[Paleopsych] Moscow Times: Kasparov Quits Chess in Biggest Gambit Yet
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Fri Apr 15 20:42:24 UTC 2005
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,"
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
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
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?
Moscow Times, 5.3.16
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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
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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