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Anatoly Karpov vs Garry Kasparov
Kasparov - Karpov World Championship Match (1990), Lyon FRA, rd 17, Dec-05
Gruenfeld Defense: Exchange Variation (D85)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jun-22-11  DrMAL: Karpov describes 25...Rc8 as black's decisive mistake, suggesting 25...Be5 instead ( Both describe the position after 26.Rc6 as "completely lost." Pretty strong statements worth checking out more deeply.

According to Rybka 4.1 Be5 is indeed better but Rc8, black's second best move, was inaccurate but not decisive:

[+0.53] d=22 25...Be5 26.Rc6 e6 27.Qf3 Rd8 28.Ba5 Re8 29.a3 Rc8 30.Bc3 Rxc6 (0:34:24) 191918kN

[+0.87] d=22 25...Rc8 26.Rc6 Be5 27.Bc3 Bxc3 28.Qxc3 Rxc6 29.dxc6 Qc7 30.e5 Kf8 (0:42:06) 237230kN

Of course, the term "decisive" is relative and maybe true against Karpov, he produces wins with the slightest advantage.

Looking above at the line for 25...Rc8 black plays a different move 27...Bb8 but the difference seems negligible. Both players move quite accurately and after 33.Qc5 Rybka 4.1 still evaluates white as being ahead by only one point:

[+1.06] d=24 33...Bd6 34.Qc1 Qa7 35.Bb6 Qd7 36.Kg2 Ra8 37.Ba5 Be5 38.Qd2 Kg8 (0:29:38) 164683kN

While this is probably enough for Karpov to win, the first real mistake occurs when black plays 33...h5 and is totally lost:

[+2.55] d=22 34.Bc7 Bb2 35.Bf4 Qd7 (0:19:41) 110005kN

Oct-04-11  DrMAL: After this amazing game, Efim Geller suggested an interesting line for black involving 12...h6 13.hxg4 hxg5 but what was played evaluates as best by Houdini. Moreover, after 12...h6 white can play 13.Nxf7! Kxf7 14.hxg4 for possibly bigger advantage (e.g., 14...Bxd4 15.Bc4+ Ke8 16.Bxd4 Qxd4 17.Qxd4 Nxd4 18.Rd1 for favorable endgame). Still, it was creative idea.
Oct-07-11  DrMAL: While 25...Rc8 was second best to 25...Be5 I could not see how after playing it black was "completely lost" as described in video link above. This bothered me, some sort of line hinting to a win should be apparent. Checking deeper on computer, Houdini chose same line as above until next depth 33/79 nearly two hours and some 53 billion positions into it, then switched to line below (truncated), refined further on move 31 at depth 37/94.

Houdini_20_x64: 37/94 31:24:46 941,850,014,125
+0.58 26.Rc6 Be5 27.Qc2 Rxc6 28.dxc6 Qb6 29.Bh6 Bd6 30.g3 e5 31.Kh1 a5 32.Kg2 Qc7 33.Qc1 Bb4 34.Qd1 Bf8 35.Bxf8 Kxf8

I can only conclude that statements made during match were brilliantly intuitive but tainted with emotional impression, after 25...Rc8 white had edge but it was far from decisive, there is no forced win from here. Video has great historical value it is wonderful to hear how players were thinking, but like many things historical in chess the opinions are not completely accurate.

Jul-26-12  Moszkowski012273: After 30. Qc3 Kasperov probably could of played to a draw w. RxR. 30. Qb6 gives white a stronger position and wins a pawn to boot.
Jun-08-13  csmath: One thing you can always notice with Kasparov and that is his major weakness that he becomes very nervous in inactive positions and in protracted fight where he has little to no initiative. Even though he defends very well this is a major reason why he lost to Kramnik in 2000. The seeds of that loss were clearly exhibited in this game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <csmath>: Quite so; it was very much against Kasparov's nature to play passively, same as his predecessor Alekhine, though the latter was probably better able to play such positions.
Jul-16-13  talisman: after the game...what was his mistake? "little ones" replied Karpov.
Mar-27-14  SpiritedReposte: 26. Rc6! sets it off and from there it seems Kasparov has no chance.
Aug-03-14  Conrad93: 10. Ng5! was a great novelty.
Jan-16-15  SpiritedReposte: Still one of the most crystal clear games of chess I have seen. Classic Karpov technique.

Even though when asked what his style was Karpov responded "Style? I have no style" lol

Feb-27-15  carpovius: "little mistakes" game:)
Sep-25-15  kamagong24: yes! vintage Karpov!
Mar-01-16  SimplicityRichard: A true Karpovian game; Black has been squeezed and thus run out of space.#
Premium Chessgames Member
10. Nf3-g5! TN

click for larger view

Kasparov reckons that the source of this novelty was Igor Arkadievich Zaitsev.

Oddly enough it was Igor Arkadievich Zaitsev who devised Karpov's greatest-ever novelty:
11. Nf3-g5! TN.

click for larger view

That is from Karpov vs Korchnoi, 1978.

Mar-22-21  Gaito: I strongly recommend the book "Five Crowns" by GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Joanthan Tisdall, where any interested reader may find superb annotations and analysis, photos, anecdotes and, as a bonus, the scores (without comments) of all of the other 158 K-K games played up to June, 1991. An excellent book! A must for every serious chess student and master.

I should like to quote Yasser, commenting this great game:

- "What was Kasparov's mistake? I asked Karpov". - "LIttle ones. He just let me keep improving the position", replied Karpov.

Mar-22-21  Gaito: Which moves were those "little mistakes" that Karpov was referring to? It is not easy to find out the answer to this question without the aid of powerful chess engines. But luckily, thirty years after this game was played we have now at our disposal a few very reliable chess engines which can throw us some light and help us find the exact "little mistakes" (or "big mistakes") that Black might possibly have made in this fantastic game. We can use the numerical computer evaluation with a view to finding any possible "little mistake". I am using Stockfish 13 (SF13) with a hardware 20 CPU core Dual Xeon E5-2680 v2, and also LeelaZero 0.27 (Lc0) with hardware RTX 2080 GPU. The depth of each move search is about 50 more or less. The diagram below shows the position after 15. Bd3 (SF13 evaluates this position as "equal" with numerical evaluation of +0.26)

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Kasparov played 15...Be6.

First we quote Yasser Seirawan and Jonathan Tisdall: "The cause of Black's future problems. Natural is 15...Nc4 16.Bxc4 Rxc4 17.O-O (not 17.Rxb7? Bc6 18.Rxa7 Bxe4 =) 17...Qa8! ..." (Rest of the commentary ommited).

SF13 suggests either 15...b5 (Ev. +0.26) or 15...Nc4 (Ev. +0.44), but the computer doesn't believe that 15...Be6 is a mistake (In the book a question mark was attached to that move). The evaluation of 15...Be6 is +0.58 (equality), so it should be a perfectly playable move and apparently not a mistake as stated in the book. Further there followed 16.O-O Bc4 17.Rfd1 (Seirawan suggested 17.d5, but the engines seem to like 17.h4!, and 17.Rfe1 as the second best choice).

Mar-22-21  Gaito:

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Kasparov played 17...b5.

In the book of the match, the authors attached the sign ?! (dubious) to that move, and we quote only part of the commentary:

"Black's game had been uncomfortable. Now it suffers. Black has a whole galaxy of weak squares on the queenside, even the b5-pawn might be poleaxed by a2-a4. Spassky considers the move an outright mistake. That may be too severe. After all the pawn does control c4..." "...Expected was 17...Bxd3 18.Qxd3 e6.....etc., etc..." (Rest of the commentary ommited).

Both engines (SF13 and Lc0) suggest that Black play 17...b6 with equality (Evs. +0.51 and +0.20 respectively).

However, the engines do not at all dislike Kasparov's move 17...b5, and also consider it a good move with equality (Lc0 +0.27; SF13 +0.55).

So, if we are to trust the thorough computer analysis of those very powerful engines, we may say that so far there has been no siginificant mistake by either side.

But some real mistakes will appear later, that were unnoticed by the human commentators.

Mar-22-21  Z4all: <Gaito> can I please request that any analysis you post by SF contain the depth of plies also?

This is important for gauging the reliability of any eval imo.

Of course, I don't know the equivalent figure of merit for Lc0 - it being a different sort of beast from the normal alpha-beta engines. Perhaps a more informed reader could provide a hint?

Mar-22-21  Gaito:

click for larger view


Kasparov played 21...Re8

The computer engines endorse this move as perfectly playable, with equality (evaluation: +0.11 SF13, +0.16 Lc0).

Nevertheless, in the book of the match the authors stated it was a mistake, and attached a question mark to that move. We quote only a small part of their commentary:

"21...Re8? -I believe that Kasparov overlooked Karpov's 26th move, otherwise he would never have been so passive, tieing the rook to the e7-pawn. Karpov happily takes the c-file...."..."Black had to play 21...Qb7 22.Qa3 Nc4 23.Qxe7 Qxe7 24.Bxe7 Re8...." (Rest of the variation and commentary ommited).

Once more, the engines disagree and consider that 21...Re8 is a playable move, maybe not precisely the best move which is 21...Nc4 (Ev +0.00, or total equality), but no mistake either.

So we are more than halfway of the entire game and so far no "little mistake" has been detected by the computer engines. Both Ks have been playing a perfectly good game of chess so far, according to the engine's point of view.

Mar-22-21  Gaito: Z4all: As stated above, the depth of this computer analysis is about 50 or 52. I am using a very powerful and fast hardware, and the computer is analyzing at a rate of about 60 million nodes per second, with an average thinking time of 30 seconds per move.
Mar-22-21  Z4all: <Gaito> oh sorry, my bad, I missed that. Must be nice to get that depth so quickly.

How does one estimate the reliability of Lc0's searching?


Mar-22-21  Gaito:

click for larger view


Kasparov played 24...Nxd2

The engines do not like this move very much, and instead they suggest that Black play 24...h6!

However, no comments were given in the book of the match. Apparently the authors took it for granted that Black's only playable move was 24...Nxd2.

This might be the first "little mistake" made by Black so far in the game.

Mar-22-21  Gaito:

click for larger view


In the book of the match, the authors consider this position as lost for Black, yet the engines disagree, and the computer gives the position as equal.

Kasparov played 25...Rc8?

This was another "little mistake" of those that Karpov talked about after the game. But the computer agrees that it was only a very little o very tiny mistake. We quote a small part of the commentary from the book of the match:

"....Perhaps it was time for desperation: 25...Rd8 26.Qc2 f5!?, although the position may well be lost anyway".

The engines suggest that Black play here 25...h5! with equality (Evs: +0.89 SF13; +0.40 Lc0).

After 25...Rc8 26.Rc6, the engines give the following evaluations: +0.83 Lc0; +1.55 SF13.

Mar-22-21  Gaito:

click for larger view


In this position Karpov played 27.Bc3

In the book of the match the authors give this move an exclamation mark but made no additional comments. However, the engines consider this move to be a "little mistake" but by White, not by Black. According to the engines, the correct move was 27Qc2! with evaluations of +1.57 by SF13 and +0.83 by Lc0.

After Karpov's move (27.Bc3?!) the evaluation becomes again close to zero i.e., almost equality.

Black's real losing mistake would come later (on move 33) but apparently none of the human annotators perceived that.

See the diagram below:

click for larger view


Kasparov played 31...Kg7 (no comments were given in the book of the match). According to the computer this move was a mistake. Better was either 31...Qa7 or 31...Be5.

But then the game went on with 32.g3! (32.Bb4 deserved attention too) Be5 33.Qc5?! (stronger was 33.Qe3! according to the engines) 33...h5??

Finally the losing mistake appeared. Of course, White had already a considerable advantage after Black's previous "little mistakes", but 33...h5 was a terrible mistake.

What did the authors of the book had to say about that move? We quote their comment:

33...h5 ("Kasparov marks time. His only chance is that Karpov might err in time trouble. The game is lost. You can read it on Kasparov's face").

Black's correct move was 33...Bd6!

Mar-22-21  Gaito:

click for larger view

Position that would have been reached after the hypothetical move 33...Be5-d6.

A likely continuation might have been something like this:

34.Qc3 (34.Qe3 is another possibility, and also 34.Qc1 deserves attention) Be5 35.Qe3 Ra8 (some other engines suggest ...Bd6, but Black has an inferior position anyway) 36.h4! Qa7 37.Bb6 Qd7

click for larger view

In this hypothetical position White has a great positional advantage, and there is no doubt that Karpov would have transformed it into a win with his flawless technique. But the point is that Black would have put up a better fight after 33...Be5-d6, instead of the suicidal move 33...h5?? that lost quickly. Or maybe Kasparov wanted to lose quickly and thus avoid a long agony against Karpov? In that case, the move 33...h5 would be understandable.

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