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Kasparov's Great Game

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I just put Garry's Monday Wall Street Journal article up at ChessBase.com. Some behind-the-scenes comments: It was going to run Tuesday but when they heard the Guardian was going to run their long interview piece on Monday they insisted on moving up the deadline.

Then when it came in Sunday, it turned out the WSJ editor wanted more chess while Kasparov wanted more politics! In the end the compromise was to run a very long piece, almost 1600 words, that included plenty of both. Several of the chess bits were expanded at the request of the WSJ editors, who were aware of questions their lay audience would have. (Why chess is hard work, for example.)

Despite all the articles (with more to come soon in the Financial Times and the Telegraph), no real digging has yet been done on Kasparov's views of his achievements and failures in his long chess career. It will probably take him a while to get the emotional distance needed to say anything as open and honest as we would like to hear. But many have posted good questions to some of the other threads, so I'll see what I can do while he's here this week.

With his energy and temperament it's not surprising to look back and see that many of Kasparov's biggest successes were also his biggest failures. He creates and destroys and moves on to do it again. The GMA, the PCA, million-dollar matches, million-dollar websites (ouch), explosive games and explosive tantrums, huge PR coups, occasional PR messes, relentless chess promotion, relentless self-promotion. He dishes it out but has a very thin skin himself. (That is good and bad. I remember being amazed and shocked to find out that he really wanted to know what the "chess street" thought about things.) I really don't think you could have the good without the bad in his case.

Some are eager to credit his frequent changes in direction to dishonesty. I hope I know him well enough to say that guile is not his strong suit. Impulsiveness can be just as destructive, but I think his motives were, and are, positive. I suppose that to some it's irrelevant if he meant to cause harm or not if the harm was done, but I believe intentions count for something.


One has to comment that the more Kasparov emphasises his role in Russian politics in the future, the more is one inclined to think that we will see him returning to chess, in all likelihood in 2007-08. This is not a reflection on Garry's ability but on the nature of Russian politics: his good intentions are little match for either the putinesque (I think I just invented a new word :-)) military/secret service power bloc nor for the heavily subsidised so-called liberal forces.

That game will be up at the latest in 2008 and in all probability earlier. One guesses we'll see a disillusioned Kasparov return to his true calling then. After all, how many chess champions (and I mean champions here) quit chess and were successful in their chosen career? Fine comes to mind but he seems to be an exception. Others who quit: Morphy, Fischer, Kamsky etc. were never exmaple of emotioanl stability and as impulsive as GK is, he is not unrational...

I'm not sure what to make of that article (and for the record, I'm not a Garry 'hater'). For a start I think he should stop the chess metaphors right now - I wouldn't rush to vote for a guy (or at least put my support behind him) who talks of being 'in a position to checkmate tyranny'. It sounds far too naive. It's been said before, but I think Garry overvalues Chess - a board game - which isn't the true microcosm of life he thinks it is. Back in the days when he could still be relied upon to beat the best computers, he stated (something like) that in the event of his defeat by a machine, they could go on to write the best novels, make the best films, etc. Life isn't like chess - there are an infinite number of players, pieces and moves and there are no rules. And I'm far from convinced his chess history stands him in good stead as a political leader.

He leaves the chess world with no clear world champion, a century of tradition that he destoyed and could not put back together. Garry can happily write up the intro to My Great Predecessors with Kramnik (2000 - ?) as the only post-Kasparov champion, but when someone compiles a similar volume in 2050 the waters are going to be too muddy. I think chess history will have to rule Kasparov as champ from '85 - '93 (or slightly later) and then there's a gap, one which exists to this day. I'd much rather see him in a 'Bono role' - using his celebrity to highlight all the problems and corruption in his homeland, possibly pushing for a candidate with similar ideas to his own. And, like Bono, he would still do what he does best every now and then!

Long ago, a Brazilian writer wrote a curious article stating that "chess is an amazing game that helps develop a kind of human intelligence, useful for playing chess only". He was refering to Mecking, the Brazilian chess genius, who was very excentric and (it is said) supported the military dictatorship in Brazil during the 1970īs. The above statement could also refer to others famous chess players' odd behaviours, as pointed out in the post above.

My point of view is that such things not only happen in chess, but also in highly specialized professions, where success depends on very hard work. In this case, individuals tend to have a very strict and unbalanced view of social and political life. Very few can develop a broader and more sofisticated perception on those issues. Intelligence is, after all, a very specialized atribute itself. We should not forget that as knowledge base in our civilization increases, we all become more relatively ignorant.

Which comes back to Kasparov. How many chess players, like in any other profession, have conscious and articulated points of view on social and political issues, choosing moral values as personal freedom and democracy, as opposed to the current world trend of political correctedness, support for government growth and subtlely forms of undemocratic regimes?

While still mourning Kasparov's chess retirement, I have to welcome and praise his efforts in politics. I wish him good luck and hope he can put his chess intelligence to a good use.

Colin, there are whole schools of philosophical thought that would disagree with you most vehemently on the point that chess couldn't be a microcosmos, an abstract representation of life.
Consequently, i happen to find those schools of thought very very interesting, and can easily trace my whole interest in chess from such ideas.

PS: i am all the more impressed with Kasparov that he is bold enough to draw, and especially express in our current cultural climate where materialistic/empirical sciences are IT, such comparisons between chess and real life. This is mere further proof on his greatness as a human being.

"The errors of great men are more fruitful than the truths of little ones." - Nietzsche

hmm.. have to say i was disappointed with the WSJ article, because it was a bit boring. I was hoping for more details, in Chess, Politics whatever he wanted to write about, but this is just a collection of generalised thoughts and sentiments interspersed with bad chess metaphors. Only read it through cos GK was the author, hoping for some nuggets or insights, but nothing really.

"Victory in Ukraine and the reshaping of the Middle East are only the latest symbols of how democracy is dominant in the world today economically, militarily, and morally. We must leverage this ascendancy to set a global agenda and end the era of complacency and concession that is embodied by the United Nations. In politics as in chess, or in the military or in business, when you have the advantage you must press it quickly -- or lose it. For the first time in history, we are in a position to checkmate tyranny. Momentum is largely on the side of democracy."

Sounding like an American neo-conservative, except the stretched chess analogies. Would you want this man to be successful in politics? Not that he would have the ghost of a chance to achieve anything in Russia with his views.

Kasparov certainly has every right to try his hand at politics. Why not?

That said, we must remain pessimistic that he will succeed, for a simple and rather obvious reason: if he couldn't deal with the politics of chess, how can anyone believe that he'll be able to deal with real politics where the stakes are higher and the players far more sophisticated?

In any case, this topic might ultimately be an exercise in futility, since I suspect Kasparov will soon discover that life outside the 64 squares is much harder with the "ex-champ" sign on his back. He will return to Kramnik and the usual suspects.

sacateca, I wouldn't call Garry's stance on 'chess is life' as 'bold' - it's self serving. It gives more purpose to the game he is synonymous with, that he has devoted his life to. Any attempts to give it more meaning are obviously in his own interest (although I'm not saying this would be the sole purpose). I look forward to his book on the subject. Clearly (to me, at least) he is overstating the case for the complexity of chess when he thinks that a computer that can beat a human is surely the forebear to a computer who will make better films than Milos Forman. Or even write a better novel than John Grisham or Dan Brown, who can both hardly string a sentence together!

As for the Nietzsche quote - hmmm, almost seems offensively wrong to me. An 'error of great men', say the bombing of Dresden (25,000+ dead) when a smaller operation could have cut that to shreds and still achieved the same thing militarily, is more fruitful than what exactly? Not to mention the fact that 'Anonymous' (author of Imperial Hubris: How the West is Losing the War on Terror) is absolutely right when he says that Osama Bin Laden is a 'great' man however you stack it by modern definition.

And I agree completely with acrice's assesment of the WSJ article. Democracy is a much shakier propostion now, today, than it was at the birth of the new East, the fall of the Berlin Wall in '89. The momentum quite possibly is going the other way!

As usual, the stretched (and cliched in our community) chess analogies are added by the WSJ guy, not Garry. Just they almost always change the title to some ancient chess pun, etc. I suppose they aren't as stretched to the general public, but they still make me cringe.

You have to realise that the general public does not read every chess article that comes along like we do. Therefore to them these chess analogies are both "interesting" and "fitting" as one of my non-chess friends put it. I found the article well written even if very starry eyed and I sincerely wish Kasparov good luck. I am just a little annoyed that Kasparov is leaving the chess world unable to resolve the political tensions here and expects to do something political with his life.

I recall that in August of 2003, when his match with Ponomarev was in jeopardy and there was considerable pressure put up by Ukranians, Kasparov called a press conference together with sports minister Fetisov and the president of Russian chess federation Zhukov, which was widely translated by Russian state-controlled TV channels as a clear show of state support for Kasparov.
Both Fetisov, who is one of the leaders of the pro-presidential party, and Zhukov, who served then as a vice speaker of Duma and is now a vice prime minister, are prominent figures of the Putin regime. Calling this regime an evil dictatorship, and at the same time eagerly embracing it when in need to promote personal interests is probably just another example of what is called Garry's impulsiveness here.
Honestly, I don't think that Garry is a bad person at all, however, even for a politician he doesn't seem to possess exceptional integrity. And if you assume that Russian politics is in such bad shape that it can only be salvaged by a chess player, I would definitely vote for Seirawan, not Kasparov.

I'm not sure if wanting to change something means never having anything to do with any aspect of it. I'm sure Kasparov pays his taxes, too. He still lives in Russia and the Putin government is still his government. As harsh as Garry's words are in newspaper editorials he knows he can't live on an island within Russia. There is resistance and then there is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

That said, his explanations tend to be worse than the actions. Back when he was coming up he benefited from support from high-level functionaries (Aliev in particular). This was normal, even essential, at the time, but instead of just saying that Kasparov acted as though he was a Lone Ranger battling the machine that supported Karpov. In most of his writing about that time he barely mentions his own political support.

I see an interesting spread-betting possibility that could develop here. Will Garry find himself in prison before his great predecessor Bobby finds himself on the outside?

So what Kasparov game is the image from the WSJ article referring to(position on map of Russia) ? I don't have a database and I assume it is a famous game. It does look familiar but I can't place the game. I guess if I could place the game from a position I would be a GM :)

Just let me know the game and then you guys can go back to discussing Polictics.

Garry should learn from Bobby - what happens when a chess master stops playing at his prime (or close to it) :-)

Hopefully he will not get imprisoned and tortured over a boiled egg.

Anyway his political views seem rather right wing and dodgy to me. He seems to be in favour of one illegal war while criticizing another.

Frankly I just wish he will miss chess so much that he will be back. If he gets impatient with Kramnik and Lautier and FIDE's politics, he has a hard time ahead in Russian politics. I hope he gets impatient in 3 months and comes back to the chessboard.

And also this comparing of chess and life can only be done so much. Trying to model life after chess is ridiculous to say the least. I fully agree with Colin's comments above. Life is far too complex than chess. There may be some similarities in some activities .. but such similarities can be discovered in other games also - with a little effort.


That is the position from game 24 of the World Championship match with Karpov (Seville 1987). Garry won that game "on demand" and retained his title.

It's the final position of the final game of the 1987 Seville world championship match between Kasparov and Karpov. Kasparov won the must-win to tie the match and retain the title. The idea came from WSJ guy Michael Judge, who found the position online when he couldn't reach me. Good choice for a non-chessplayer to make! The artist is Barbara Kelley, who only had three hours to draw it.

Which illegal war are you talking about? Dont you see clearly the Democracy taking place in the middle east and other countries?

Don't go all Fox News on us, Ryan. He is referring to Chechnya.

Well said Mig :-)

Funny thing is, i consider politics to be much more of a game than chess is. Complexity has not much to do with the issue...life is complex and is not at all complex...people complicate their own lives and politics is complex masquerade.
i am certain that Garry will make a good politician, but am doubtful how useful that is in reality.


Old news but possibly fresh dirt. You wrote about Campomanes, the 1992 Olympiad, and some money went poof! here:


Now, IM Robert Hamilton spilled the beans with his post here:


The post will scroll off in a few days so I'll copy and paste it here (feel free to delete it if illegal or inappropriate - don't shoot me, I'm only the messenger!):

IM Robert Hamilton wrote:

[ Hi..Gordon, Jonathan, Hal,

I don't quite agree with you guys.

The problem is not Kasparov. He wound up in power play with Campomanes in the late 80's and early 90's but did not take lightly the decision to abandon FIDE.

In 92', FIDE hoodwinked Jim McKay into a bad FIDE World Chess Championship contract. There was what appears to have been a fake bid on the other side to prop Mckay into higher figures and a $500,000 deposit. The contract drawn up by the swanky New York legal firm..Milbank Tweed, between Jim McKay and FIDE was one of the worst chess contracts ever...Campo was laughing all the way to the bank. Millbank Tweed had the nerve to bill Jim McKay $80,000 dollars for it.

The responsibilities in that agreement included so much money that McKay was having trouble making it work in L.A.

At the time, Max Dlugy was president of the USCF. He called me and Jim and I spoke. After speaking with Jim we agreed to meet in New York.

After meeting in New York I was responsible for organization of the match. The budget looked like $14,000,000 to put on a decent event. Included in that terrible contract were $4,200,000 in prizes, a FIDE sanctioning fee of $1,000,000 (I'm shooting from memory here), a $500,000 fee to the GMA for god knows why, lots of wining and dining of FIDE executives and a clause that permitted virtually unlimited spending by the FIDE president during the event.

Kasparov and Mckay were good friends...and Kasparov was serious about trying to make chess work commercially within the confines of FIDE.
Campomanes was bent and determined to get rid of McKay...thereby weakening Kasparov.

I told Jim the first order of business was to fix the contract...chop out a few million. I recall walking up a street with him and telling him "Jim, you know, every little million adds up".

Jim agreed. I called Campo...who I knew very well and fixed some of the crazy clauses like unlimited expenses. I further told him I was going to chop the prize fund to $3,000,000 with the consent of the players...the new prize fund was going to be $3,000,000 with $2,000,000 to the winner and $1,000,000 to the loser.

Campo resisted...but agreed. In the background I had a package in cash and in-kind of $2,500,000 approved by the City of Hamilton as host and had both the province of Ontario and Federal Government about to commit $3,000,000 each.

Kasparov was really helpfull. He wanted it to work. He agreed to lower money. He knew that in terms of pure market demand $4,200,000 was unrealistic. That same year Gretzky got $1,800,000.

He also agreed to come to Canada and help me. He met in Hamilton...he me Chretien...everything looked good. Timman was jerk about it...but didn't really have a choice...Short..the other potential player...denied that his second Kavalek had authority to agree to lower the prizes as he did when we spoke...but he didn't have a choice either really. It was Garry's match.

This stuff all happened in about a 90 day span. The agreement did get changed. McKay agreed to move the match to Canada...Kasparov was happy...I was happy.

But there was a looming deadline. December 1, when McKay was to make his next $1,000,000 escrot deposit for the prize fund.

Problem was...even though McKay said he'd do it...he didn't want to until the feds and province said yes.

The provice said..."we are in if they are". Kasparov and I had met Chretien and the message was...it sounds good...let the appropriate channels look at it. The appropriate channels liked it. But then came the Charlottetown accord...and the federal government ground to a halt.

Meanwhile Campo was whispering in my ear..."let December 1 pass"...then re-bid..no McKay. I couldn't agree to that because McKay was paying me well to represent him.

It was clear the event would succeed....December 1 passed...the feds hadn't committed only because of the accord...and Campo yanked the event to get rid of Mckay.

That was the last straw for Garry. He was actually a champion who participated in trying to raise money for FIDE and flew all over the world to do so.

The PCA appeared headed by Bob Rice and unethical bird from New York. He was a lawyer at Millbank Tweed...hence the funky earlier agreement.

Calls to me from Bob Rice didn't stop that fall. He wanted in on something. I met him in New York and we agreed that if Kasparov broke off the new organization would have he and I as 50% each.

I told Bob enough that he understood how to raise the money. He flew to England...he and Ray Keene convinced Garry to break away...Bob used my information to reel in Intel. Bob conveniently forgot we were partners and the first PCA World Championship was held in London with Short as the challenger, Keene as the organizer and Rice and big prize winner.

But like other lawyers, Rice really didn't know what he was doing. He's out of chess now with a very bad name...he made a few million.

Kasparov knew he was exploited and really didn't like it.

After that...mob takes over FIDE...what's the big deal. There's been lot's of time to fix the ills of FIDE and Garry most certianly is not the problem.


Robert ]


Old news but the level of corruption and allegations even surprised me. I did a google on Bob Rice and confirmed he was chairman of PCA and a lawyer for Milbank Tweed. I was not able to track down Jim McKay.

Question: were (or are?) FIDE and PCA full of criminals and were in a feeding frenzy over sponsors?

Yes, Garry is a neocon. He expressed his full support to war against Islamofascists in his Op-Eds in WSJ.
He promoted ideas similar to those of Nathan Sharanskiy now widely cited by the US administration. Kasparov saw these Islamist animals in actions during Armenian pogroms in Baku in late 80's. He escaped from there and also managed to rescue a lot of families. He clearly sees what is going on in Middle East and elsewhere without watching FoxNews. One should stop thinking that only liberal politicians can fix things. Quite often actors, cowboys and (maybe) chessplayers do much better...

Off topic - but comparing the Karabakh conflict with middle east is silly. Better comparison is Kosovo. And since when the war in middle east is about islamic extremists. Saddam despite all his faults wasnt a religious fanatic the way Saudi Rulers are. BTW Reagan was also a bad actor.


I don't want to discuss with you hystorical events about which you have zero knowledge (Baku killings of
"infidel" Armenians and others had nothing to do with Karabakh). We can have differences of opinions about level of Muslim extremism of Hamas, Hesbollah etc. or about artistic talents of our Great President. I just wanted to say that GK didn't live in Ivory Towers and has had real life experiences and seriuos convictions about world realities.

I was not talking of hamas etc. Ethnic cleansing (by both sides) was the one of main problems in the Karabakh conflict. Such cleansing remember happened in Kosovo and in the Serb/Croat war. Islamic extremism was not the main problem there. Yes .. Garry had seen conflict. But that does not mean his opinions on things other than chess are always correct. After all c. 1990 he proposed that Soviet Union should sell Mongolia to China. You may or may not agree with his opinions. While I worship him as a chessplayer, I find some of his political ideas controversial. I wish(ed) (selfishly) that he would have kept playing chess.
Finally don't try to judge my knowledge on the Armenia conflict and associated events. And by the way the word is "historical"

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 15, 2005 12:15 AM.

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