A Grandmaster Shares His Strategic Moves
International grandmaster Patrick Wolff has enjoyed a bird's eye view of the global chess scene for a decade or more. Now the two-time US champion has distilled all that inside information into a fascinating account of Indian grandmaster Viswanathan Anand's gallant but unsuccessful bid to wrest the world title from Garry Kasparov.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Wolff's book, "Kasparov Versus Anand: The Inside Story of the 1995 World Chess Championship," (in paperback by H3 Publications, Cambridge, Mass., 191 pp., $20) is a rare treat for the casual player - or even the nonplayer - offering seldom-seen insights into big-time chess and those who dominate its stage.
"I think the way tennis and golf do it is much healthier," he told the Monitor in a recent interview in his tastefully furnished apartment in East Cambridge, just across the Charles River from Boston.
One of Wolff's pet peeves, ironically, is that he believes too much emphasis is placed on the world championship. He thinks the game would do better to spread the glory around rather than emphasizing one big match every two or three years.
His status among the world's elite lends credibility to his words. But he hardly fits the common perception of chess players as tunnel-visioned automatons devoting all waking hours to playing, studying, or obsessing over their chosen pastime.
Wolff devotes a significant portion of his book to player profiles, a history of the world championship, a "personal perspective" based on his own involvement as a member of Anand's team, and his theories on the reasons for the challenger's inexplicable collapse in mid-match after playing the champion to a standstill over the first half of the contest.
The book is a treasure for serious chess enthusiasts, containing all the games of the "Candidates" matches leading up to the climactic struggle, all previous games between the antagonists, and a detailed analysis of all 18 games in the title match.
"I believe that his mistakes ... were mostly caused by psychological factors, not by deficiencies in preparation or chess skill," Wolff says. "In my opinion, the games show that the root cause was Anand's nerves."
Reading, writing, and playing
As a youngster, Wolff not surprisingly developed a variety of interests. Indeed, despite the demands of top-level chess, he has continued his education, albeit sporadically, spending two years at Yale shortly after high school, then later resuming his studies at Harvard, where he is completing his degree requirements as a second-semester senior.
Along with playing chess, Wolff devotes a great deal of time to teaching, speaking, and writing about the game. The Kasparov-Anand work is his first full-length effort, but he has written numerous magazine articles and is co-writing a second book, "The Idiot's Guide to Chess," due out next spring as part of the MacMillan Publishing's series of such books.
He also continues to speak out on chess-related issues and to offer his own novel (some would say heretical) solutions to what he perceives as the game's most serious problems. Rather than one grand match, he calls for "a series of prestigious tournaments, with an ongoing system of ranking the players, [so that] you don't have this obsession with 'Who is the world champion?' I think that is very bad for chess, and hurts chess. Unfortunately, a lot of people ... get trapped in this mind-set."