Kasparov’s (brief) Return …

Just as Magnus Carlsen was retaining his World title in Russia, the 13th World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov, was in rare chess action in Japan. It was an exhibition event, against the shogi champion and chess FM Yoshiharu Habu. The time control was 25 minutes per game plus 10 seconds a move. Kasparov won both games, and perhaps expectedly so; however, it is not unfair to say that he was helped at least a little by some questionable play by his opponent.

I have annotated game 1, which is quite instructive, not only with regard to some rather fundamental chess technique, but also when it comes to the psychology of the event. For instance, notice how Kasparov plays the opening especially, avoiding main lines in which his opponent may be more up-to-date. Also, notice his 8.e5, which on one hand could indicate aggression, but, on the other hand, there were other good options, so could be seen as an unwillingness to maintain the tension in the position. This possibly shows his discomfort these days in analysing deeply, or some chess rust, which goes without saying after such a long time in retirement.

Unfortunately for Kasparov, he does not get a lot out of the opening, and his opponent achieves an equal (at worst) position. However, you will then see that Habu’s technique lets him down. He allows Kasparov to free his position and seize the initiative and from there seems to go to pieces.

In offering the annotations, below, I should say that I am not claiming that my thoughts as to the psychological reasons for a move are spot on, only that they are possible explanations for certain decisions. In chess, there is very often a lot more behind the moves our opponent makes than what is going on at the board. The same goes for our own moves. There are also things going on psychologically: likes/dislikes, strengths/weaknesses.

It is to our advantage if we can get in to the mind of our opponent, while keeping him well away from ours. Also, it is something to keep in mind when analysing our games — did certain decisions of our opponent perhaps reveal something that we did not pick up on at the time? Did our own play betray us in some way? It may only be a case of small things, but they can make a very big difference.

John Lee Shaw