Kasparov looks on as grandmaster’s move exposes an Australian chess feud
From: The Australian
April 26, 2014 12:00AM

GARRY Kasparov is no stranger to the personal feuds and political intrigues of international chess. But even the former world champion, renowned for his aggressive moves on and off the board, was taken aback by the events that unfolded in a suburban Canberra club this week.

Kasparov, a rare visitor to Australia, had come to secure support for his campaign to replace millionaire businessman Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as president of the International Chess Federation. His trip was timed to coincide with the Doeberl Cup, Australia’s most prestigious tournament.

The setting was an incongruous one: The Tradies in the Canberra suburb of Woden, a venue famous for dishing up chicken schnitzels the size of chess boards.

Kasparov made his first appearance on Sunday night at a book signing and was mobbed by the normally reserved chess community. Flushed with his reception, he returned to the stage the following afternoon to present the tournament winner with his prize. Instead, he walked into a decades-old dispute that has divided Australian chess since before he became the youngest world champion in history.

Standing alongside Kasparov, Australian Chess Federation president Gary Wastell announced a life membership award for Ian Rogers, Australia’s first grandmaster. But instead of coming forward, Rogers yelled “Not while you’re president!’’ from the back of the room.

With Wastell and Rogers locked in an embarrassing stand-off, Kasparov took the microphone and spoke for the next 15 minutes, outlining his plans to make chess’s governing body more transparent and to encourage more children to take up the game. Wastell then had another go, pleading with Rogers to bury their past differences.

Rogers again refused, but reluctantly came to the stage and explained, with a perplexed Kasparov looking on, why he could never forgive Wastell for what he did to his career.

“I do not want any award bestowed by Gary Wastell,’’ he later explained to The Weekend Australian. “Unfortunately Gary Wastell forced me to refuse publicly, which meant that Kasparov was placed in a slightly embarrassing situation when he prepared to hand the plaque to me.

“I felt that I had to come to the stage and explain my position. I just said that I would not take an award from Gary Wastell as he had acted badly towards me and other top players in the past.”

One onlooker said: “It was a complete meltdown. Everyone was stunned … People thought, ‘Why can’t you sort this out offstage?’ Why embarrass the world’s greatest player when he’s finally made it to Australia?’ ”

The feud between Rogers and Wastell is deep, distant and fiercely contested. Rogers believes that Wastell, as a chess official, tried to sabotage his professional career by omitting him from overseas trips and curtailing the careers of other Australians.

Wastell disputes the allegations, saying most are the result of misunderstandings. Of a claim that he once advised a foreign player about opening move sequences, to the detriment of one of his teammates, Wastell said he had merely had a friendly after-dinner chat with a fellow chess enthusiast. While he admits that the discussion was unwise, he insists that his motives were pure. (Chess players are meticulous in planning their openings, and knowledge of your opponent’s plans can be very useful.)

Last Sunday’s altercation is not the first time Kasparov has had an awkward moment with Rogers. In 2003, at a tournament in Linares, Spain, Kasparov was competing and Rogers was part of a judging panel to decide the best game played. When Kasparov was overlooked for the award, he grabbed Rogers by the throat, demanding to know why.

“He almost throttled me,’’ Rogers said.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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