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 Garry Kasparov

Born:   April 13, 1963

Russian chess grandmaster, a former World Chess Champion and writer whom many consider the greatest chess player of all time.


Garry Kasparov is a Russian chess grandmaster, a former World Chess Champion and writer whom many consider the greatest chess player of all time. He is also widely known for being the first world chess champion to lose a match to a computer, when he lost to Deep Blue in 1997. But let's start from the beginning.

Garry Kasparov (born Garry Kimovich Weinstein) was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, to an Armenian mother and Jewish father, on April 13, 1963. He first began the study of chess after he came across a chess problem set up by his parents and proposed a solution. His father died of leukemia when he was seven years old. At the age of twelve, he adopted his mother's Armenian surname, Kasparyan, modifying it to a more Russified version, Kasparov.

From age 7, Kasparov attended the Young Pioneer Palace in Baku and, at 10 began training at Mikhail Botvinnik's chess school under noted coach Vladimir Makogonov. Makogonov helped develop Kasparov's positional skills and taught him to play the Caro-Kann Defence and the Tartakower System of the Queen's Gambit Declined. Kasparov won the Soviet Junior Championship in Tbilisi in 1976, scoring 7 points of 9, at age 13. He repeated the feat the following year, winning with a score of 8½ of 9. He was being trained by Alexander Shakarov during this time.

In 1978, Kasparov participated in the Sokolsky Memorial tournament in Minsk. He had been invited as an exception but took first place and became a chess master. Kasparov has repeatedly said that this event was a turning point in his life, and that it convinced him to choose chess as his career.

In 1980 Kasparov won the World Junior Chess Championship in Dortmund, West Germany. Later that year, at age 19, he became a Grandmaster and the youngest Candidate since Bobby Fischer, who was 15 when he qualified in 1958. At this stage, he was already the #2-rated player in the world, trailing only World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov on the January 1983 list.

And finally, there came the day of the great battle, the World Chess Championship 1984!

The match between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov had many ups and downs, and a very controversial finish. Karpov started in very good form, and after nine games Kasparov was down 4–0 in a "first to six wins" match. Fellow players predicted he would be whitewashed 6–0 within 18 games.

In a strange period, there followed a series of 17 successive draws, some relatively short, and others drawn in unsettled positions. He lost game 27, then fought back with another series of draws until game 32, his first-ever win against the World Champion. Another 15 successive draws followed, through game 46; the previous record length for a world title match had been 34 games, the match of Jose Raul Capablanca vs. Alexander Alekhine in 1927.

Kasparov won games 47 and 48 to bring the scores to 5–3 in Karpov's favour. Then the match was ended without result by Florencio Campomanes, the President of Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE), and a new match was announced to start a few months later. The termination was controversial, as both players stated that they preferred the match to continue. Announcing his decision at a press conference, Campomanes cited the health of the players, which had been strained by the length of the match.

The match became the first, and so far only, world championship match to be abandoned without result. Kasparov's relations with Campomanes and FIDE were greatly strained, and the feud between them eventually came to a head in 1993 with Kasparov's complete break-away from FIDE.

The second Karpov-Kasparov match in 1985 was organized in Moscow as the best of 24 games where the first player to win 12.5 points would claim the World Champion title. The scores from the terminated match would not carry over. But in the event of a 12–12 draw, the title would remain with Karpov. On 9 November 1985, Kasparov secured the title by a score of 13–11, winning the 24th game with Black, using a Sicilian defence. He was 22 years old at the time, making him the youngest ever World Champion, and breaking the record held by Mikhail Tal for over 20 years. Kasparov's win as Black in the 16th game has been recognized as one of the all-time masterpieces in chess history.

Then followed the third match in 1986, hosted jointly in London and Leningrad, the fourth one in 1987 in Seville and the fifth one held in New York and Lyon in 1990, with each city hosting 12 games. All the three matches' result were close ones with Kasparov winning.

But there's no eternal championship under the moon. The Kasparov-Kramnik match took place in London during the latter half of 2000. Kramnik had been a student of Kasparov's at the legendary Botvinnik/Kasparov chess school in Russia, and had served on Kasparov's team for the 1995 match against Viswanathan Anand.

The better-prepared Kramnik won Game 2 against Kasparov's Grünfeld Defence and achieved winning positions in Games 4 and 6. Kasparov made a critical error in Game 10 with the Nimzo-Indian Defence, which Kramnik exploited to win in 25 moves. Kramnik won the match 8.5–6.5, and for the first time in 15 years Kasparov had no world championship title. He became the first player to lose a world championship match without winning a game since Emanuel Lasker lost to Capablanca in 1921.

After losing the title, Kasparov won a series of major tournaments, and remained the top rated player in the world, ahead of both Kramnik and the FIDE World Champions. In 2001 he refused an invitation to the 2002 Dortmund Candidates Tournament for the Classical title, claiming his results had earned him a rematch with Kramnik.

Another sparkling point of Kasparov's bio are the games against computers:

1) Kasparov defeated the chess computer Deep Thought in both games of a two-game match in 1989.

2) In February 1996, IBM's chess computer Deep Blue defeated Kasparov in one game using normal time controls, in Deep Blue - Kasparov, 1996, Game 1. But Kasparov recovered well, gaining three wins and two draws and easily winning the match.

3) In May 1997, an updated version of Deep Blue defeated Kasparov 3½–2½ in a highly publicised six-game match. The match was even after five games but Kasparov was crushed in Game 6. This was the first time a computer had ever defeated a world champion in match play. A documentary film was made about this famous match-up entitled Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine.

Kasparov claimed that several factors weighed against him in this match. In particular, he was denied access to Deep Blue's recent games, in contrast to the computer's team that could study hundreds of Kasparov's.

After the loss Kasparov said that he sometimes saw deep intelligence and creativity in the machine's moves, suggesting that during the second game, human chess players, in contravention of the rules, intervened. IBM denied that it cheated, saying the only human intervention occurred between games. The rules provided for the developers to modify the program between games, an opportunity they said they used to shore up weaknesses in the computer's play revealed during the course of the match. Kasparov requested printouts of the machine's log files but IBM refused, although the company later published the logs on the Internet. Kasparov demanded a rematch, but IBM declined and retired Deep Blue, which has been viewed by Kasparov as covering up evidence of tampering during the game.

4) Kasparov played with 3D glasses in his match against the program X3D Fritz. In January 2003, he engaged in a six game classical time control match with a $1 million prize fund which was billed as the FIDE "Man vs. Machine" World Championship, against Deep Junior. The engine evaluated three million positions per second. After one win each and three draws, it was all up to the final game. After reaching a decent position Kasparov offered a draw, which was soon accepted by the Deep Junior team. Asked why he offered the draw, Kasparov said he feared making a blunder. Originally planned as an annual event, the match was not repeated.

5) In November 2003, he engaged in a four-game match against the computer program X3D Fritz, using a virtual board, 3D glasses and a speech recognition system. After two draws and one win apiece, the X3D Man-Machine match ended in a draw. Kasparov received $175,000 for the result and took home the golden trophy. Kasparov continued to criticize the blunder in the second game that cost him a crucial point. He felt that he had outplayed the machine overall and played well. "I only made one mistake but unfortunately that one mistake lost the game."

To cast the total, Garry Kasparov was the world number-one ranked player for 255 months, holding records for consecutive tournament victories and Chess Oscars. One of the greatest brains of the 20th century announced his retirement from professional chess on 10 March 2005, to devote his time to writing.


Max Yakuba

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