Saturday, March 26, 2005

The New York Times >From Checking Kings to Influencing Presidents


Garry Kasparov is certain that his place in history as a chess player is secure. But now he says he has a new goal: nothing less than achieving real democracy in Russia.

Since Mr. Kasparov's announcement of his retirement from chess and fresh focus on politics, some in Russia have questioned his prospects and commitment, partly because he has helped found and then abandoned political parties.

Some criticism has followed predictable party lines. In a radio interview, Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, the nationalist leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, dismissed Mr. Kasparov's move as his biggest mistake.

But even some like-minded politicians have raised doubts. Grigory A. Yavlinsky, leader of the Yabloko Party, suggested that Mr. Kasparov had yet to prove his political acumen. "Let him try to create a party, and succeed or fail," he told the magazine Itogi. "And we will talk to him after that."

The Kremlin, not surprisingly, has said nothing.

Mr. Kasparov, who lives in Moscow and has made millions of dollars from chess and endorsements, said he had recently hired bodyguards for himself and his family. His second wife, from whom he is divorced, and his 8-year-old son also live in Moscow, and in June, he plans to marry again.

"Am I scared about our safety?" he asked. "Seriously concerned. It is a dangerous game."

While Mr. Kasparov is concentrating on politics, he is not turning his back on chess. He is writing a book, "How Life Imitates Chess," about applying lessons from the game to everyday decisions. He said he also planned to complete his series, "Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors," about chess champions who came before him. The fourth of Mr. Kasparov's 10 planned books, about Bobby Fischer, "Garry Kasparov on Fischer," was published recently by Everyman Chess.

He also plans to continue working with his Kasparov Chess Foundation to promote teaching the game in schools.

And what about playing top-level competitive chess again? "Could I imagine a day in 6 months, or 12 months, when I wake up and say, 'Oh, I can't live without this?' " he said. "It's possible. But I have other things I want to do now."

Still, the pull of competition remains strong. As the interview drew to a close, Mr. Kasparov logged on to his laptop to check results from the Melody Amber tournament in Monte Carlo. Many of the world's best players were there.

"Anand is four out of four," he said, referring to the world's No. 2 player, Viswanathan Anand. "Bravo. He is encouraged now that I am out."

Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting for this article from Moscow.

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