[Paleopsych] Moscow Times: Kasparov Quits Chess in Biggest Gambit Yet

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Kasparov Quits Chess in Biggest Gambit Yet
Moscow Times, 5.3.14
Carl Schreck, Staff Writer

[Second articlem, Kasparov: From Chess Hero to Political Zero?, appended.]

   Garry Kasparov, the world's top chess player for two decades and 
considered by many the greatest player in history, has announced his 
retirement from professional chess in an ambitious gambit and vowed to 
devote his energy to battling what he called the "dictatorship" of 
President Vladimir Putin. Kasparov, 41, a former world champion who has 
been No. 1 in the rankings since 1984, made his announcement Thursday in 
Spain after winning the annual Linares chess tournament, one of the game's 
most prestigious events, on a tiebreak despite losing his final-round game 
to Bulgarian grandmaster Veselin Topalov.

    "Before this tournament I made a conscious decision that Linares 2005 
will be my last professional tournament, and today I played my last 
professional game," Kasparov said at a news conference.

    Kasparov, one of Putin's most vociferous liberal critics, released a 
statement Friday on his web site, kasparov.ru, saying that Russia was 
"moving in the wrong direction," and that he would "do everything possible 
to fight Putin's dictatorship." "I did everything that I could in chess, 
even more," he said in the statement. "Now I intend to use my intellect 
and strategic thinking in Russian politics." Kasparov has accused Putin of 
rolling back democracy in the country and creating a police state. In a 
Wall Street Journal comment last month titled "Caligula in Moscow," 
Kasparov called Putin's nomination of Anton Ivanov, a senior official at 
Gazprom-Media from Putin's hometown of St. Petersburg, as the new chairman 
of the Supreme Arbitration Court, "a move akin to Caligula's naming a 
horse to the Senate." Kasparov is chairman of Committee 2008: Free Choice, 
a group formed by prominent liberal opposition leaders, including former 
Union of Right Forces leader Boris Nemtsov, independent State Duma Deputy 
Vladimir Ryzhkov and Irina Khakamada, who ran against Putin in 2004.

    Denis Bilunov, Kasparov's assistant in Moscow, said by telephone 
Friday that Kasparov and Ryzhkov were planning to travel together to at 
least 10 regions in the coming months to give political speeches.

    Ryzhkov declined to comment on Kasparov's future plans when contacted 
by e -mail Friday.

    Nemtsov said by telephone that he hoped Kasparov would be "as 
successful in politics as he was in chess." In his chess career, Kasparov 
never shied away from political battles, going back even to before he 
became world champion by defeating the Soviet establishment favorite, 
Anatoly Karpov, in Moscow in 1985.

    In 1984, the rivals' first world championship match, also in Moscow, 
broke up in controversy after five months when Florencio Campomanes, 
president of the international chess federation, FIDE, stopped the match 
after 48 games when the score stood at 5-3 to Karpov, citing concerns for 
the players' health.

    Karpov had led the match 5-0, but after a long series of draws, 
Kasparov had won two games in a row, prompting speculation that Karpov was 
on the verge of physical and mental collapse.

    At a news conference covered by Western television, Kasparov loudly 
protested the decision, and while a new match was being organized, he 
angered top Soviet officials by giving interviews to Western media 
insinuating that FIDE, the Soviet Chess Federation and Karpov's team were 
conspiring against him.

    In November 1985, Kasparov won the second match to become the 13th 
world chess champion, and successfully defended his title against Karpov 
in 1986, 1987 and 1990.

    In a 1987 autobiography, "Child of Change," Kasparov, a vocal 
proponent of perestroika, wrote that he was saved by the intervention of 
Mikhail Gorbachev's pro-reform ideology chief Alexander Yakovlev. "The 
(chess) authorities were told in no uncertain terms that our dispute had 
to be settled at the chess board. There could be no more dirty tricks," 
Kasparov wrote. " Yakovlev prevented them from attacking me in the Soviet 
press, trying to ruin my image in the country. It was their last chance, 
and he stopped them." Kasparov, who later dubbed Gorbachev the "Louis XVI 
of communism," was aligned with several short-lived liberal movements in 
the early 1990s, including the Democratic Party of Russia. Infighting in 
the party prompted Kasparov to help form a breakaway faction, the 
Liberal-Conservative Union, shortly after the DPR's creation. Kasparov 
eventually threw his support behind Boris Yeltsin, but later switched 
allegiances, backing Alexander Lebed's bid for the presidency after Lebed 
predicted that an ailing Yeltsin would not finish his second term of 

    Political analyst Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think 
tank, said he thought Kasparov would not remain in politics for long, 
given his previous forays into the political arena.

    "With the exception of chess, he has never proven himself capable of 
committing fully to any project," Pribylovsky said. "He will do something 
very well for one month, and then he'll take a trip abroad and disappear 
completely." Pribylovsky conceded, however, that Kasparov appeared to be 
serious about his activities with Committee 2008, which he helped found 
during last year's presidential election campaign.

    "It's the longest he's ever stuck with a political movement," 
Pribylovsky said.

    Internet chess journalist Mig Greengard, a close friend and associate 
of Kasparov's, said the fact that he was giving up the game that made him 
famous was the best indicator of his intentions.

    "He could have continued being a political dilettante while remaining 
the No. 1 player in the world," Greengard, editor of chessninja.com, said 
by telephone from New York on Sunday. "He could have continued using his 
chess success to bring publicity to his political cause. If there were any 
questions about how serious he is about politics , his retirement should 
answer them." Kasparov was as controversial as he was dominant in the 
world of chess.

    In 1993, he broke away from FIDE, taking the title of world champion 
with him. He subsequently staged and won a series of world championship 
matches, while FIDE, now led by the mercurial president of Kalmykia, 
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, refused to recognize Kasparov's claim and held its own 

    In 2000, Kasparov lost a championship match he arranged with Russian 
grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik.

    Two years later, the warring factions agreed on a reunification plan 
to attract sponsors and interest back to the game, but talks repeatedly 
broke down, and in January, Kasparov announced he was withdrawing from the 
process altogether.

    Alexander Roshal, editor of the Russian chess magazine 64, said he was 
not surprised that Kasparov had retired.

    "Once he saw that the reunification process was hopeless and that he 
would not be able to win back his title, he realized there was nothing 
more for him to accomplish in chess," Roshal said.

    Born Garrik Vainshtein in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1963 to a Jewish father 
and an Armenian mother, Kasparov began studying at the Soviet Union's most 
prestigious chess school, run by former world champion Mikhail Botvinnik, 
at age 10. After the death of his father, Kim Vainshtein, Kasparov adopted 
his mother's surname. At 12, Kasparov became the youngest player to win 
the Soviet junior championship, and became a grandmaster on his 17th 

    Kasparov, famed for his aggressive play built on fearsome calculation 
skills and deep preparation, was renowned for intimidating and distracting 
opponents with wild gesticulations and fierce facial expressions during 

    Computers, however, proved more difficult to intimidate, and in 1997 
he lost a controversial match against IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. 
Kasparov later accused the IBM programmers of interfering with the 
computer's play.

    Greengard said it was too early to tell whether Kasparov would 
eventually make a return to top-level competitive chess, or stick to his 
promise to play only in speed chess tournaments and exhibition matches.

    "You can never say never, but he's completely serious about it right 
now," Greengard said of Kasparov's retirement. "After doing this for 30 
years, it must feel strange to give it up. But we'll see how he feels a 
year or two from now."

Kasparov: From Chess Hero to Political Zero?
Tim Wall
Moscow Times, 5.3.16

   To Our ReadersHas something you've read here startled you? Are you 
angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our 
coverage?  Then please write to us.

    All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city 
from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need 
to get in touch.

    We look forward to hearing from you.Email the Opinion Page EditorIn 
the sometimes genteel, sometimes weird world of professional chess, Garry 
Kasparov has been the nearest thing to God for years: omnipotent, 
all-seeing, with a mind like a Pentium processor and the work rate of 
Hercules on amphetamines.

    Like many more or less dilettante chess players, I have followed 
Kasparov's chess career with undisguised awe and at times outright envy. 
While I spent too many years of my youth trying in vain to climb the 
greasy pole of English junior chess, Kasparov was conquering the world in 
his early 20s. When leading Western grandmasters were giving up chess for 
accounting in the face of a post -Soviet influx of their East European 
counterparts in the early 1990s, Kasparov was trouncing Britain's geeky 
challenger Nigel Short without breaking a sweat.

    In many ways, Kasparov represents the ultimate triumph of Soviet 
intellectual achievement. Trained by the father of Soviet chess, five-time 
world champion Mikhail Botvinnik, he went on to pioneer the use of 
computer programs and databases in analyzing chess, which revolutionized 
the game during his two decades at the top.

    But in the bleaker climate of Russian politics, the country's media, 
political analysts and even some of his fellow liberals see him more as a 
dilettante who does not understand the rules of the game and who has more 
than one failed political venture to his name, from the Democratic Party 
of Russia, to the Liberal-Conservative Union, and now to the risky 
Committee 2008: Free Choice. Critics and even friends of Kasparov have 
noted an inability to commit to any one project for a sustained period. In 
short, everyone seems to be telling Kasparov: Don't dabble with the real 
world, go back to the safe confines of the 64 squares on the chessboard 
and the Wall Street Journal op-ed page.

    But if the politicos and media analysts were determined to show that a 
chess player could not understand politics, they merely managed to 
demonstrate their aptitude for mangling chess metaphors. The imagery 
deployed to describe Kasparov 's decision to quit full-time chess for 
something like full-time politics -- both in the Russian and foreign press 
-- has been predictably chess-related, conjuring up all of the limited 
metaphors in editors' half -dozen-word chess lexicon. Some Western 
newspapers hailed a "stunning move" that was delivering a "check" to 
President Vladimir Putin, while other writers went even further, 
predicting imminent "checkmate." The Chicago Tribune showed off its 
knowledge of chess and French by describing Putin as "en prise," a chess 
term that means a piece has been left vulnerable to immediate capture. 
Meanwhile, the editors of Britain's Guardian newspaper headed an otherwise 
engaging interview with the hoary old epithet "Endgame." Ah, the 
omnipresent endgame -- as in the Yukos endgame or the endgame in Chechnya, 
by which the media implies that it's all over, even if it winds up taking 
months, years or decades. As Kasparov could testify were anyone to ask 
him, the endgame in chess is one of the most complicated and 
little-understood parts of the game, which can take grandmasters a 
lifetime to master.

    Kommersant, of course, went one better with its typically caustic 
headline, "Kasparov Slammed the Chessboard," alluding to the world 
champion's famous temper tantrums. These are less frequent than in his 
youth, it is true, but Kasparov's recent epithets for Putin, such as 
"fascist" and "Caligula," can hardly endear him to the Kremlin.

    It is a paradox, indeed: While chess is often used to describe 
conflicts of great complexity, and chess players are rated the most clever 
and logical of intellectuals, most of the time their standing in the 
practical world is zilch.

    Want a classic example of chess players' unworldliness? Bobby Fischer, 
the American world chess champion who beat the Soviets in 1972, now 
languishing in a Japanese detention center for breaking sanctions in 
war-torn Yugoslavia. His behavior in retirement, straight after winning 
the world title, ranks as one of the most bizarre in sporting history, 
leading most onlookers to conclude -- with more than a little 
justification -- that he was a total nut case. The image of chess players 
as inmates of rook-shaped ivory towers is further sustained by the bizarre 
record of the current president of the international chess federation, the 
mercurial leader of Kalmykia, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

    So the idea that Kasparov could help bring some sense of direction to 
crisis -wracked Russian liberalism does seem far-fetched to many. As 
political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky pointed out this week, if Kasparov 
has not been able to bring the warring sides of the chess world together, 
how can he hope to succeed in building a political coalition from Russia's 
disparate opposition forces? Kasparov's unreconstructed 
free-market-and-democracy views, which he likened to those of California 
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's in a Wall Street Journal comment Monday, 
could also require a little tweaking in presentation if they are to have 
any effect on Russian public opinion. And yet, for all its improbability, 
Kasparov's challenge -- if not as a potential presidential candidate, then 
in his own preferred role as a leading "thinker" -- could be far more 
successful than Kremlin spin doctors or professional politicians expect. 
Stranger things have happened, and stranger characters have achieved high 
political office.

    Playboy-turned-inheritor of the Bush family legacy, George W. Bush, 
now has the run of the White House, and ex-Hollywood action hero 
Schwarzenegger is in charge of the world's fifth-largest economy. And 
midlife crises can come in very handy for public figures to reinvent 
themselves, too. With his career as a Texas oil executive going down the 
drain, George W. turned 40, sobered up, then got himself some old-time 
Southern religion and never looked back.

    One of Kasparov's projects over the next year, a book provisionally 
called "How Life Imitates Chess," could give a clue as to how he plans to 
apply chess logic to politics. If his preparation for political combat is 
anything like that for his chess tournaments, Kasparov's opponents should 
be afraid, if not very afraid. The stereotype of chess players thinking 20 
moves ahead is usually just that, but it is all too real in Kasparov's 
case, as the world's other elite grandmasters can testify from their many 
losses to him where Kasparov never deviated from home preparation. So 
instead of working out powerful opening plays, crushing middlegame attacks 
and subtle endgame strategies, Kasparov could be devising economic 
programs, working out how to divide his political opponents and probing 
their psychological weaknesses.

    Do the skills translate? It's hard to tell, but he certainly could 
bring something useful to the debate. Does he need a coach to help him 
hone his message? Maybe not so much as Dubya or Arnie did, and for sure 
he'll be a quick learner.

    Kasparov was named earlier this month as a possible contender for 
president in 2008 by Leonid Nevzlin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky's chief 
lieutenant still at liberty in Israel, along with former Prime Minister 
Mikhail Kasyanov and independent State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov. 
Although as someone born to Jewish and Armenian parents in Baku, the 
chances of Kasparov winning might seem remote. Yet there have been 
precedents of non-ethnic Russian leaders, from Catherine the Great to 

    So after the Georgian and Ukrainian revolutions, could black-and-white 
be the new orange? Tim Wall, night editor at The Moscow Times, is a former 
editor of British Chess Magazine. He contributed this essay to The Moscow 

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