1999 - 2005


Tibor Károlyi and Nick Aplin

12/03/2008 20:27

There have been many books written on Kasparov and his games - no doubt we shall soon have one from Kasparov himself - and now that he has retired from active chess, there can be definitive chess biographies published.  

Tibor Károlyi and Nick Alpin have chronicled much of his career in minute detail in two volumes the second of which is reviewed here.  No doubt chess enthusiasts will have great difficulty in deciding which of the many books available on Kasparov to purchase.  These books published by Batsford can be thoroughly recommended.  Not only do they include fine annotations on critical games that he has played, but they have comments on all the games he has played together with the situation in the tournament at the time the games were played.  No doubt this has taken a huge amount of research and the authors have assembled their findings in a most entertaining and readable fashion.

Starting with the 1999 Corus Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, they trace every tournament and game played by Kasparov until his final game against Topalov at Linares 2005.  Each game - including the rapid and internet games - get a mention and, indeed, in many cases there is a comment on his opponents.  This for instance, is a penetrating note on Michael Adams made when they consider his game against Kasparov at Sarajevo in May, 1999:

"I remember when Adams achieved his final GM norm in London back in the late 1980's.  It was a tournament sponsored by Mr. Icklicki.  The ease in which he played was striking.  I had the impression that his theoretical knowledge was not highly developed at that time, yet he was still impressive.  Since then he has not developed a support team as Kasparov and Leko have.  By missing out in this department, Adams tends to "give odds" to his better prepared opponents, some of whom are excellent all round.  This is part of the difference between Adams and his rivals." 

When considering the reasons why Kasparov retired from active chess, the authors cite the main reason as being his inability to arrange a match with Kramnik.  Also they mention his dwindling appetite for the game and, latterly, his mediocre performances.  They feel that he would have been capable of some stirring performances had he continued to play but inevitably he would not have been able to perform to the high standards he had set himself and achieved.  His pride would not accept that he would gradually fall from the high pinnacle he had enjoyed for more than a decade.

The writing style is more fluid than many books written by continental authors and this is to be applauded together with absence of the typographical mistakes that have pervaded recent chess writings.  As is usual with many chess authors today, they admit to the use of computers to check their analysis and this is another facet of the book that is to be applauded.  The explanation of this method is best expressed by this extract from the Introduction:

"In analysing Kasparov's games from the 1990's we realized that computer assistance could add further detail to the annotations already available.  Gary was a maestro of analysis, yet going through his games carefully - with this "assistance" it was possible to discover new dimensions.  In preparing the present volume, it became clear that Kasparov and other commentators had already made extensive use of computer programs.  We hope that going even deeper into the analysis will be an enriching experience."

Very fair comment and a pointer to the fact that it is easier to appreciate the analysis by playing the games on a computer instead of on a board.  Perhaps the best method is play on a board and resort to the computer when studying extensive annotations.

Seventy-seven games come under scrutiny and this is contained in a volume of 336 double-column pages.  The historic game Kasparov - Topalov from the 1999 Corus Tournament takes up eight pages from this total.  In addition to the biographical commentary and games analysis there are comprehensive Contents, Players and Openings listing. 

So many of Kasparov's games have been annotated by many commentators and it would be almost impossible to complete a book of this nature without quoting comments from other sources.  When doing so, the authors give full credit to the originator.  Some games include analysis by Kasparov himself and it will be interesting to see what he writes when he publishes his book on his own games.

To complete this review extracts from the game annotations are attached.

Production of the book maintains Batsford's high standards and the book carries a recommended price of £15.99.  To reiterate, this can be highly recommended. 

Bill Frost

February 2007