The grandmaster is to move

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The attentive daily newspaper readers won't have missed it: a citizens riot in Russia, and all this led by ex-chess player Garry Kasparov. Chessvibes brings you ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú in cooperation with Olaf Koens of the Dutch quality blog Sargasso ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú a piece of background. Who is Garry Kasparov, and what does he want?

In December I (Olaf) wrote before about the opposition in Russia, a richly coloured collection of all, left-wing and right-wing, who are against Putin. The march in Moscow was clearly not a success, and even in Saint Petersburg ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú a city that has seen a revolution before ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú nobody had great expectations. Luckily, the opposite appeared to be true. More than 5,000 people stood up against the broadly shouldered power. Read here the stories of the printed Dutch press that perched down in 'Piter' by train.

How strong was Garry Kasparov as a chess player? The answer is quite simple: the best, ever. Because that's what the experts agree on. Here a short biography, followed by an analysis of his recent speech in New York.



Garry Kimovich Kasparov was born in Baku, the capital of Azerbeidzjan, on April 13th, 1963. In 1981 he became the youngest champion of the Soviet Union ever. In 1984 the young Kasparov earned the right to challenge world champion Karpov and in their second match Kasparov managed to beat Karpov, thus becoming the youngest world champion ever, in 1985.

Kasparov's big strenght lies both in his incredibly deep opening preparation, together with his dynamical, agressive style that leaves no room for compromize. He's considered to be the first complete player, who masters every facet of the game at the highest level.

As a world champion, Kasparov slowly started to become involved in chess politics. In 1986 he started, together with e.g. Bessel Kok, at the time the CEO of Swift, the Grandmaster Association (GMA), the union of chess professionals. In 1993 he killed this organisation with his own hands by establishing, together with Nigel Short after a new fight with FIDE, a new chess organisation called Professional Chess Association. Since then the chess world was divided into two parts with two organisations and two champions (till the reunification match in 2006).

Like every top sportsman Kasparov couldn't stand losing very well. In May 1997 he lost a match to the computer Deep Blue, and immediately accused IBM of cheating. There are also images of his very last game, and the disbelief on his face is the same as with all his losses.

In 2000 Kasparov lost his world champion title to the Russian player Vladimir Kramnik. In Februari 2005, right after the Linares tournament, Kasparov announced that he wouldn't play a serious game anymore. Since then he's trying his luck in the policital arena, being the leader of the opposition and a strong critic of Putin.

A few weeks ago the former world champion gave a speech for the Foreign Policy Association, together with the American National Endowment for Democracy in New York.



The current Putin regime is, according to Kasparov, "like a cancer"; he hopes that?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú in his own words ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú to cut it away without killing the patient. A man on a mission.

Kasparov shows the American audience that Iraq is but a small part of the mondial chess board, and the danger of a "prosperous, aggressive and nucleair oligarchy like Russia" shouldn't be underestimated. Furthermore, Russia has an historical 'right' for for a democracy, just like Palestina or Iraq has this right.

He's right to pinpoint a well-known fallacy: "The current regime is better than everything Russia has known before". The short period of the transition between the communist regime and Putin's ?¢‚ǨÀúcrackdown' could have functioned as a the foundation of a true democracy.

Litvinenko? Politikovskaya? Kasparov is cunning enough to wait before playing out these cards. But he calls Russia's climate, in which this can happen, "the true face of Putin's Russia".

The biggest mistake in the Amerikaanse foreing policy is "passivity". When the Cold War ended there should have followed a period of Big Ideas, Leadership and Vision. Instead, mondial politics seemed to quietly enjoy the victory. According to Kasparov, 9/11 officially ends this celebration. And then people tried to make up for ten years of passivity, but with desastrous results. And again Kasparov pinpoints: "If Iraq has the right for a democracy, why were the G8 smiling together with their host in Saint Petersburg, on a picture taken last summer?"

Kasparov sounds realistic: the Russian citizens have to solve their own problems. The West can only help for a small part. The difference between the Soviet regime and today's time is that Putin's Russia has a great deal at stake outside of Russia. Kasparov: "It's time for Putin and his friends to learn there are rules in the West, where all their money is kept."

Kasparov knows himself that his chances are almost zero. But there is a ray of hope. If Putin wants to survive after 2008, he has to take care of giving power to a weak leader. Here Kasparov sees a chance ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú for himself, and for the West. The die is cast and for now, it's Kasparov to move.

This article was posted both on ChessVibes and on Sargasso.

OLAF KOENS is a student of philosophy at the State University of Brussels. He lives and works in Moscow and writes for the Dutch quality blog Sargasso on post-Soviet development.

PETER DOGGERS is (final) editor and works for the municipality of Amsterdam. For a year now, he's editor-in-chief of the internationally succesful chess blog ChessVibes, which is innovating in the chess world by regularly publishing videos about main chess events.
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