There is no way to comment on the St. Louis – Rapid & Blitz tournament held Aug. 14-18 in the United States without focusing on Garry Kasparov. The return of the 54-year-old former world champion stirred the public’s imagination. Would it be possible for the man who dominated the world of chess between 1985 and 2005 to back on top form after 12 years of inactivity?
This script, typical of Hollywood, bears a lot of resemblance to the movie Rocky VI, in which former boxing champion Rocky Balboa leaves retirement after 16 years to wrestle young champion Mason Dixon.
“Eyes of Tiger”
Kasparov did not play against the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen, but faced heavyweight opponents such as World Cup runner-up Sergey Karjakin, former world champion Viswanathan Anand, Fabiano Caruana (3rd in the world rankings), Levon Aronian (5th), Hikaru Nakamura (7th), Ian Nepomniachtchi (15th), Le Quang Liem (23rd), Leinier Dominguez (25th) and David Navara (26th).
The world’s elite chess players face each other reasonably throughout the year, but Kasparov’s participation brought the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz audience to another level. With live broadcasts in Spanish and English, the Youtube channel of the event received an average of 200,000 daily views. That is, in the five days the tournament attracted about 1 million views.
[The attention of the press was all for the former champion]
Even in Brazil the event aroused the interest of the press. Magazines such as Veja and Época highlighted Garry’s return to the board. Although the media channels usually mentioned that he was leaving retirement, it is worth remembering that in 2015 Kasparov won a friendly match against the legendary Nigel Short. And in 2016, he played very srongly against the American stars Nakamura, Caruana and Wesley So in a blitz tournament.
Returning to the Rocky VI (spoiler alert!), in the big duel the aged Rocky Balboa suffers in the first rounds, but later, with eyes of tiger, he recovers and finishes the 10 rounds of boxing without being knocked out. On the contrary, the second half of the fight was balanced. In the end, Dixon’s victory is by jury decision, but Rocky was cheered by the public for showing such resistance.
Again, movie and real life presented similar scripts. Kasparov did not play a good chess in the rapid tournament. He looked completely out of shape, spent a lot of time in his decisions and made blunders in relatively easy positions. He ended with a win (a gift by Le Quang Liem, who blundered a whole rook in a better position), three losses and five draws, sharing the last position with Anand and Navara.
His game against the Czech genius GM was particularly painful. In a completely dominant position, Garry played several horrible moves until he finally lost. His fans certainly finished this game with tears in their eyes.
[Kasparov lamented the initial poor performance]
But in the blitz games Kasparov improved his performance: an honorable 5th place among the 10 participants, with four wins, four defeats and ten draws. Overall he finished in 8th place , fighting as the great champion he will always be. Like Rocky, Kasparov may not have won the fight, but neither did he come close to being knocked out.
[At the end of the tournament the former champion showed joy for playing chess]
The overall title of the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz went to Armenian’s Levon Aronian, who confirmed his excellent shape and took $ 37,500 home. Russian Sergey Karjakin and American Hikaru Nakamura shared second place – each took $ 22,500 in prize money. In total, the event distributed $ 150,000 in prizes.
[Levon Aronian, in red pants, won in St. Louis. Nakamura, sitting, does not seem very happy with the result]
The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz was the fourth and penultimate stage of the 2017 Grand Chess Tour. The London Chess Classic will be the last stage, to be held December 1-10, with $ 300,000 in prize money. Garry Kasparov participated in only one stage to promote the event and he does not compete for the overall title of the circuit.
Following the Sinquefield Cup and Sant Louis Rapid & Blitz, current world champion Magnus Carlsen, from Norway, leads the overall Grand Chess Tour with 34 points. Frenchman Maxime Vachier Lagrave is the second with 31 and Armenian Levon Aronian is the third with 25 points. Sergey Karjakin, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Viswanathan Anand, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Fabiano Caruana, complete, in that order, the classification.
What do you think about Kasparov’s return? Did you expect more or do you think he did well? Leave your opinion in the comments!
Written by Rafael Leitão Chess Academy on 08/21/2017
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