Kasparov: 'Putin's just like Al Capone'

by ChessBase
12/6/2011 – After a poor showing by Russia's ruling party in Sunday's parliamentary elections, thousands of citizens are gathering in opposition to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – reminding us of the Arab Spring uprisings and the Occupy Wall Street movement. One of the opposition leaders, former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, has to take care when sipping his tea, as the Telegraph reports.

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GARRY Kasparov is careful about who he takes tea with when in Russia. "I like to know where the tea has come from," he says, half-joking. Being a vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin, the former KGB man now seeking a third term as president of the Russian Federation, inevitably entails a degree of paranoia.

Kasparov, genius of chess turned tormentor of the Kremlin, is always accompanied by bodyguards when visiting his homeland, too many critics of the Russian oligarchy having met with an untimely death.

One doesn't have to be in the Motherland to be at risk. In 2006 Alexander Litvinenko, a former secret service officer who claimed to possess evidence implicating Mr Putin in the murder of a Russian journalist, died of acute radiation poisoning after polonium was dropped into his tea. Last month, a pre-inquest hearing in London was told of the "grave suspicion" that the poisoning represented a state-directed killing. So a certain nervousness about tea is understandable.

"Putin? A petty criminal," says the chess player, sipping mineral water in the lobby of a hotel in Belgravia. "It's his mentality. At the end of the day, it's all about money. Putin recognised that if he could get enough money, everything would be under control. Putin is like Al Capone. The only important element of his political system is loyalty. As long as you're loyal to the boss, you're safe."

Kasparov, 48, is the greatest chess player ever, holder of the all-time highest rating. Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, when that country was a Soviet republic, he was a grandmaster at 17 and world champion at 22, remaining so for 15 years between 1985 and 2000. Observing the precocious newcomer, Mikhail Botvinnik, the Russian grandmaster and world champion, said: "The future of chess lies in the hands of this young man."

That particular future is now behind him but there are challenges for this restless mind. He spends his life promoting the Kasparov Chess Foundation, created to put chess into schools. During a recent visit to Britain he helped publicise the work of Chess in Schools and Communities, CSC, a British charity that shares his aim.

Read the whole article in The Telegraph

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