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Garry Kasparov vs Anatoly Karpov
"Special K" (game of the day Nov-26-07)
Kasparov - Karpov World Championship Match (1990)  ·  Spanish Game: Closed Variations. Flohr System (C92)  ·  1-0
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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: < "I didn't calculate," he says.> He's exaggerating. Or simplifying, maybe even boasting a little, to give the impression of 'natural' genius. Of course he calculated: you don't play such moves on a whim, or on 'feel' alone. Not even if you're Kasparov.

In video of the match you can see him calculating, on this as on later moves. He'd seen a stupendous, dazzling array of tactics -- not a single forcing line, but a whole range of different ones, starting with the truly beautiful stuff if Black takes the Knight on its first visit to h6: 26.Nxh6! Rxh6 27.Nxd6 ... and he had winning attacks prepared for 27...Qd7, 27...Qh5, even 27...Qxe1+.

Okay, so he hadn't seen *everything* through to a win, and there was intuition involved in playing 26.Nxh6. But he didn't just blitz it out because it looked nice. He'd seen deeply into the position.

His slight slip-up near the end, playing the winning Bxg6+ rather than the crushing Rxg6, is trivial, and to criticize Kasparov for 'missing a mate' is just sad. Yes, Rxg6 is a pretty win and might have given the game the classic status it deserves. Mate in 3 or 4, depending which desperado lines Black plays - one nice sequence is 37.Rxg6 Ne7 38.Rxe7 b1(Q) 39.Ng5+ Kh8 40.Rh7#. Of course 39.Bxb1 also mates, but letting Black promote is more pleasing.

Of course 37.Bxg6+ is also a pretty trivial win. He'd done the heavy lifting by then. I remember once being congratulated by an IM for winning a game with a sacrifice. "Oh", I moaned, "I should have won quicker". "Yes", he replied, "You had a mate in four and you played a mate in six. So what?"

This K-vs-K epic was a key game in arguably the last great title match in history: later events have been one-sided or too short. The reason Kasparov's opening prep became legendary is that he honed it in long matches against a very dangerous rival -- after 20+ games, a player might have to use their third-choice defence if the others were looking suspect. It doesn't happen in 12-game matches.

This is a great game between two of the strongest players ever, at a crunch moment in their long duel. If we're incredibly lucky, Anand and Gelfand might come up with something half as good.

Dec-26-11  King Death: < Domdaniel: < "I didn't calculate," he says.> He's exaggerating. Or simplifying, maybe even boasting a little, to give the impression of 'natural' genius...>

The flip side of this claim by Gazza is the annotator who writes that they've seen everything in a brilliant attack. Maybe one advantage of computers being out there now is that some of those players can't BS their way through the public any more.

Dec-26-11  SChesshevsky: I'm guessing Kasparov did plenty of calculating on 26.Nxh6 as he knew he probably had a winning position if he could keep tempo and open some lines.

I always thought Kasparov's greatest gift was the ability to calculate very deeply and accurately so maybe by 30. Nxh6 it was a line he already saw as a win and just had to double check.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: <King Death> I agree. Though I honestly can't say which is worse: old-style annotation by result, or engine-assisted annotation by centipawns.

<SChesshevsky> Yes, and that's pretty much what Karpov thought afterwards: that 25...Qe8 was a losing move, and White was winning after 26.Nxh6. Karpov still found a tough defence, but the sheer momentum of Kasparov's attack was irresistible. I love the calm 31.Kh2 in the middle of it -- knowing when to make such moves is the mark of a genius.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: 36.Bxf5+ is smart. Grab an extra free bishop while the queen still can't be saved.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: Going through Kasparov's analysis (on the video version) is an amazing experience, especially without using an engine.

At several points he flashed out a quick sequence of moves, said "This wins" and moved on. Each time I'd reconstruct the sequence, find the 'final' position, and have to *work* for several minutes to see a win. With the final position on a board in front of me -- a position Kasparov had visualized and evaluated six or eight moves earlier...


Jan-06-12  King Death: <Domdaniel> With White to move before 30.Kh2, just like many other positions this could be given as a problem, but Kasparov visualizing the idea is the really tough part even for a player in his class. He was brilliant in complicated positions, in the same class as Tal and Korchnoi.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Diademas: Great coverage of the match and analyses on this game by Kasparov here.
Jul-28-12  Conrad93: 34. Nf7+ Qxf7 35. Qxh6+ Bh7 36. Rxa8 Ne7 37. Rxf8+ Ng8 38. Rxg8+ Qxg8 39. Qxh7#.

Seems much quicker. I know you can't expect player to see this kind of stuff, but nonetheless Kasparov is famous for his calculating abilities.

Apr-21-13  wilbeerthoven: Why not 11.Cg5!... ??
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <wilbeerthoven>: <11.♘g5>:

click for larger view

is an often played move that can lead to a quick draw. Black has no better answer than <11...♖f8>, then White has nothing better than moving back with <12.♘f3>. There are literally dozens of games in the database where the players just repeat these moves and quickly agree to a draw.

The idea can also be used as a device to play a few extra moves without thinking in order to save time on the clock.

On the other hand, not playing <11.♘g5>, as Kasparov does here, can be considered a declaration that White is playing for a win.

Apr-28-13  wilbeerthoven: Ok 12.Nf3 is the right choice at top level, but really 12.f4 isn't playable for the rest of us?
Apr-29-13  mistreaver: <wilbeerthoven: Ok 12.Nf3 is the right choice at top level, but really 12.f4 isn't playable for the rest of us?> Kasparov in his books says the following:
<12.f4, including the f-pawn in the attack, encounters a clever tactical rejoinder - 12... exf4 13 Bxf4 Na5 14 Bc2 Nd5> And also, the natural 12... h6 doesn't look that bad at all, say 13 Nf3 Re8 and black is fine.
Jul-03-13  Everett: We can credit Kasparov with making Karpov play this double-edged system as Black. IMHO this is one of the reasons why Karpov became even a bigger beast after losing the title, since he started to play with more bite as Black. Perhaps he knew he could not afford to play solid/passive positions vs Kasparov.

And the fact is, in many of these Zaitsev Ruy games, he was actually alright out of the opening, but boy were the positions complex. Kasparov seemed to handle them better at crucial times, even though he was in hot water in a couple of them through the years, including the 1990 match.

That said, I wonder why Karpov never played the Breyer-like <13.Nb8> as be did here Kasparov vs Karpov, 1985 Maybe his team saw something in that line that put them off of it.

Jul-04-13  Everett: <chessenthus: <black will lose more quickly with 29. Kg8 after 29...kg8 30.Nf6+ Nxf6 31 Nh6+ Kh7 32. Nf7#>

A bit of a calculation mistake on yur side....Black cant play 31...Kh7 as that square is controlled by the bishop on b1.

And if he plays 31..Kh8 32.Nf7 is not checkmate.

I feel that 29..Kg8 was a better move.>

indeed, 29..Kg8 looks like a draw to the computers.

Jul-30-13  ynaamad: <Everett> indeed, 29..Kg8 looks like a draw to the computers.

Are you sure? 30. Kh2 clears the way for the deadly Ng5, which black can't stop without sacrificing an insurmountable amount of material.

Jul-30-13  SimonWebbsTiger: 29...Kg8 30. Kh2!

" decisive - Black is in a kind of zugzwang."

Garry Kasparov - On Modern Chess, Part Four (p.248)

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: This is a beautiful win by the second greatest chess player of all time.
Sep-21-13  Eduardo Leon: I noticed a comment from long ago with an engine analysis that says that <34.♘f7+> is a mate in 6. Would the complete line be <34.♘f7+ ♕xf7 35.♕xh6+ ♗h7 36.♖xf8+ ♖xf8 37.♗xh7 (any) 38.♗(wherever)+ ♕h7 39.♕xh7#>?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Zhbugnoimt: <thegoodanarchist>: good point. Fischer was better.

The engine gives 12.Ng5! Re7 13.Nxf7! Rxf7 14.Bxf7+ Kxf7 15.d5! Nb8 16.Nf1 Nbd7 17.Bg5 Be7 +0.54. that would be + over =

Premium Chessgames Member
  Zhbugnoimt: 34.Nf7+! Qxf7 35.Qxh6+ Bh7 36.Rxa8 and mate in 3.
Dec-21-14  mickek977: Kasparov says himself in that linked YouTube-video that take with the rook instead on move 37 and then just move it back again is mate. I couldn't see that line in the comments yet.
Jan-20-15  newzild: Levon Aronian cited this game as being one of his "favourites of all time", and stated that it was the inspiration for the following game against Jobava at Tata Steel, 2015: Aronian vs Jobava, 2015
Jan-26-15  Fanques Fair: Does 25..., Qh4 ! defend ?
Jan-26-15  anandrulez: Kasparov was lucky here in some sense. After 25 ..Nd3 black is playing for the win.

Karpov-Kasparov is a good example of psychology dominating the game when skills are nearly equal. I haven't analysed their games in depth but it appears Karpov in his prime was never really weak than Kasparov however they had a different approach.

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