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Alexander Nikitin, Who Coached a Chess Champion, Dies at 87


Alexander Nikitin, the principal coach of the world chess champion Garry Kasparov from the time Mr. Kasparov was 10 till years after he had turn into the titleholder, died on June 5 in Moscow. He was 87.

The Worldwide Chess Federation, the sport’s governing physique, introduced his loss of life on its web site. No trigger was given.

Mr. Nikitin, a world grasp, met Mr. Kasparov considerably by likelihood in 1973. As Mr. Nikitin recalled in an interview revealed this 12 months on the Russian Chess Federation’s web site, one other coach, Anatoly Bykhovsky, was purported to work with the younger gamers at a youth event in Vilnius, Lithuania. However Mr. Bykhovsky was leaving for a world event and requested Mr. Nikitin, who was already a longtime coach, to go to Vilnius in his place.

Mr. Nikitin instantly seen Mr. Kasparov, partly as a result of he was solely 10 and everybody else on his workforce was six or seven years older.

Mr. Nikitin took Mr. Kasparov on as a scholar, which was not straightforward; Mr. Kasparov was residing in Baku, Azerbaijan, the place he had been born, and Mr. Nikitin was in Moscow. Mr. Nikitin despatched letters and analysis materials for Mr. Kasparov to review, and in some way the collaboration labored. (Mr. Kasparov ultimately moved.)

Mr. Kasparov’s ascent was speedy. He gained the Soviet Junior Championship when he was 12; gained a significant worldwide event in Yugoslavia when he was 15, catapulting him into the world’s High 20; and gained the World Junior Championship in 1980. By age 17, he was a grandmaster.

Mr. Kasparov certified for the cycle of the world championship in 1982. By now, he and Mr. Nikitin have been coaching full time. They’d go for runs collectively to strengthen Mr. Kasparov’s stamina, a follow that quickly had a sensible payoff.

In September 1984, Mr. Kasparov confronted Anatoly Karpov, the reigning champion, in a match for the title. The winner can be the primary participant to attain six wins.

The match turned out to be a grueling one, stretching for 5 months and 48 video games — the longest in historical past. It began out disastrously for Mr. Kasparov, who, partly due to inexperience, misplaced 4 of the primary 9 video games. However he settled down and commenced to grind out attracts.

After falling behind by 5-0, he got here again to win Recreation 32 after which Video games 47 and 48. At that time, in February 1985, Florencio Campomanes, the president of the Worldwide Chess Federation, suspended the match, saying he was frightened concerning the gamers’ well being.

A brand new match was organized for later in 1985. It will be restricted to 24 video games. Mr. Kasparov gained it by a rating of 13-11.

He then confronted Mr. Karpov in a return match in 1986, once more eking out a win, this time by the rating of 12.5-11.5. The 2 confronted one another but once more in 1987, with the match ending in a tie, 12-12 — permitting Mr. Kasparov to retain the crown, as a result of ties went to the reigning champion.

All through all these matches, Mr. Nikitin was Mr. Kasparov’s main coach. In a 2020 Chess Information Russia interview with Mr. Nikitin and Mr. Kasparov, Mr. Kasparov mentioned they have been “shut buddies.” However the stress of the matches took its toll.

Mr. Nikitin defined: “All these world championship matches, from first to the final, aren’t only a fierce wrestle between two gamers. The inner debates between coaches and their participant are equally fierce. We tried to show that our opinion was proper, the participant tried to show his opinion. We have been all the time tense, and we burned out progressively.”

Mr. Nikitin and Mr. Kasparov continued to work collectively by 1989. However by the point of Mr. Kasparov’s fifth and ultimate match with Mr. Karpov for the world championship, in 1990, they’d parted methods.

Mr. Nikitin was born on Jan. 27, 1935, in Moscow. Little is thought about his instant household, and there was no phrase about survivors. He had been married and divorced earlier than he met Mr. Kasparov, and he by no means remarried.

Mr. Nikitin found chess when he was 7 and got here throughout a ebook by Emanuel Lasker, a earlier world champion, in his uncle’s research. He was instantly entranced and browse the ebook cowl to cowl.

He grew to become the most effective younger gamers within the Soviet Union, together with future world champions together with Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian (with whom he would later train) and Boris Spassky.

Regardless of his clear expertise, he was undecided that he needed to turn into an expert chess participant — a viable profession within the Soviet Union — so he continued his common schooling. He studied engineering in faculty and later labored for 15 years as a radio engineer.

In 1959, Mr. Nikitin certified for the primary and solely time to play within the Soviet Union’s championship, which was then thought of one of many strongest tournaments on the planet. Although he was usually pleased with the standard of his play, he completed final. He realized that he couldn’t be a full-time engineer and an expert participant, so he closed the door on that chance.

By the early Seventies, Mr. Nikitin had grown bored with engineering and yearned for chess. Thankfully, there have been openings for chess coaches, and he had already established that he had some aptitude for that. Quickly after he started teaching full time, he met Mr. Kasparov.

After working with Mr. Kasparov, Mr. Nikitin continued to teach at a excessive degree. He coached Étienne Bacrot, a French prodigy who rose to No. 9 on the planet, and Dmitry Jakovenko, a Russian who peaked at No. 5 on the planet.

Mr. Nikitin additionally wrote a two-volume historical past of his years with Mr. Kasparov, “Teaching Kasparov, 12 months by 12 months and Transfer by Transfer.”

In 1993, although he was now not a participant, Mr. Nikitin was awarded the sport’s second-highest title, worldwide grasp, by the Worldwide Chess Federation.

Mr. Nikitin and Mr. Kasparov remained pleasant even after their skilled relationship ended. As Mr. Kasparov mentioned within the 2020 interview, “We now have lived a complete chess life collectively.”

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