Kasparov in DNA: Anand is the favourite in Mexico

9/10/2007 – Today the Indian news portal DNA asked former world champion Garry Kasparov to predict who would win the world championship in Mexico. "I'm not trying to please your readers by saying that Vishy Anand is the clear favourite," he replied. Kasparov also takes the blame for the decade-long split in the chess world, calling his 1993 decision to break with FIDE "a mistake". Excerpts from the interview.

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'My decision to break away from FIDE was a mistake'


Since he retired from competitive chess in 2005, Garry Kasparov has steadfastly avoided speaking about the game. His favourite topic since has been Vladimir Putin and 'repression' in Russia. But in an exclusive interview to Vijay Tagore, - first time to an Indian newspaper - the former world champion talks about the game, unification in the chess world, Vishy Anand and, of course, Vladimir Putin. Excerpts:

On repression by Putin in Russia: I am only reading aloud the headlines that would exist if Russia had an independent media. It isn't about Putin, it's about what he is doing and what he represents. Darkness, repression, robbery, and a return to Russia's totalitarian past.

Why many people in Russia, including his one-time protege Vladimir Kramnik, seem to love Putin: A small minority of Russians profit handsomely from the actions of this regime. If you are well positioned and don't care about what happens to the rest of the country, the 85% who are worse off and falling, it's easy to love Putin. But don't believe these ridiculous opinion polls. Surveys have little meaning in a country with no free press and an increasingly potent secret police. I'm sure Saddam Hussein was polling even higher than Putin!

On being hit on the head with a chessboard: That was just a trivial provocation, in the early days after my retirement from chess in 2005. They were hoping that after a little physical treatment the chess player would return to chess. But I have a hard head! I'm lucky that Russians play chess, not cricket.

On Indian democracy: It might be messy, but at least it's a real democracy! People vote for their candidates and the popular vote decides things. In Russia today we can only dream of this.

On who will win the World Championship in Mexico: I'm in no way trying to please your readers by saying that Vishy Anand is the clear favourite.

On his responsibility for the division in the chess world: I've said before that my decision in 1993 to break away from the world chess federation, FIDE, with Nigel Short was the worst mistake of my career. It was a serious miscalculation on my part. I thought we could start fresh with a professional organisation, but there was little support among he players. It led to short-term progress in commercial sponsorship for chess, but in the long run hurt the game. I tried many times to reunite the chess world, but as usual the strong personal interests on all sides prevented this. There is apparent unity now, but it is extremely superficial because FIDE still puts its own petty interests ahead of those of the players, and the players themselves will not sacrifice to fight for their rights against FIDE.

On whether he sees himself as the greatest player ever: That is for others to say, and for future historians, not me. I'm proud of my record, and I think it stands up well. But it is difficult to compare players across eras, and there are many criteria to be used. Each might favour a different player. Lasker played at a high level into his 60s, Fischer was further ahead of his peers than anyone, etc. Chess continues to advance over time, so the players of the future will inevitably surpass me in the quality of their play, assuming the rules and regulations allow them to play serious chess. But it will likely be a long time before anyone spends 20 consecutive years as number, one as I did.

On chances of a comeback: No, and these days I'd be too busy to play chess just with the activities I have lined up for the next year or two. My new book, How Life Imitates Chess, is coming out all over the world and my speaking engagements also keep me on the move.

The full interview is available on DNA Daily News & Analysis


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