Kasparov’s movie: from chess to politics

At the premiere of a film following Garry Kasparov’s battle to stand for president in Russia, the chess champion tells Geoffrey Macnab why it ended in stalemate

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The first time I saw Garry Kasparov in the flesh was on an autumn afternoon in 1993, when he was playing a World Chess Championship match against the British contender, Nigel Short, at the Savoy Theatre in London. There was something surreal about the occasion. After the players had made their opening moves, they both disappeared backstage and we were left for what seemed an inordinately long time looking at an empty stage with a chess set on it. Of course, Kasparov crushed Short. He is still considered one of the strongest chess players ever. I remember his saturnine demeanour – the way he glared at the audience when we tittered at jokes made by the grandmaster-commentators we could hear on our headphones.

It was hard not to be reminded of that empty stage last month, in Amsterdam. Kasparov was in town for the International Documentary Festival (IDFA) screening of Masha Novikova’s In the Holy Fire of Revolution, a new film about the chess player’s abortive attempt to stand in the Russian presidential elections last year. It is a dispiriting affair. Kasparov was the candidate for The Other Russia, a coalition of parties opposed to Vladimir Putin. He was harassed every step of the way. In the film, we see groups of fanatical, nationalistic kids mocking Kasparov as a US stooge. They follow him everywhere. His rallies are interrupted. He is denied media access. At one stage, he is bundled away by the police and spends five days in prison. Former friends desert him. (“A lot of people forgot about my existence. I know exactly the value of friendship now,” Kasparov says.) Ironically, one of the few who stood up for him – and attempted to visit him while he was in prison – was his former arch-enemy on the chess circuit, Anatoly Karpov. We witness how quickly Kasparov’s campaign collapses.

Here is the full article.

Posted by Picasa
Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
Tags: ,