Rivalry and Creativity
For chess lovers, world championships are always about the combat, the fight. After all, a sport gets elevated to a different level when there are rivalries. Like the legends of Ali – Frazier, Borg – McEnroe, Lakers – Celtics, India – Pakistan (we are talking only the cricket!), Barcelona – Real Madrid and of course, Karpov – Kasparov.
Chess players of 80s and 90s were fortunate that they got to witness two of the greatest players in the history of the game fought each other in five matches. Karpov became one of the world’s elite around 1974, and he kept his high standards of the game till about 1995, whereas Kasparov was literally the best in the world between 1984 to 2005. So, we got about ten years of two rivals at their best, going at each other - not only on the chess board, btw.
We also got fortunate when Kasparov decided to write his ‘My great predecessors’ series where he analysed Karpov’s career in the fifth volume with the brilliant and generous starting heading, ‘God-given Talent’. A goose-bump moment. Any student of the game wishes to learn on positional chess in the post-Fischer era, this is where you start.
We got even more fortunate when he wrote three more books, the ‘Kasparov on modern chess’ series chronicling all his clashes against Karpov. Meticulously written books presenting so much about focus, combativeness and fighting spirit over the chess board. Samples, after Kasparov won the final game at Seville 1987:
“The ovation was undoubtedly the loudest and the most prolonged (roughly 20 minutes) I had ever been awarded outside of my own country. The theatre walls were shaking, and Spanish TV interrupted the broadcast of a football match to switch to the conclusion of our duel.”
“The Seville match clearly showed that chess, like any other creative art, requires a person to give his all. In 1987 I was possibly distracted too much by other matters, I did not allocate my energy properly, and I was unable to concentrate properly on preparations for the match. I am talking about psychological preparations, since I had no complaints about my chess preparations.”
If any student wishes to understand what it takes to be a champion, you need not go further.