractive, manageable, with a calendar, and a
professional package that can bring in sponsors.
The champagne days are over. With Ilyumzhinov in Prague, 2002. (It’s
If you have in mind a simple goal of establishing professional chess
and bringing commercial sponsorship you have to play by the rules.
But Ilyumzhinov had no interest, or no capability, in playing by the
rules of the `civilized world.’ Other players were more concerned
about me than about professionalizing the sport. There has to be a
calendar in which everyone plays without exception. My reading is
that as long as you have Ilyumzhinov on one side and Kramnik on the
other, nothing is going to happen.
Yasser Seirawan had some fine ideas, but they were sort of projected
to the past. If it worked in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to work
in the future. A whole professional structure is needed.
Any comments on the Fischer mess?
Not really. If he goes to Iceland, fine. [This hadn’t happened yet.]
It concerns me that every time Fischer opens his mouth it harms
chess, badly. If he ends up being put on trial [in the US] chess will
be dead the world over it would be so high profile. So I hope he can
stay in Iceland.