'Winning is not a secret, it is something you can learn'

by ChessBase
9/13/2005 – In a series called "German Dream" the national TV station ZDF is interviewing intellectuals from all over the world about their personal dreams for the country. One of them was former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, who spoke with eloquence and commitment of what this century has in store for us. We bring you transcripts and the original audio links. Must read.

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Germany is in upheaval and in search of a new self-image. What does Germany stand for? What is the country's future role in the world? In the series "German Dream" the national TV broadcasting company ZDF is asking 30 leading thinker, artists and scientists from all over the world about their own personal dreams for Germany.

One of the interview partners of ZDF was Garry Kasparov, who answered the incredibly well-spoken questions of the German journalist Wolfgang Harrer, with his usual commitment and eloquent fervor. No light-weight chatty answers from this man, who is now on a political campaign to bring change in his gigantic country. We have transcribed the central parts of the 15-minute interview, which you can also listen to in short and full versions, in the original English and in dubbed German. There are even podcasts and iTune files to download on the ZDF page given below.

ZDF Interview with Garry Kasparov

Why in the world did the world's most successful chess player decide to get involved in Russian politics? Kasparov replies that he has always been engaged in activities where he felt his presence could make a difference. At the time of his retirement from professional chess he was still number one, but he sensed that his presence elsewhere could make a difference (implication: it was no longer making a real difference in the chess world).

Kasparov says he visited and revisited the Russian political field and felt that it was his duty to become involved. He witnessed Russian President Putin's rise to power, and his steady policy of destroying democratic institutions in his country. For Kasparov the choice became very simple: if he wanted to live in the country where he was born and raised, a country he had played chess for and defended for nearly three decades, he had to fight the regime that was threatening its future.

Is he not risking his reputation and possibly his life by attacking Putin so vigorously? Kasparov says that we now have to admit that Russia is no longer a democratic state, Putin has a steady policy of liquidating democratic institutions. "We don't have any future, Russia has no dreams," he says bitterly.

The German reporter asks about a common dream and a common future for the two countries. Germany, Kasparov says, is in a convenient situation. "Your grandfathers condemed the past and worked very hard to overcome it. Unfortunately Russia could not come to terms with its own bloody past. It needs to go through the same process of overcoming its dark past. Both countries must learn from past mistakes and the crimes committed by bad people in Russian and Germany on behalf of some crazy dreams that led to death and destruction.

On Germany's future: it is difficult for a country even as big and dominant as Germany to have a dream that is separate from the rest of Europe. The cradle of modern civilisation, still has a lot to offer, if the combined power of different nationalities and different cultures is unified and presented in a bright new form. But this depends on the ability of different countries and different nations to work together. "It will be a great place if we have German cars and French food, but not the other way around," he jokes.

Can Russia, a country that spans eleven of the world's 24 time zones, be part of Europe? Kasparov believes that Russia, the largest country in the world ("the size of Brazil and Australia combined") is part of the European world. The population is concentrated in the European part of Russia; the mentality, history, tradition, religion all make Russia part of the European culture, tradition and history.

The gap between the living standards in Moscow and other Russian cities is huge. You can hardly imagine the poverty that exists in the country, while Moscow has become one of the most expensive and lucrative cities in the world. Between 70 and 80 percent of the entire Russian financial fortune is concentrated in Moscow. Under Putin all money is being channeled to the center by this money vacuum cleaner that sucks money from the regional budgets and transfers it to the Moscow dark hole. We believe that money must be kept with local communities, municipalities, districts, we need a real federation. More and more people are beginning to realise that it is up to us to change our country.

What makes him think he can change anything, what qualifies him for the role he is adopting? "I am not over-optimistic that my personal presence and my activities could make a hell of a difference in Russia," Kasparov replies. "It is definitely not the kind of difference I was able to make in the game of chess. But still it's a difference, and I think that my presence, my activity and my influence, no matter how limited, is already having an impact on many Russians who see that Garry Kasparov has made his moral choice, to go through all this hardship and fight for something he cannot benefit from. Also I have a son who will be nine this October. I cannot see him growing up in a country where his future is uncertain. I want him to live in a free country. This is why I decided to join forces with the Russian democratic opposition, even though it has a very bleak future and slim chances of overthrowing the increasingly dictatorial regime of President Putin."

What will the world in 2050 with an estimated global population of 9.1 billion be like? Kasparov: "First I want to say that I would love to see the year 2050, and that it up to young scientists, including young Germans, to give me that chance. This century will offer us great alternatives, and we must think in bigger terms – look more to the skies. We are about to see phenomenal changes in our future. I do not think that the world economy based on oil can survive for a long time. This means we have to find new alternative energy sources. I believe Germany has a unique position to work on something that can change the world forever. All the projects will require not just creativity and determination but also effectiveness. Germany could easily find a place in the great technological breakthrough which we are going to witness in the next 15–20 years.

On the spirit of winning: "It is a permanent challenge, because the more you win, the more you face the fear of losing once. It strenghtens your character. If you can find the strength to keep your gunpowder dry, keep your determination alive, to fight again and again, to prove something not for others but for yourself, that is what makes you virtually unbeatable. I am very proud of what I did, and I think that the things I learnt from the game are very helpful to me now, and will be helpful forever. Winning is not a secret that belongs to a very few, winning is something that we can learn by studying ourselves, studying the environment and making ourselves ready for any challenge that is in front of us."


The ZDF replay page with short and long audio versions of the interview

On the top are the two-minute versions, at the bottom the full interview of 13 minutes

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