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Monday, July 27, 2015

The Rise of Kasparov

     While looking through old issues of Chess Life and Review the other day I came across a couple of articles on Kasparov's first international success, Banja Luka, 1979. Banja Luka is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the capital Sarajevo and is the largest city of the Republika Srpska. It is home of the University of Banja Luka. The city lies on the River Vrbas and is well known for being full of tree-lined avenues, boulevards, gardens, and parks. 

1 Kasparov 11.5 
2 Smejkal 9.5 
3-4 Andersson and Petrosian 9 
5 Adorjan 8.5 
6 Knezevic 8 
7-8 Matanovic and Browne 7.5 
9-10 Bukic and Marjanovic 7
11-13 Marovic, Garcia Gonzales andVukic 6.5 
14-15 Kurajica and Hernandez 6 
16 Sibarevic 4 

   Kasparov at the age of 15 (he celebrated his 16th birthday after round 1), who Botvinnik described as the most promising student he ever had, had recently finished in 9th place in the Soviet Championship arrived in Banja Luka without a title; in fact, he didn't even have an FIDE rating! There were 14 GM's in the field. After 10 rounds Kasparov had already made an IM title norm and after 12 rounds he was assured of first place and, then, after 13 rounds he had made a GM norm. 
     His performance rating was 2700. His performances in this event and previously finishing 9th with a performance rating of over 2500 in the Soviet Championship were being compared to Fischer's at that age, but some were wondering if it was the result of phenomenal skill or an incredible string of good luck. For others, his raw talent had been recognized as early as 10 and they thought he possessed unlimited potential. 
     In 1974 Kasparov, then known as Weinstein, had been attracting attention the Young Pioneer competitions. These were inter-city competitions consisting of five player teams of school children. At the age of 10 he was already a First Category player, or roughly the equivalent of a 2000 Elo rating. Candidate Master, about 2200, was the next step and the Master title corresponded to roughly 2400. Two years later he was considered too strong to compete in Young Pioneer events. In 1975 he took part in the USSR Junior Championship where he was the youngest player and scored a modest 5.5-3.5, then in 1976 he tied for first in the Georgian Championship. Winning on tie-breaks. It was after this tournament he changed his name to his mother's maiden name and enrolled in Botvinnik's school for young players. At this time his weakness was his impetuosity, but that was apparently eliminated at Botvinnik's school because in the 1976 Junior where he almost lost his last round game but managed to squeak put a draw to win the title and the following year scored an incredible 8.5-0.5. As a result he was seeded into the junior candidates tournament, an 8-player double round event to determine the candidate for the World Junior Championship where he finished second to Arthur Yusopov, who went on to take the title. 
     As a result of this tournament Botvinnik began analyzing with him and uncovered several basic flaws in his play: over fondness for long opening variations without a deeper understanding, a tendency to try and solve every problem by tactical means and his 'lack of objectivity.' By the spring of 1978 his rating was 2383, but, with his reverses, his results were hadn't been good enough to gain the IM title. That was solved when he was invited to the Sokolsky Memorial with its one GM and 3 IM's. He needed 9.5 points for the Master title. He scored an incredible 13-4, including a last round win over GM Lutikov, and so he was now a Soviet Master and was seeded into the elimination tournament to see who would qualify for the USSR Championship. He tied for fisrt with Igor Ivanov and better tie-breaks sent him into the Championship Final in Tibilisi. There he would face 16 GM's and one IM. Was he out of his league? 
     After six rounds with two wins and four draws he was tied for first with Tahl, but then disaster struck; +1 -3 =2. But, he recovered only to collapse in the last four rounds an ending up with an even score of 8.5-8.5, but that was good enough to earn him a place in the next year' final. 
GM Drazan Marovic
     That brings us to Banja Luka. It was thought a trip there accompanied by Petrosian would be good for him as it was thought Petrosian's influence would be a steadying factor; it was.
     One observation was that Kasparov did not get where he was by himself. It took program of strong competition and special training from Botvinnik who was the major factor in Kasparov's polishing his skills. But, there were others: Oleg Privorotsky, Alexei Nikitin and Alexander Byhovsky.


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