- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2020

It was 25 years ago right about this time that Garry Kasparov and I were sitting on top of the world.

The former world champion made a rare over-the-board appearance this week at the just-concluded Champions Showdown 9LX tournament, finishing eighth in the 10-player event won by current world champ Magnus Carlsen and U.S. GM Hikaru Nakamura. Kasparov did manage an epic draw in his much-anticipated clash with Carlsen in the Chess 360 variant tournament.

But the sight of Garry at the board evokes memories from exactly a quarter-century ago, when Kasparov defended his title in a stirring clash with Indian GM Viswanathan Anand, a match played on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center in September and October 1995.

I got to go up to New York for a couple of days to cover the match, watching legendary GMs Miguel Najdorf and Larry Christiansen in the analysis room arguing in real time over which player had the better game.

It was Kasparov’s fifth title defense — three against archrival Anatoly Karpov and one against Britain’s Nigel Short two years earlier — and the 25-year-old Anand was widely considered his most worthy challenger. The match resembled a classic boxing match: After a lengthy feeling-out process (the eight draws to start the match were a record at that time), a flurry of blows and counterblows in midmatch essentially decided the contest.

The challenger landed the first shot in Game 9, a brilliant positional win capped by a powerful exchange sacrifice. Against Kasparov’s Najdorf (!) Sicilian, White claims a major space edge on 16. Rfd1 Bc6 17. b4! Qc7 (and not 17…Qxb4?? 18. Rab1 Qa5 [Qa3 19. Rb3] 19. Bb6, trapping the queen) 18. b5 Bd7 19. Rab1 axb5 20. Nxb5 Bxb5 21. Qxb5, when 21…Qxc2?? 22. Rdc1 against ensnares the queen.

White just needs to activate his two bishops to cash in on his positional chips — 26. h3 Qe6 27. Rd5! (a superb exchange sac, completely disrupting Black’s game and setting up a powerful phalanx of central pawns) Nxd5 28. exd5 Qg6 29. c5, and Anand is dominating the board.

Black seeks counterplay with a desperate kingside attack, but White never loses control: 31. Qd7 Rg5? (already showing signs of panic; Black can try to hang on with 31…Re7 [e3 32. Rf1 Rg5 33. h4! Rxg2 34. h5, and if 34…Qg3, 35. Qxf7+ leads to mate) 32. Qg4 Qxg4 33. hxg4, though White’s pawns and bishops remain a dominating combination) 32. Rg1! (buttoning up the defense before the final assault) e3 33. d6 Rg3 34. Qxb7 Qe6 (it’s not likely a calculating wizard like Anand will miss the threat of 35…Rxh3+ 36. gxh3 Qxh3 mate) 35. Kh2! — stopping all the threats and leaving Black facing serious material loss; Kasparov resigned.

We didn’t know it at the time, but Anand had poked the bear. An aroused Kasparov would go on to score 4½ points in the next five games, essentially deciding the affair. The backbreaker may have been the famous Game 11, in which the Russian took a lead he would never relinquish with a diabolical combination.

Kasparov scored a psychological victory with the surprise adoption of the Sicilian Dragon, although Anand as White reacts well and gets at least an even game that seems destined for a draw.

Then this happened: 27. Nd5 Be6 (see diagram; that Black seemingly walks into a knight fork ought to have sounded the alarm bells for White, who was much better off with something like 28. Nxe7 Re8 29. Nd5 Bxd5 30. b4! Rc4 31. Rxd5 axb4 32. axb4 Rxb4+ 33. Ka3 Ra4+ 34. Kb3 Re5 35. Red1, with an edge) 28. b4? axb4 29. axb4 Rc4 30. Nb6? (even now 30. c3 Bxd5 31. Rxd5 Rxc3 32. Re2! keeps White in the game) Rxb4+ 31. Ka3 (both Black rooks seem to hang, but Kasparov has a plan) Rxc2!!, and a stunned Anand gave up as 32. Kxb4 (Rxc2 Rb3+ 33. Ka2 Re3+! 34. Kb2 Rxe1) Rxd2 33. Kxb5 Rxg2 leaves Black two pawns to the good with a winning ending.

Anand-Kasparov, Game 9, PCA World Championship Match, New York, October 1995

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 e6 7. O-O Be7 8. a4 Nc6 9. Be3 O-O 10. f4 Qc7 11. Kh1 Re8 12. Bf3 Bd7 13. Nb3 Na5 14. Nxa5 Qxa5 15. Qd3 Rad8 16. Rfd1 Bc6 17. b4 Qc7 18. b5 Bd7 19. Rab1 axb5 20. Nxb5 Bxb5 21. Qxb5 Ra8 22. c4 e5 23. Bb6 Qc8 24. fxe5 dxe5 25. a5 Bf8 26. h3 Qe6 27. Rd5 Nxd5 28. exd5 Qg6 29. c5 e4 30. Be2 Re5 31. Qd7 Rg5 32. Rg1 e3 33. d6 Rg3 34. Qxb7 Qe6 35. Kh2 Black resigns.

Anand-Kasparov, Game 11, PCA World Championship Match, New York, October 1995

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. O-O-O Ne5 11. Bb3 Rc8 12. h4 h5 13. Kb1 Nc4 14. Bxc4 Rxc4 15. Nde2 b5 16. Bh6 Qa5 17. Bxg7 Kxg7 18. Nf4 Rfc8 19. Ncd5 Qxd2 20. Rxd2 Nxd5 21. Nxd5 Kf8 22. Re1 Rb8 23. b3 Rc5 24. Nf4 Rbc8 25. Kb2 a5 26. a3 Kg7 27. Nd5 Be6 28. b4 axb4 29. axb4 Rc4 30. Nb6 Rxb4+ 31. Ka3 Rxc2 White resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email [email protected].

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