Kasparov versus Anand 1995 World Chess Championship Match

An overview by Jason Luchan

By a sudden turn of events in the summer of 1995, New York found itself hosting the Intel-PCA World Championship match between Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand. The event was originally to be held in Cologne, Germany, but the PCA backed out of their arrangements there and switched the venue to New York after receiving an invitation from New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. The mayor had been impressed with recent chess events in the city, such as the Chessathon and the Intel Grand Prix in June, and wanted to add another chess extravaganza to the calendar. (Perhaps he was also looking to make up for the loss of the New York Open, which relocated to New Jersey earlier in the year. Well, perhaps not.)

The match was scheduled to run a maximum of 20 games from 11 September through 13 October. To win the match and the title, 10.5 points were needed. In the event of a drawn match, the $1.35 million prize fund would be split evenly and Kasparov would retain his title. (The prize fund had been reduced from $1.5 million to pay for production costs of the match.)

Four games were scheduled each week with no time-outs and no adjournments. The games were played on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The time control was 2 hours for 40 moves, 1 hour for the next 20 moves, and sudden death in a half hour. Each game was to start at 3 PM and could therefore finish no later than 10 PM.

This brisk pace certainly affected the match strategy of both players. In prior matches a schedule of three games per week was standard. The extra game per week meant one day less for preparation and one extra game to prepare for. The elimination of time-outs meant that a loss would become a bigger burden. Under the old system, a player would use a time-out to regroup after a loss. Without this option, the players had even more reason to play cautiously and avoid losing. Psychological toughness after a defeat became an even more significant factor for this match.

These changes in championship match rules were devised over the last few years to make the games more appealing to the general public and, in particular, the television and print media. Whether these changes are good or bad for the game of chess itself remains to be seen.

By now you should know that Kasparov won this match and retained his title by the score of 10.5-7.5, winning a tidy $900,000 and a crystal trophy for his efforts. Anand received the loser's share of $450,000.

My intent in this article is to present you with some personal insights of this special event. I attended 15 of the 18 games played in this match. Regrettably, I was unable to attend Games 9, 10 and 14, which were all decisive and exciting.

Intel and the Internet

Intel Corporation deserves a great deal of credit for its sponsorship of chess. Their backing has led to an exciting Grand Prix circuit and greater television coverage for chess, in particular an unprecedented series of programs on ESPN. Why do they do it? Intel gave the following explanation in a press release:
Golf, tennis and Formula 1 Racing could all justifiably have been selected as the sponsorship vehicle. In the end, however, Intel recognized that the ancient sport of chess could meet all of its marketing objectives. As the world's greatest mind sport, chess crosses all language barriers and is played by millions of people in 150 countries all around the globe. Furthermore, chess requires immense skills of logic and precise calculation at speed--qualities similar to those exhibited by Intel's microprocessors. This was justification enough for a sponsorship, but what also excited the corporation was the belief that its investment in chess would lead to new break-throughs for the sport. Intel was convinced that with an injection of capital and with technical assistance, chess could move into the twenty-first century.

A very big step toward this goal was taken with innovative coverage of the match on the Internet. The Internet Chess Club (ICC), an electronic chess club with members all over the world, was a major force in this respect. Each game was transmitted move-by-move over the Internet by the ICC with contemporaneous commentary provided by a number of GMs and IMs.

The game could also be followed via links from Intel's World Wide Web site to the ICC's site. This system was configured to allow users with the appropriate software to stay logged in and view the game on a graphical chessboard that was automatically updated with each new move. Intel reported that in the beginning of the match the web broadcast was averaging 2500 "hits" per day, a "hit" representing one computer accessing one page. In the last weeks of the match, that number reached 8000 "hits" per day. Over the course of the match, Intel's Web page registered 252,000 "hits." Intel reported approximately 50 other Internet sites featuring news of the match.

The Venue

The Observation Deck of the World Trade Center was a unique place to hold a World Championship match. Located on the 107th floor of Two World Trade Center, the Deck showcases a panoramic view of the New York metropolitan area. It takes about a minute to get from the Mezzanine level of the building to reach the Deck via express elevators that reaches a top speed of about 30 miles per hour. Two more short (by comparison) escalator rides put you on the Rooftop Promenade, the highest open-air observation platform in the world at an altitude of 1,377 feet. The normal $6 admission price for the Observation Deck was increased to $15 for the duration of the match.

By holding the match in this type of public venue, the organizers were seeking to expose the non-chess public to the match. Of course, some sightseers were put off by the higher admission price, so they stayed away. Others lacked that flexibility. One group of Japanese tourists showed up on a day when the visibility was zero. You could barely see an inch past the window. Yet their schedule called for them to visit the Observation Deck, so they dutifully ascended.

Midway through the match, probably when someone realized that the higher chess price was hurting business, a change was made to encourage more tourists to visit. The $15 ticket price stayed in effect only until 5 PM, when the rate went back to the usual $6.

The sightseers typically wandered around the Deck, looking out the windows and taking photos. I saw very few of these people spend more than a few moments watching the match. The presence of these momentary spectators made it difficult to get a true estimate of the number of chess fans in attendance. Frequently, attendance numbers as high as a thousand were bandied about by the organizers; I'm just skeptical. The Observation Deck boasts that it hosts 1.8 million visitors per year, or close to 5,000 per day who come just for the view. My best guesstimate of the biggest crowd is 500 people, give or take a hundred. That's still a good sized crowd considering the timing of the games. This number surely would have been bigger had the games started after normal business hours or been played on the weekend.

The players played in a 10-by-20 foot, glass-enclosed room, which itself was located inside a bigger room. This bigger room was set up as a small theater and called the King Room. It had seating for 40-50 people, including six seats reserved for representatives of the players. The other seats in the room were open to the press or spectators with VIP tickets.

Probably every other account of this match will describe the playing room as soundproof. I won't, because it wasn't. Loud noise from outside the room could be heard inside. This became a significant problem later in the match. As early as Game 1, the commentators were told to turn down their microphones because the sound was penetrating into the playing room.

Next to the King Room was the main seating area for spectators. There were enough chairs to seat perhaps 200 people. In front of this area were a number of big television screens as well as a demo chess board.

The organizers omitted one of the most useful recent innovations for chess spectators, an "intelligent chess display." This is an electronic display that shows the current chess position, a list of the most recent moves, and, most important, is automatically updated when a move is made by either player. This type of display was used at both Grand Prix events held in New York as well as at the New York leg of the 1990 Kasparov-Karpov match. Spectators who attended these prior events were surprised by the absence of the display here.

The lack of an "intelligent" display made it harder to determine the actual position or the moves that led up to it. The only accurate source for the game position was the television screen showing the actual board sitting between Kasparov and Anand. A three dimensional computer graphic board displayed on one of the TV screens was supposed to be a substitute for the intelligent display but it was lacking in several respects. First, a 3D representation on a 2D screen is very hard to follow. While it may have been a technical feat to rotate this 3D display every so often, it was annoying and distracting. Second, there was a lag between the time a move was played and when it was displayed. Finally, the graphic board was missing the game score.

These inadequacies led to several mistakes in the game score for some of the games. Though the mistakes were caught and corrected in the official press bulletin, some publications did not verify their game scores before publishing them. The mistakes I am aware of are move order errors in Games 6 and 7. (In Game 6, the first 13 moves were: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Nxe4 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d5 8 dxe5 Be6 9 Nbd2 Nc5 10 c3 d4 11 Ng5 dxc3 12 Nxe6 fxe6 13 bxc3 Qd3. In Game 7, the first nine moves were: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e6 7 0-0 Be7 8 a4 Nc6 9 Be3 0-0.) So check your databases.

The principal commentators for the main spectator area were IM Maurice Ashley and GM Daniel King. Other commentators were rotated in to give the spectators a different perspective on the games, and the commentators a breather. There were two other locations on the Observation Deck where GM commentary was available. In addition to Ashley and King, the commentary staff consisted of the following GMs: Joel Benjamin, Walter Browne, Larry Christiansen, Nick deFirmian, Roman Dzindzichashvili, John Fedorowicz, Ilya Gurevich, Michael Rohde, and Yasser Seirawan. They each did a splendid job.

The Skyline Cafe snack bar featured standard fast food fare at appropriately sky-high prices. At $3 for a slice of pizza and $5 for a hot dog (don't even ask the price of a hamburger), the exorbitant rates induced most rational people to take the elevator ride back down to the basement where the street-level prices, as well as the food, were more palatable.

The Press Conferences

A relatively recent innovation in World Championship matches is the post- game press conference, held immediately after each game. This helped reveal some of the mysteries of chess at this level, and gave the players a chance to give their immediate impressions of what went right or wrong. Of course, neither player was very forthcoming when a question concerned opening preparation.

For this match, the rules required only one player to attend: either the victor or, in case of a draw, the player with black. Probably the idea was to protect the disappointed player from unpleasant questions. For purposes of publicity, a better idea would be a joint press conference by both players, giving the players a chance to interact and analyze together. This was accomplished without incident, for example, at the Fischer-Spassky match in 1992.

At the press conferences, Kasparov often tried to demonstrate how much he saw during the game. He rattled off variations in a rapid fire delivery, so that only the 2400+ journalists could follow his analysis. He was always confident in his opinions. The phrase "sometimes wrong, but never in doubt" comes to mind. Kasparov's certitude seemed to motivate the press room GM's to find flaws in his post-game comments, and they did find a few.

In contrast, Anand was more modest, even admitting after the draw in Game 6 that "neither of us had a clue what was happening" in the final position. When Kasparov had his chance to comment on the same game two days later, rather than admit he was clueless, he said the draw offer slipped out of his mouth accidentally, a verbal fehler that he instantly regretted.

There were many opportunities for humor. After Game 2 Anand was asked about the tension of the match. He said: "It's not exactly rock and roll, but it's OK."

While the general run of questions were the usual questions you'd expect after a game of chess, one journalist searched for the deeper, psychological ramifications of chess. Kasparov had to answer the following questions, and as you can see, he did a nice job dancing around the answers.
Q: Do libidinal energies contribute or distract from your game?
A: Excuse me?
Q: Do libidinal energies contribute to your game?
A: That's beyond my knowledge.
Q: Is it easier to play chess when you're in love or when you're not?
A: Depends, you know. I have played chess in many quite different moods concerning, you know, my relations with woman and I can't tell you exactly what's the best because sometimes it works and sometimes it didn't work and it probably depends on some other ingredients of this combination, but there is no precise answer.

Midway through the match these post-game press conferences were broadcast to the television monitors in the main spectator area. After several of the shorter draws, the players also took the time to directly address the spectators after the game.

A Very Slow Start

The match began with eight consecutive draws. Both players shared responsibility for the low level of fighting spirit. Kasparov approached his opponent very cautiously, using a different opening for each of his first four games with white. In retrospect, it seems that his early strategy was to find out what repertoire Anand had prepared for this match and then to attack it at its weakest point.

Anand also began the match with great caution, which was understandable in his first world championship match. He clearly did not want to repeat the strategy of all-out assault that failed so miserably for Nigel Short against Kasparov in 1993. Anand chose to combat Kasparov's Najdorf Sicilian with the tame 6 Be2. This was the same restrained strategy used by Anatoly Karpov in his first two matches with Kasparov. Yet Karpov had failed to win a single game in either match with this line and ultimately gave up trying to beat Kasparov with 1 e4. So it was curious that Anand chose to resurrect this variation.

Anand's strategy almost paid off in Game 3, when Kasparov engaged in a dubious regrouping of his pieces away from the defense of his king. Anand found several key attacking moves, but then, at the critical moment chose to exploit his advantage by positional means when a direct kingside attack looked crushing. Anand avoided further risk in this game, which petered out to a draw.

Some of the draws in this series had reporters searching for synonyms for the expression "petered out." One suggestion, "fizzled" was rejected, because the game in question never really fizzed. GM Dzindzichashvili queried during Game 5 whether "either player is in any danger of winning this game."

A curious fact is that Kasparov was making all the draw offers. Later in the match, Anand remarked that he hadn't made a single draw offer. He continued this policy through the end of the match.

Kasparov's came closest to winning Game 6. It was a very unclear game where Anand made a forced exchange sacrifice, giving him two connected passed queenside pawns. During the game analysts couldn't decide which player was winning, and the least likely result was a draw. Both clocks counted down to the time control as a very exciting finish loomed. Just then, at a moment of great tension ... DRAW! Spectators booed. Later, Anand called it "absolutely the right moment to offer a draw" as neither player could be sure of the outcome. The next day Yasser Seirawan described the draw offer by Kasparov as "horrible, weak-kneed and chicken." Analysis later showed that Kasparov had good winning chances in the final position.

The position in that game was reminiscent of a critical game from Kasparov's candidates match with Viktor Korchnoi in 1983. In that game, also a sixth match game, Kasparov was down an exchange but had a menacing pair of passed pawns on the queenside. The position was probably balanced, but Korchnoi pressed on in the endgame and ultimately lost. That loss was the beginning of the end for Korchnoi. Going into the game he led Kasparov by a point, but he could not win another game, and went on to lose the match. Perhaps Kasparov did not want to make Korchnoi's mistake.

Anand Wins

In Game 9, Anand finally showed that his tame treatment against the Sicilian had some poison. He developed a queenside initiative, very much in the style of Karpov, and slowly crushed the life out of Kasparov's position. Kasparov sealed his fate by accepting an exchange sacrifice that gave Anand a powerful central pawn roller. It was a nice victory by Anand, but Kasparov's resistance was weak. The next game was critical.

The Turning Point

Kasparov showed up for Game 10 "literally furious" according to arbiter Carol Jarecki. His anger was not directed at his opponent, but at himself for losing Game 9. In response to Anand's Open Ruy Lopez, Kasparov went straight for a complicated line involving a very sharp rook sacrifice. Kasparov spent virtually no time in the opening, playing his first 21 moves in 6 minutes. But Anand was riveted to the board, spending 45 minutes on move 15. By the time Kasparov left his home analysis, it was clear his position was already winning. It was the most devastating piece of home-cooking ever served up in a championship match.

In the press conference after the game, Kasparov described how he and his team had spent an entire weekend preparing the sacrificial idea in this game. In his opinion, Anand did not resist well in this game, but he refused to elaborate. Kasparov believed the rook sacrifice in this game was completely original, but a number of amateurs independently found an earlier game in their databases. It was the game Berg-Nevesteit, correspondence 1990. Both players were asked whether they knew of this game. Neither one did. It's curious that these two professionals with a world championship at stake were unaware of a game that was uncovered effortlessly by a bunch of amateurs. Here is the game:

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Ne4 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d5 8 de5 Be6 9 Nbd2 Nc5 10 c3 d4 11 Ng5 dc3 12 Ne6 fe6 13 bc3 Qd3 14 Bc2 Qc3 15 Nb3 Rd8 16 Bd2 Qe5 17 Re1 Qd5 18 Nc5 Bc5 19 Bb3 Qd4 20 Re6+ Ne7 21 Kh1 Qf2 22 Ra6 h5 23 Bg5 Rd1+ 24 Rd1 Ba7 25 Re6 Qc5 26 Be7 Qe7 27 Bd5 Qe6 28 Be6 Ke7 29 Bf5 Rf8 30 Rd7+ Ke8 31 Rd5 c6 32 Bg6+ Ke7 33 Re5+ Kd6 34 Rf5 Rf5 35 Bf5 c5 36 Kg1 Draw

Enter The Dragon

In Game 11, Kasparov chose to defend the black side of the Sicilian Dragon (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6), an opening he had never used before in serious play. Previously, the prevailing view was that the Dragon was too sharp for the championship level, particularly after the discovery of the Yugoslav Attack (6 Be3 Bg7 7 f3 0-0 8 Qd2 Nc6 9 Bc4). Indeed, the only match to feature the Dragon was Botvinnik-Smyslov 1958. But in that match, Botvinnik avoided the sharpest lines by a move order transposition (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Be2 g6).

The Dragon was also seen once in the Karpov-Korchnoi candidates final in 1974, which became a de facto championship match after Bobby Fischer resigned his title in 1975. But Korchnoi was crushed so badly in that game that he rarely ever used the Dragon again.

Anand did not betray any surprise after 5 ... g6 and headed straight for the main line of the Yugoslav Attack. But he avoided the sharp attacking lines and made several moves to safeguard his king and neutralize black's counterattack. On move 19, Anand offered the exchange of queens, which Kasparov accepted. Instead of playing the automatic and forced recapture, Anand paused to think. It was obvious that Kasparov had just offered a draw.

In the press room, bulletin editor John Donaldson sat watching the TV monitor, chanting quietly "just say no." The last thing anyone wanted was a return to the short draws that characterized the first two weeks of the match. Anand finally recaptured the queen and the game continued. At move 26, GM Miguel Najdorf was predicting a draw, because the position was in his words "a little better White" but "you need something more."

The position didn't seem to hold much promise for excitement. GM Larry Christiansen was diligently analyzing the possibilities, when he discovered a trap hidden in the seemingly quiet position. And Anand walked right into it, playing the blunder 30 Nb6. Anand spent just one minute on the move, although he had ample time on his clock. The entire press corps surrounded the TV monitor to watch the unpleasant finish. Kasparov played the crusher 31...Rc2 and left the room, glancing back at his helpless opponent with great relish. Anand spent two minutes looking for a way out, but there was none. When Kasparov returned, Anand extended his hand in resignation.

How does a world-class grandmaster with phenomenal tactical vision miss such a trap? An examination of some Anand's prior defeats would reveal his occasional tendency to analyze superficially. These two examples are quite revealing:

Biel 1988
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Ne5 d6 4 Nf3 Ne4 5 Nc3 Bf5?? 6 Qe2 1-0

Dortmund 1992
1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 c6 3 d4 Nf6 4 Nc3 dc4 5 a4 Bf5 6 e3 e6 7 Bc4 Bb4 8 0-0 0-0 9 Qe2 Nbd7 10 Ne5 Re8 11 Rd1 Qc7 12 Nd7 Qd7 13 f3 Nd5 14 Na2 Bf8 15 e4 Bg6 16 Qe1 f5?? 17 ed5 1-0

After the game, Kasparov explained that after Anand rejected his draw offer, he thought back to game 47 from his first match with Karpov. In that game, Karpov had rejected a draw offer and went on to lose. As Kasparov said after the game: "That's why playing this endgame I was always looking for a little trick and eventually I found it and I was surprised that Anand fell into it without much thinking." He also had a psychological explanation for Anand's oversight: Anand had played so many games as white with his king safely on h1 that he wasn't prepared for the more vulnerable position of his king in the Dragon.

IM Vitaly Zaltsman summed up the sudden turn of events in this game best: "What a drama! What a drama!"

Kasparov went on to use the Dragon in games 13, 15, and 17, scoring two wins and two draws. After game 17, Kasparov revealed his rationale for choosing this dangerous variation for such an important occasion. First, he thought Anand's play as White against the Dragon was not very convincing. Second, none of Anand's seconds were Dragon experts. Third, it wouldn't be easy for Anand to prepare the Dragon during the match. Finally, Anand wouldn't expect it from talking to Kasparov's former seconds--the Dragon was not on the agenda for any of Kasparov's previous title matches.

While Kasparov may not have been expected to resort to the Dragon, it surely was Anand's responsibility to be prepared for it. There was no doubt that Anand did work on the Dragon during his pre-match preparation. After the match I asked Anand how much time he spent preparing for the Dragon. His reply was succinct: "Not enough."

The next several games saw Anand in a tailspin, barely holding on for a draw in Game 12, and failing again to the Dragon in Game 13. In Game 13, Anand tried an offbeat plan against the Dragon, but his play was stale and he soon found himself in an inferior position. Kasparov played the attack creatively, while Anand's resistance was uninspired. The resulting Black victory was unusual for a Dragon, because White never got his king out of the center. After the game Kasparov said he was certain the blunder in Game 11 was still weighing heavily on Anand.

Anand's chances for victory in this match were bleak after Game 13. Game 14 eliminated all doubts. Anand chose to defend with the Center Counter Defense, an excellent choice because Kasparov had never faced the opening. Kasparov fell into an inferior position right out of the opening and offered a draw. Anand declined, but he was not ready for a struggle. Kasparov saw a chance to exploit Anand's lack of confidence by offering an unclear piece sacrifice, a brilliant psychological decision. Rather than plunge into complications, Anand chose a safe move, but it was a serious error. Another factor affected the decision in this game: crowd noise. With both players in time pressure, the crowd became excited. Anand was particularly disturbed as he had less time than Kasparov, and the crowd was noisiest on his thinking time. Anand could not hold the position. A great tragedy.

At the post-game press conference, Kasparov was not happy to have won under these circumstances. Here are some of his statements from the press conference:

I think that the commentators did not tell the public that the booth is not soundproof ... It's a shock for the players because we just realized that we're not separated from the public ... He had to defend a position with many, many weaknesses and he was also behind on time. After the game he complained that it was not fair just to play under these conditions. I had to agree.

The next two games were drawn quickly. Kasparov had no reason to risk his 3-point lead and Anand needed some draws to regain his confidence.

Anand's last chance was Game 17. He didn't realistically think he could still win the match, but he wanted to fight one last game with White. He had had an entire weekend to recover from the disasters of the prior week. Again Kasparov defended with the Dragon. Anand chose a positional treatment but, unlike his prior efforts, this line was testing. Anand steered the game into a superior ending, but missed some good winning chances. The players played out the ending until a position with bare kings was forced. With this draw, Kasparov retained his title.

The next day Kasparov needed only a draw to win the match. With Black, Anand lacked the mood and the color to offer any resistance. He acquiesced to a draw in 12 moves. As the saying goes, the match ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Copyright © 1995, 1996 Jason G. Luchan. All rights reserved.

Earlier versions of this article appeared in the Illinois Chess Bulletin (Illinois Chess Association), Empire Chess (New York State Chess Association), and Scottish Chess.

This page last modified on 28 April 2018.
Copyright (c) 1995-2018 Christopher F. Chabris. All rights reserved.