22 September 2012

Kasparov *Did* Play Chess960

Sheesh, did I get that wrong! Late last year, in Not Everyone Likes Chess960, I listed three commentators who had gone on record against chess960: Kasparov, Damsky, and NN. I ended the post with the categorical,
The one thing all of these commentators have in common is that it's obvious that none of them has ever tried chess960.

This week I received a freebie 26-page PDF from Mongoose Press, "On Life and Chess" by Sergey Shipov. Here I learned (p.5),

In 1998 Kasparov invited me to be his sparring partner. His breaks between tournaments were fairly long, and so as not to lose his playing edge and feel for the flag Garry needed a partner who could pose problems for him at the board. He couldn't just go to a chess club and play in rapid or blitz tournaments like ordinary mortals.

In the first place, the champion's raging popularity simply would not have allowed him to play his games in peace; and secondly, in public tournaments the percentage of players who could put up any resistance to him was too small. And generally in Moscow, apart from the elite grandmasters, there weren't a lot of candidates for sparring partner. You cannot imagine how powerful he was in that period! This was probably the peak of his practical strength for his entire career. Everyone remembers that unbelievable series of wins by Kasparov at 10 straight supertournaments.

That is interesting in itself, but there was more.

By the way, those fools who for years explained Kasparov's dominance only by his opening superiority (which, let me point out, is not a gift that falls from heaven, but rather comes from hard labor) simply had no idea what they were talking about. I remember we played six games of Fischerandom chess, and there was no battle there at all! In completely unfamiliar positions, Kasparov's advantage over me was far greater than in normal chess. In the absence of the usual pathfinders his flights of fancy, his sense of dynamics, and his ability to instantly separate the important from the secondary became particularly salient.

Assuming he played according to Fischer's published rules, Kasparov did indeed play chess960. Moreover, it looks like I'll have to abandon any hope of winning against him in a chess960 game. What are the chances of getting the move record of those six games?

Of course, all the games I played with The Great One were accurately recorded on my computer, but I don't want to share them with my readers. My wins were nothing to be proud of (training and official tournaments are different things), and my losses were distressing. The chess content of our encounters would hardly embellish the treasure troves. Basically, this is just a memorable exhibit in my personal collection.

To get your own copy of Shipov's monograph, see Mongoose Press on Facebook.com.


Later: Not only did Shipov's monograph shed some light on Kasparov's experience with chess960, it also mentioned Yakov Damsky, the second of the trio in the 'Not Everyone Likes' post. There is, however, no chess960 connection (p.11):-

Iakov Damsky, our Soviet master and radio commentator, helped me a lot. In his later years he became a professional chess writer. He knocked out new books almost once a month. I myself spent at least four years on my first Hedgehog.

For more about Damsky, see 'Chess Records' by Damsky, on my main blog.

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