The Lesser Evil

Jan 1, 2011, 3:10 PM |

Many years ago I wrote an article about IM Boris Kogan for the Georgia Chess Magazine. I interviewed Boris, telling him I would let him read it before having it published. Boris had mentioned a certain Soviet GM who happened to be working for the KGB. I included that fact in the article. Upon learning of what I had written, Boris became very upset. I simply do not have words to describe how agitated Boris became. His fear was palpable as he said, "Mike, you not understand. KGB like octopus who reach every country. You cannot print this. KGB will kill relatives left behind!"
I thought of what Boris had said when reading about the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. It was true; I did not understand. How could any American understand the situation under the KGB? As many crimes as the FBI or CIA have committed here in our country, they pale in comparison. The only organization analogous to the KGB would have to be the dreaded Nazi Gestapo!
Reading the new book, The KGB Plays Chess: The Soviet Secret Police and the Fight for the World Chess Crown, by Boris Gulko, Yuri Felshtinsky, Vladimir Popov, and Viktor Kortschnoi, brought back these memories. The battle for the leadership of the World Chess Federation, FIDE, happened to coincide with my reading of the book. I thought of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov the same way I thought about former POTUS George 'Dubya', that SOB! (That's Son Of Bush)Anyone would be better! GM Nigel Short,in New in Chess magazine, the best chess magazine in the world, in the article, (Not) Havana Good Time, writes, "...the alien-abducted Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who promised many millions (to rapturous applause), as he has so emptily done so many times before. Why anyone still believes anything this man says is one of life's great mysteries..." And that's the good part! Then again, he is a politician. Worse, he is a CHESS politician!
I liked Anatoly as a chess player. I met him in San Antonio during the Church's tournament in 1972. I did not, though, care for the fact that he was the golden boy of the Commie Party. GM Evgeny Bareev, in NIC'S CAFE of the 2010/6 issue of New in Chess magazine, the best chess magazine in the world, bar none, says about Karpov: "This man has never done anything for anybody in his life. And he will not do so in the future." Does that sound like the right guy to be heading up world chess?
After reading about Karpov in The KGB Plays Chess, I cannot help wonder if the lesser evil won the election. For example, on page 68 it is written: "But in early 1991, Bobkov had voluntarily resigned as first deputy head of the KGB and joined the scramble to appropriate the funds of the Communist Party, which, right before the collapse of the Soviet Union, were being channelled out of the country through various organizations, including the Soviet Peace Fund, whose head was the chess player, and former world champion, Anatoly Karpov." (!)