Is Kasparov afraid of Bobby Fischer ?

1/12/2005 - 
    Hannon Russell had a very interesting interview with Kasparov about his new book on Bobby Fischer. Kasparov seems preoccupied with disproving Fischerís legend. Fischer legend is about his overcoming the Soviet juggernaut and ripping the title from them in 1972 against all odds.  Bobby single handedly crushed the Soviet chess machine. It is true Bobby had help along the way. However that help was in the form of keeping the world championship match from being cancelled. 

   Bobbyís legend is about his single-minded pursuit of the chess holy grail, the world championship. Bobby wanted to prove he was the best player in the world.  The Fischer legend picks up steam in 1970 when he dominated the 1970 Herceg Novi blitz tournament by a 4.5-point margin. He then went on to dominate the 1970 Palma del Mallorca interzonal by 3.5 points. Bobby won 4 tournaments in 1970. Fischer then went on to pitch perfect games in his candidate matches against Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen by identical scores of 6-0. Fischer also went on to man handle Ex World Champion Tigran Petrosian and World Champion Boris Spassky. 
     Fischerís legend is also about bringing big money into the chess world championships. Prior to the 1972 World Championship match, the prize fund was only a few thousand dollars. Bobby was able to get a 250k-prize fund. In 1975 Fischer turned down a 5 million dollar offer from the Philippines to defend his title. In 1992 Fischer played a 5 million dollar match against Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia.  Even Garry Kasparov has never commanded that kind of sponsorship for a single chess match. Fischer's legend is also about how he galvanized worldwide support for chess. This was especially true in the United States. Fischer brought millions of fans into the game. Kasparovís legend is great, but Fischerís is greater. 
I think Kasparov is being self-serving in this interview and in his treatment of Fischer. I think Kasparov is worried about his lineage, or his championship pedigree.  He somehow feels threatened by the break in the world championshipís lineage that occurred in 1975 when Fischer did not play his match against Anatoly Karpov. There was no official transfer of power from Fischer to Karpov, a transfer that can only occur during match play. I think Kasparov feels threatened that no changing of the guard occurred. Kasparov spent 7 years successfully battling Karpov for the world title.
    I think that Kasparov doesnít want to consider that Karpov might not have been good enough to beat Fischer in 1975 or 1978 or 1981. Karpov was quoted as saying he had only a 40% chance of beating Fischer in 1975.  Karpov also concedes that he had only a 50% chance to beat Fischer in 1977. Kasparov is worried about his world championship pedigree. But he should not be. Fischer retired from chess and chess needed to move on. Chess did just that, it moved on. Karpov proved he was the best of the rest. He was a worthy world champion. I got to wonder if Kasparov is afraid of the Fischer Legend. Kasparov doesn't even put a good picture of Fischer on the cover of his latest Book "My Great Predecessors part 4".

Excerpts from the interview.
:HR: Letís talk about Sousse for a little bit. You have a suggestion in your discussion of Sousse that I donít really understand and basically you say Ė look Fischer was really afraid of playing Spassky at this period... He was afraid of Spassky, he thought Spassky was better and would beat him, so the withdrawal from Sousse really is a way of him avoiding Spassky, but if thatís true why did he play in Sousse to begin with?

GK: I donít think anything is that simple with Fischer; we canít find a rational explanation, why he played there and then withdrew. I think there were some fears back in his mind, subconscious fears that he was able to suppress before the beginning of the tournament and then out of all these scandals I think they could sway his mind. I donít have any rational explanation. If you have I would be delighted to that and include it in the revised edition. I looked in many publications, I never found anything plausible. Why did Fischer withdraw from Sousse? So I have to look for, not for an excuse, but for an explanation that could sound as a plausible explanation.

Hangin's take:  I read about the details of Bobby's withdrawal from Sousse in the Book by R. G. wade called Sousse 1967. Bobby felt he was being abused. He was upset about having to play 5 tough games in a row. He wanted a day of rest. The match organizers looked into it and discovered that Bobby would only have to play 4 games. So they would not give him an extra day of rest. Bobby withdrew from the tournament several times and was defaulted several times.  I think Kasparov is right, Bobby had no rational reason to withdraw from this tournament. He would have won it easily.

Excerpts from the interview as to why Bobby Fischer accepted board two at the 1970 USSR vs. rest of the world match.. Bent Larsen played board one. 
HR: So you used this same theme to explain why he plays board twoÖ

GK: No, no, there it is absolutely clear. I think, In Belgrade, I have no doubt about it that this time Fischer really had in mind that he would face Spassky and he didnít want any more negatives, because he wasnít sure he was going to beat Spassky. Spassky was quite a powerful force at that time and he knew Spassky would be far more persistent playing Fischer than Larsen. In Belgrade I would be adamant supporting this version.

Hangin's take: 
      Based on what I read in the book "The Match of the Century" by D Levy. Bobby understood Bents Larsen's demand to play on board one. Bobby had just come back to chess after an 18-month retirement. Bent Larsen, based on his excellent tournament record during Fischer retirement, felt that he was more deserving of board one.   Fischer wanted to cooperate and he recognized Bent Larsen's recent tournament record. Even though Fischer felt he was the stronger player, he agreed to play board 2. Fischer went on to dominate Petrosian by winning the first two games and drawing the last two. Fischer won the match with  a 3-1 score. Bent Larsen split his games with Spassky and went on to defeat Leonid Stein. Bent won his board as well with a 2.5-1.5 score. Fischer later regretted giving up first board.

Hangin's take : I see where Kasparov is going with his treatment of Bobby Fischer in this interview. Kasparov is playing the fear factor. He felt Fischer withdrew from Sousse and played Board 2 to avoid playing Spassky. Kasparov will use this pattern of behavior to state his case that Fischer was also afraid of Karpov and that is why the 1975 match never took place.

Excerpts from the interview:
HR: Well, he then proceeds of course finally to play in Palma and we know what happed to Taimanov and Larsen and eventually Petrosian, but letís talk a little bit about Fischer-Karpov. You make a suggestion that is a very clear and obvious suggestion that will take most people by surprise Ė that Karpov in 1975 would have been an extremely difficult opponent for Fischer to beat.

 GK: Yes.

HR: You go on to say Fischer would have been certainly comfortable against someone like PetrosianÖ

GK: SpasskyÖ

HR: Spassky, Kortchnoi, but not Karpov. Karpov had really at that point in his career started to ascend about 1972, Ď71Ö

Hangin's take:

   Well Karpov was not as confident as Kasparov is. In a Karpov video with Ron Henley about Fischer's games, Karpov estimated his chances of beating Fischer in 1975 at 40%.  Karpov raised that percentage to 50% for a 1977 match. I recall reading a letter from Fischer to Larry Evans in chess life.  Fischer did not seem too impressed with Karpov's play. Fischer goes over a missed opportunity by Karpov in one of his games.  We now know that Kortchnoi was the first to find  Karpov's Achilles heal. Karpov did not have the stamina for long tough matches. Kortchnoi was unable to take full advantage of this weakness. Karpov almost lost two matches against Kortchnoi after taking big leads in 1974 and 1978. However Kasparov would capitalize on this weakness in 1984. I have no doubt that Fischer would have expertly exploited this weakness as well. 

   Fischer already established that he was a great match player. He kept the pressure up, even though having large leads. Fischer defeated Taimanov and Larsen by 6-0 scores. Fischer also was a great match player when trailing. He over came a 0-2 deficit in 1972 against Spassky. Fischer rallied to win the match by a 12.5 - 8.5 score.   Fischer also over came a 1-2 match deficit against Spassky in 1992. Fischer won that match as well by a 10-5 score. So Fischer knew how to keep a lead and how to come charging back from a deficit. I have to agree with Karpov, I think Karpov was too young to beat Fischer in 1975. Karpov was only 24 at the time. 



HR: Itís my opinion and I told you this several times, I donít think Fischer would ever agree to play again after Reykjavik.

GK: Yeah, and I got a story in the book, and I think itís the first time itís published, itís what Campomanes told me, because I interviewed Campomanes, about 1976-77, the matchesÖ

HR: But I think Botvinnik is right. You quote him as saying that Fischer would come up with something else.

GK: But thatís what happened in 1977 in Washington when the Philippine embassy was opened especially for them signing this and the vice-consul was typing the agreement and Fischer came up with a condition, or pre-condition, that was absolutely unacceptable for Karpov; insisting to call the match a professional world championship. It was unacceptable and Fischer knew it, if Karpov even with all the backing he obtained in the Central Committee of the Communist Party, he couldnít accept the word professional.

Hangin's take:  I think Fischer did not defend his title in 1975 because he resented the tag team tactics of the Soviet chess system. I think that Bobby knew that Karpov was getting help with his chess game from the other players in the Soviet Union. I read that players were forced to give up their opening knowledge to Karpov. Fischer became a world champion because of his hard work and only his hard work. I don't think Fischer felt that way about Karpov. I think Fischer felt that Karpov was undeserving of a title shot. In the Book "Karpov on Karpov", Karpov says that during the negotiations for the unlimited match with Fischer, Karpov had suggested a break in play after three months. However Bobby would not go for that, he was concerned that Soviet GM's would tutor Karpov during the break.  I think Fischer wanted to call the title a professional world championship because he wanted it known that the Soviet players were being paid to play chess. Chess was a profession in the Soviet Union.

HR: Thatís absolutely true. By '76 or '77 Fischer would not have been playing for five yearsÖ

GK: Yeah, every year, in fact every six months, would be devastating for Fischerís playing abilities. But in '75 we could have a unique match with two players of that strength, reaching their heights, face each other; so '75 could have had a major, major effect in the future development of the game of chess.

Hangin's take: I think Fischer had already shown that he became a stronger player after his self-imposed exiles from the game. When ever Fischer left the game, he came back as a stronger player, except for his 1992 match with Spassky. I  think Fischer was even stronger in 1975 and stronger still in 1977. Bobby would only have been 34 years of age. I think that's the peak age for a chess player.

HR: You have a remark on page 474 by Krylov that they diagnosed or were fairly certain that Fischer was a schizophrenic and I find that remarkable, not because Fischerís behavior has been good, but that, and maybe this was a product of the Soviet system, where they attempted to make an analysis of someone based on reports. An analysis like that is sophisticated and complex and usually can only be done if you spend time with the person.

GK: Yes, I think youíre right. That was analysis made based on reports, but that shows the atmosphere before the match in 1975

Hangin's take : I don't think Fischer is schizophrenic. I think he has Bi-Polar disorder.

On December 9, we had the opportunity to interview him in New York City. Accompanied by Mark Donlan and Carsten Hansen, we arrived at 11 a.m. We were greeted by Kasparov and his agent, Owen Williams.

Hangin's take: I think it was interesting to see Carsten Hansen, Kramnik's and Leko's manager, with Garry Kasparov. Maybe there is a thaw in the air between Kramnik and Kasparov. With the Kasparov and Kasimdzhanov match up in the air still, I find it very interesting to see Kasparov and Kramnik's manager together. Maybe Kramnik wants to get that 2 million dollar re-match with Kasparov. That would be very exciting. (oops, Carsten Hansen is not Kramnik's manager, he rights articles for ChessCafe. Carsten Hensel is Kramnik's manager. You win some and you lose some. If you compare the names only the last letter is different.. ps don't tell Hangin Wynchell*) 

Hannon Russell's Interview
Bobby Fischer and Bi Polar disorder - 
Garry Kasparov take on Fischer -