"Let's go interview Kasparov"

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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0 | Chess Event Coverage
"What the heck, let's just go. If you don't try..." This was all I needed to convince co-editor Arne, yesterday around five in the afternoon, to join. Join my foolish, naive but also bold, and, above all, fun plan to travel to Lint, Belgium, to interview Gary Kasparov. If we would explain that we had immediately jumped into the car when we heard about the simul, that we came all the way from Amsterdam and after several detours we had found that television studio in that little Belgium town right in time, who on earth would refuse a small interview?

Kasparov still gives simulteaneous displays every now and then, for which he receives a fee that used to be the complete budget of the Corus organizers to get him to Wijk aan Zee. (Campaigning and flying around the world, always with some bodyguards nearby, does cost a fair bit). A total of 24 Belgian CEO's, some VIPs and two kids had taken a seat in the televisie studios of the Eurocam Media Center in Lint, and were slaughtered one by one. The simul was a promotional stunt of an online recruitment platform from Antwerp, that wanted to put their new website on the map. The company hadn't been modest in their organizational budget: the event was broadcast live, from start to finish, with no less than 28 HD-cameras and the commentator was Nigel Short.

"No. I don't do chess interviews anymore." OK, that was pretty clear. Kasparov had finished his simul half an hour before, when we had entered the studio. We had bumped into the cheerful closing reception, where everone important in Belgian business had gathered and was enjoying some expensive snacks, drinks and surprisingly modern pop music. He was standing next to a table and had to have his picture taken all the time, together with wealthy ladies and gentlemen. After I had cautiously tried with Bessel Kok first, I plucked up my courage and started a conversation with The Boss himself.

"I only make a few exceptions but that's all for the next six months." The best player of all times, impeccably dressed, clarified his current PR policy in the chess world. After all, he is a fulltime politican. But exactly that had made us decide to persist in our impulsive act. What would be the chance that we would be able to speak with, or even see Kasparov again? He doesn't visit chess tournaments anymore, and it's widely known how things can go in Russian politics...

"By the way, five draws in Moscow today,?" I tried. But it wasn't an attempt to break the ice ?¢ÀÜ‚Äô only to continue the conversation. Like a teenager at a school party, who musters up his courage to address the lovelyest girl in class, and then finds himself tongue-tied. Suddenly I wasn't an editor-in-chief anymore, I was a chess groupie. ?¢ÀÜ‚Äô "Yes, I know, I've seen the games of the Tal Memorial before the simul." ?¢ÀÜ‚Äô "Aha, the last round must have started earlier." ?¢ÀÜ‚Äô "Yes, it started earlier. It was not that important, of course Kramnik had already won."

Somebody else started talking to Kasparov. He turned away from me. That was it. Only then did we realise how stone-hard reality turned out to be: Kasparov has become too big for the chess world. We were at a deserted industrial zone, in the suburbs of Antwerp, 200 kilometers from home. We've tried, we were close ?¢ÀÜ‚Äô but at the same time we were never anywhere n?ɬ©?ɬ°r.

Close, but no cigar.

National press attend the press conference in the morning.

Garry Kasparov and Bessel Kok at the press conference

The simul was held in a television studio

The Boss at work

Commentary by Nigel Short

On his way to 26-0

The two youngest participants

VIPs could follow everything on a huge screen

Garry plays along, and "concentrates" deeply

Photos by Jan Lagrain of De Schaakfabriek. More photos here and his report here.
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