Kasparov versus Anand | The Inside Story of the 1995 World Chess Championship | By Patrick Wolff, International Grandmaster

An Interview with the Author

Patrick Wolff, international grandmaster, two-time United States champion, and author of Kasparov versus Anand: The Inside Story of the 1995 World Chess Championship (H3 Publications, 1996), interviewed by Christopher Chabris, 29 February 1996.

Describe Kasparov versus Anand: The Inside Story in a couple of sentences.

My goal was to write the book that would be regarded in ten years as the authoritative book on the 1995 world championship match. To this end, I made sure to do two things. First, I wrote a lot about the context of this match, that is, the history of the world championship in general, a profile of each of the players, and a history of my own personal involvement with Anand. Then, I put a tremendous amount of effort into the annotations of the games. Not only to give the reader a lot, but also to make sure that what I wrote was good.
How is your book different from the others on the match?
My book is different because I put so much effort into it, and because I have such a privileged perspective. I was right there, inside the match, working with Anand, against Kasparov.
How did you create the game annotations that appear in the book?
The annotations are all my own, but they build upon the joint analysis of Anand and his four seconds: Artur Yusupov, Jonathan Speelman, Elizbar Ubilava, and myself. During the match we analyzed all the games as they were played. Then afterward, I analyzed the games myself using that analysis as a starting point. I know that the resulting analysis is much better than anything I have seen so far, and I am confident that it will be as good or better as any other book on the match.
What was the greatest challenge in writing this book?
The greatest challenge was to do justice to the quality of the ideas in the games. It is always so easy to do a superficial analysis. But you must always do a much deeper analysis to do justice to world championship games.
Many observers were disappointed in the quality of play in the 1995 match. Do you share this feeling?
Absolutely not. As I explain in the preface to the book, I understand that many chess fans were disappointed by the number of draws, both the ones that were not really fights and the ones that were abandoned just as the fight was intensifying. As a chess fan, I share that frustration, although those who read my book will get some sense of what the psychological tensions were underlying those draws. But no, I cannot say that the actual quality of play was low. The chess that was played was extremely good, with many complex and subtle ideas behind the moves. Furthermore, as is always the case with games played by great players, a deep analysis will uncover many more hidden ideas and concepts. The reader who takes the time to study these games carefully will not be disappointed, either in enjoyment or edification.
You are known for the complexity of your game annotations, which rival Huebner's and even Kasparov's own in depth and precision. How can readers get the most from your material without drowning in a sea of variations and evaluations?
It is true that my analysis can get pretty complex, and I know that this presents a challenge to readers. However, it also presents an invaluable opportunity to learn. The truth in chess is never simple when titans clash -- I am sure that even the work I have done has not reached the truth in many cases. But chess is as much like great philosophy or literature as it is like mathematics, and that means that one of the best ways to learn is by studying careful analysis of the efforts of the great players.

But I haven't yet said how you can get the most from my analysis. First of all, I have tried very hard to make it clear what I think is "extra" in my notes, and what is essential to read in order to understand what was going on. For example, I went into great depth in analyzing game three of the match, where Anand could have had a winning attack against Kasparov. Well, obviously it is not necessary to go over all the variations I have given to understand that it would be a winning attack! You can always choose to skip the details if you only want to know the general facts about each game, and I have tried to make this clear where possible.

But that is not the way to get the most out of the analysis. To do this, you should sit down with a chess board and play over the analysis carefully. Nimzovich suggested using two chess boards -- one to keep the game position, and one on which to play over the analysis. That's a pretty good suggestion, but he didn't have computers! So here's another suggestion: If you have a chess database such as ChessBase, go through the game on your computer. That way, you can keep the game and record your own thoughts on it as well. Over time, you can gain a deeper and deeper understanding of the game.

Finally, here is a method that I recommend to my students: Play over the game on a chessboard, and when you come to a crucial moment, cover the analysis with a piece of paper and try to do it on your own. Of course, you probably won't be able to do the same job as the annotator! But then you can compare your thoughts with the annotations. This is an excellent way to train and improve your ability to think about a chess position.
Other than your own, what is your favorite book of a world championship match? What other chess books do you regard as classics?
Kasparov wrote two very good books on his world championship matches. In particular the first book, on the 1985 match in which he won the title, is a classic. An even better book, perhaps the best book ever on a world championship, is the one Tal wrote on his match against Botvinnik in 1960. Some other great books by world champions are My Sixty Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer; Botvinnik's collection of his best games, Smyslov's collection of this best games, Alekhine's collections of his best games, The Test of Time by Kasparov, and My Best Games by Karpov. By lesser mortals: Think Like a Grandmaster by Alexander Kotov; The Art of Defense and Pawn Structure Chess by Andy Soltis, and any book by John Nunn.
How did you estimate Anand's chances before the match began? Did you think he had a realistic shot at the championship?
I certainly thought he had a realistic shot at the championship. I thought his odds were about 35-40%.
Why did Kasparov win the match, or rather, why did Anand lose it?
My book goes into this question in detail. Basically, I can say that Kasparov's match strategy was superb, and when the going got tough, he played well. Our match strategy was much more naive, but I think that the actual level of our preparation was very high. But the psychological element was the deciding factor, and Anand simply didn't hold up to the tremendous pressure.
What do you think will happen to the world chess championship title in the future?
This is simply impossible to answer. As I am giving this answer, Intel has pulled out of the PCA, and FIDE has found a rich president/dictator to fund it from his own wallet. So at the moment the PCA has no sponsor to support its World Championship cycle, while FIDE is controlled by one man, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who wants to replace the World Championship match with an annual tournament. Is this good or bad? It's too early to say. I have very little faith in the stability of sugar-daddy presidents of FIDE, but the idea itself has some merit if and only if it is done in such a way as to attract Western corporate sponsors. So at the moment it seems that the PCA has the right idea and FIDE has all the money! But who could have forecast these developments last spring, and who knows what the situation will be next year?
Is "classical" match play a dying form of chess, given the popularity of rapid tournaments, knockout schedules, and other new, media- friendly events?
No, it is not a dying form of chess. First, because people want to have the top grandmasters play games of better quality than what rapid chess produces. And second, somewhat ironically, because humans will maintain superiority over the computers in slower chess for some time, there will be a lot of interest in that format. But certainly rapid chess has a much larger role in world chess than it did ten years ago, and that is a good thing in my opinion. Currently the rapid circuit is the only surviving PCA event, and chess must be made as attractive as possible to the people who are its potential fans.
Do you think Anand will challenge Kasparov again, or will advances in computer chess strength make the "human world championship" unimportant?
Anand is certainly one of the people who has the best chance to challenge again, but there are at least four other people who are serious contenders: Karpov (still!), Kramnik, Ivanchuk, and Kamsky. We will have to see who rises to the top among this group.

As for computers, I see no reason why the inevitable rise of computers needs to replace grandmasters. Certainly it will be interesting to see what role computers will play in the future, but why should people not want to see the pure intellectual competition between humans that chess affords just because there are machines who can play chess as well or better?
If Anand does challenge again, what lessons can he take from the experience of the 1995 match? And will you work with him the next time around?
I will not work with Anand again, because I will be too busy with my next career. Probably. But one never knows. Certainly Anand and I are still friends, and I will always be eager to help him however I can.

As for the lessons he must take, I think there are many. Of course I cannot go into much detail about things that are too private, but I think the two main things are pretty obvious to all. First, he needs to use his experience to prepare better, to fashion a better match strategy. And second, he needs to grow from the match so that he handles the pressure better. And this will be both the most difficult and the most important thing.
Has working with Anand and the rest of his team affected your own approach to chess and your competitive results?
Well, after I won the 1995 U.S. championship last December, Anand sent me an email that said, "You owe me you know; every time we work together you win that tournament!" And it's true that after working with him in the summer of 1992 for his match against Ivanchuk, I won the U.S. championship held that December. It is always great to work with a genius, and also it was very beneficial to work with such great players as Yusupov and Speelman. Yes, it has affected my approach to chess, although it is difficult to say exactly how. But I have found that I learn from these players, I change just a little bit the way I analyze or assess a position. And also, from Anand I learned the importance in having faith in my ability to play chess -- that is, not to play this opening or that opening, but to be able to adapt to any opening or position and just to play chess. In a way, that was one of the most important lessons I ever learned.
What are your plans for your own chess career?
I have no long-term plans; as far as I am concerned I am now a professional student. I will complete my undergraduate education at Harvard in March, 1997, and at the moment I plan to go to law school. But that is not set in stone by any means.

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