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Kasparov the Magician?

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I'm sure the columnist isn't aware that Tal already claims that mantle among chessplayers. But for those who have been quick to doom Garry Kasparov's political career - many even before it started - this might be of interest. The "Other Russia" conference he organized received a great deal of international coverage and was a topic of conversation and contention in the Kremlin and during the G-8 meeting that just finished in St. Petersburg. (Bush even met with NGO leaders - albeit ones apparently hand-picked by the Kremlin since few others had ever heard of them - before attending the G-7 meeting.)

From Daniel Johnson's article in the New York Sun, a conservative broadsheet.

Yet there is one national figure who refuses to bend the knee to Vlad the Imperial - Garry Kasparov. The former world chess champion, together with other courageous opponents of the regime, has done something of unprecedented audacity. This week, on the eve of the G8, he organized a rival summit, entitled "Different Russia." [sic] Despite the warning issued by the Kremlin that attendance at this alternative summit would be regarded as an "unfriendly act," Mr. Kasparov persuaded the State Department to send two senior American officials and the Foreign Office to send the British ambassador to attend.

This was a diplomatic and political coup for the Russian opposition such as it has not enjoyed in years. The G8 summit is hugely important to Mr. Putin's prestige, and he will not lightly forgive anybody who rains on his parade. Yet Mr. Kasparov and his friends have stolen the show. The rest of the world has chosen to listen, not only to the regime, but to its critics too. /.../

Moscow today is eerily reminiscent of the surreal world depicted by Mikhail Bulgakov in his great satire on Stalinism, "The Master and Maragarita." [sic] In the novel, which was written during the purges of the 1930s but only published posthumously in 1967, the Devil appears in Moscow in the guise of Woland, a suave magician who exposes the twisted morality of a totalitarian society, and especially of its intellectual apologists. Amid the suffocating atmosphere created by Stalin's Great Terror, Woland's black magic represents an unfamiliar, anarchical freedom.

Mr. Kasparov has a touch of Woland about him. In a society that has reverted to a state of fear, conformity, and moral cowardice, he is fearless, impish, and outspoken. He lives dangerously, defying Mr. Putin's fellow spooks to come and get him. He might as well be the Devil incarnate, anyway, for all the difference it makes to the Kremlin. His Jewish father and Armenian mother are enough to demonize him in the eyes of the anti-Semitic "patriots" who insinuate that he is a tool of mysterious foreign interests.

And of course Mr. Kasparov is a kind of magician - on the chessboard, probably the greatest that has ever lived. Whether he can apply his genius to the messier world of politics, so much less calculable and so much more brutal, remains to be seen. But he is a true heir to the dissidents of the past. If Messrs. Bush and Blair are wise, they will give as much encouragement to Mr. Kasparov today as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did to Andrei Sakharov and Natan Sharansky two decades ago.

Well, let's hope Garry doesn't try to walk on water until the rivers freeze over, but it's nice to see some appreciation. Trivia alert: Sharansky beat Kasparov in a simul in Israel in 1996.... As it seems to be with many Russian chessplayers, The Master and Margarita is one of Garry's favorite books, so he's pretty chuffed about this despite himself. Hard to keep such things from going to your head, but we're trying. When The Scotsman newspaper recently called him, in separate articles, "broodingly handsome" and "youthful and good looking" I was quick to point out that this was by Scottish standards and that Sean Connery is still considered their sexiest man alive.


In a interview sometime back in either New In Chess or the no longer published Inside Chess when asked what his favorite book is, he replied unequivocally, The Master and Margarita.
Posted by: chesstraveler at July 18, 2006 11:28

Look, all you guys are underestimating Garry. If he can get Campomanes re-elected in the face of a sure defeat, he can do anything political he puts his mind to.
Posted by: jonas at July 18, 2006 12:30

Mig, you have no talent for picking sexy males. Sean Connery is still sexy...and so is Garry Kasparov. They're not getting older, they're getting better.

He is doing the right thing, win or lose. I truly hope it's the former. This world would have sef-destructed many years ago if it weren't for people like Kasparov.
Posted by: susan grumer at July 18, 2006 13:02

"I'm dead sexy! Look at my sexy body!" - Fat Bastard
Posted by: Mark at July 18, 2006 13:42

Comparing world-travelling millionaire Kasparov to refuzniki Sakharov and Shtaransky would be pretty funny... if the exageration didn't show Kaspy's (and his entourage's) tragic lack of distance when it comes to evaluate his own precious self.
Posted by: Ray Derivaz at July 18, 2006 15:10

Comparing world-travelling millionaire Kasparov with refuzniki Sakharov and Shtaransky would be pretty funny... if it did not show Kaspy's tragic lack of judgement when it comes to evaluating his own precious self.
Posted by: Ray Derivaz at July 18, 2006 15:12

Putin is the last person who'd want Kasparov harmed. He couldn't ask for a better "challenger" than Kasparov. Running around Russia, generally free to organize anti-Putin rallies and speak his mind, Kasparov undercuts his own message.

A significant political threat from Kasparov could be demolished at Putin's convenience by a 60-second television montage of Kasparov's tantrums. "Do you trust this man's vision for your country?" The bill for Kasparov's two decades of immature self-indulgence is coming due. He can speak out and lead rallies but he's disqualified himself from many important roles, including elective political high office.

Imagine what Kasparov's status could have been if, for the past twenty years, he'd carried himself with Vishy Anand's dignity.

Posted by: greg koster at July 18, 2006 16:09

Slate's Peter Savodnik had a dimmer view of Kasparov and his summit:

(Mig, I mailed u this link, did you not get it?)
Posted by: JaiDeepBlue at July 18, 2006 18:17

I haven't gotten to all the mail that piled up while I was gone and only just now read that article. Not very interesting, and not really a dim view. I just mentioned it to Garry and his reponse was "the rules set down by the Bible are all about "thou shalt not" and nobody criticizes it." Heh.

It's Savodnik who is substance-free in this. Is it not enough to be against dictatorship and does that not mean you are for free and fair elections, as they so often state? Waving the generic freedom flag isn't going to get Putin to give the TV stations back or return election rights, etc. Being against the Kremlin's agenda is being for what the Kremlin is against... More to the point is that the Other Russia conference members are only truly united by what they are against. There's nothing wrong or unusual about this. They came together to say "hey, we want a fair shot" and that's about it.
Posted by: Mig at July 18, 2006 19:23

Hey Michael The cats are from Villa Crespo Argentina?
Posted by: Gustavo Bengochea at July 18, 2006 23:19

GK: "Imagine what Kasparov's status could have been if, for the past twenty years, he'd carried himself with Vishy Anand's dignity."

yeah, imagine if he had carried himself with Kramnik's dignity.
Posted by: d at July 19, 2006 04:33

Hey, this could be a fun Q&A game.

GK: "Imagine what Kasparov's status could have been if, for the past twenty years, he'd carried himself with Vishy Anand's dignity."

A: I dunno, career world #2?
Posted by: Mig at July 19, 2006 08:46

Posted by: d at July 19, 2006 11:04

The competitive world is full of folks, Henry Aaron, Tiger Woods, Joe Montana, to name a few, who carry themselves with maturity, respect and decency while making it to the top of their professions.

Kasparov's tragedy is that he's been surrounded from birth with "friends" telling him he can't do both.
Posted by: greg koster at July 19, 2006 11:37

Different people, places, and times. Had Garry been a nice quiet young man he'd never have gotten out of Baku. I'll take more action and excitement and more mistakes and more tantrums over less of all of the above. You would prefer nice, polite career #2.
Posted by: Mig at July 19, 2006 12:02

Imagine what a loss for chess would have been had Bobby Fischer been a tad more 'normal'...
Posted by: cynical at July 19, 2006 12:35

Daniel Johnson’s associations with "The Master and Margarita" (especially Kasparov as “a kind of magician “ - Woland) are flashy but – I dare to say - naïve and puzzling. Let me give you some view from Russian perspective. More down to earth.

For the beginning, all the major TV channels just ignored “Another Russia” – only one rather obscure channel (REN-TV) aired just one report about that event. So the majority of Russians just did not notice it at all. As to almost all Russian papers, they presented “Another Russia” as a scandalous meeting of political outsiders (if not freaks). Indeed, there had been quite a few scandals there, some of them were deliberately stated by pro-Kremlin activists, others have been self-inflicted by incompetent organizers (it was outrageous that it were Limonov’s National Bolsheviks who had been in charge of security there that resulted in a few much-publicised accidents both with journalists they didn’t like and with Russian police that didn’t like them). Just for illustration of general perception of that conference, let me refer to the article “Pro-American chess king Garry Kasparov tries to make Russia become USA’s colony” (
http://english.pravda.ru/russia/politics/11-07-2006/83208-Garry_Kasparov-0 ).

Just one excerpt:

“The fact that the conference Another Russia is chaired by Kasparov shows that this event is not serious,” a well-known Russian scientist of politics Sergei Markov told Pravda.Ru. “He is a genius and a madman for me at one and the same time. Of course he is a genius in the game of chess and a madman in the game of politics. He directs his energy against Russia being completely irrational as a politician. He was awarded for his Russophobic ideas in 1991. Kasparov is one of the most devoted supporters of the USA in the world. I do not think that he deliberately cooperates with the CIA. However, it is obvious that US special services use him,” the specialist said.

Of course, it is easy to dismiss such views – especially as they are published in leftist Internet paper like Pravda.ru. Unfortunately, it is exactly that kind of publicity that Kasparov has got in actually all mainstream papers in Russia - I cited Pravda.ru only because it is available in English (by the way, that “specialist” Sergei Markov is a leading Kremlin’s spin doctor who is regularly seen on major TV channels). It seems that the more heroic political image Kasparov receives in western media the less favourable view of him is being established in Russian public opinion. The saddest thing is that not only those Russian people who believe everything Putin’s propagandists say about Kasparov&co share such a dim view of him; the majority of Russian intellectuals who are generally well-informed, get information from Internet and are not necessarily pro-Putin also do. I think you in the West would be surprised how many of those who potentially could be Kasparov’s allies treated that meeting as a disgrace: they neither like alliance with National Bolsheviks nor appeal to the West which is widely perceived as Anti-Russian.

Does Kasparov understand that? I think he does. Who is to blame? Putin’s regime which managed to isolate him in terms of media access, etc.? Obviously. However, Garry has also to blame himself as he (with his radical and inflexible rhetoric) is an easy target. Finally, let me state that his present political image in Russia has very little to do with his achievements and failing in chess.
Posted by: Valchess at July 19, 2006 13:13

Yes more power to Kasparov for doing something he believes in. He could have just taken a well-earned retirement. Instead he puts the past behind and MOVES ON. People never like it when somebody does this. Musicians or artists, for example, leave their audiences complaining "oh but he was so great the way we knew him before." It takes them a bit longer to realise what is happening. And greg, come on. Being a nice guy is not the apex of human achievement.
Posted by: David at July 19, 2006 15:30

Kasparov as Bob Dylan??? That's a new image for me ... which after a few moments' thought, actually resonates quite a bit.

Thinking back to my days a a teenager and collage student (late 60s-early 70s), I used to keep a mental short list of personal heroes: generally people larger than life in that they didn't stop once they made it to the top of their field. Instead, they went on to publicly say and do things that previously were not associated with stars in the field they'd distinguished themselves in -- thereby expanding the boundaries of what was expected of people in their field.

The 3 people that occupied this pedestal for me the longest were Muhammad Ali (who pretty much epitomizes the definition I just gave), Bob Dylan and Fidel Castro.

Then there was Bobby Fischer. That one didn't work out too well.
Posted by: flyonthewall at July 19, 2006 15:39

Another young man did make it out of a town not that far from Baku. And despite being a nice-enough guy and rather quiet, he, like Garry, got invited to the Botvinnik school.

At critical moments in life, being a self-indulgent, immature tantrum-thrower can be a severe disadvantage. When these two men met for the world championship, the nice-enough quiet guy had his personal affairs in order. Mr. Action/Excitement/Mistake-maker/Tantrum-thrower, on the other hand, evidently did not.

"You would prefer nice, polite, career #2." I actually prefer the nice-enough, polite-enough winner of London 2000.
Posted by: greg koster at July 19, 2006 15:54

We wouldn't have to deal with Mig's lame and cowardly argument (dismissing whatever stature earned by the listed class-act sports heroes with "different people, places, times" in order to elevate a dishonest and hysterical bully who became world chess champion) if this blog just stuck to chess and cleared the threads of the Big Liar Kasparov, that lying cheating ex-champion and politician manque. Otherwise it's not about chess, it's about Mig's hagiography versus the truth.

But regarding sports legends, Kasparov can comfortably take a seat on the dais with the old-school sports scumbags who dominated in their day: Mike Tyson, Diego Maradona, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Bobby Chacon and so forth. That's a ideal social club for Garry, one he would never abandon like he did the GMA.
Posted by: Clubfoot at July 19, 2006 18:09

Oh stop soiling yourself. I blog about what interests me, tough. I didn't critize anyone else, great for them for triumphing in their environments in their ways. I'm sure Joe Montana had all sorts of hurdles to climb and is higher on the international saint scale than Garry Kasparov. As for the truth, since you have proven over and over you haven't the slightest acquaintance with it you certainly can't speak for it.

Lame and cowardly, eh? Coming very close to hurting my feelings.
Posted by: Mig at July 19, 2006 19:00

We seem to be getting a tad off-topic here, but in this blog are almost-hurt feelings an acceptable reason for calling someone a "poopy pants?"
Posted by: greg koster at July 19, 2006 20:09

"The Daily Soiled" doesn't have much of a ring to it.
Posted by: Mig at July 19, 2006 20:19


I wonder why you don't stop Clubfoot's posts. You have stopped less insulting people's posts.
Posted by: peach at July 19, 2006 20:19

Hey, you should read about chess players back in the 19th century and early 20th. Those were the days! Blackburne punching Steinitz after the WC spat in his eye. Steinitz viciously villifying his opponents in his newspaper column. Tarrasch creating a "Lasker Luck" chart showing all the games when the WC had been "just lucky." Today's players are downright polite by comparison.

My take is - that's life, we shouldn't be worried about people getting their hands dirty every once in a while. I might shake my head when I read about Kasparov's antics, but in the end he's a brilliant prima donna and I love him for it. Just accept it as part of the rich tapestry of life and don't worry so much about moralizing.
Posted by: macuga at July 20, 2006 01:59

Hello Macuga,

Would you please tell me where i can find data about this "Lasker luck chart" you are referring to ? Thk.
Posted by: Michko at July 20, 2006 02:36

Hey guys. Let us stick to the facts. Garry is a popular personality because he had been #1 in chess for 20 years, he had tremendously increased the prestige of our game, contributed a lot to chess education and popularization worldwide.

As far as politics - he has proved to be a visionary: he predicted the threat of sliding to tyranny in Russia well before the West realized that democracy in Russia is no more. His initial goal (he had founded a Committee-2008 3 years ago) was to prevent Putin from being elected for the 3rd term in 2008 by changing Constitution. Now this looks like a serious probability. Putin's "brother" Lukashenka in Belarus pulled such trick easily and many politicians in Russia are now arguing that the same must be done there as well. They cite that this must be done to avoid disintegration and bloodshed, etc. Putin is keeping his poker face and tells the West leaders that he is not going to change the Constitution. But Kasparov and many people who know the history of Russia and USSR understand how easy to organize a popular demand (Russian people remember the phrase "po pros'be trudyaszhikhsya"). Also, Garry doesn't seek a high post, he just tries to slow down the reversal of democracy. His chances are slim without strong support from the West, but we (chess players and fans) should give him at least moral support instead of mocking him.
Posted by: misha at July 20, 2006 02:46

Mig, sorry for offtop but I am puzzled. Yesterday I posted my text and got a message that it would appear after it is approved (I assume by you). Fine - it happened to another my post a few days ago (about Russian chessplayer Izmailov) and it did appear about 10 hours later (that at the time surprised me). After more than 15 hours of waiting one concludes that this last one seems to be disapproved. If this is not just technical problem with my post (perhaps, it's my fault - in such a case I apologise), then can you please explain what was wrong with it? I do not think that my post was insulting or intimidating in any way (as some others - succeessfully published - are). Moreover, if you have some new rules of defining what proper posts are why not to publish them?
Posted by: valchess at July 20, 2006 05:03

GK: "I actually prefer the nice-enough, polite-enough winner of London 2000."

I must try to stop laughing log enough to post without a typo. This is the ONLY agenda you have old son, bash Kasp, laud Kram. Its actually quite fuuny, UI enjoy readig your posts. From any conceivable thread, you manage to brit around to your favourite hobby horse. Its like one of those things on Radio where you have to describe a subject without certain key words. In your case, reverse the goal, i.e. always bring in a bash Kasp , idolise Kram theme! Good fun!
Posted by: d at July 20, 2006 06:23

Valchess: I don't always notice things that go into the moderation queue since they are quickly pushed off the page by new comments. Things are moderated by the system due to automated anti-spam rules, mostly key phrases and adding many links to the same post. Just zip me an email any time you get that message so I don't miss it.
Posted by: Mig at July 20, 2006 07:04

I can't find the other post you mention, alas. The moderation queue is empty. It may have disappeared into the ether. Next Monday I'm finally going to reinstall this system and the databases, which have been buggy for around seven months since the last upgrade had trouble. I'm also going to install some sort of CAPTCHA so I can relax the other anti-spam stuff. (E.g. you'll have to type in a word or click a picture each time you post a comment so I know you're human and not a spam bot.)
Posted by: Mig at July 20, 2006 07:11

I'm thinking about using a homebrew variant of kittenauth with chess pieces instead of animals. Or we could set the bar even higher with puzzles instead. "Click the three positions that are mate in seven in order to post your comment."

Posted by: Mig at July 20, 2006 07:17

And finally... I found your post and published it, valchess. It was dumped into the spam file. It had two big spam strikes against it, both entirely coincidental. It contained a five-digit number and a word you used contained within it the name of a certain male performance enhancing drug! I've removed that one from the filter because it's not an uncommon word. ("speCIALISt")
Posted by: Mig at July 20, 2006 07:22

No really, and finally... Thanks for posting that stuff, although it should be noted that Garry's offending all the right people. Markov is a complete Kremlin tool in all senses of that word. Kasparov is definitely far more celebrated outside of Russia, but it's hard to imagine it otherwise with the media deck stacked so heavily in Putin's favor at home.

Yabloko and a few others who dismissed the conference have been nicely co-opted by Putin with cash and a few seats. Putin knows it would look bad to have a Hussein-like 99.9% so he maintains a pet opposition in parliament and the media. They follow orders and provide a useful appearance of democracy on demand. (Much like the unknown NGO representatives Bush met with, mostly nobodies provided by the Kremlin. Cherie Blair met with a much more representative group a few days later!)
Posted by: Mig at July 20, 2006 07:34

Mig, thanks for recovering my unlucky post (its trouble with “male performance enhancing drug” is hilarious). I hope those who are interested in a serious discussion find it now inserted among yesterday’s posts.

As to your self-assuring note that “Garry’s offending all the right people”, I am afraid you are just plainly wrong. You (and Garry!) seem to tend to simplify complex matters that are not necessarily black or white. You are mistaken in thinking that only Putin’s cronies or members of a pet opposition didn’t like the way “Another Russia” had been conducted. When I was referring to “Russian intellectuals, who are generally well-informed, get information from Internet and are not necessarily pro-Putin” I did not mean members of “Yabloko” or of other parties or political movements. I was talking about many ordinary people (some of them quite well-known, though) who despise Markov&co and nevertheless were very critical of “Another Russia” as well as of some other Kasparov-related noises. In particular, some liberal hacks, who did their best to show the event in a favourable light, then privately (in their personal blogs) puzzled over all that disgraceful mess there.

Why Garry’s offending his potential allies so much is an interesting question. As your remarks show Garry does not ask himself such a question. He should if he wants to succeed.
Posted by: Valchess at July 20, 2006 09:17

Of course there are people from all sides of the spectrum who disagree with Kasparov and who took issue with the Other Russia conference. This is healthy and Garry acknowledges it as such, although in a proper environment this debate would take place on the front pages and on TV and not in relatively small-circulation papers and online.

You seem to take everything I say as intended to be a refutation of your comments. I can mention Yabloko and others even if you do not. As for offending people, it would be magical indeed to offend no one and still make progress. Everyone is a potential ally, including Putin, assuming you are willing to compromise enough. Sarcasm aside, you can't make everybody happy all the time and politics is about trade-offs. I suppose only time will tell if Kasparov is making the right people happy at the right time with his choices. E.g. going with the noisy hard left when the Communists declined.
Posted by: Mig at July 20, 2006 10:47

Mig, I would've agreed with you regarding "politics is about trade-offs", etc. The irony is that Garry's been busy making trade-offs with radicals whose views are far from his own (if not to say just dangerous for democracy). At the same time he seems not to care about trade-offs with his natural allies - liberal democratically-minded people. Perhaps because he is too radical for a modern mainstream politician himself. That's the problem!

Of course, one can argue that in the present Russia one cannot help but become radical as moderate politicians are just not seen and heard. There is truth in that. However, he risks to be not just called "clown" by his enemies (which is already the case) but to be associated with low "political circus" in public opinion. Some signs of that are already on the surface.
Posted by: Valchess at July 20, 2006 12:42

Well, the definition of trade-offs isn't taking the good with the good. It's finding the least bad, the art of the possible, all that sad realpolitik. Also, I'm not sure how much of a nice centrist opposition exists in Russia today. To participate in the visible political mainstream means playing under the Kremlin's rules. Garry does not want to do this, so the question is whether or not he'll eventually be forced to or be completely marginalized. The Other Russia conference showed, if nothing else, that the Kremlin isn't running absolutely everything. A symbol perhaps, but an important one and perhaps more as well.

Lastly, it's not as if Garry is swapping recipes or ideas for good government with the Bolshies. It's an umbrella of convenience for everyone who wants to be in politics directly without playing United Russia's tune. They have that one thing in common, not everything.
Posted by: Mig at July 20, 2006 14:51

Among the contemporary games chess is the only one which has managed to sustain the intrest of all sections and ages of the society inspite of being called slow and boring but the fact is that chess is becoming popular even online among kids and this shows that even kids prefer quality content.


Posted by: roberto at July 21, 2006 08:56

The extent to which Kasparov is lionized in the U.S. press is a testament to how little chess events, personalities and conduct are publicized in this country.

It's impossible for any but Kasparov's most devoted "fans" to imagine that an immature, self-indulgent, tantrum-prone individual who hasn't been able to manage a family and who's been a catastrophic destroyer of chess organizations and major sponsorship opportunities could be seriously considered as a "player" in Russian politics.

What would be a good U.S. comparison? Start with a Ty Cobb. Have him bolt baseball and start a rival league, which soon collapses, opening the field for a wealthy fool to replace the world series with a knockout tournament. Then have Ty retire from the mess he'd left and get involved in American politics.

He'd probably get a nice press in Russia.
Posted by: greg koster at July 21, 2006 10:05

All right, now he's getting into his family life! I suppose he had to go there eventually. Just when I thought he couldn't get any more sanctimonious he goes Moral Majority. At least it's the first new material he's had in years.

I don't have to imagine anything. The Other Russia conference didn't take place in my head. Kasparov's editorials in the NY Times and Financial Times didn't take place in my head. His conference-related TV interviews for German, Swiss, American, Ukrainian and French TV looked pretty real. I fully expect his taping with Charlie Rose later today to take place in the real world. Right now there's no space to be a "player" in Russian politics that doesn't involve kissing Kremlin butt. But he's certainly a player.

No chess events are publicized in the US. And other than the 1993 break-off your tired list of supposed Kasparov crimes against humanity are trivial. Like CNN is going to cover Intel not renewing its sponsorship of the PCA or Kasparov getting angry at a press conference. Oh dear! "Russian pro-democracy leader once rude to teen!" "Human rights group co-chair touched the knight!" "Opposition figure pissed off IBM nine years ago!" Get busy on those press releases. Let them know only you know the awful truth.

Quick, name some sponsorships that Kasparov destroyed. Oh, you mean the ones he brought in in the first place? Fabulous. Oh, you mean entirely theoretical sponsors that might have existed in a fantasy world if only Kasparov never spoke or raised money? Excellent. And the organizations, oh, the same. Yah, the golden age of 1975-84 when all the players lived like kings.

Why do we need a US comparison? Just to raise the level of shrill irrelevancy? Why not a Ukrainian comparison or a Chilean one? American politics is about fat people who don't vote, (fat) religious people who do, and a few (not so fat) smart people who complain about it all a lot but make a lot of money and are embarrassed about it. Russian "politics" are about one-party rule.

Before you start with a Ty Cobb or anyone else, remember that they first have to give a damn. This is what you all seem to forget. Kasparov very much gives a damn and tries to make a difference and very often does. Mixed results, obviously, but I'd much rather have that than a personality-free mute who comes out of the corner to move a few chess pieces on occasion.

Kasparov was occasionally obnoxious and made all sorts of mistakes in his 20 year career at the top. He even admitted a few of them and apologized for a couple. None of them are worth of crucifixion. (Except perhaps the family stuff you're now keen on. Which chapter of Deuteronomy covers that again? Or is it Exodus?) Certainly none would disqualify him from any career outside of guidance counselor or perhaps grief therapist.
Posted by: Mig at July 21, 2006 10:58

Mig, I know you are only going biblical on Greg to bust his chops on bringing GK's family life in the mix, but the Bible does use leadership in the family as a litmus test for leadership in the church (1st Timothy 3:5). I believe this would apply to other leadership positions as well. Perhaps we would have better leaders in the political world if they "learned" how to lead by putting forth the effort to be a good husband and father.
Posted by: Todd C. Reynolds at July 21, 2006 14:45

Mig, I know you are only going biblical on Greg to bust his chops on bringing GK's family life in the mix, but the Bible does use leadership in the family as a litmus test for leadership in the church (1st Timothy 3:5). I believe this would apply to other leadership positions as well. Perhaps we would have better leaders in the political world if they "learned" how to lead by putting forth the effort to be a good husband and father.
Posted by: Todd C. Reynolds at July 21, 2006 14:45

If Barbara Streisand is a political figure, then Kasparov, too, can be a political figure. But to speak of Kasparov's "political future" in terms of his attaining significant Russian elective office is absurd.

No politician gets far unless he can persuade folks to accord him a measure of trust. The path of Kasparov's career is littered with individuals and organizations who sorely regret putting their trust in him.

Were it not for Kasparov's immature self-indulgence, there's no reason to think Intel and IBM wouldn't be agreeable right now to consider chess sponsorship. After Kasparov's extraordinarily unprofessional conduct who can blame them if they've been scared off of sponsoring chess for the foreseeable future?

Voters look for indications of character in politicians' conduct. Recall the relatively minor events through which voters formed decisively negative insights on certain American politicians: George Romney complained he was brainwashed, Ed Muskie broke into tears, Gerald Ford said the Poles were free and proud, Howard Dean screamed.

Contrast these rather minor and isolated instances with the highlight reel of immature self-indulgence and childish tantrums displayed by Kasparov throughout his career.

With Kasparov's chess exploits receding farther into the past every year, he will indeed need a magician to convince any meaningful number of voters to overlook his problematic personal and professional conduct.

Mig is the busy tailor for the emperor with no clothes.
Posted by: greg koster at July 21, 2006 15:06

Actually that criterion (being a successful husband and father) is widely viewed in the business world as important for prospective leaders.

I even once had a boss who said something like, "I'd never hire someone as a manager who didn't have children." He explained he was basing this not on morality, but rather that he saw parallels between managing employees and "managing" your own children.

Same guy did happen to be a born-again Christian who wore his religion on his sleeve, although he didn't proselytize at work. But his own ethics were far from exemplary: his most memorable characteristic was frequently talking down subordinates (and occasionally peers) behind their back. He must have felt he was establishing a bond of intimacy with the person he was talking to when he bad-mouthed someone else. Of course the effect was the opposite: Each time he took me into his "confidence" this way, saying things like, "Bruce is a good reporter but he doesn't write very well," rather than feeling a bond with him, I'd always be thinking "So, what is Stan telling Bruce about ME behind MY back?"
Posted by: flyonthewall at July 21, 2006 15:10

Todd C. Reynolds

I heard George W. Bush is a good father and good family man. And JFK was terrible. Clearly, Bush must be better.

Valchess, Mig

I heard an interview with Novodvorskaya (one of the most respected leaders of liberal movement in Russia) who completely dismissed "Other Russia" and said that being seen in the same company with extremists like Limonov is a huge mistake for liberals who attended "Other Russia" and just what the Kremlin wanted. Of course her party didn't attend.
Posted by: rurikbird at July 21, 2006 15:20

Some lousy family men have been great politicians. Some great family men have been lousy politicians.

Raising a family is an important life task, and all else being equal you'll vote for a success rather than a failure.
Posted by: greg koster at July 21, 2006 15:30

Could we please just stick to the facts here?!?! ~2.9979e8m/s, ~6378km, no, ~(1/300), ~(9.8m/s/s), ~384,400km, ~27.3 days, ~6.6e-27 erg-s, hot-as-hell, proton chain and carbon cycle, ~22/7, (1+sqrt(5))/2, your momma, and 3.26 light years.
thanks for keeping it real, people. -rob
Posted by: rob at July 21, 2006 16:32

Mr. Kasparov may have great vision for Russia. But he will find it very hard to earn people's trust. He is a complete failure in family life, and public relations. All he can glory is in his chess and nothing else. For the sake of opposing Kremlin, he is trying to join hands with all parties. The opposition don't have one mind and vision for Russia.
Posted by: Ryan at July 21, 2006 17:36


Novodvorskaya is a very interesting woman having her strong (extreme liberal) principles. She is a briliant columnist and a funny speaker. However, nobody in Russia takes her seriously. In fact, she is perceived both by politicians and public as a kind of stand-up comedian delivering crazy political sketches. That's why she is so often invited to major TV channels: clever spin doctors know that her very presence discredits any idea she is passionately defending. She has become a kind of showbiz celebrity - not a political figure. Her "liberal movement" as well as her dwarf "party" (so-called "Democratic Union") are just bunch of eccentrics that are not dangerous in any way for Kremlin. So her opinion can be right; however nobody in his right mind will listen to her and ask her to be an ally.

Greg Koster: you obviously know nothing about Russia and even less what Russian "voters" expect from politicians. The Russians do know that Kasparov is a great champion but 99% of them didn't hear anything about Kasparov's deals with Intel and IBM and are not interested in them either. In Russia a lot of high-profile people (including ministers and members of Parlament) are perceived by almost anybody as crooks who managed to steal people's money. And you are talking about a number of Kasparov's wifes in that context?! Please don't be so silly in your hatred for Kasparov.
Posted by: valchess at July 21, 2006 17:43

Thanks for the education, Val,

But even among political thieves such as you mention there's always an expectation of reliability, an "honor among thieves" that I don't think is to be found in a character which has so often been ready to abandon long-term principle for short-term advantage.

For the reasons stated earlier in this thread I just think he'll be considered too unreliable for voters or serious political people to deal with.
Posted by: greg koster at July 21, 2006 19:47

Putin has a better chance of being the world chess champion than Kasparov does of being the Russian president. Kasparov isn't a player in Russian politics, and isn't ever going to be one.

Posted by: zhorik at July 22, 2006 00:55

It's a bit harsh to judge Kasparov according to whether or not he'd make a good candidate for president of Russia. All he is doing at the moment is protesting - he isn't running for anything, let alone leader of a major country. I reckon that he is, as an activist, more than adequate.
Posted by: Jim Foster at July 22, 2006 03:28

I think Greg must hate Kasparov because he (Kasparov) simply has more personality and talent than Greg does. No? If Kasparov is so useless in all spheres outside chess, why spend so much energy slagging him off? Just let him get it wrong by himself. Then gloat, if you like. And "with Kasparov's chess exploits receding further into the past every year"?! Of course Greg doesn't consider any mistakes K makes to "recede" in a similar fashion. Forget twenty years at the top of chess, but oh, I remember that tantrum from 1984...
Posted by: David at July 22, 2006 09:24

GK: "Raising a family is an important life task, and all else being equal you'll vote for a success rather than a failure. "

Phew.. you should write a thesis on "Greg Koster's Methods of Extrapolation, Assumption and Making a Case out of no Facts". The same man who dismissed intellectual ability as evidenced by supremacy in chess as being irrelevant.

"Were it not for Kasparov's immature self-indulgence, there's no reason to think Intel and IBM wouldn't be agreeable right now to consider chess sponsorship."

Wow.. must be GREAT to have ESP. Surely you must be a trillionaire from profitable speculation on the future's market?

"After Kasparov's extraordinarily unprofessional conduct who can blame them if they've been scared off of sponsoring chess for the foreseeable future?"

Unprofessional according to the oracle that is Koster? Corporate entities treat bottom line as the only criterion of evaluation. Because of the drama associated with the Deep Blue match, IBM gained enormous free publicity. Their web servers ecountered unprecedented traffic. They're not complaining even if you are.

Why not try to seperate fact from figments of your imagination? Or as David above says, does Kasparov's success rankle so much that its a losing battle?
Posted by: d at July 22, 2006 10:40

Very keen observations, valchess, both about Novodvorskaya and russian "voters". I really have nothing to add.
Posted by: rurikbird at July 23, 2006 02:46


Long but great read. Love playing chess, Kasparov is truly incredible... probably the best ever.

Visit the site:


I must give credit for Kasparov to have tried to amke a change, it is easy for all you do nothings to critisize but hard to try and make a difference. Sacrifice your time and energy like he has then maybe you have the right to critisize onr of the greatest minds of our generation. If there is a god, bless him please...

Garry's political efforts vividly demonstrated an important point about how different Russia is from what we in the west had assumed since 1992.

Without Garry's efforts, the rest of planet outside of Russia would have a different, less accurate perception of Putin, of the Russia media, and of the Russian populace.

Dismissing Garry's chances of defeating Putin in an election is correct.
Dismissing Garry's international success in achieving his true goal is an effective way to embarrass yourself.

Although I do not support the regime in Russia, I can't say that I fully support Kasparov because the regime in Russia is not that bad if we are to compare it with other regimes so I do not see Kasparov's point here.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 18, 2006 7:13 AM.

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