Friday, 7 September 2012

Averbakh 10: The first Karpov - Kasparov match, part 2.

It's time now for a closer look at the entrails of the controversial termination of this match. Before proceeding, the reader is urged to refresh his memory by looking at Edward Winter's article on this topic, it is available here. There are differences of emphasis between Averbakh's and Winter's accounts.

Note that Winter quotes Hugh Myers, to wit:

In all the discussion of the controversy, hardly anybody seems to have pointed out that the statement of the West German FIDE official Alfred Kinzel makes it clear that the first request for, or even mention of, immediate termination of the match came from the Kasparov camp.

Earlier in the same article:

Firstly, it should be recalled that nobody appears to have suggested outright termination of the match until Kasparov himself did so to Kinzel at the very beginning of February 1985. (Kasparov and Kinzel subsequently gave conflicting accounts of the circumstances and context in which Kasparov proposed that the match should be terminated.)

Thus Kasparov's proposal came after game forty-seven, played on the 30th January, that is only one more game was to be played (on the 8th February). Furthermore, Kasparov had just won, pulling the match score back to 5:2. At that juncture, he was not to know he was going to win the very next game.

Winter adds (one shouldn't assume this is his present take on the matter):

In C.N. 1491 our own standpoint was summarized as follows:

'On Termination Day, however, few knew that all these discussions [involving the officials and players] had been going on for over two weeks. In particular, hardly anyone was aware of the Kinzel-Kasparov negotiations. This prompted the widespread impression that Campomanes' decision was "arbitrary", and the FIDE President did little to help quell suspicions. Neither the question of whether Campomanes was right or wrong to stop the match (our own agnosticism has never been firmer) nor the repeated falsehoods written by his opponents in their press monopoly outlets can alter the fact that Termination Day in Moscow was a shambles for which Campomanes must take full blame.'

Consider now what Averbakh has to say:

The match score became 5-1.

And now another factor began to enter the match, that of the World Champion's physical and nervous exhaustion. The story of his matches against Kortschnoi began to repeat itself. And then the people around Karpov started to look for artificial means to end the match, starting negotiations with the challenger behind the scenes. I found out about this afterwards, as I did about the fact that the talks involved the chief arbiter, …

Whilst not first hand testimony, it is very hard to believe that conversations behind the scenes did not happen for very much longer than two weeks, they were probably going on for months leading up to the beginning of February.

Note, too, that Winter also mentions a letter from Lim Kok Ann, it tells of discussions taking place in December.

Given that these conversations involved many more parties than Kinzel, Kasparov and his representatives, can any great significance be assigned to the request made at the beginning of February? From Kasparov's perspective, a termination with the score at 5-2, followed by a fresh match, was greatly to be preferred to allowing Karpov to recover, regardless of Kasparov's physical shape.

Consider the situation after Kasparov won what turned out to be the final game of the match, bringing the score to 5-3. There were four realistic possibilities:

  1. The match could continue as scheduled.
  2. There could be a prolonged time-out, permitting the players to revive, and the match resumed.
  3. A fresh match of finite length could be played with Karpov starting with a 2-0 lead.
  4. A fresh match of finite length could be played with the scores level.

A fifth, which doesn't seem to have been considered, is that the match could have been aborted and Karpov proclaimed the winner on the basis that he was leading. This won't be discussed here. Nor will an awarding of the contest to Kasparov.

It is a matter of some dispute just how exhausted Karpov was in February 1985. He denies it, as given by Winter. Some credence can be given to this because Karpov managed to come back at the death after a series of reverses at the Baguio world title contest in 1978. However, that being so, why didn't Karpov seek a medical opinion and make it public? That would have been in Karpov's interest should this version be correct. Note, as well, the rumours reported by Averbakh (page 216) that doctors had examined Karpov and found him to be in no shape to continue. In a match of such length, it would have been imprudent not to have been under medical supervision. One can add that Averbakh opined that FIDE should anyway have asked for Karpov to be examined by independent medical experts.

Averbakh doesn't directly discuss just how exhausted Kasparov was. The reader can infer from page 216 that Averbakh thought Kasparov was well able to continue. Thus, in contrast to Winter (Was Kasparov in good physical and mental shape at the end of the match?), Averbakh appears to consider this a non-issue.

The second and third of the four possibilities outlined above definitely were to the benefit of Karpov. Averbakh appears to hold the view that the first favoured Kasparov, whilst others demur. Also in dispute is who would benefit most from the fourth, largely because of the right of the champion to a rematch should he lose the title.

What seems to be unanswerable is that the match demonstrated that a contest in which draws do not count is fundamentally flawed. That being so, the first two possibilities had to be abandoned. One cannot fault Campomanes for doing that.

What was going on behind the scenes? This is where Averbakh's account is useful. Before proceeding, it is time to flesh out more of the powerful figures sketched in the book.

In Karpov's camp was the ideological secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Vasilyevich Zimyanin (the book spells his name Zimianin, he is mentioned on pages 205 and 218). He was born in Vitebsk Oblast (province) in 1914, passing away in 1995. There is a brief New York Times obituary available. More information can be found in the Russian language articles available here and here. I couldn't find an entry for him in my copy of A Biographical Dictionary. For completeness, there is also this link. Despite his powerful positions, he comes across as a nonentity, which would be consistent with Averbakh's account of Geidar Aliyev getting the better of him.

The timing of the match was fortunate for Kasparov, for, earlier, at the bottom of page 175, there is: Karpov's sharp rise to the top had brought him many supporters, especially amongst the party and governing elite. He was from the same area as senior Communist Party figure E. Tyazhelnikov, and the latter had given the talented youngster every support. As a native Russian, from the provinces, a Young Communist Party member, he had the perfect image of a young socialist.

From page 404 of The Soviet Union, a Biographical Dictionary:

Yevgeny Mikhailovich Tyazhelnikov (born 1928). A teacher and Party worker in Chelyabinsk, Tyazhelnikov was a surprising choice in 1968 as First Secretary of the All-Union Konsomol, and again, in 1977, as head of the Central Committee Department of Propaganda. (The latter position had been vacant for some years since the removal of V.I. Stepakov and A.N. Yakovlev.) Tyazhelnikov was himself removed from the department immediately after Brezhnev's death, and became Soviet ambassador to Romania.

There is a brief Russian language article devoted to him available here.

Note that Brezhnev died in 1982.

Erstwhile KGB thug, Kasparov supporter and later ruler of an independent Azerbaijan Geidar Aliyevich Aliyev (1923 - 2003) is sufficiently well known that a brief account is not needed here. Save to observe that he was forced out by Gorbachov in 1987.

Alexander Nikolayevich Yakovlev (1923 - 2005), who is mentioned on page 218 as probably pro-Kasparov, was head of the propaganda department. There is a useful article devoted to him here. Note that Yakovlev in his memoirs stated that the Kremlin was neutral. I should like to express my gratitude to Bernard Cafferty for looking up the passage. It can be found on page 388 of Sumerki (Twilight), which was published in 2003. Bernard has furnished the following translation:

Another very strange story comes from this period. When I had been in the Institute I had been a witness of a conversation between Gorbachov and Chernenko about the course of the K-K match. Karpov was losing the contest. Chernenko's retinue were insisting that we mustn't allow Kasparov to win.

Conversations began about the 'fatigue' of both players and that Kasparov, in the event of his victory, would leave the USSR etc. At that time I stated to Gorbachov that we should not mix sport with politics. In the summer of 1985 this question once again became acute. I wrote a short note to the Central Committee in which I repeated my point of view, that, in sport, the sporting principle had to be strictly observed. If you lost, then this meant that you had lost.

In the Secretariat of the Central Committee people agreed.

As Bernard mentions, the Institute is the Institute of World Economy and International Relations. Strictly speaking, as Bernard also points out, Kasparov was not winning, although that was a common perception, as he had won two games in a row.

Yakovlev's account is consistent with the instruction, as given on page 220, to all press outlets controlled by the Soviets to be objective and neutral.

One has to bear in mind that the coming man was perceived by many to be Gorbachov, who, although interested in chess, did not express a preference. Recall the political backdrop to the events of 15th February 1985. Following Brezhnev's death in 1982, he was succeeded by Yuri Andropov, who in turn died in 1984. Konstantin Chernenko, a Brezhnev protégé, succeeded as General Secretary of the CPSU, he died on 10th March 1985. Chernenko was seriously ill, in effect powerless, throughout his tenure. Thus it is easy to understand how Aliyev and Yakovlev could get the better of Zimyanin. The power of the KGB had increased further under Andropov, which worked to the advantage of Aliyev. It is a myth that Karpov then had greater blat (i.e. pull) in the higher echelons of Soviet power than Kasparov. Even though Kasparov had shown a greater willingness to rock the boat.

On page 217, Averbakh recalls Karpov telling him on the day that Campomanes stopped the match: Yuri Lvovich! Yuri Lvovich! What is he talking about? We agreed something quite different! Taken at face value, Campomanes double-crossed them all! Campomanes had worked out how to handle the Kremlin: and when he could do what he wanted. There are other examples in the book of his manipulations. As for the decision he reached, arguably it was the least bad of the choices available. It is a pity that he couldn't have taken away the champion's right to a revanche in the event of a reverse. In the final analysis, the decision may not have been arbitrary, but it possibly was last minute, as given in this interview.

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