Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Kasparov crushes Karpov on first match day in Valencia

23 September 2009, Kasparov-Karpov

The first day of the match between the two K-legends in Valencia evoked mixed feelings all over, but did put Garry Kasparov in the lead by a comfortable margin of 2-0. Remarkably, Anatoli Karpov lost both games on time. Report, games and many photographs.

Before saying anything about the actual match, let’s not forget what’s being celebrated here this week: the birth of modern chess in the 15th century in Valencia. To commemorate this event, five lectures were being held today as part of the festivities.

The presentations, however, were sometimes quite difficult to follow for the spectactors. This was partly due to the high technical level of some of the lectures, which could hardly be followed by the live translator (who’s doing an excellent job, by the way), let alone by the mostly uninitiated audience, but also by the amateurish setup of some of the presentations.

In our view, the most interesting lecture was given by dr. Ulrich Schaedler from Switzerland, who explained various aspects of the Book of Games manuscript of Alphonse X – a manuscript, it should be noted, that has nothing to do with Valencia at all. We’ll return to the lectures in a separate post.

After these lectures, the utterly packed auditorium of the Palau de les Arts was finally ready for the first game between Karpov and Kasparov. As it turned out at the last moment, it was necessary to reserve seats beforehand, which resulted in virtually all press being banned to the last rows of the aula after the first five minutes of the game. Also, the press room was rather far from the playing hall, which prevented an easy live transmission of the games.

After Sulaiman Al-Fahim had briefly announced the players, the first move was finally played with arbiter Geurt Gijssen watching the proceedings from close range. Karpov being white, his first move wasn’t too difficult to predict: 1.d4. Kasparov, not too surprisingly either, opted for his beloved Grünfeld Defence, instantly reminding us all of the many classic games the two K’s played in this opening.

An interesting positional middle game position appeared on the board, where Karpov tried to treat the position by small means while Kasparov was looking for activity. The complications sent Karpov into thinking - too much thinking, as it turned out, because just when things started to heat up, he… overstepped the time limit as early as move 24, in an unclear position (which Kasparov evaluated as practically more promising for Black.) This was a huge letdown for everyone, including Karpov, who seemed surprised himself as well about what had just happened.


The second game was rather more interesting. In a Queen’s Gambit Declined, an opening which also occurred numerous times during their matches, Kasparov’s choice of 6.Qc2 was interesting for readers of his latest book on their 1986 and 1987. In his comments to move 6 of game 7 of the London/Leningrad match, in which it was Karpov playing white and Kasparov with black, he writes after the text move 6…g6:

Nowadays the best is deemed to be 6…Bd6! (the source game: Beliavsky-Geller, Moscow Interzonal 1982). I remember that Geller played this after a long think, stood up from the board, and, sorrowfully shaking his head, whispered: ‘I seem to have blundered a pawn…’  Of course, this was a joke – in fact 7.Nxd5?! Bxf4 8.Qe4+ Ne7 9.Nxf4 Qa5+ 10.Kd1 Bf5 favours Black. Beliavsky chose 7.Bxd6 Qxd6 8.e3 Nf6 9.Bd3 and won the game, after which 6…Bd6 almost went out of use. But later the idea of 8…Ne7 9.Bd3 b6! and …Ba6 was found, with a comfortable game for Black (…). In the end 6.Qc2 lost its attraction because of 6…Bd6!

Karpov actually played 6…Bd6 and 8…Ne7, but after 9.Bd3 he went for 9…Nd7 which gave him a slightly passive position. At the press conference, Kasparov indicated that 15…Qb8 was probably “too passive”, after which Black has a very difficult position. After 21.Qd2! Black position seems very difficult to hold already, and in time trouble Kasparov had no difficult finding the win Rybka had spotted immediately.

When we asked him whether Karpov’s choice of variation had surprised him, Kasparov replied that Karpov probably wanted to play a solid game but he didn’t refer to their game played in London in 1986. The interpretor couldn’t keep up with Kasparov’s stream of variations, which inspired Kasprov to remark that ‘the chess moves aren’t important anyway’. In any case, the win gave Kasparov a very comfortable 2-0 lead in their rapid games, and we seriously wonder if Karpov will be able to overcome this painful match.

After the game, Karpov was apparently too devastated to attend the press conference. If anything, this indicates that despite all the media attention, the need for sponsors, business opportunities and the wish the promote chess both in Valencia and the rest of the world, Kasparov and Karpov are still chess players when it comes down to it. They still hate losing and still take chess seriously, even though they claim to see this match mostly as entertainment.

Perhaps this is why Kasparov, too, said he had mixed feelings after this first day. Who knows, it should give us hope for tomorrow and the day after: Karpov surely wants to avoid a total humiliation, and Kasparov can hardly boast about any kind of victory, let alone promote further exhibition matches, if Karpov turns out to be no match for him at all. Can Karpov return the way Muhammad Ali returned against George Foreman? Or are such comparisons preposterous and out of context? Tomorrow, we’ll know for sure.

A video of the first day and the press conference will be added as soon as possible.

Game viewer

Game viewer by ChessTempo


The venue is a big auditorium inside the Palau de les Arts


Kasparov, with full determination facing his old rival


Karpov, having trouble handling the clock


Kasparov at the press conference after the first two games

Simuls Monday night

City of the Arts and the Sciences
City of the Arts and the Sciences
City of the Arts and the Sciences
City of the Arts and the Sciences
City of the Arts and the Sciences
City of the Arts and the Sciences
City of the Arts and the Sciences
City of the Arts and the Sciences

City of the Arts and the Sciences

source-chess vibes

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