March 18, 2005 — Garry Kasparov has been the most successful chess player in the world for 20 years. But at age 41, he is suddenly retiring from professional competition.
Kasparov is leaving competitive chess for the very competitive world of Russian politics. He says that Russian democracy needs defending and it's being damaged by current President Vladimir Putin.
"I'm sad at the end of the day, but for me it's not a retirement," he said. "At 41, I'm not part of the Social Security debate yet. And I would rather see it as a transition. I did a lot — probably more than anyone else at the chess board — and I feel that all this experience, all the knowledge that had been accumulated over 30 years should be used more effectively somewhere else. I think my presence in Russian political life could make a difference for millions of people."
We saved our five bucks by being behind the cameras while Kasparov was in front of them! But it took a while to get to the ABC News studios on the west side of Manhattan even though they had sent a car to Kasparov's hotel. Traffic was blocked up and we had to go miles up and around to get past the annual St. Patrick's Day parade that was going down 5th Avenue!
At last the ex-chessplayer arrived to the studio, and it was time for make-up. No one would appear on TV without it. Otherwise your face shines and reflects the bright lights, not a good look.
Then the board had to be positioned just right. There was a box and a book under it to get it at the right height. They decided to remove the book because the pieces were too high. The book? Chess for Dummies! The producer had been doing some homework. (We made sure not to get any photos of Kasparov handling it..) We did our part by swapping the black king and queen to their correct positions before filming started. At least they had the white square in the right corner. (They had run out and rented two sets for the filming.)
Then it was time for action. We had to stop taking pictures during the 25-minute interview. Of course only a few minutes of it was used during the show the next day, but they will archive the material to use on other programs. They asked Kasparov many questions about how he maintained his motivation for so long, and also about his childhood. We'll be bringing you our own long interview with the world's highest-rated retiree in the next few days. Meanwhile, there will be a long Kasparov profile in the New York Times next week. On Monday he will appear on the prestigious Charlie Rose interview program.
After the interview, the autographs. But this one wasn't for a fan. They used his signature as part of the spectacular graphics that were included in the profile when it ran. Really a top-notch production.