Shifting focus

METAPHORICALLY, Garry Kasparov kept raising the bar in the chess world.

RAKESH RAO

Vladimir Kramnik with Garry Kasparov. Kramnik ended Kasparov's reign as the World champion in 2000.-AP

METAPHORICALLY, Garry Kasparov kept raising the bar in the chess world. He set exacting standards for himself and strived hard to achieve them. Much in the same fashion as the legendary Sergey Bubka did, literally, at the pole vault pit.

Armed with enormous talent and intelligence, Kasparov reigned supreme over the board of 64 squares like none of his great predecessors. The man who loved challenges in a career spanning 30 years is now focussing on goals outside the chequered board. The 41-year-old announced his retirement from professional chess after being the number one player in the world since 1984.

A look at the career of Kasparov, considered as the strongest and the greatest ever chess player:

Named Gari Weinstein, Kasparov was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, where his father Kim Moizeyevich Weinstein, of Jewish ancestry, was a member of the Composer's Union, and mother Klara Shagenovna Kasparova, of Armenian ancestry, a music teacher.

At seven, Kasparov lost his father two years after learning the game from him. Five years later, as allowed by law, he changed his name from Weinstein to Kasparov, a variant of Kasparian his mother's maiden name.

At 10, Kasparov was a student of World champion Mikhail Botvinnik's famous chess school. Two years later, he became the youngest to win the USSR junior (under-19) title. In 1979, Kasparov became the World junior champion and also gained his first rating of 2545! A year later, he became a Grandmaster. In 1981, Kasparov became the joint Soviet champion with Lev Psakhis.

It was time to have a crack at the world title.

After winning the 1982 edition of the inter-zonal tournament in Moscow, Kasparov won the Candidates quarterfinals in 1983 by beating Alexander Beliavsky 6-3. He brushed aside two-time challenger Victor Korchnoi 7-3 in the semifinal before defeating former World champion Vasily Smyslov 8.5-4.5 in the final. As it turned out, Kasparov was never ever required to go through the Candidates cycle in search of the World title.

Kasparov challenged the then World champion Anatoly Karpov and their continued duels became part of the folklore.

Though both were students of Botvinnik, they had different styles of play. Kasparov and Karpov began their historic battle in September 1984. The first to win six matches was to be named the World champion. Kasparov lost four of the first 10 matches and Karpov looked poised to defend the title.

But it was far from over.

Against a rival 12 years his senior, Kasparov chose an unconventional way to stage a comeback into the biggest match of his career. He began taking short draws with a hope to frustrate Karpov. The ploy worked.

The duels between Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov, the two giants in the chess world, became part of the folklore.-REUTERS

After 48 games, the score stood at 5-3 for an exhausted Karpov after Kasparov had won game number 47 and 48. At this stage, the FIDE President Florencio Camponanes, known to be close to Karpov, made a stunning announcement. He ended the match as inconclusive, citing health reasons of the players involved. He also declared that a new match would start from scratch on September 1, 1985.

Kasparov cried foul and asked why was the game not stopped at the time when he had no hope of winning. He maintained that his chances were as good as Karpov's and the interruption was only to favour the defending champion. This was also a turning point in Kasparov's career as he witnessed the ugly side of chess politics.

A best of 24-game re-match was proposed with Karpov needing to come out undefeated to keep the title. But this time, Kasparov was not to be denied. Requiring a draw in the final game, Kasparov delivered a crushing blow with black pieces and became the 13th World champion on November 9, 1985.

The following year, Karpov exercised his right for a return match but Kasparov once gain proved superior with a 12.5-11.5 verdict. It was a remarkable comeback from Kasparov who at one stage had lost three consecutive games.

In 1987, Karpov came through the modified Candidates cycle as the challenger and set up a fourth World title round with Kasparov. This time, Karpov had the best chance to win back the title since he led 12-11 before the final match and needed just a draw to emerge champion. But Kasparov hit back with a terrific endgame display to keep his hold on the title for another three years. During this period, Kasparov also became the first player to reach a rating of 2800!

The fifth and last of the Kasparov-Karpov match was held in two parts, in New York and Lyon, France, in 1990. Karpov, who made the round after beating Jan Timman, kept pace with Kasparov in the first leg with both players winning a game each. But Kasparov came out stronger in Lyon for a 12.5-11.5 verdict. Thus ended the sequence of the most bitterly fought title duels between the two Russians.

In 1993, the world of chess saw a divide that has its impact even to this day. Nigel Short became the new challenger to Kasparov after defeating Karpov. But Kasparov and Short decided to play their match outside of FIDE's jurisdiction. They formed the Professional Chess Association (PCA) and invited The Times of London as the sponsor. Not surprisingly, Kasparov easily won the 20-game match 12.5-7.5.

The PCA had superseded the erstwhile Grandmasters Association (GMA), started by Kasparov. The champion made no secret of the idea behind the initiative. He said it was to loosen the hold of FIDE and its President on professional chess. But FIDE did not take it lying low.

FIDE held its own World championship match between Karpov and Timman. Karpov duly won and for the first time, chess had two world champions. Kasparov and Karpov.

In 1994-95, the PCA held its world championship cycle where Viswanathan Anand came out as the challenger. Kasparov bounced back from defeat in the ninth game to win the 20-game match 10.5-7.5.

A year later, the PCA ran into financial trouble and cancelled its Grand Prix events. In the following years, Kasparov announced title-matches with Anand and Vladimir Kramnik but lack of sponsorship support turned these proposed clashes into non-starters.

Finally in 2000, Braingames Group came forward to fund the Kasparov-Kramnik match at London. Kramnik ended Kasparov's reign as the World champion by winning the 16-game match (8.5-6.5) with a game to spare. Surprisingly, Kasparov failed win a single a game.

In 2002, following the Prague Unity Plan, a serious bid was made to end Kasparov's split with FIDE. According to the format, Kasparov was required to take on the then FIDE World champion Ruslan Ponomariov and the winner of this match would meet the winner of the Kramnik-Peter Leko's match. Leko had won in Dortmund, a tournament aimed at ascertaining Kramnik's challenger. The winners of these matches were to clash for the unified world title.

Ponomariov refused the sign the contract he had initially agreed to. As a result, the match against Kasparov never took place. In the meantime, Rustam Kasimdzhanov became the FIDE World champion and earned the right to challenge Kasparov. With FIDE unable to raise the necessary guarantee money, Kasparov pulled out of the match that was rescheduled to April 2005. Meanwhile, Kramnik proved equal to Leko in their match and kept the title of the Classical World Champion.

It was this uncertainty that led Kasparov to call it a day.

Kasparov's domination outside of the World championship matches is even more astounding. Apart from winning close to 50 Super Grandmasters titles, Kasparov has played the Chess Olympiad on eight occasions and each time, helped Soviet Union and later Russia, win the gold.

Kasparov was the one to show that super computers could be beaten. In 1996, Kasparov defeated IBM's Deep Blue, known to assess 100 million positions per second, 4-2. However, on May 7, 1997, a new improved version of Deep Blue managed to conquer Kasparov 3.5-2.5.

In January-February 2003, Kasparov came up against Deep Junior, a computer that beat 18 other machines to become the World Computer chess champion. The match between the greatest chess player and the latest super computer ended 3-3.

Kasparov remains the biggest influence on the world of chess for the last 20 years, including 15 as world champion. When it comes to tournament play, Kasparov can always look back at this domination of the City of Linares chess tournament, considered the "Wimbledon of Chess." In 12 appearances since 1990, Kasparov has played 169 games and lost just seven and won a lot more. Nine titles at Linares will remain one of the high points of his career.

But the most astonishing coincidence of Kasparov's career is that he became a World champion at 21 and remained the world's strongest player for the next 21 years. And remember, he has chosen to leave the stage by choice.

Kasparov at the Olympiad

GARRY KASPAROV has the most enviable record in the Chess Olympiad. Since making his debut in the biennial event as an International Master in 1980, the Russian has been part of the gold winning team, whether for Soviet Union or Russia.

Interestingly, Kasparov was a second reserve in the six-member Soviet team in 1980. After making his first move in the second round, he did not look back and went on to play 12 of the remaining 13 rounds. In the end, Kasparov top-scored with 9.5 points, 0.5 more than World champion Anatoly Karpov on the top board.

Two years later, Kasparov was the choice for the second board, behind Karpov. Kasparov's contribution was 8.5 from 11 outings while Karpov and Mikhail Tal had an identical tally of 6.5 from eight games. This was also the last time Kasparov played on any board other than the top one.

The following table reflects Kasparov's domination in the Olympiads. Look out for the last column that shows Kasparov's rating performance in each appearance.

In simpler terms, Kasparov's record at the Olympiads reads: Games played: 82; Won: 50; Drawn 29; Lost: 3. Success percentage: 78.7.

Year Nation Rating Games Points Won Lost Drawn Place RP

2002 Russia 2838 9 7.5 6 0 3 1 2940 1996 Russia 2785 9 7 5 0 4 1 2871 1994 Russia 2805 10 6.5 4 1 5 1 2753 1992 Russia 2780 10 8.5 7 0 3 1 2913 1988 USSR 2760 10 8.5 7 0 3 1 2882 1986 USSR 2740 11 8.5 7 1 3 1 2748 1982 USSR 2675 11 8.5 6 0 5 1 2767 1980 USSR 2595 12 8.5 8 1 3 1 2652