If Gary Kasparov Returned to Chess…

In the beginning, I wasn’t really a big fan of Gary Kasparov.

gary kasparov

His high-tech openings and amazingly deep combinations were miles above my level of understanding at that time, and I often had trouble figuring out just what the hell was going on in his games.

Often when his opponent resigned, I didn’t even understand why.

This is why in the beginning days of my chess development, I was at first attracted to the games of players from the mid 1800s like Paul Morphy and Adolf Anderssen, who crushed their opponents (mostly weak players, to be honest) with dazzling queen sacrifices and flashy combinations in nearly every game.

The difference was that in Morphy and Anderssen’s games, his opponent’s were putting up less resistance and having their weak moves smashed in a very instructive (yet, beautiful) way.

These 19th century players also quite often checkmated their opponents (unlike modern players, who might induce an opponent’s resignation upon entering a won king and pawn ending), which was a pleasure for a learning player like me to see.

Games full of instructive mistakes (getting punished) are much more interesting for learning players than the near perfect play at the very top of today’s chess.

Anyway…

As my chess understanding improved, I graduated from Morphy to Alekhine and finally to Gary Kasparov as I tried to learn as much as I could about attacking chess and apply it to my own game.

I believe it was early 1999 when I first seen this Kasparov game.

Viktor Korchnoi vs Garry Kasparov

This game from the period of Gary’s rapid rise to become World Champion, was played in the 1982 Chess Olympiad and is a masterpiece.

Kasparov plays a sharp Benoni defence and on move 17 sets the board on fire with 17…b5!!, a move quite reminiscent of Kasparov’s favourite player, Alexander Alekhine.

He then proceeds to leave a knight hanging on e5 for several moves as he penetrates with his queen on one side, whilst breaking open the white king’s position on the other.

His calculation must have been amazingly deep in this game, and his opponent eventually got lost in the fog of complications.

I’m sure even grumpy old Korchnoi must have been pretty impressed after this game.

I followed Kasparov’s games and career from that point onwards.

I seen his domination of all events in 1999, often by HUGE margins.

I seen his shocking loss of the title to Vladimir Kramnik in 2000.

I seen his return to domination in 2001 with a beautiful Linares performance.

So many beautiful attacking games…

I seen it all and I (as YOU should!) diligently studied all of his games, usually the day after they were played (via TWIC download).

I used his games as black to learn the Sicilian Najdorf and the Tarrasch Defence (still a part of my openings repertoire).

And I used his games as white to learn to play the English Opening more aggressively.

You could say, that Kasparov was a chess hero of mine in the early 2000s.

gary kasparov 2

I definitely learnt a lot from him.

So when he retired in 2005, I was unsurprisingly pretty disappointed.

Since Gary’s retirement we’ve seen guys like Carlsen, Nakamura, So, Caruana and Aronian arrive and acheive 2800 ratings.

We’ve seen the enormous Chinese delegation become stronger with tons of guys well over 2750, plus Hou Yifan as the undisputed Women’s World Champion.

And then…

Every couple of years Gary Kasparov gets the chess bug back and comes back for some blitz or rapid chess.

And we are treated to more of his beautiful, attacking chess.

Ultimate Blitz Challenge – St Louis 2016

This week we seen him play a mini-tournament with 3 of the strongest players in the world and when watching the games live online, I was more excited than I have been for YEARS about ANYTHING.

I mean, these guys he was taking on (Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, and Fabiano Caruana) are amazingly strong young guys who basically play like perfect computers.

Despite the fact that these guys are full-time professionals who study with high-powered computers regularly, Kasparov was still able to play games like this demolition of Caruana.

Wow! Gary’s play in this event basically proves that a high-risk, dynamic style of play can still work in today’s computer age of chess.

Gary was clearly out of shape (it is 11 years since he retired after all!), yet still showed many signs of his brilliant chess mind.

He finished 3rd, but could easily have scored several more points if not for his blunders (most likely induced by lack of practice).

gary kasparov 4

Gary could have done MUCH better, but still beat Nakamura in their “mini-match”

 

So how would Kasparov do if he decided to say “Screw politics, I’m coming back to chess and I can beat Magnus for sheezy, son! 😎 “

gary kasparov 5

What if this happened?

 

Well…

I don’t think he would dominate in the same fashion as he did in the early 2000s.

Chess has come way too far and the level of defence has become ridiculously high.

I imagine playing chess against players like Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana would be like playing against Stockfish.

Just slowly increasing pressure, no weaknesses to attack, calm and clinical defence.

So Kasparov would have his work cut out for him.

I DO however think he would still definitely be in the top 5.

If Kasparov took 6 months for physical training and to catch up on the chess developments, I don’t see why he wouldn’t still win the occasional top event, even ahead of Carlsen and co.

Would he be World Champion again?

I’d like to say YES.

I have no doubts that Kasparov could win a candidates tournament, even in today’s field and I also think that given his enormous knowledge of chess and his vast match experience, he could beat Magnus in a World Championship match.

Don’t believe me?

Do the following…

  1. Study the games on this page (as usual, over the board)
  2. Watch the first day of the “Ultimate Blitz Challenge” (below) and witness his domination (90% of the time) of the world’s top guys (ignore the blunders, which wouldn’t exist so much if he got back in shape)

What is your opinion of this controversial question?

Let me know I’m very interested to hear opinions.

Brendan 🙂

 

Downloads:

Kasparov games collection in .pgn format (open, print and study his games from 1981-2001 😉 )

  • Krishnan Rao

    There is no doubt in his best days he was a chess God.He dominated his peers like Alekhine did.He excelled in openings,dynamic middle game plans and superlative endgame skills.much different from the grinding plodding stuff we are asked to admire and praise.He played his games with verve and courage and he was a great warrior on the board.none from the modern generation could hold a candle to him.

    • Brendan J. Norman

      Excellent comment! I totally agree. 🙂

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