Chess for Peace – with Mikhail Gorbachev

by ChessBase
11/2/2005 – Last Friday the city of Lindsborg in Kansas played host to former world champions Susan Polgar and Anatoly Karpov. And to the former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. This warm, humorous gentleman prepared tea for Susan and caused Karpov grief by playing 1.g4 for him in the match against Susan Polgar. Illustrated report.

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Chess for Peace in Lindsborg

A report by Paul Truong

Chess is a game of war but a peaceful war where no human lives are at stake. Susan Polgar is a mild mannered person and she always likes peaceful resolutions when conflicts arise. Therefore, when she was asked by Mikhail Korenman to take part in this Chess for Peace initiative with Anatoly Karpov and former President Mikhail Gorbachev, she jumped at this opportunity.

Talking to the media about the Chess for Peace initiative

Both Anatoly and Susan arrived in Lindsborg, Kansas, on Thursday evening. On Friday, Anatoly was occupied with a special engagement regarding his environmental platform. Susan kept herself busy with the media.

Karpov and Susan Polgar take a seat in an oldtimer for the Chess for Peace parade

The spectacular Chess for Peace parade started at 10 a.m. The parade was lead off by a state trooper vehicle. Anatoly and Susan were in the first car, following other dignitaries going down Main Street. Thousands of people were watching the Chess for Peace parade and thousands more were taking part in it. There was everything from floats, marching bands to other cool stuff. Everyone was so eager to meet the man of the century.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev arrives

Shortly after Anatoly and Susan arrived at the stage, President Gorbachev arrived with his daughter Irina, his translator Pavel and the rest of his party to enjoy the parade. He really liked the chess parade and even said that he suggested to his daughter and members of his party to take part in the parade. Unfortunately, the secret service did not permit them to do so. Therefore, they had to enjoy watching the parade from the stage.

The Chess for Peace parade in Lindsborg

One of the many bands in the parade

Some in traditional costumes

Parade of future champions – children at the center of the initiative

Even the youngest get their special attention

Flags of the US, Russia and the UN

President Gorbachev was charming and funny. When he was presented the key to the city, he cleverly made a joke. He said that since he only got the key to the city at that time, he apologized to the citizens of Lindsborg for entering their city illegally the night before. That got everyone laughing.

President Gorbachev waves to the parade

After his short speech at the conclusion of the parade, he visited the Chess School. He quickly posed for a few pictures with Dr. Mikhail Korenman, Anatoly and Susan. Then they all quickly went to the press conference.

And the press conference with Gorbachev, Polgar and Karpov can begin

The man who brought Russia perestroika and freedom

The conference hall was filled with TV and print media reporters. They asked President Gorbachev a variety of questions. One of them was how chess helped him become a great leader and another was does he really believe chess can help promote World Peace. He answered all questions with style, class and often with a sense of humor.

One of my most memorable moments of the entire event was during the press conference. President Gorbachev wanted to have some special Chess for Peace tea. He requested this in advance. But as he looked around, he only saw one cup. He offered Susan the tea. She told him that the tea was for him. He insisted on Susan having the tea. He did not take no for an answer. He then told her that he will prepare the tea for her just the way he likes it and he did. Anatoly smiled then told Susan that she was in a zugzwang position. She had no choice but to reluctantly accept the President’s generous offer.

Special Chess for Peace tea

The President insists on preparing it for his grandmaster friend

As the press conference continued, one of the reporters asked a question about what has been the most surprising part of the event in Lindsborg up to that time. Susan said that it was the manner of President Gorbachev. She said that he was so pleasant, friendly, warm, and thoughtful, etc. She did not expect that at all. When he heard this, he gave her a kiss on both cheeks. After she thought he was done, he said no, the Russian way is to kiss on the cheeks three times and he gave her one more kiss. All the media people burst out laughing.

Thank you so much for your kind words, Susan!

After the press conference, President Gorbachev had a tour of Lindsborg while Anatoly and Susan attended a special luncheon with important members of the local business community and some members of the USCF. A lot of wonderful ideas were exchanged among the group.

Anatoly and Susan had a short break following the luncheon to change and freshen up before their match. It was originally planned to be an eight-game blitz match. Unfortunately, it had to be shortened to six games because of time constraint. While Anatoly and Susan waited for President Gorbachev to arrive to make the first move, they answered a series of questions from the large crowd. The crowd loved it!

Talking to the crowd before the match begins

President Gorbachev arrived at 4 p.m. and they were ready to start. Anatoly had white in the first game. Therefore, President Gorbachev would make the first move for Anatoly. As he arrived at the board, he told the audience that this is a wonderful match between two great champions. “I am going to cause some difficulties for the older player”, he said, then proceeded to play 1.g4 without asking Anatoly. Both Anatoly and Susan looked up at President Gorbachev in shock. Anatoly thought that the President was joking as Anatoly mentioned that he would like to make another first move. But the President was firm in saying there is no take back in chess. Then the players started their first game.

Gorbachev arrives to make the first move, executing 1.g4 for Karpov.

The President forces the protesting Karpov to play on from there.

Because of this 1.g4 move, Susan achieved a very good position in the game. President Gorbachev was standing right next to them watching the entire game. All of a sudden, he opened the two bottles of water and poured some into the glasses to serve Susan and Anatoly. Susan was in shock! Here was one of the most important human beings on this planet in the last century serving her water! She could not believe it and she basically froze and lost badly after that. As I said before,

President Gorbachev is an incredible person. Even when his daughter (Irina) was chatting with Susan, she was telling her that he was the ideal father when she was growing up and he is a gentleman to everyone, including the cleaning lady.

The match becomes serious and the two battle it out on the stage

The match ended in a 3-3 tie again! Anatoly won the first game. Susan won the second. The third was a draw. Susan lost the fourth game with the white pieces. They then drew the fifth game and Susan managed to win the final game with white to even up the match. Unfortunately, there were technical difficulties again with the Shahcom sensory board and the moves were not registered properly on the computer. Luckily Grandmaster Yury Shulman was on hand to make the moves on the screen manually using the Fritz program.

After the match, the player literally had to run out of the tournament hall because they only had about 10-15 minutes to rush back to their rooms to change then come back for a $1,000 a plate black-tie fundraising dinner with President Gorbachev. Mikhail Korenman’s wife Tamara and I managed to get Anatoly and Susan to the dinner in time.

... and meets Susan Polgar

Anatoly Karpov with his former President

Gorbachev poses with Susan Polgar

Countless dignitaries came to the dinner to greet President Gorbachev, Anatoly and Susan. The city and state presented the President with gifts. One of the gifts was of course a signed copy of Susan’s book Breaking Through. His daughter Irina offered to get together with Susan the next time she is in Moscow which will be soon. Susan will be leading a group of American student chess players (an estimate of 300-500 children) to Moscow to play a friendly match against the Russian youths sometime next March as a continuation of the Chess for Peace initiative. This will be a very exciting event, especially for our young players. The Russians will then come to America the year after.

Gorbachev with daughter Irina and Susan Polgar

Irina gets a copy of Susan's book "Breaking Through"

The evening was capped off by a session with President Gorbachev as Alan Murray (assistant managing director of the Wall Street Journal) was asking a series of exciting questions over a chess game. Toward the end of the session, Anatoly and Susan went up on stage to join them.

Signing autographs for the fans

The finale ended with a special song that was sung by the children of Lindsborg to honor President Gorbachev. He was also honored with an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the Bethany College. It was a memorable day for everyone that was there.

Police security remained tight throughout the event

Thanks to about 100 state and local police officers and secret agents, Lindsborg was the safest place on this planet this past weekend. On a last note, approximately 2,500 tickets were sold for the Clash of the Titans II match and the address by President Gorbachev. That is 2,500 tickets for a one day chess event! The $1,000 a plate fundraising dinner was also sold out in advance. A wonderful ending to a wonderful cause! Mikhail Korenman, the city of Lindsborg and the state of Kansas really did a fantastic job to pull off a historic event.

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