Person of day   -  13 APRIL 2021

GARRY KASPAROV

GARRY KASPAROV

As a first-grader, Garry began to play chess in Baku’s Pioneers’ Palace. A little later, his first trainer Oleg Privorotskiy said: “I don’t know whether there are any beginners like this in other cities, but there certainly aren’t any in Baku.” At the mere age of 9, Garry was already playing at the level of regional champion and he participated in the men’s Baku blitz chess championship. However, after a few lost matches, he began to cry and his mother took him home. He never cried at the chess board again. 

By 10, Garry was already a candidate master. Soon after, he got a personal trainer- Alexander Nikitin, who would lead Kasparov to the world championship. At the same age, he began to play in Mikhail Botvinnik’s school. Botvinnik immediately noticed in his pupil a unique, remarkable talent and he would go on to mentor Garry for many years. 

His path to the highest honour was short - success came quickly to the young chess player. In 1978, Kasparov performed spectacularly at the Sokolsky Memorial in Minsk, where he finished first with a gap of 3.5 points and fulfilled the criteria for master. Kasparov became the youngest master in the world and, two years later, the Planet Earth’s youngest grandmaster. A spectacular debut on the international arena at Banja Luka won him sympathy of chess fans all over the world. 

In 1981, the talented junior split 1stplace with Psakhis at the Soviet championship, after which he began to ascend up chess’ Olympus. In 1982, he won the inter-zonal tournament in Moscow. In 1983 in the candidates’ matches, in a decisive manner, he defeated Belyavsky 6:3, Korchnoi 7:4 and Smyslov 8,5:4,5. Only one step- the most difficult one- remained between him and the very top: a match against world champion Anatoly Karpov. 

The historical contest that began in Moscow in September 1984 turned out to be dramatic for Kasparov. After 9 matches, he was losing 0:4. The match seemed decided and a clean defeat looked possible. This scenario seemed probable when Karpov won the 27thgame. Losing 0:5, Kasparov demonstrated unheard-of willpower and determination: avoiding defeat in the 31stgame, he won the 32ndand then, after 14 draws, he won two more games, the 47thand 48th. When the score was 5:3 to Karpov, the match was cancelled at the behest of FIDE President Campomanes. 

The rematch, which took place in the autumn of 1985, turned out well for Kasparov- he won 13:11. The 22-year-old grandmaster became the youngest world champion in history. Karpov’s subsequent attempts to return the crown were unsuccessful. Kasparov won the revenge match in 1986 and drew in Seville in 1987, where he equalised the score in the final 24thround, as well as winning in 1990. 

Garry Kasparov has been retaining the title of world champion for 15 years, winning multiple large tournaments and reaching a record rating that remained unsurpassed for 13 years, until he lost the crown to Vladimir Kramnik in 2000. Nonetheless, the 13thworld champion dominated the chess world for five more years. On 10thMarch 2005, bowing out with a victory at the Russian championship and a split 1stplace at another super tournament in Linares, he unexpectedly announced the end of his chess career. 

Few believed that the grandmaster at the peak of his powers, the holder of all the imaginable records and the winner of dozens of tournaments was actively quitting chess and switching to politics, even though it always interested him. Currently, Garry Kasparov is one of the leaders of Russia’s opposition, although he returns to chess as trainer from time to time. Kasparov worked with the West’s brightest players like Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, who made dramatic improvements under his guidance.

In 2014, Garry Kasparov ran for FIDE President, but in the elections in Tromso, he lost to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who has been at FIDE’s helm since 1995. In August 2017, he played at a super tournament for rapid and blitz chess, where he came mid-table. Thanks to Kasparov, the tournament was watched by the whole chess world: but, as the 13thworld champion warned everyone, this was an episodic moment that did not herald any return to professional chess. 

As well as being an outstanding player, he proved himself to be a wonderful chess author, writing several books. The most notable of his works are recent: his five-volume My Great Predecessors and his autobiographical Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov. With journalist Dmitriy Plisetsky, Garry Kasparov published a volume every year for several years, which infused chess fans with nostalgia as they remembered his champion days. 

According to Botvinnik, Kasparov’s game was noted for its “remarkable combination skill, which put his level to Alekhine”, a thorough knowledge of openings, a skilful strategic mastery and sublime technique.