At the press conference after the Linares tournament Garry Kasparov, the world strongest player and leader of the world rankings for twenty consecutive years, stunned the public and journalists by announcing his retirement from professional chess. He had revealed this decision to his closest friends just before the announcement, which was originally planned for the closing ceremony the next day. But after his loss in the last game (of his professional career) to Veselin Topalov he decided to get it out of the way on the same evening.
Garry's mother Klara Shagenovna Kasparova was present at the conference, with tears in her eyes. "We have been going to tournaments for thirty years now," she said, "and this is the last time." A number of colleagues and journalists also had trouble hiding their emotions.
We have taped the entire press conference and will bring it to you as part of ChessBase Magazine. Below is a small section from the very beginning, with Kasparov's formal announcement.
In the opening section Garry Kasparov says: "I would like to make a short statement before the press conference. It could come as a surprise to many of you. But before this tournament I made a conscious decision that Linares 2005 will be my last professional tournament, and today I played my last professional game. I hoped I could do better in my last game, but unfortunately the last two games were very difficult for me, to play under such pressure, because I knew it was the end of a career which I could be proud of. I may play some chess for fun, but it will no longer be professional competitive chess."
Asked by journalists what had led to the decision Kasparov said: "It is very difficult to quote one reason. But if I try I could tell you that, as you know, I am a man of big goals. I have to achieve something, I have to prove something, I have to be determined. But I no longer see any real goal in the world of chess. I did not want to leave in bad shape, as I was six months ago. I wanted to get back to my top rating, and I wanted to show some decent chess. I wanted to prove to myself first of all that I play better than others. I did. What happened today had very little to do with my opponent. I simply collapsed under the pressure of playing my last game."
But what was it that pushed him over the edge? "The complete mess over the last two years added bit by bit to my frustration, he replied, and continued with a twinge of bitterness: "It seemed to me that everyone was very pleased when I was constantly denied a chance to play for the highest title. What happened with FIDE in the last year was scandalous. But I never heard a voice of concern or a voice of support for Garry Kasparov. I still read about the bad treatment by FIDE of Ponomariov, but I never heard any serious complaints about the way they treated me. After the Prague agreement I had regular disappointments with the entire process. The process was used for advancing the agenda of others, eventually at my expense."
When pressed Kasparov said that his decision had started to materialize when his match against Rustam Kasimdzhanov in Dubai was cancelled. "When that happened I knew I was no longer part of the chess world." He soon decided that Linares, the place he had been visiting for fifteen years and had watched grow as a town, would be his final tournament. He had played in Linares twelve times, with a total of 168 games, of which he had lost exactly seven. He vividly remembers the time when he and Vishy Anand both had full heads of jet-black hair.
What are his plans, will he give up the game completely? "I don't want to pressure anyone, or do anything wrong or pretentious. I just want to live my own life. I recognise that in the near future there will be no chance for a unified title, and frankly there is nothing else I can hope for in the world of chess. It became very difficult for me to keep finding reasons for determination, during these years. I succeeded because of my great passion for the game of chess. And I haven't lost my passion for the game. That is why from time to time I may play for fun, maybe in some rapid tournaments. But it will be only for fun."
And what will he do with his life in the future? "I want to accomplish more on the writing side. I want to complete my work My Great Predecessors. The project is expanding every year, and I want to spend more time on that. Also, by the end of this year my new book will appear, in fifteen languages, including Spanish of course, but also in Chinese and Japanese. The tentative title of the book is How Life Imitates Chess. It is a very important project because I want to demonstrate to a mainstream audience how the game of chess can explain the decision-making process in many walks of life." Was he considering going into politics? "I devote a certain amount of time to Russian politics, as every decent person should do, who opposes the dictator Vladimir Putin," he replied.
Finally, when asked if he could see anyone in the chess world to replace him he thought for a moment and then mentioned Karjakin and Carlsen. But time would have to tell whether they could make a big impression on the chess world as Fischer and he himself had done.
What can we say? Thank you Garry Kasparov for thirty years of great chess!