Kasparov on the Candidates and how to beat Magnus Carlsen

By Leon Watson / On / In Chess news, Features

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Shortly before Christmas, Chessable had the pleasure of catching up with Garry Kasparov to talk about his work with the Chess In Schools and Communities charity, which helps get kids involved in this great game we play.

Kasparov, who we have a tactics training book on, dominated the world of chess for two decades and is, as everyone reading this will know, without doubt one of the greatest players ever.

But while we were fascinated by him, we also couldn’t stop ourselves from quizzing the former world champion, the “Beast of Baku”, about the current crop of super GMs and, in particular, the upcoming Candidates tournament which starts this week.

Chessable’s Leon Watson meets Garry Kasparov

It has been three months since that chat and tournaments such as the Tata Steel event in Wijk aan Zee have passed. But what Kasparov said was still very interesting.

We thought we would enlighten you on what the great man had to say:

On Magnus’s weaknesses

Kasparov was no doubt excited about the Candidates tournament in Berlin, but finding someone who can beat the reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen – another elite player we have a tactics training book on – is a tall order.

However, Carlsen does have some weaknesses, says Kasparov. But finding them is another matter…

We all have weaknesses, but they are for his opponents to discover. He is a very versatile player, he is probably a bit less confident with positions that are very, very complicated because he likes crystal clear positions and he plays perfectly.

But it would be a mistake to think that you can trick him by complicating things.

All his weaknesses are very relative compared to others because when you say ‘oh he is weak here’ what it means is he is not as perfect as he is in other positions.

But so far his style brings him victories because as I said it is very universal. Also you can see that he totally dominates rapid and blitz because the average score of his moves is phenomenally high.

So I would say that his strongest side is his phenomenal instincts – he just immediately sees the right square for a piece and how to put them together to create the best possible configuration.

On Magnus’s topsy-turvy 2017

On this Kasparov was clear – Carlsen was dominant in rapid and blitz, it was only classical where he showed weaknesses:

Yes, it’s been up and down but that’s in classical tournaments. The people expect him to win all the time, and that’s not easy because you can’t win all the time even if you are Magnus Carlsen.

Players who he faces in classical tournaments they have more time and the gap between him and them is much narrower, and there’s a lot of pressure.

I was there in Magnus’s shoes 20-25 years ago and it’s enormous pressure, it’s a psychological test. You enter a tournament, you face the best in the world, and people still expect you to win because they think if you are world champion you must win anyway.

So that’s why Magnus goes back and forth. He did win the very strong Isle of Man, remember.

Will any of them beat Magnus?

No, in short. Kasparov does not believe any of the Candidates fighting it out to face the world champion really stand a chance. Carlsen is just too strong:

I guess he can hardly imagine he will be in great danger in 2018 in the world championship match.

There was the 2016 match with Karjakin which he had to take very seriously, but I don’t think it will be like that.

There’s getting through and there’s putting him in danger. I don’t think he is in real in great danger from any of the potential candidates judging from the current results and quality of play, it seems Aronian is a favourite.

On Aronians nerves

Yes, the Armenian is bang in form and one of the favourites. But can he keep it together?

The problem with Aronian, well, we all know that he was a favourite many times before and he has to make sure at the critical moment he will not blow it up.

So Aronian’s nerves at the Candidates tournaments have always failed him.

So I don’t know. I would say Aronian has a very good chance, but it’s a very, very level field so we can expect almost any result.

On Kramnik

Any result that is, apart from Vladimir Kramnik winning. The Russian, of course, is an old campaigner who Kasparov faced many times.

I would be surprised if Kramnik does well. He is probably too old, and this is his swansong.

He will have a good time but I don’t see him as one of the real contenders just because the rest of the field is much younger.

On Ding

The newcomer, the dark horse. Does he have a chance?

Looking at this field of contender I would also be surprised if Ding, the Chinese, does well.

He’s a newcomer and it will be very difficult to compensate for lack of experience playing at that level.

And the rest…

And then the rest of the players it will be tight and probably a plus three score could be clean first.

That means that anybody who has a good day so that’s why I would say it is a highly-unpredictable event.

I would not be surprised by almost any result. Except of course Kramnik and Ding – I would be very surprised if one of them wins.

Check out our Tactics Training: Garry Kasparov book here to learn to play like the great man:

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