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The best games of Garry Kasparov's chess career

by Sagar Shah - 13/04/2020

On 13th of April 2020 Garry Kasparov celebrated his 57th birthday. We found it to be an appropriate day to get you acquainted in a more intimate manner with one of the greatest champions that chess has ever seen. A chess player is known by the games he plays and hence in this article IM Sagar Shah along with the readers of ChessBase India dig into the games of Garry Kasparov. After looking at the 17 games that have been shared here, you are bound to become a bigger fan of the Beast from Baku. From his win against Elmar Magerramov in 1977 to Veselin Topalov in 1999, Kasparov's chess career is over two decades of pure chess excellence.

Today, on 13th of April 2020, Garry Kasparov turns 57 years old! For many of the chess fans he is the greatest ever chess player to have graced the sport. For ChessBase, he holds a special significance as well. It was in 1985, when computers were beginning to become popular, that Kasparov urged Frederic Friedel to make a chess database. The entire story of how things panned out can be heard in the video below as Frederic narrates the events in his inimitable style. The thing which impressed me the most about Garry is how in spite of having a clear edge over his competitors in terms of a team of seconds who helped him to prepare, he wanted to level out the playing field. A database that could hold thousands of games, sort them, would of course make a lot of the tasks done by his seconds obsolete. But Garry always strived to take chess to the next level. As the World Champion he realized his responsibility to ensure that the sport grows and technology innovation was the fastest way to create a chess boom. Frederic followed up on Garry's idea. Matthias Wullenweber built the first chess database and soon the company ChessBase was founded. The rest is history!

Frederic Friedel narrates how Garry Kasparov played a huge role in the launch of ChessBase over three and a half decades ago!

As the clock struck 00.00 in India on the 13th of April, I made four posts on the ChessBase India social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube Communities) wishing Garry Kasparov a happy birthday and also asking the followers to tell us a game of his career that they like very much. By the time it was evening, I had received a huge number of replies with so many of Kasparov's brilliant games. In this article I would like to share some of them with you to show what an amazing player Garry was. It was not without reason that people called him the Beast from Baku.


The first game of this article comes from a time when Garry was just 14 years old. It was a training match between him and the 19-year-old Elmar Magerramov.


Magerramov vs Kasparov

How did Kasparov take advantage of White's king in the centre?

Garry was always alert when his opponent's king was in the center. He took on d4 with his bishop and after Rxd4 continued with Nc5. After the queen moved, he went Ne6 and broke in the center with ...d4 opening up White's king.

It seems as if Black's knight doesn't have a good discovered check as the king is running away to f2. However, Kasparov had a deadly move under his sleeve. Black to play.

Any discovered check with the knight was not immediately decisive. Hence, Kasparov found the move ...Bxf3!! The queen cannot take as Ng5+ would lose her majesty. And after gxf3 came Qh4+ when the attack was decisive. There are some very pretty lines towards the end which have been analyzed by Kasparov's trainer Nikitin in the game below.


One year after his game against Magerramov, Garry played another beautiful attacking gem against Semon Palatnik. He got the advantage out of the opening with a firm grip on the dark squares. The key learning from this game is to the art of finishing off your opponents with incisive tactical sacrifices.


Kasparov vs Palatnik

White has his pieces nicely placed for an attack. How should he continue?

Kasparov played the strong Bxg5! hxg5 Qh5! He realized that his queen, knight, rook and the bishop on c2 are going to be enough for a decisive attack. However, it was not so easy to breakthrough as there were still some roadblocks to overcome.

How did Kasparov break Black's defences?

You don't have to ask Kasparov twice to sacrifice in such a position. Bxf5!! was a powerful blow. The idea was to clear the d5 square for the knight. The final phase of the game is beautiful and worthy of closer inspection.


1982 was a big breakthrough year for 19-year-old Garry Kasparov. His first win in a superclass-level international tournament was scored at Bugojno, Yugoslavia in 1982. He earned a place in the 1982 Moscow Interzonal tournament, which he won, to qualify for the Candidates Tournament. At age 19, he was the youngest Candidate since Bobby Fischer, who was 15 when he qualified in 1958. At this stage, he was already the No. 2-rated player in the world, trailing only World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov on the January 1983 list.


Kavalek vs Kasparov

What should Kasparov play here?

The right move here is ...Nh3. However, Kasparov was so superior as compared to his opponents that he could afford to swindle them. He played the move ...Nb4?! Now taking the knight on f4 was imperative, but Kavalek went Qb3 and was punished for it after Nfd3+ followed by f4.

Kasparov vs Gheorghiu

Keeping your king in the centre against Kasparov is never a good idea. How did Garry wrest over the advantage?

Kasparov played the powerful strike d5! After exd5 exd5 Bxd5 Bb5! The Black king had not time to castle and Kasparov managed to slay his opponent's monarch by dragging it to b8.

Kasparov vs Nunn

How did Kasparov continue here? White to play.

Kasparov played the powerful move f5! It might seem like he is weakening his hold on the e5 square, but Garry correctly assessed that it was more important to begin a direct onslaught against the king than to worry about things like the e5 square. Nunn was completely outplayed here and had to resign in just 21 moves. The interesting thing to note was that John Nunn had just published his book Benoni for the tournament player just a few months ago!

After seeing Kasparov demolishing the Benoni, it is now time to see him uphold the dangerous opening from Black. 1983 was when Kasparov and Korchnoi were going to battle it out against each other in the Candidates. Their game at the Olympiad in 1982 was a precursor to what could be expected in a year from now.

Kasparov and Korchnoi fight it out at the Lucerne Olympiad as Beliavsky and Karpov follow the action | Photo: invicta chess

Korchnoi vs Kasparov

Korchnoi has justed attacked Kasparov's knight on e5. But Garry is not among those who is going to back down! He played a move that was quite stunning and the same time quite logical! Black to move.

Retreating the knight is not an option as then White is just better with the knight coming to c4. Kasparov continued boldly on the other side of the board with ...b5! His idea was to create discord among the white army and he was quite successful doing it.


The year 1983 was famous for Kasparov's brutal win against Portisch from the Niksic Interzonal. Garry in the spirit of Lasker's double bishop sacrifice, gives up both his bishops on h7 and g7 to strip the black king and drag him out to f3 to checkmate him!

This picture isn't taking in Niksic 1983, but three years later when the two opponents Portisch and Kasparov faced each other in Dubai in 1986 | Wikimedia commons

Kasparov vs Portisch

How did Kasparov stun his opponent in this position? White to play.

Kasparov has an interesting concept where he counts the number of attackers in a position and also the number of defenders. Here it is clear that White has four attackers in play while Black has a few defenders. Hence when he played the move Bxg7! it might seem like a spectacular sacrifice to some, but for Garry it was merely an exchange where he was giving up one of his attackers for one of Black's defenders!


After surviving the World Championship Match in 1984 which was called off after a record breaking 48 games (!), Kasparov and Karpov once again sat opposite each other in September 1985 after a gap of seven months. Right in the first game Kasparov managed to beat Karpov. What made the game special is that Kasparov won the game without any sacrifices, by just making simple and logical moves. If the names of the players were not shown then it was quite possible for someone to mistake the white player as Karpov! It showed how the 48-game match had impacted Kasparov as a player and had made him into a more evolved fighter.

Kasparov went on to win the 1985 match with a score of 13-11 | Photo: Wikipidea

The most famous game of the 1985 match was the 16th duel. Garry Kasparov played a move in the opening which simply shook the chess world!


Karpov vs Kasparov

The move ...d5!? is simply an unbelievable pawn sacrifice! Black usually continues with Be7, 0-0 in Hedgehog style. But Kasparov true to his style sacrifices a pawn in order to get active play.

This game also became famous for the octopus knight on d3! Karpov's pieces were passive and Garry went on to score a fascinating win


After winning the World Championship in Moscow in 1985, Kasparov defended it successfully in 1986 against Karpov with a score of 12.5-11.5. In 1987 he was pushed to the wall once again by Karpov. After 23 games Garry was trailing the match with a score of 12-11. In the final game he had the white pieces, but had to win on demand to save his World Champion's title. This was one of the most high tension moment in Kasparov's entire chess career. The way he managed to keep the play in the position and slowly outplay Karpov was simply outstanding.


Kasparov vs Karpov

To maintain the play in the position and keep up the tension, Kasparov chose 1.c4 in the game
What stands out in this video is the fact that Kasparov has won the World Championship title, and Karpov has heartbreakingly lost it. But both of them analyze the position as if nothing really has happened after the game.


Garry's main repertoire against 1.d4 was always the King's Indian. And the 13th World Champion scored several wins with this opening in his chess career. But perhaps the most famous King's Indian win was against Piket where Kasparov showed a very nice idea


Piket vs Kasparov

How should Black continue here?

Kasparov found a very cute idea in this position - ...a6! The idea is to pop the queen out from a7. In case White takes on g3, then after fxg3 and Qd8 with the idea of Qh4, Black has an unstoppable attack!

How should Black finish off the game?

How many times can you play your knight to h1 and make your opponent resign! Kasparov's brilliant ...Nh1 gave him one of his most famous victories in the King's Indian.


Perhaps the most comfortable World Championship victory for Kasparov over Karpov was in 1990 in Lyon. In spite of winning the penultimate round Karpov still lost the match with a score of 12.5-11.5. This match will definitely be remembered for Kasparov's mind boggling calculations and attacking feel in game no. 20.


Kasparov vs Karpov

White has all his pieces in the attack. It is time now to strike. What should White play?

Kasparov calculated like a machine in this position and concluded that Nxh6 is winning.

How would you continue as White here?

Kasparov would really love to move his knight from e4 in this position. However, the rook on e1 hangs with a check and later also the bishop on b1 is lost. Hence, Kasparov played the quiet Kh2! with the idea of Ng5 or Nd6 leading to quick knockout. Quiet moves like Kh2 are extremely difficult to find during the game. But Kasparov is able to visualize the board very well and realizes that Black can do nothing against the deadly attack coming up.

The entire match in 1990 is captured in this video. It is quite rare to see the protagonists analyzing the key moments of the match after it is over.


Karpov played an amazing tournament in Linares in 1994 scoring 11.0/13. But Linares 1993 was remembered for another Kasparov's KID wins! The way in which Kasparov handles his lead in development, not giving Karpov even a moment's rest is quite amazing.


Karpov vs Kasparov

We already know from Korchnoi vs Kasparov, that Garry doesn't like to move his knights from e5 when attacked! What ddid he play here?

...b4! was a powerful strike by Garry. The pawn if taken with Qxb4 is met with ...c5! leading to favourable complications for Kasparov. Karpov played Nb1 but after Ng4, the a2 pawn was hanging and Black went on to win a game. An interesting moment occurred when Kasparov took Karpov's rook with a pawn.

In this position Kasparov played cxd1 and left the pawn on d1. Karpov took on e4 with a queen simply ignoring the pawn on d1. The arbiter had to come in and settle the issue!


If there is one player against whom Kasparov has always struggled it is Vladimir Kramnik. The Big Vlad is known as the slayer of the King's Indian from white side. But in 1994, Munich Intel Blitz Kasparov managed to win the game with a very nice queen sacrifice.

Kramnik was always a tough opponent for Kasparov, but Garry did have his special wins against Vlad.| Photo: Grigory Filippov, Sport Express

Kramnik vs Kasparov

White has just played the move ...b3. It is a blitz game. Black to move.

Kasparov thought for a bit and sacrificed his queen with Nfxe4! Bxd6 Nxc3 Qe1 Rfxd8. It was here that Kramnik went wrong with Rc1. After Nxa2 it was all over. However, instead of Rc1, White could have played Nb1 when the position is quite complex.

It's quite unbelievable that Kasparov and Shirov have played against each other 32 times in different formats and Kasparov has scored 17 wins with 15 draws. Shirov has not won a single game against Garry.

Kasparov vs Shirov

What did Kasparov with the white pieces play here?

Garry sacrificed his rook on b7 with Rxb7! The concept was that after Nxb7, White goes b4 and the knight on b7 is completely dominated.

The knight on b7 is dominated by the b4 pawn

The ease with which Kasparov sacrificed an exchange and won the game is something to learn from.


The year 1995 was a special one for Kasparov as he defended yet another World Championship title, this time against Anand.

The match began with eight draws. Vishy struck the first blow by winning the ninth game. Kasparov however, scored four wins after that and won the match with a score of 10.5-7.5

There were many interesting wins by Kasparov in the 1995 match, especially his victories with black in the Sicilian Dragon. However, the game that stands out is the one in Open Ruy Lopez where he completely outpreared Anand.


Kasparov vs Anand

This was a well known position back then. White would play Nf3 and after the queen trade, the position was roughly even. But Kasparov played a move that came as a rude awakening for Anand. What did Garry play?

Kasparov's move here was Bc2!! Anand took the pawn on c3, but was soon facing a home prepared attack with Qg4 - Bh6 and so on! Recently in an interview with ChessBase India Anand mentioned that he was quite naive and although he had played the Open Ruy Lopez in game six, he continued with the same system in game 10 as well. He would have never done that with his current experience!


In 1996 Kassparov had played a match against Deep Blue engine where he had won the duel with a score of 4-2. In 1997 the improved version of Deep Blue once again took the World Champion. Kasparov was very confident about his chances, but later went on to lose the match with a score of 3.5-2.5. This match will be remembered as the last human frontier falling down and the world recognizing the fact that they could no longer compete with the engines. Although the match wasn't very memorable for Kasparov, he did win the first game with a very nice rook sacrifice.

Garry Kasparov thinking about his move in the first game of the match against Deep Blue

Kasparov vs Deep Blue

Deep Blue has just pushed his pawn to e4. What did Kasparov do here?

Garry pushed his pawn to f4 and sacrificed his rook on e2. In return he got two powerful pawns on f5 and g5. The impressive part about this game is that usually when an engine plays a certain move, it is difficult to have a calm and composed attitude about it. But Garry gave up his rook and ourplayed the engine.


We have saved the best for the last! This is by far the most popular game of Kasparov and Garry has often said that this is one of his most favourite games. It took place in Wijk Aan Zee in 1999. The sheer number of lines that Kasparov saw on the board was impressive, but at the same time, he even used his sense of intuition to navigate through the mess. It is a game that will leave you flabbergasted!

Topalov has been a key opponent of Kasparov. The 1999 game which became Kasparov's best was played against him and in 2005 when Garry retired from chess, his last game was also against Topalov


Kasparov vs Topalov

White to play. What would you do here?

Kasparov had seen quite a bit here and lashed out the move Rxd4!! The rook should not have been taken. Instead Black could have played ...Kb6. But Topalov was a bit greedy and took the rook with cxd4.

How should white continue here?

If you take the pawn on d4 with the queen then Black can block with Qb6 and then Re7+ can be met with ...Nd7. Hence Kasparov simply inverted the move order and played Re7+!! in the above position.The rook cannot be taken and Kasparov slowly and steadily dragged the king out.

Check out the variatons below, it has some mating ideas like the beautiful one we see above

There are several other games of Kasparov which are famous and well known. We decided to show the ones which were the most popular among our readers. I hope that by going over the games, you not just realize what a great player Kasparov was, but also some of the most historic moments in his life. I feel sad that I was unable to see Kasparov in full flow, when I began understanding the sport better. He retired too soon in 2005! But his amazing games will be a source of inspiration for the young generation all across the world.

Important links:

YouTube post about Kasparov's birthday

Facebook post

Instagram post

Twitter post


All the games in this report were prepared with the help of ChessBase 15 and Mega Database 2020.

If you would like to learn more about Kasparov, get our Master Class Vol.07 which deals with Kasparov's openings, endgames and style of play.


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