MOSCOW (news.telegraph)–Garry Kasparov–the world’s leading chess player–is to give up competitive chess and devote his time to Russian politics in an attempt to bring down the increasingly despotic regime of President Vladimir Putin.
The man many consider to be the best chess player ever seen is giving up the international circuit after winning the prestigious Linares tournament in Spain.
Kasparov is already chairman of the opposition body Committee 2008–a group of liberals fighting to halt Russia’s slide to autocracy and to ensure that Putin resigns when his second term in office ends in three years.
The committee was set up amid growing fears that Putin and his allies–many of them placemen from the old KGB–will be reluctant to relinquish office and may try to manipulate the constitution to hang on to power.
Since the committee was formed a little over a year ago–Kasparov has become one of the most outspoken critics of the Putin regime on the international circuit–lambasting its decision to clamp down on the media and its stranglehold over the courts and parliament.
At a late-night news conference on Thursday–Kasparov finally took the plunge and declared he was leaving competitive chess for good. He said–"Before this tournament I made a conscious decision that Linares 2005 will be my last professional [tournament]–and today I played my last professional game."
He said his final games were "very difficult for me to play under such pressure–because I knew it was the end of the career which I could be proud of".
In commen’s published on the website of the Russian weekly journal Yezhednevny Zhurnal–he said: "In chess I have done all I could and even more. Now I intend to use my intellect and strategic thinking in Russian politics. I will do all I can to oppose Putin’s dictatorship. It is very hard to play for a country with undemocratic authorities. I will be tackling this problem with those who hold Russia dear and care about it."
Kasparov–41–has dominated international chess tournamen’s since becoming world champion at the age of 22.
He said professional chess no longer held any challenges–but he would continue to play knock-outs and speed chess for fun.
Born Garrik Vainshtein in Baku–Azerbaijan–in 1963 to a Jewish father and an Armenian mother–Kasparov began studying at the Soviet Union’s most prestigious chess school at age 10. After the death of his father–Kasparov adopted his mother’s surname. At 12–Kasparov became the youngest player to win the Soviet junior championship–and became a grandmaster on his 17th birthday.
In 1985–after a 48-game marathon against the champion Anatoly Karpov ended inconclusively when Karpov’s health failed–he won a rematch to become the youngest ever world champion.
But Kasparov is often remembered for a rare defeat–against the computer Deep Blue–a moment many thought marked machine’s superiority over man. Six years later he drew 3-3 against Deep Junior–which calculated three million moves per second.
Shay Bushinsky–one of Deep Junior’s two programmers–said Kasparov was "the closest thing to a computer that I know as a man. Sometimes I think he has silicon running in his veins.
"Kasparov has the most incredible look-ahead and memory capabilities I have ever seen."
But such skills may not serve him well in the cut and thrust of politics.
Andrei Piontkowsky–a political analyst with the Strategic Studies Centre–said: "I have great respect for Kasparov but I do not believe he has a big future as a politician.
"The qualities that helped him become the world’s greatest chess player will only hamper his political career.
"He is a fighter–he has defined his stance on the Putin regime and that is a good thing.
"But considering the state of the democratic opposition a leader should be a great communicator and capable of compromises.
"Garry couldn’t even unify international chess–which is split into two federations."