17 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, and Kasparov

Several reports from the early rounds of the World Championship chess match in Chennai mentioned the presence of former World Champion Garry Kasparov. For example, Kasparov stays silent observer as Anand, Carlsen draw again [livemint.com]:-

A day after Garry Kasparov arrived in Chennai and spoke at length about his visit to the ongoing world chess title match, the former world champion on Tuesday turned completely silent and surprisingly refused to comment on the third drawn game between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, in which the Indian grandmaster appeared to have missed winning chances.

After having completely ignored Kasparov, the organizers of the world chess title match made amends by treating him as a guest on Tuesday. He was seen escorted to the playing hall by D.V. Sundar, vice-president of the World Chess Federation, capping speculation that Kasparov might have to stand in a queue to obtain a ticket. Oddly, he distanced himself from the media thereafter.

It turns out there is a lot more to this story than meets the eye. I learned much from another report, this one by Jaideep Unudurti, Despite trying a hand in Russian politics, Garry Kasparov seems to miss chess [indiatimes.com]:-

Kasparov times these interventions well. He has an uncanny instinct of positioning himself in a media storm. Before and during the visit the players and organizers were inundated with questions on how Kasparov was going to be treated and so on. Like a persistent ghost of Christmas past, he turned up last year as well in Moscow for the Anand - Gelfand world championship match. He held court during game six and let forth with a volley of criticism. "As for Vishy, I think he's just sliding downhill" is a representative example.

Anand had told me after the match, "Kasparov was in complete overdrive. And he always comes up with eminently quotable statements which makes them much worse." Boris Gelfand, the challenger then, too got plenty of abuse from Kasparov, who called him the weakest challenger ever. What he didn't reveal was he had offered his help to Gelfand before the match. [...]

The bespectacled, balding Gelfand, nicknamed The Professor, however is a very decent man. He refused pointblank, thus provoking Kasparov's volcanic ire. How could anyone turn him down? Gelfand refused. No thank you, I have my own team. As Gelfand later said, "I invited people who wanted to help me and be with me to the end, not people who just wanted to hurt Anand".

Gelfand knew exactly why Gazza had descended from the heavens, brandishing his thunderbolts. "As far as I know, Anand refused to help support him and Karpov in the battle for the FIDE presidency. He thought that after he had helped Anand against Topalov, Anand would now support him." In the 2010 match against Topalov, Garry had Skyped Anand a few times with some inputs. Kasparov considered these favours which he hoped to cash in later. Anand showed no inclination to help Kasparov install his one-time rival Karpov on the FIDE throne.

On top of that Anand story, there is another, similar story in the same source concerning Carlsen. Now we know that Kasparov has a complicated history with both Anand and Carlsen. Having followed the ex-World Champion's career since his first match with Karpov in 1984, I'm not surprised. He has had a complicated history with (just about) every opponent he faced at the top.

Given that Kasparov has announced his intention to run for FIDE President, these past relationships could come back to haunt him. It does him no good to have the Indian and Norwegian chess federations -- not to mention another 80 or so federations whose vote he needs -- oppose his candidacy. Has Kasparov finally learned that success in politics requires compromise? If so, the lesson has taken him a long time to master.

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