"The Test of Time" by Garry Kasparov

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | 06.02.2013
  • | 20389 odsłon
  • | 35 komentarzy

This week I will be reviewing a book that was pretty influential for me when I was growing up. This is Garry Kasparov's game collection The Test of Time. The book includes his annotations of games starting from his first steps in international chess up to just before he became world champion.

The book contains a prologue by Mikhail Botvinnik and chapters based - for the most part - on each event that he played during that time, chronologically. The games are annotated in fairly great depth, although a few games have lighter annotations; in some of the games from his candidate matches he shows the whole game and then commentary after it dealing with particular moments. Not only wins, but also some draws and losses are included.

Most of the annotations of the games were written immediately after the event in which they were played; this I think is the best way - the game and also the feelings it evoked are still fresh in the annotator's mind. However, his old annotations include revisions made in italic font during the preparation for the book. In some of the new commentary he takes a very harsh tone towards the comments he made several years before.

The focus in the commentary is not so much the opening - most of the major analysis is devoted to the middlegame or even the ending.

The reason for the title of the book - "The Test of Time" - is that Kasparov wants to put his analysis, his games, and his chess philosophy out there to be judged by generations of future readers & players.


Where I got it

I'm not sure - I got this book a very long time ago, probably around 1995 or 1996, when I was first starting to play chess.


What's good about it

Unlike some game collections by top players, this was not a slipshod work; and was definitely not compiled by someone else. Besides the original annotations (made shortly after each tournament), Kasparov put a lot of work into revising the old annotations, finding mistakes, and introducing the games and describing the tournaments.

For the chess maniacs out there, this book will be great. Deep analysis by a world champion, entirely from the pre-computer era - so you get to see how he actually analyses the position without any electronic help. You can't find that anymore in the annotations by today's players. Everyone uses a computer nowadays to at least check the annotations, but back then (the book was published in 1986) computers were not strong enough.

The annotations are very deep, and Kasparov tries to be totally objective in his analysis. There is none of the arrogance you might expect - besides including games which he lost, Kasparov is also ruthlessly critical of himself, looking for every mistake he made, both in the game and in earlier analysis.

This book is most definitely for stronger players. Probably players over 2000 would get the most out of it. That said, I was reading it when I was probably 1600 or maybe even lower. I don't believe in dumbing things down for people who are learning something. If you want to be good at chess, don't have low self-esteem and buy a book like "Chess for Dummies" (or one of the many other books whose titles insult the reader as part of some kind of psychological marketing strategy). Reach for the stars. Even if you don't understand everything, this book isn't going to mislead you.


How it impacted me

I think this was my first book with in-depth analysis by a top modern player. Up to that time, I had probably been reading the old classics (My System, etc), simple game collections like 500 Master Games of Chess or collections of Rubinstein's games. This was my first look at modern, top-level chess. I could see how much depth of calculation and dynamism went into the game of chess in the modern era.

The book is modeled after Botvinnik's views about the critical analysis of one's own games being the key to improvement. I don't think I really conducted so many in-depth analysis of my games growing up in Alaska against 1400-rated opposition, but certainly the book influenced me as far as a self-critical approach is concerned.


An Excerpt

Here are Kasparov's annotations to his game with Anatoly Vaiser, from page 63-65 (in the chapter "Through the Prism of Analysis").


Any Downsides?

You know, looking at this book now, it makes me feel kind of depressed. The whole book is about the "search for truth" in chess. Only the test of time will tell whether his commentary merits consideration, whether he has gotten to the ultimate truth of what would happen if Kortschnoj had played 33.Ra8+ instead of 33.Bh6 in their game at the Lucerne Olympiad, whether he should have played 32.f5 or 32.fxe5 in his game against Petrosian in Moscow...This book was written by a young guy, whose whole life is chess, who wants to be the best - the absolute best - and to find the absolute truth to each chess position.

To me, now, this seems tiresome. I am no longer such a chess maniac, probably never really was. Chess is a large part of my life because that's the way it has been for a while, it is the only way I know how to make a living and to have any kind of worth in society. But I could care less about the ultimate truth in chess, and while the games and analysis in the book are very interesting and beautiful, the idea of "chess research" seems pretty dreary. Perhaps part of this is because times have changed. Nowadays, there are probably quite a few nerds - possibly who don't even really play chess themselves - working, with their computers, to "solve" chess. No doubt there will be a pot of gold waiting for them at the end of the rainbow.

So basically that is my main criticism - the tone of "chess research and the search for the truth" is rather depressing for me. But I doubt most who are reading this article are in the same position as me - either you are a casual player, and look on from afar with interest, or you yourself are a chess maniac and will love it.

This book is by Kasparov, so it is dead serious and very intense. There aren't too many lighthearted moments in there.


What you should eat/drink while reading this book

Power breakfast with strong coffee. Maybe raw eggs like Rocky. (Don't actually do that, you could get salmonella).


  • 4 lat temu


    I don´t have anything against research in chess, it only shows human´s humility in the face of its vast possibilities.  We will probably never know the ultimate truth about most middlegame positions, so knowing "the most current scientific truth"(evaluation) of those positions sounds good enough to me, assuming we take into consideration that those truths are open to revision, like all scientific truths.

  • 4 lat temu


    A bit off topic, but I found "Chess for Dummies" to be pretty solid for a beginner book.

  • 4 lat temu


    Translation according Google translator:

    In Soviet Russia, Salmonella gets you!


  • 4 lat temu


    Now and then appears in the forum the controversial unplayed Fischer-Karpov (who would have won?). Now begins the Fischer-Kasparov and what will be next? Fischer-Carlsen?

    Poor guy, he not only defeated Spassky, he defeated a whole system and what makes him unique, is that he did it ALL BY HIMSELF (I endorse to read, The Russians vs. Fischer).

    He deserves to rest in peace

  • 4 lat temu


    When we discuss things like a mythical Kasparov vs. Fischer match of course one can never know since we are comparing players from different eras but these topics are fun IMO.  

    If we are talking Kasparov vs. Fischer the 1992 version than yes Garry is the heavy favorite due to the age difference and Bobby's long lay off although I think that it would not have been a total rout and Bobby would have scored several points.  In his '92 return match Fischer showed real flashes of his old form.  That match is often underrated due to the controversies surronding it.  If you can get Seriwan's book "No Regrets" he gives a very balanced view of the play.

    If we are discussing a "dream" match up of 1972 Bobby vs. Kasparov I say its a coin flip. Bobby was probably 10 years ahead of his peers at that point and his practical strength was enormous.  Either way Bobby would certainly have given a good account of himself over the board.  His personal demons were a tragedy for Fischer and for the world of chess.

  • 4 lat temu


    I think Kasparov would've destroyed Fischer had they ever played.  

  • 4 lat temu


    hm. Fischer vs Kasparov.....

  • 4 lat temu


    kasparov is very good at annotations. he is very balanced and objetive

  • 4 lat temu


    Informative review, Thanks for the game from "Through the Prism of Analysis"

  • 4 lat temu


    This question about computers and if chess is solved or not really doesn't bother me.

    But what I ask myself is that in this century, is there a place for exciting players like Kasparov, Fischer, Tal, Alekhine...?

    Because before opening theory was a try and fail process and they were holes in it where players could develope creativity. But now is a question of memory because the engine inmediately gives you the best lines. And the middlegame, allowed a lot of creativity but now training with software, GMs know how to draw many positions so the middlegame has turned a matter of technique like the endgame.

    Carlsen mastery is impressive, he's the new boss, we admire him but do we get excited with his games? The secret of his awesome rating record is that he just lost one game in all 2012. So now the challenge of his opponents is to achieve the needed technique to draw vs. Carlsen which is not easy at all.

    The candidates will be a good benchmark to see which direction elite chess takes.

  • 4 lat temu


    Petrosianic's review of your review said it quite well; I will add that the  Test of Time should be an inspiring read for any ambitious players.  Despite computers, new and wonderful chess books are still being written by Kasparov himself, as well as Seirawan, Browne, Tibor Karoyi (2 books about Karpov!), Karsten Muller, Mikhalchishin and Stetsko, Marc Esserman, Jacob Aagaard (of course!), and quite a few others, So I think we shouldn't be too worried about how things are in the 'real world of chess' now compared to before computers - There will always be chess, chess prodigies, beautiful and strong girl-players, chess amateurs, local chess club battles, the N.J. team event, and all the other things that make chess the incredible, fun game that it is - My view is that life in the chess world today is [even] better than it has ever been - Especially for the young! -:).

  • 4 lat temu


    thanks Bryan! I feel depressed too

  • 4 lat temu


    Thanks so much for putting this book on my radar.  

    Tasks, Lives, are filled with boredom and despair for a lack of unquenchable passion to seek the highest, best, grandest, most perfect.  

    I would love to buy a book titled, "Chess:  For the Bright and the Brilliant!"

  • 4 lat temu


    I don't see in the future Anand or Carlsen writing a book called: "My Great Predecessor: Garry Kasparov".

    So I believe is good to have an exchampion giving an insight about that awesome player, GK. Also you can compare his views of the game when he was a youngster and after retirement.

  • 4 lat temu


    great game thanks

  • 4 lat temu


    Good review Bryan, as a new member I didn't know you're not a chess maniac, this one is new to me. Anyways, good work man, a nice and helpful review.

  • 4 lat temu


    Great article. Really made me want to get this book.

    If other people really want it as well, look on Amazon. I got a used copy for £2.50!

  • 4 lat temu


    Very interesting review of Kasparov's book; I will definitely check it out in the future. The only thing I respectively disagree with is the idea that the book Chess For Dummies is anyway detrimental to a person's psyche.  The book was written by James Eade who happens to be a FIDE Chess Master.  He also started the buzz about making chess an Olympic event.  In my opinion I feel that chess should be an Olympic event too.  At the end of the match the players should compete to see who could throw the chessboard the farthest.    


  • 4 lat temu


    Very good book review Bryan... I have the book and I agree with your comments on it. The only caveat is it has been out of print for many years and when a copy does pop up once in awhile on eBay it commands a high price.

  • 4 lat temu


    Nice review.  I got this book years ago shortly after it first came out and it is fascinating.  I will say, that as an average amatuer player a lot of the material is frankly over my head (even more so back in the 80's) but it is fascinating to get such an honest insight into the thought processes of such a genius as Kasparov.  For prespective readers: If you are going over Kasparov's analysis in this book the old fashioned way with a real set and not on a computer, you will want to have a second set handy for some of the long variations. Trust me it will save a lot of frustration. :)

    Year's ago Seriwan did an article in Inside Chess where he listed the chess books that he would take with him to a desert island.  Test of Time was high on the list.

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