:: Garry Kasparov in Greece!

Garry Kasparov came to Greece for three days invited by a company of consulting and business strategy services and on the occasion of the release of the 1st Volume of the series "My Great Predecessors" in Greek by KEDROS Publications, gave a press-conference at Hotel Intercontinental in Athens on May 14th 2006.

Kasparov made a brief presentation of his work "My Great Predecessors" and his overall writing activity, answered to questions of a group of Greek chess journalists, and signed his books for a great number of admirers and chess fans who gathered to see the former World Champion.

The press conference

Kosmas Kefalos (Newspaper "TA NEA")

1. After your withdrawal from the world chess scene, what has world chess lost and what has it probably won?

I don't want to think of my retirement in terms of losing and winning. That was my own decision which obviously had an impact on world chess. I would say that some of my colleagues were winners because of this decision and many chess fans weren't happy because they would be no longer able to folllow my games. But in the end this moment had to come.

The chess world and chess players have to deal with their problems without the intervention of the player who was there for 20 years. In my opinion it helped them clear the horizon. It is as if you had a big rock that prevented them from seeing the perspectives. So they are now responsible for the world of chess and hopefully many difficulties that we met in the past will be resolved. I'm still following things but only as an interested outsider.

2. Has your decision to resign from competitive chess been justified?

Yes, I think that I did the right thing for myself, my future, and other projects where everything that I learnt and gained from chess can be directed to now. I have a full life but I can assure you that under no circumstances I'll cut my connections with chess completely. It's impossible because I'm writing my books, a column in News in Chess, I follow the games, I renew my chess database. I still have the passion for the game but I have no intention to play competitively.

3. What is your opinion about Greek chess?

Well, I guess we can see some progress regarding the results of the Greek team in the Chess Olympiads. Yet so far Greece hasn't taken any leading positions in the world!

4. Would you propose a recipe of success for a country like Greece?

I don 't think there is a recipe of success for a country. First of all, success is related to the willingness of young players to dedicate their energy and time to the game of chess. The one thing that can be done by a country is to create better conditions for chess but unless you have a very strong support from the state, as it was in the Soviet Union for instance, I don't think that any government's intervention in youth chess could guarantee professional success.

For example, chess is very popular in many regions in Spain which are actively involved in promoting the game, but the Spanish national team isn't the best in the world. Also, chess is very popular in American schools, but as you can see there is still no immediate impact on the national team.
So that's why I think that it depends very much on the combined efforts of state institutions, sponsors and federations to create conditions that could attract young players to continue playing chess.

5. Are you interested in participating in a chess event held in Greece and what could be such an event?

I'm not participating in any competitive chess event, and that's it! I could play an exhibition or simultaneous match but under no circumstances I plan to return to my professional chess activities, neither in Greece nor anywhere else in the world!

Dimitrios Skirianoglou (Chess Magazine "Skaki gia Olous")

1. You said that you won't play competitive chess anymore. Yet don't you miss the tension of the game?

I always feel such the shortage of time and do things of such intense schedule that I really have no time to miss my playing competitive chess! I do a lot of lectures, traveling from place to place, I continue writing books, I have another big one, non-chess book, about decision making which should be released some time next year, and of course my being actively involved in Russian politics also consumes a great deal of my time.

2. What do you think of the Topalov - Kramnik match? Do you believe that it will take place eventually?

When you are dealing with promises made by Kirsan Iliyumzinov* you should always be aware that after the elections they might not be materialized! Although I think that this match probably will take place... I don't have the precise information but as far as I can understand, this match was the condition on which the Russian Federation agreed to support Iliyumzinov's candidates.

In my opinion, the Topalov - Kramnik match is actually irrelevant for deciding the future of the World Championship because for me the World Championship match has always been the match between No 1 and No 2! And that's why I invited Vladimir Kramnik to play against me in 2000 because he was clearly No 2 at that time and for me this was a real challenge.
Topalov, who I wouldn't say he is clearly No 1 because he and Anand are about equal, playing against No 10 doesn't lead anywhere, doesn't resolve the crisis. When Topalov won in San Luis, that was a resolution of the crisis because he was the best player at that time, he played better than others. The only result Kramnik can post is his victory in 2000, so he cannot rely six years on one result to support his claim.
* Editor's Note: We also requested the opinion of FIDE Deputy President Mr. Makropoulos concerning the above statement of Gary Kasparov.

Mr Makropoulos briefly commented that "Kirsan is not like Kok to disappear after the elections if he loses. The FIDE President has fulfilled all his personal promises concerning the World Championships, unlike Mr Kok who promised in Prague 1,5 million USD for the Kasparov - Ponomariov match but from the next day he disappeared and left Kirsan to pay the bill!"

3. Whom do you see as your successor, the player who could rightfully claim No 1?

I'm not very happy with FIDE's decision to eliminate the World Championship matches. I still think that in the end No 1 should play No 2. You can have tournaments, qualifications, but in the end chess has always been about No 1 playing No 2! The two best players compete. That was the greatest flavour of the title that had been created in the 19th century.
Without this match I think that any tournament lacks its climax, so it's not that exciting. But this is FIDE's decision and so far players haven't seriously objected to it.

Today, for instance, I would prefer to see a match between Topalov and Anand if I had to make my choice. Nevertheless I think that FIDE's qualification system, based on this strange mixture of knock-out and short matches, isn't very sophisticated and current leader Topalov isn't very stable, so it has to be seen whether he can remain on top of his form for a certain period of time, because his performance is rather far from being impressive.

4. How do you see the future of chess not only at top professional levels but also at lower ones?

I think that now we are facing two different trends. One trend is that chess is gaining popularity among kids. That's what I saw in America, for instance, where more and more schools are adopting chess, both private and public, as part of their program. Also, chess is gaining popularity on the Internet.

It's rising quite dramatically according to the numbers since more and more people play chess on the Internet. However at the same time we are facing the ongoing crisis with professional chess in favor of which very little if any commercial sponsorship is available.
So I think that these two trends should go towards each other and not towards the opposite direction, but you need a strong leadership which can understand how to convert the public interest into the commercial advertising procedure. I don't think that the current leadership of FIDE and of the most federations does understand how to work with commercial sponsors.

5. Is there anything to hope from the forthcoming FIDE elections, either from Iliyumzinov or Kok?

The only good thing about these elections is that for the first time, probably since 1982, we have a sort of genuine fight. Although I have my doubts whether the elections will be held with fair and clear standards.

6. Computers in chess. What to expect?

It is absolutely clear that computers are gaining more and more ground in the world of chess. We have recently faced the intervention of the new generation of chess software which has made a giant step forward surpassing the leading traditional chess programs like Fritz.
Chess programs have been improving and from one side they are very helpful for chess players because they are able to study openings, analyze games more sufficiently, but at the same time this is a sort of a threat because these machines are pretty strong, not to mention Hydra which is based on a multiple processors hardware and is extremely powerful.

In my opinion, if the best human player beats the best computer on his best day, this means that we are still dominant over machines. So if a human player plays a six or eight games match against a machine and wins one, he has done quite well!

In the end, I would consider such experiments as an important demonstration of our capability to win at the peak of our performance. Machines are always stable, so we have to find out whether the peak of human performance is sufficient to prevail.

Argiris Kotsis (Chess.GR)

1. Could you state the positions of your political party?

We are not dealing with the normal democratic terms today in Russia. So political parties in Russia can be registered only upon the concessions of the Kremlin and so far they have a very short list of those who totally satisfy Putin's regime. And I can assure you that neither me nor my colleagues are on this list.

We are on a different list; the list of those who are banned from television and all main stream media because in Russia today technically there is no longer democracy but a police state where every element of public life is under the strict control of the government.

We are not fighting in Russia for winning the elections but for having elections. And that's the big difference. We are not dealing here with parties but with public movements, and our major goal is to organize all spread opposition forces and create a broad coalition which could fight for restoring democratic process and bringing back normal elections.

2. What will be your first move if your party wins the elections in Russia? Will it be an e4 or a d4?

If you are a professional player, you have to look at the tasks that you can achieve. In Russia, as I've already said, we have to make sure first that we have an election and in order to put pressure on the government, we have to come up with a very broad coalition and in this coalition any ambitions of a single person or a group could be very distractive.

3. How do you see the relations between Russia and Europe in the future?

The relations between Russia and Europe and the rest of the world entirely depend on who runs the country. If the country is still run by Putin and his colleagues, the relations will be tense because Putin doesn't hide his intentions to use energy resources of our country to gain certain advantages for himself and for East people who make themselves rich by taking control of Russian oil and gas industries.
I sincerely hope that if we change the political situation of the country, then Russia could change substantially its relations with the rest of the world and be a reliable partner rather than a potential enemy.

4. What do you think about the political world chess board now that the balance of forces has changed?

I think that in the global chess board there is a clear lack of strategy from the leading democracies because after the end of the Cold War there was no new plan to address a new balance of forces. And as we had the League of Nations after World War 1 which collapsed and couldn't prevent World War 2, then the United Nations after World War 2 which succeeded in preventing a nuclear clash between the U.S. and Soviet Union, but in the end of the Cold War the United Nations which was designed for different purposes no longer looks reliable for resolving the current crisis. So we are still behind; no fresh ideas, no long term strategic plans by leading politicians.

In my opinion, declaring ambiguous war of terror, for example, isn't going to solve any problem because if you declare a war then you have to nominate your enemy with name and address! Just having a war on the concept doesn't 't help. I really have a lot of ideas that I'd like to promote. I believe that it is time to come up with a comprehensive plan based on the current political and economical changes that have occurred in the world.

5. Are there similarities between politics and chess?

Technically chess can be used as a tool to analyze politics, business, military history because in chess you learn about strategy, tactics, learning from your mistakes! So I'm very happy to use chess at my lectures when I talk about strategy, competition, innovations.
Chess can be a universal element in many areas of human activities. In politics rules are obviously not as clear as in chess! And of course in Russian politics rules don't exist except for one rule, that the Kremlin makes rules when it wants!

So that's why our strategy in Russia is more a matter of survival, surviving as an organization to make sure that we can continue our fight. I wouldn't insist though on my chess knowledge being so much helpful, but at the same time I've learnt from chess how to fight, how to be objective in analyzing a situation, and this objectivity helps me not to be overwhelmed by situations changing very quickly.

In the photos: Photos 1, 2 & 3 Kasparov speaking about his book "My Great Predecessors". Photo 4 Kasparov signs the book for Argiris Kotsis (Chess.GR). Photo 5 Kasparov with Mr. Papathanasopoulos (Kedros Publications)

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