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    Entries in Garry Kasparov (66)

    Saturday
    Sep232017

    A Step into the Wayback Machine: How Kasparov Could Have Beaten Deep(er) Blue

    If you were a chessplayer in 1997, you were following the match between Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue (or rather, Deeper Blue, as the upgraded version was nicknamed at the time). The year before, Kasparov won by a 4-2 score after some early difficulties, but in the rematch things were much tighter. Kasparov won game 1, but famously lost game 2 he resigned in a drawn position. The computer had played excellently throughout, but at the end, oddly, it made tactical errors in a strategically winning position that could have let Kasparov escape. Had Kasparov faced a human he very likely would have sought and found his escape, but trusting Deep Blue's tactical prowess he resigned at the moment when salvation was available. This discovery didn't happen years later, but very soon after the game, and when Kasparov learned of this he was shocked and confused. How was this possible?

    After draws in games 3 and 4 the score was knotted at 2-2, just as in the first match, when Kasparov won the last two games. This year, things didn't go as smoothly. Kasparov's meltdown in game 6 is well-known, when he chose a very dubious opening variation, played it badly, and resigned in disgust after just 19 moves. But this didn't occur in a vacuum. He was extremely upset about game 2 in particular, and about IBM's conduct, and a host of other things, including his failure to win in game 5. He was pressing very nicely, but the computer found an incredible draw that impressed everyone, from grandmasters on down. (I know I was impressed - Deep Blue's last-second counter-attack looked like a marvel of active defense.) Had Kasparov won game 5, he would have been in a better mood, could have played more safely, and may have had a better sense of the machine's limitations. Instead, he was at his wit's end and collapsed in the last round.

    So a great save by Deep Blue in game 5, right? It turns out that this is not the case! It took longer to discover, but just as in game 2 Deep Blue was not tactically infallible, but made a slip. This was one of the things I discovered from Kasparov's new book Deep Thinking. Sure enough, I turned on the engine at the critical moment, and voila! he's right. And that, by the way, is very interesting: I have a decent computer running the latest engines, but they don't even calculate 30 million positions per second, let alone the (up to) 300 million positions per second Deep(er) Blue was capable of. And yet my engines identify the right move as the right move, the move that could and should have won for Kasparov, almost instantly, and recognize that it gives White a large-to-winning advantage in fewer than ten seconds. DB had minutes to find it, but couldn't. So hats off to today's programmers, who have not only greatly increased the computer's chess "wisdom", but even their tactical skill to a colossal degree.

    Here is that game, with some of my comments. The critical moments are on moves 43 and 44. DB's 43...Nd2 was a big mistake, rather than the start of the miracle counter-attack, and Kasparov could have won with 44.Rg7+. It isn't a trivial variation, but it wouldn't have been impossible for an in-form Kasparov to find, either.

    Errare computerum est etiam?

    Saturday
    Sep022017

    Kasparov's "Master" Class

    If you've watched almost any online chess broadcast lately, you've probably seen the ad for Garry Kasparov's Master Class, complete with his illegally moving one with hand and hitting the clock with the other, and this instant classic of a quotation:

    It's not about winning or losing--but of course, at the end of the day, it's about winning or losing.

    Anyway, for the two of you who haven't seen that commercial (about 20-30 times by now), here's the website. And for maybe most of you, who didn't catch this, it was either Kasparov himself, or maybe Yasser Seirawan, who suggested that the target audience for the course is players rated around 1300-1800. (If any of you have heard a different figure, please let us know in the comments!) That's why I put "Master" in quotation marks in the subject line.

    $90 is a bit much, but not insane, especially if the Kasparov of his old ChessBase videos on the Queen's Gambit and the Najdorf shows up. On the other hand, if the Kasparov of the "How I Became World Champion, Vol. 1" DVD shows up, skip it.

    Sunday
    Aug202017

    St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, Finale: Aronian Wins; Karjakin and Nakamura Tie for Second

    The St. Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament is now history, and a bit of chess history that will likely be remembered on account of Garry Kasparov's participation. He was the star of the show coming into the event (though not the favorite), and he played very well on the event's final day. But the hero of the event was Levon Aronian, who won by a healthy three point margin and played the best chess throughout the tournament.

    Aronian won the rapid portion by half a point (a point on the 2-1-0 scoring system used for that portion of the event; the rapid games counted double compared to the blitz games) over Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana, and took second in the blitz a point behind Sergey Karjakin. Nakamura took third in the blitz, while Karjakin did poorly in the rapid, finishing two points behind Aronian (in normal scoring; four points behind on 2-1-0 scoring). Karjakin was great in the blitz, especially on the first day when he went undefeated with a monstrous score of eight out of nine. He won his last five games, and started the final day with two more wins, closing to within a point of Aronian.

    Round 12 proved critical. Karjakin had White against the tailender, David Navara, while Aronian had White against Le Quang Liem. Karjakin was outplayed by Navara (who had defeated Aronian in the previous round!) and lost, while Aronian was worse in his game but won on time (and in a position where the Bronstein delay should have sufficed for Le to make reasonable moves). In the next round Karjakin had White again, against Aronian, but got nothing; in fact, he had to play accurately to hold the balance and draw. Karjakin lost again in round 16, to Nakamura, and that put paid to his hopes of winning first. In any case, Aronian finished strongly, finishing the tournament with 3.5/4, including wins in the last two rounds.

    Nakamura also finished with 3.5/4 to catch Karjakin (including the win noted in the previous paragraph), but losses in rounds 13 and 14 likewise put an end to any of his dreams of taking first. Still, it was a good tournament overall for the first three finishers, and Ian Nepomniachtchi's fourth place was a good result for him as well, especially after his poor finish in the Sinquefield Cup the week before, where he tied for last.

    As for Kasparov, his performance on the first day of the blitz wasn't anything to write home about, but day two was another story. He lost a strange game to Karjakin in round 1, and it was strange for two reasons. First, 21...Qf6 was a mistake, and it seemed during the video that he realized it was a mistake because of 22.Bxh5. It may be that he thought he let go of the queen before returning the queen to e7 (a la his game vs. Nakamura last year and, much, much earlier, against Judit Polgar), and so he decided to just be done with it and make the move. It seems clear from the video that he didn't let go, but perhaps he wasn't sure. Good sportsmanship on his part, if that's what happened, but a shame (if that was his reason) since he didn't actually let go. The second strange thing is that while he was worse from start to finish, there was one momentarily exception, and it was a biggie: 31...e4 would have won, or at least have given him a winning advantage. It's surprising that two superstars missed the move, but that's blitz. (And part of the problem was that the move wasn't there the move before; it was only Karjakin's 31.Re1-f1 that made it possible.)

    Anyway, after that loss, Kasparov went undefeated the rest of the event, and won against Caruana in round 12 (with Black), Nakamura in round 13 (with White), and Leinier Dominguez in round 17 (with Black in a Najdorf). The last game was especially good, and left me pining for Kasparov's return and wishing that Friday had been the start of the tournament and not its finish. If Kasparov had won against Navara in the last round he would have made it a four-way tie for fifth-eighth, but because he drew he finished half a point behind Dominguez, Caruana, and Le. Anand finished a couple of points behind Kasparov, and Navara finished another point back.

    Final Blitz Standings:

    1. Karjakin 13.5 (out of 18)
    2. Aronian 12.5
    3. Nakamura 10.5
    4. Nepomniachtchi 10
    5. Kasparov 9
    6. Le Quang Liem 8.5
    7. Dominguez 7.5
    8. Anand 7
    9. Navara 6
    10. Caruana 5.5

    Final Overall Standings:

    1. Aronian 24.5 (out of 36)
    2-3. Karjakin, Nakamura 21.5
    4. Nepomniachtchi 20
    5-7. Dominguez, Caruana, Le Quang Liem 16.5
    8. Kasparov 16
    9. Anand 14
    10. Navara 13

    The day 4 video can be watched here, day 5 here. And here are all the games (unannotated). And the video for yesterday's "Ultimate Moves" competition is here.

    Sunday
    Aug202017

    On Why Kasparov Won't Return to Chess

    In a post-event interview with Maurice Ashley and the St. Louis commentators, Garry Kasparov made it clear that he's not returning to tournament chess. The St. Louis event was a one-off, motivated by his desire to show gratitude to Rex Sinquefield and to give a boost to the work he's doing with the St. Louis chess club. Kasparov emphasized that the tension was very difficult for him to handle, and this seemed clear both in play during the event (watch the video of his win over Fabiano Caruana on day two; he keeps it together, but the stress is obvious) and over the event as well (his continued - and understandable - lament over the pain of his loss to David Navara in the rapid portion was considerable).

    There are hints in this direction in his book Deep Thinking as well. At the start of chapter 10, which covers the end of the match he lost to Deep Blue in 1997, Kasparov writes, "Since I am now in my mid-fifties and must take care with my blood pressure" (p. 197). Combine that with his admission - which will come as a surprise to exactly no one who remembers him during his career - that he is a (very) sore loser, and it makes plenty of sense for him not to return to competitive chess. From the start of chapter 7 (p. 113):

    I am a sore loser.

    ...I hate losing. I hated losing bad games, and I hated losing good ones. I hated losing to weak players and I hated losing to world champions.

    I have had sleepless nights after losses. I have had angry outbursts at award ceremonies after a bad defeat. I have been annoyed to discover that I missed a good move in a game I lost twenty years ago when analyzing it for this book.

    I hate to lose, and not just at chess. I hate to lose at trivia games. I hate to lose at card games....

    Being a sore loser is not the attribute I'm most proud of, nor am I ashamed of it. To be the best in any competitive endeavor you have to hate losing more than you are afraid of it...no matter how much you love the game, you have to hate to lose if you want to stay on top. You have to care, and care deeply.

    Switching to humblebrag mode, Kasparov rounds off his discussion of being a sore loser like this: "If I was never a good loser, it was partly because I never had the chance to get good at it." And for a while at least, if he were to come back to competitive chess, he'd have to spend a bit more time "getting good" at it.

    And there's this. Kasparov explicitly refuses to join the argument over whether chess is a sport, but in certain respects it is very sport-like. For instance:

    Another aspect of chess as a sport is the intense psychological and physiological exertion involved in a competitive chess game, and the crisis after the game. What sports science calls the "stress response process" is at least as powerful in chess as it is in more physical sports. When I say exertion, I am not referring only to the mental gymnastics of moving the pieces in our minds, but also the huge nervous tension that fills you before and during the game, tension that rises and falls with every move and with every idea that passes through your mind while at the board. This tension lasts for hours and a balanced game is a roller coaster of emotions as fortunes change the battlefield shifts. Delight can give way to depression in an instant and reverse again a move later, leaving even the most sanguine player exhausted from adrenaline. Managing this nervous energy during each game, and during the ups and downs of an event that may last weeks, is an essential skill for a Grandmaster.

    Recovery is no small matter, especially from defeat. There are no convenient deflections to share the blame for a loss in chess. there are no referees to blame, no sun in your eyes, or teammates to let you down. There is no luck factor as you have with cards or dice. If you lose it is because the other player beat you, because you failed. Every competitive person has to have a sizable ego, so losses can hit particularly hard in chess. There must also be a critical balance between putting a bad loss out of your mind so you can go into your next game full of the confidence you need and being able to objectively analyze your failures so you do not repeat them (pp. 79-80).

    All of us are familiar with the pain of brutal losses, and the farther we've gone up the food chain in chess and the more competitive we are - and maybe especially if we've ever been "little Kasparovs" in our little fiefdoms - the more painful such losses can be. As we got older we may mellow a bit, but it's also true that our bodies aren't as resilient as they used to be. It's a pity for chess not only that Kasparov won't come back to the game in a consistent fashion, but also that he's not even up for a follow-up in the near future, to build on the work and practice he has just had while it's fresh. A pity, but understandable. As Clint Eastwood famously said, "A man's gotta know his limitations", and Kasparov knows his.

    Sunday
    Aug202017

    A Great Compliment by Kasparov on Anand

    Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand were rivals in the 90s and early 00s, and in those days, during his playing career, Kasparov always seemed stingy with compliments. And when he would offer a compliment, there was generally a "yes, but" attached to it. So it was refreshing to read the following in Kasparov's new book, Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins (p. 124):

    I always felt that I had the advantage in calculation over anyone except the Indian star Viswanathan Anand, who was justly famous for his speedy tactical play.

    High praise!

    Thursday
    Aug172017

    St. Louis Rapid & Blitz: Aronian Leads After the Rapid Portion

    The blitz has just started, so let's get caught up to speed on what has happened the last couple of days, starting with the travails of one Garry Kasparov. On day one, already reported on below, he drew all three games, two normally and one (against Hikaru Nakamura) after being better and then losing. Much more variance was yet to come.

    In round 4 he did well, drawing with Black against Levon Aronian. In fact he was winning near the end, a pawn up in a knight ending, but in his usual time pressure he missed a nice tactical trick that let his opponent escape with a draw. Kasparov finally experienced a decisive result in round 5, but not the one he hoped for. Playing very aggressive, enterprising chess Kasparov outplayed Ian Nepomniachtchi in the middlegame, but squandered his advantage with 22.exd7. He was still okay until his 33rd-35th moves. Had he played 33.Rxe8 Rxe8 34.Bf7 all would have been well, but after the interpolation of 33.Rh1 Qg5 that same sequence was losing, as his opponent demonstrated.

    Round 6 wasn't as exciting as one would have hoped, with the historic rematch between Viswanathan Anand and Kasparov. Kasparov hoped to play a Najdorf, but Anand played 3.Bb5+, whereupon Kasparov produced an expression that was some funny mix of pain and contempt for the move. Nevertheless, the game still became Najdorf-like, with White hoping to exploit the d5 square and Black looking for counterplay. Kasparov played well, and after 19...d5 stood slightly better. His inaccuracy on move 22 allowed Anand to emerge unscathed, and the draw was soon agreed.

    The next day everything was wild. He played great chess against David Navara for the first part of the game, but in the second half things spun out of control. He was still winning - most of the time - but it was a mess. Finally, Navara was equal, but Kasparov still had a tempting trick or two to push for the win. Both sides were short of time, but for once his opponent had less time than he did. Kasparov thought he found a nice win, but unfortunately Navara had seen further, and with a great tactical trick not only saved the game but won it.

    Kasparov's pain was somewhat mitigated in round 8 when Le Quang Liem moved a rook where it could be taken in one move, instantly losing what had been an equal position. Finally, in round 9, Kasparov lost again, falling to -2, at the hands of Fabiano Caruana. The game was equal for a long time, but some Kasparov inaccuracies let Caruana outplay him step by step.

    In the rest of the show, Aronian finished the rapid portion in first place, though what ultimately matters for money and Grand Chess Tour points is the combined score. Aronian had trouble with the second game of all three days, losing on days 1 and 2 and drawing on day 3, but except for his round 4 draw with Kasparov he won the remaining five games. Nepomniachtchi led most of the way, and would have finished the rapid tied for first if he had defeated Nakamura in the last round. He had chances, but imprecision let Nakamura escape and then even win in a long game. Nakamura is in second, a point behind Aronian (half a point in classical scoring, but since the rapid games are weighted double compared to the blitz games it's a full point in the standings), tied with Caruana.

    Here are the standings after the rapid, based on the tournament's 2-1-0 scoring, and here are the games from rounds 2 and 3, with brief comments to each of Kasparov's games.

    1. Aronian 12 (of 18)
    2-3. Caruana, Nakamura 11
    4. Nepomniachtchi 10
    5. Dominguez 9
    6-7. Le Quang Liem, Karjakin 8
    8-10. Navara, Kasparov, Anand 7

    Monday
    Aug142017

    St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, Featuring Kasparov, Starts Today

    The action starts at 1 p.m. local time in St. Louis, the same time as the Sinquefield Cup rounds began. (That's 2 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CET.) Garry Kasparov is of course the headline attraction, though not necessarily the favorite, as the rapid portion of the event gets underway today and continues through Wednesday. In today's rounds, he will have White against Sergey Karjakin, Black against Hikaru Nakamura, and White against Leinier Dominguez. How will he do against a fully motivated field?

    Wednesday
    Jul052017

    Kasparov to Play Rated Chess in St. Louis

    This headline suggests that Garry Kasparov is coming out of retirement to play in the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz, a Grand Chess Tour event immediately following the Sinquefield Cup in the same location. This seems ambiguous: is he coming out of retirement in the sense of rejoining the professional chess world as a regular competitor, or is this mainly a one-off? I'm assumng the latter, but would love to be wrong about this. He has been playing rapid and blitz in St. Louis against strong opposition for at least the past two years; is this any different, except for the rating points involved? When he starts playing classical chess, we can talk about a genuine return to chess.

    Anyway, he'll be facing a strong field: Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, Sergey Karjakin, Viswanathan Anand, Ian Nepomniachtchi, David Navara, Le Quang Liem, and Lenier Dominguez. I hope he's in better form than he was last year, when he had some good opening ideas and won some nice games, but also blundered a lot, and not only against Wesley So.

    HT: Allen Becker.

    Friday
    Jun302017

    Kasparov on "Deep Thinking"

    Here's the video of a talk Garry Kasparov gave at Google, touching on his matches with Deep Blue in the 1990s and the more general topic of man-and/vs.-machine in chess, go, and elsewhere. He has recently written a book on the topic, so think of the video as an appetizer for the book.

    Sunday
    Dec042016

    Karjakin vs. Kasparov in the Media

    Just a mild war of words, possibly motivated in part by their differing attitudes towards Vladimir Putin.