An unexamined life is not worth living.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Book Review - Five Crowns (K-K 1990 match)

I recently picked up an old looking book from the Vancouver public library - "Five Crowns" by Yasser Seirawan and Jonathan Tisdall. Seirawan has provided detailed annotations for each game. He was apparently following the games live from the press-center during the match, so the notes are not just a boring analysis of different possibilities, but also a description of what Seirawan and other GM's thought about each move as it was played.
In 1990 there was no computers that could quickly evaluate the position and determine if a move played on the board had been good or bad - instead people had to figure out things on their own. Game databases were not really around either (Kasparov's brain does not count). Computers are only mentioned when game 16 was adjourned, and there was a rumour that Kasparov could have used Deep Thought to find a plan for breaking a fortress in a simplified endgame. Of course that's the kind of task that a human can still with computers at, so Kasparov found the plan on his own, but the whole episode is a bit amusing.
When I was teaching chess at the learning center about 5 years ago, the owner gave me a BOX of old Inside Chess magazines. I was living a chess player's dream for a couple of weeks, going through Seirawan's great annotates of top tournaments; this book has similar quality analysis (or even better).
As for the match itself, I did not know much about Karpov-Kasparov's last match until recently, other than the fact that Kasparov won, and that some games involved Zaitsev variation in Ruy Lopez. So indeed, two wins in Zaitsev were crucial for Kasparov's overall victory. As black Karpov was struggling to find solid defense against 1.e4, and was jumping back and forth between several variations. Kasparov made things more complicated by playing the Scotch game a couple of times, also winning one game in it. With Karpov being White, most games went into Saemish King's Indian. Kasparov tried to deviate with the Gruenfeld a couple of times, but also got burned when he lost game 17, where Karpov got to show off his great positional skills. For more details - checkout your library - maybe it also has a copy of "Five Crowns".

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