1987. Seville, Spain. Defending World Champion Gary Kasparov (white) is down one loss in the Champion’s match against challenger and former champion Anatoly Karpov during the final game of the series — he would lose the title with anything less than a win.
Both players were moving faster to insure the extra time granted by reaching 40 moves, when Kasparov failed to write his scorecard for two consecutive moves, and was reminded by a judge to tend to it. His next move missed the Win with 33. Qd1?? which is clearly defensible, instead of the stronger 33. Qb5!
It may seem obvious, but a distraction at a critical moment can be all that a career hangs on. Kasparov regarded this game as the “Mount Everest” of his career, yet managed to hold on further until Karpov too made a critical error later.
“Haste is never more dangerous than when you feel that victory is in your grasp.” – Eugene Znosko-Borovsky
It is a game of focus and attentive patience, and it is a game of time. In Chess and Life, often you cannot rush things without missing something important. Even if it seems obvious, quick assumptions can be deadly. Assuming your opponent’s motive, or your own safety, can ruin your game.
Rushing your play can inadvertently commit you to errors of assumption or cause you to miss possibilities to win, merely by missing a detail in the position. You can short circuit a brilliant endgame and victory simply by hurrying your analysis. It is a costly mistake to neglect looking deeply, on both offense and defense.
“Haste, the great enemy.” – Eugene Znosko-Borowski
For instance: You pick up your date on time, have a great experience at the restaurant, and realize only then you forgot to grab your wallet rushing out the door. You now have no funds to take care of your meals. This is an embarrassing mistake at best, or it could be fatal to a new relationship at worst.
Mistakes can cause greater issues than blowing a date. Scrambling for work five minutes late, running along the highway you will miss things and open the door to circumstance. How many car accidents, some fatal, are caused by cascading errors of attention? The fact you didn’t plan your morning can be life-altering if fate intervenes.
“Avoidance of mistakes is the beginning, as it is the end, of mastery in chess.” – Eugene Znosko-Borovsky
A pilot has to do a pre-flight check that cannot be rushed. It is one of the most important and most repeated lessons of flight training, and with good reason. If you miss one little thing it can cause huge problems when you are cruising at three thousand feet. Just “assuming” you have enough gas to get to your destination is known to have caused many a tragedy – you cannot coast to the side of the road when you run out of gas thousands of feet above the earth.
“One bad move nullifies forty good ones.” – I.A. Horowitz
From lesser mistakes, to greater, we are all held accountable. That is why focus and attentive patience are imperative in Chess and in Life. Getting excited that your game is appearing to come to a glorious conclusion? Don’t overlook the basics of the situation. Maybe your dinner plans are coming to fruition exactly how you wanted? This is the time to pay attention and not to rush things; to solidify the win.
Losing a “Winning Game” is almost a truism.
When Kasparov missed the early win in Seville it was a matter of minutiae outside of the game – a technical point every player knows to follow. If he had been a lesser man, it could have ruined him.
If you can master small details such as keeping your own score or balancing your checkbook, you can keep minor blunders like that out of the sinister clutches of fate. Indeed the small things can be crucial for good or ill, and are what great things are built of.
Destiny after all, is in the details.
Full notes of the 1987 World Championship Final Game can be found here.