by Ian Rogers
Schadenfreude was heavy in the air as Garry Kasparov (cover and left) massacred Nigel Short at their exhibition match in Saint Louis last week.
Thanks to a poorly argued and no doubt deliberately provocative New in Chess article – amplified and distorted by worldwide mass media coverage in the week before the match – Kasparov was everyone’s favourite while Short was vilified as a sexist jerk.
Short quoted a (widely debated and criticised) 2014 study by Robert Howard of UNSW which claims that low participation rates do not explain low achievement by women tournament players generally and postulated that possible physiological differences between the brains of the sexes favour men in areas such as chess and driving.
Short’s theory was ridiculed by neurologists, but the likely consequence of Short’s entry into the debate about the intellectual abilities of men and women was to further discourage girls worldwide from taking up the game; if they believe that they cannot be as strong as boys, no matter how hard they work, why should they bother?
Despite having played only rarely since his retirement a decade ago, Kasparov won the rapid and blitz contest 8.5-1.5, with the former World Champion’s only loss coming when he forgot about his clock and lost on time.
Kasparov’s 5-0 whitewash on the final day provided echoes of Kasparov’s 5.5-0.5 defeat of an earlier English number one Tony Miles in 1986. That defeat ended Miles’ career as an elite player and led to Miles’ famed comment that he had been playing “a monster with a thousand eyes.”
Short (pictured below) , 49, lost as gracefully as might have been expected – “Even in my worst nightmare I couldn’t score this few points; it was disgusting really.” – blaming jet-lag for his poor result. (Short had come from the Thai Open which concluded six days before his Kasparov match.)
Kasparov was chuffed, but stressed that his triumph did not mean he could still compete at the highest level. “I enjoyed it immensely,” Kasparov said. “I’m not playing professionally any more, and it was a rare opportunity to play good chess and just enjoy it.”
“I doubt very much if I could fight with Magnus, or Caruana or Aronian these days, but I would definitely give them a good fight for their money!”
Saint Louis Blitz 2015
Opening: Sicilian Rauzer
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nge2 Nf6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 d6
The Classical Sicilian, favoured by a teenage Kasparov but soon displaced by the Najdorf Variation (2…d6 and 5…a6).
6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 Be7 8.0-0-0 0-0 9.h4!? a6 10.Kb1 h6 11.f4!
A standard sacrifice, made popular (in a similar position) by Mikhail Tal against Robert Byrne in 1976, but Short soon thinks better of his aggression.
12.Nf3! puts far more pressure on Black.
12…Bxf6 13.Nf3 Qa5! 14.e5?
Tempting but wrong. After 14.g4! it is anybody’s game.
14…dxe5 15.Qxd7 e4! 16.Ne5
On 16.Nxe4? Rfd8 is curtains.
16…Bxe5 17.fxe5 Rad8 18.Qxb7 Rxd1+ 19.Nxd1 Qe1! 20.Be2! Qxh1 21.Qxc6 Rd8 22.b4?
Given one free moment, Short errs. 22.b3! keeps White in the game.
22…Qe1! 23.Qxa6 Qxb4+ 24.Kc1 Qd2+ 25.Kb2 Rb8+ 26.Bb5 Qb4+ 27.Kc1 Rxb5 28.Nc3 Rxe5 29.Qc6 e3 0-1
“[I] feel very happy and proud,” said Kasparov. “I played many good moves by hand; it doesn’t happen often that you see a move and you know that it’s right.”