Wednesday, April 4, 2007

On the Sidelines at Kasparov-Karpov 1990

While Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov were battling it out on stage at the Hudson Theater, next door at the Macklowe Center another group of grandmasters was hard at work analyzing the games in progress.

On the fifth floor at the Macklowe, the chess fan could choose from three different grandmasters in separate lecture rooms: Roman Dzindzichasvili, Joel Benjamin, and Michael Rohde. Meanwhile, on the eighth floor, the members of the press were treated to move-by-move analysis from Yasser Seirawan, Larry Christiansen, and Patrick Wolff. Many of the spectators were strong grandmasters themselves.

Game One saw Yaz holding court in the press room. Seirawan expressed surprise at Karpov's 11.a3, suggesting 11.b4 as a much stronger move. When Kasparov played 14...Ne5, Yasser commented, "Garry enjoys creating problems." He labeled Karpov's quiet 16.Bf2 "a very characteristic move." And when Anatoly chose 18.Nxd5 over Yaz's recommendation of 18.Ne4, Seirawan observed, "I don't like this move at all. 18.Ne4 was so obviously better."

Almost as if they had rehearsed the script in advance, Kasparov and Karpov put on a tactical performance in Game Two. Larry Christiansen was in his element analyzing this slugfest for the press. While Karpov pondered his 24th move, Christiansen pointed out that 24...Ng8 would be a mistake because of 25.Bxh6; the resulting variations were so bad for Black, said Larry, that his position would be "banned in Cincinnati." When Karpov's 24...Ng8 flashed on the monitor, one of the reporters asked Larry why Karpov had played such an obviously bad move. Christiansen replied, "I think Karpov is setting up the pieces for the next game." Later we heard that Yaz and Dzindzi were actually touting Karpov's position just as Christiansen spoke of Black being "busted." Christiansen's analysis in this game was by far the crispest of the early match.

In Game Three, Patrick Wolff manned the press analysis table. First Garry sacrificed the exchange, then his queen for two minor pieces and pawn. Wolff made several interesting, insightful observations about some well-known grandmasters. "Karpov is the second-best tactician in the world," he said; only Kasparov is better. When Garry first offered his queen with 14...Nc6, World Junior Champion Ilya Gurevich opined that "Black is losing." After Karpov had accepted the queen sac and Garry had played 18...Be8, Wolff told the audience, "White may have a slight advantage in this position." A few moves later after 20.Ne1, Sergey Kudrin chipped in with, "Karpov played very poorly his last few moves, and now he is in serious trouble." Of course, the game ended in a draw, the one result that no one had predicted.

{This article by me originally appeared in the February 1991 issue of Chess Life, along with a photograph taken by me of the "intelligent chess board" used by Kasparov and Karpov on stage. In the previous month's issue, there had appeared five additional photograghs, also taken by me at the match. It took a couple of hours to write the article (for which I received $35), but only a few seconds apiece to snap the photos (for which I was paid a total of $150). Not only that, more chessplayers complimented me on the pix than on the article! I should have been a photographer.}