Kasparov comes alive on day 5!
Chess champions are kaleidoscopes of miraculous talents. To ascend to the highest level in chess you need photographic memory, emotional grit, consistent calculation, and the ability to weigh the pros and cons of different moves and positions in your mind.
The most central of these talents is consistent calculation. Playing without it would be like playing any physical sport blind. I would argue that talent does play a role in calculation - some players will be naturally better at it than others. However, ultimately calculating is a muscle that needs to be built up and maintained through constant practice. If you stop practicing, the muscle shrinks just like any other.
This is precisely where Kasparov has struggled: demonstrating constant, consistent, deep and quick calculation. It’s obvious he prepared openings, and he has achieved winning positions in many of his games because of it. But when his preparation runs out, Kasparov had to think and think for a long time. Kasparov has had serious time troubles in virtually every game and this is why.
All Photos Courtsey of CCSCSL and Lennart Ootes
Here is the position in Kasparov’s game against Aronian after Aronian’s 8th move. Kasparov is black:
Kasparov had used one minute of his time to get to this position, while Aronian had used 3 seconds! This position has occurred over 200 times in Grandmaster games. It is impossible to know what is going on in Kasparov’s head, maybe he has some amazing preparation coming up, or maybe he’s cross referencing previous Aronian games in his mind, who knows. Whatever the reason, it’s probably not wise for Kasparov to spend 20% of his time on this common opening position.
Kasparov had the greatest success on the last day of blitz with wins over Caruana, Dominguez, and his pre-tournament trash talking competitor, Hikaru Nakamura. Let’s take a look at those three wins and the magic that Garry Kasparov brought to this tournament.
Kasparov had a new strategy for this tournament: dynamic opening play that converts to static positional superiority. On the last day Kasparov was finally able to convert these positions into wins. In his game with Dominquez, Kasparov secured a space advantage and minor piece superiority by move 28. After white traded off the rooks, the strength of black’s minor pieces became apparent and Dominquez dropped pawn after pawn, and resigned on the 48th move.
In his game with white against Nakamura we saw Garry squeeze out a win in the often drawn ending of opposite colored bishops. Kasparov’s 38.a4 forced the bishop away from the b5 square and allowed the passed pawn to collect the win.
Kasparov’s game against Caruana was what everyone was waiting for, a closed Sicilian that developed into a tense positional battle, that eventually threw both players into time trouble. Despite 12 years of absence from chess, Kasparov was able to blitz out the last dozen or so moves to checkmate Caruana with the trio of bishop, knight and rook. All the drama is found in the following clip:
Here is the full game
After the tournament, Kasparov confirmed our suspicions surrounding his motives for participating in this tournament. Kasparov participated in the St. Louis Blitz and Rapid in gratitude to: The Grand Chess Tour, to St. Louis, to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center, and to the man, Rex Sinquefield for creating such a culture. He went on to say he is happy to see St. Louis be the chess capitol of America, and wants to see it become the chess capital of the World!
Congrats to Levon Aronian for winning the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz. I was very nervous for him going into the last day. Karjakin was on fire, scoring 8/9 the previous day, and winning his first two games on the last day.
Does anyone else love the way Karjakin moves his pieces? It reminds me of that crane game where you're trying to get the teddy bear.
Aronian mentioned he hadn’t slept well the night before and quickly drew his first game. The tide seemed to be turning. But Aronian regained his composure and won the tournament with 2 rounds to spare! Congrats!
Thanks to all the great people at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in St. Louis, thanks to lichess.org, thanks to arex for editing, grandmasterjunio for making the Kasparov Study, and thanks to Garry Kasparov for giving chess fans the thrill of a lifetime!