Anand: ‘Kasparov will be dangerous and unpredictable’

Over the next six days, in the city of St. Louis, chess legend Garry Kasparov, 54, will play nine rapid and 18 blitz games, plus playoffs if necessary, against some of the strongest players in the game.

Garry Kasparov is coming out of retirement to play in an official tournament in St. Louis, Missouri against nine top-notch players.   -  AFP

The buzz in the chess world is palpable.

Over the next six days, in the city of St. Louis, America’s chess Capital, retired chess legend Garry Kasparov, 54, will play nine rapid and 18 blitz games, plus playoffs if necessary, against some of the strongest players in the game.

Notably, the 10-player field of the $150,000 St. Louis rapid and blitz event is without World champion Magnus Carlsen, the prodigious talent once trained briefly by Kasparov who retired in March 2005.

Viswanathan Anand, the man who fought many a battle against the former World champion and the undisputed No. 1, will be part of the field that includes six players from last week’s much-followed Sinquefield Cup.

“Everyone is just curious and that’s all. There is a lot of interest to see how he’ll play. The players, I feel, are more practical in terms of, “what I’m going to play against him? What will he do?” I think, it’s very unlikely that he’ll be the old Kasparov. He’ll have to make changes, as well, because the world has moved on (in 12 years),” Anand told Sportstar.

St. Louis Rapid and Blitz tournament
  • Format: 9-round all-play-all. Three rounds per day.
  • Time control: 25 minutes for each player with a 10-second delay after each move.
  • The players: Garry Kasparov (Russia, 2812), Levon Aronian (Armenia, 2809), Fabiano Caruana (USA, 2807), Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 2792), Viswanathan Anand (2783), Sergey Karjakin (Russia 2773), Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia, 2742), Leinier Dominguez Perez (Cuba, 2739), David Navara (Czech Republic, 2737) and Le Quang Liem (Vietnam, 2726).

On being reminded that Kasparov was last seen as part of the four-man Ultimate Blitz Challenge in April 2016, Anand said: “Yes, he has done a little bit before but that was blitz. And in blitz, may be he’s more forgiving because, any way, it’s quite random.”

About Kasparov’s preparedness, Anand was categorical. “We know Kasparov. He is going to be prepared to the teeth. In fact, he’s going to be onto the teeth. No doubt about that. I’m sure he’s taking it very seriously. He might have well spent the last couple of weeks trying to brush up and get back his speed. He’ll be dangerous and unpredictable. (As a participant), you also do your training and get ready, as much as you can.”

Does he see Kasparov’s return to the classical format as a possibility?

“Twelve years ago, he explicitly ruled rapid and classical (formats) and said he would never play classical again. But then, nothing stops anybody from changing their minds. After all, it is not a legal declaration and you are not going to sue him (laughs). Anything is possible.

“For the moment, I’m also thinking in more practical terms rather than wondering what he’ll do when. I’m thinking not only about him, I have to think of the whole tournament, as well. Again, the nice thing for the tournament is that it’ll draw a lot of attention.”

According to Anand, lack of practical experience is one factor that Kasparov could find hard to deal with. “You cannot recreate the sensation of playing at the board very easily. You may have lost some practical skills. Under attention and pressure, you do things differently than you do at home. Those are the things that could go wrong. And he knows that.”

First-day pairings:
  • Round 1: Anand-Nakamura; Kasparov-Karjakin; Liem-Caruana; Aronian-Navara; Nepomniachtchi-Perez;
  • Round 2: Perez-Anand; Nakamura-Kasparov; Navara-Caruana; Aronian-Nepomniachtchi; Karjakin-Liem;
  • Round 3: Anand-Aronian; Kasparov-Perez; Caruana-Karjakin; Liem-Nakamura; Nepomniachtchi-Navara.