Kasparov for President

 1/28/2004 -  
Is Kasparov throwing his hat into the political arena?  Kasparov wants a more democratic alternative to Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2008. The Russian state owns 85% of the TV networks.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely. What would Nixon have done with 85% control of the news media? We may never have heard of Watergate.  After reading this article. I am wondering if Kasparov might run for the Presidency of Russia. He could be a very capable leader.  He has many interests outside of chess.  I first met Garry Kasparov in New York City in December 2002. It was during the X3D match between Kasparov and Karpov.  Kasparov is very well spoken, charismatic, intelligent, good-looking, and in other words very elect able. I asked him a few questions at the post game press conference.  He had just lost the 2-day rapid match 2.5 –1.5. My question was “Mr. Kasparov you’ve been the world champion for 15 years and the number one player for over 17 years. How much longer can you do it? “ He responded that he did not know. He said the competition is getting tougher all the time, maybe a few more years. He said he belonged to the older generation. I got the impression that he does not see his reign continuing into the long-term future.

   Kasparov is still the number 1 rated player in the world. However, he is no longer the world champion. Kasparov just turned 40 years of age and chess is becoming younger and younger. Anand at 34 is considered an old man. There are a bunch of 12 and 13 year old GM’s. The Radjabovs, Karjakins, and Carlsens will take over the game one-day. Kasparov is an athlete and chess is a sport that he has dominated for the last 20 years. He dominated from the start. He qualified for the world championship in his first attempt in 1982 by winning the Moscow Interzonal Tournament. In 1984 he was already higher rated than World Champion Karpov.  He dethroned Anatoly Karpov in 1985. He kept the title until Vladimir Kramnik defeated him in match play in the year 2000. Kasparov shouldered the burden of the World Championship title with distinction. He was an active world champion with an incredible tournament record. He defended is title many times. He is a great ambassador to the game. He is the greatest Chess World Champion. He is unique in sports history. He has dominated for over 20 years.

   It’s hard to find another athlete who has dominated in a similar manner. Tiger Woods could be another Kasparov, but he has another 10 years to go.  Will Kasparov be happy with neither the number 1 ranking nor the world championship title? Could he accept being a top 5 player? Baseball great, Joe DiMaggio retired at age 35; he could have played a few more years. However, he left the sport when scouting reports said he no longer had a strong throwing arm. Joe had high standards and when he could no longer meet those standards, he retired. Great middleweight boxer, Marvelous Marvin Haggler lost his title to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987 and retired immediately. Bjorn Borg ruled tennis for 5 years. He had won five Wimbledon’s in a row but he retired when he lost to John McEnroe in the 1981 Wimbledon finals.  Jimmy Connors was a number one tennis player from 74-78. He lost the number one ranking to Borg, McEnroe and Lendle. However Jimmy was able to gut it out for another 15 years. He stayed in the top 3 for a long time, then top 5, then top 10.  He rebounded in 1982 and 1983 by winning Wimbledon and two US opens. Connors was still an exciting player at 37. He was defeating players half his age and had another great run in the 1989 US open. He was ousted in the quarterfinal. He retired in 1991. Certainly Kasparov could be a top 5 player or top 10 player for many years to come. I believe he has a few more years at the top. I think he can regain the World Championship, if they ever hold one again.  Is Kasparov a Joe DiMaggio type or a Jimmy Connors type athlete?  Will Kasparov’s other interests and concern for his countries political situation pull him away from his sport? In 3 or 4 years will Kasparov be on top? If not, will he still want to compete in chess? What affect will FIDE mismanagement of the world championship process have on Kasparov as well?

      I believe that Kasparov would be a very capable President. He has been a courageous out spoken critic of his government for many years. He has written about world affairs in the Wall Street Journal. US Presidents have sought his advice on Soviet/Russian affairs. The only weakness I see in him as a politician would be his combativeness after a loss. I’ve seen him storm out of a press conference after making a blunder. Who can blame him?  As an athlete on top of his sport, it’s understandable to be upset after a loss, especially after not playing up to his high standards. However as a politician this could be used against him. Another incident occurred in Linares in 2003. Kasparov was playing and beating Radjabov, however Kasparov blundered and lost the game. The press awarded Radjabov the brilliancy prize for the game. Kasparov got upset at the post-game press conference. He rightly felt that Radjabov did not deserve the brilliancy prize. I also believe you should only get a brilliancy prize for great play from start to finish.  Radjabov could be a future world champion; he does not need a hand out. However Kasparov could have handled this quite differently. He will have to, if he becomes a politician. Kasparov has been politically savvy for many years.  He was able to challenge the Soviet Sports Committee and FIDE on a few occasions.  In 1983 during his candidate semi final match with Kortchnoi, Kasparov was defaulted because he failed to show up in Pasadena, California.  The Soviet Sports Committee would not allow Kasparov to travel to that city. Kasparov was able to rally support from the other top players in the world.  The candidate match was rescheduled in London where Kasparov defeated Kortchnoi. 

    Kasparov has said in his new book my great predecessors 2 that he began to calcify in 2000. So it was not surprising that he lost his title to Vladimir Kramnik.  His dominance in chess might be ending in the next few years. Kasparov is a household name and is respected by many people in his country and around the world. He has all the ingredients to be a viable Russian Presidential Candidate in 2008.  Should Kasparov leave competitive chess he will be greatly missed. I would only equate his leaving with the retirements of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird from the NBA.  The NBA has not been the same since. Kasparov has a great body of work that will enthrall generations of chess fans. 

    Other athletes have made the successful transition from sports to politics. New York Knick’s basketball hero Bill Brady was a successful Senator and viable presidential candidate.  Baseball’s Jim Bunning and Football’s Steve Largent have made the successful transition as well.  There is no doubt that athletes can use their fame to help them gain office. Kasparov can make the same successful transition.