Long article in Nezavisimaia gazeta
Author: Evgeny Bareev – IGM, gold medalist of four chess Olympiads with the Russian team (1990, 1994, 1996, 1998), two World Championships (1997, 2005) and two European Championships (1992, 2003).
Latest scandalous events surrounding the Russian Chess Federation (namely a desperate effort of two Russian chess legends Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov, together with the Chairman of the RCF Board Alexander Bakh who joined them, to succeed in getting the news of Karpov’s nomination as Russia’s candidate to the position of the FIDE President, violating the Statutes of the organisation) made me think, why even the very idea of the joint management of the world chess movement by a tandem of the 12th and 13th World Champions seems to me a catastrophe for chess of the same scale as a Mexican bay fire for mankind.
During my entire professional chess career I have been a witness of a furious battle of Karpov – Kasparov against each other – both at the chess board, and around it – for the influence in various organisations and chess players’ unions and for various privileges. This fight always ended in eventual destruction of these organisations or receiving these privileges by depriving the rest of chess players of them. I would remind you in chronological order some episodes of the quasi-chess activities or actions of the Champions. and
1992. GMA (International Grandmaster Association) created on Kasparov’s initiative is split due to a implacable conflict of the 13th World Champion and his managers with the other members of the Association because of the GMA finances. According to the explanation given to me then by Karpov (I just qualified for my first World Cup organised by GMA, and was sad to receive an official notice that it stopped its existence), the team of Kasparov and himself demanded unrealistic salaries and stipends. Bessel Kok, the then CEO and one of the top managers of the Association’s Sponsor SWIFT, did not concede to this pressure and soon this young and aspiring organisation finished its existence.
1993. Kasparov refuses to play a match against Short for the title under the FIDE aegis, not wishing to give to them a small part of the prize fund according to the Statutes, and creates a new organisation – PCA (Professional Chess Association), under which he plays this match without any deductions. As a result for the following 15 years chess world is sinking into chaos. I’d like to note that Karpov immediately took advantage of the situation to his favour and having won the match against Timman, was announced again FIDE World Champion. Both Karpov and Timman before this lost their candidates’ matches to Short and disqualified from the race for the world chess crown.
1994. FIDE Presidential elections in Moscow. Unexpectedly for many the sportsmen exchanged their T-shirts. Karpov supported Kouatly as a candidate, and Kasparov – no matter how weird it would seem to you – his worst enemy – Florencio Campomanes, famous for stopping the “unlimited battle” Karpov-Kasparov of 1984-1985 with a score 5-3 in Karpov’s favour and publicly accused of defending the interests of the opponent. First vote is a tie! The next day Kasparov’s team won convincingly. I recall seeing Kasparov up to now, who during the summer of the same year at the Novgorod tournament was dreamingly mumbling “Khoper, Khoper”, rubbing his hands. This was the first time I heard this strange word from him. Then it turned out that this “organisation” is a financial pyramid, which deceived dozens thousands of people in the whole country – and which was a generous sponsor of those FIDE Presidential elections.
1995. Karpov wins a convincing revanche. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov makes his first entry to a chess stage and at the extraordinary FIDE Congress immediately becomes President. With Karpov behind it. The mother of the 13th World champion was most upset by the fact that prior to that Ilyumzhinov was eating soup in her kitchen and did not share his plans with them. She promised not to ever invite him for lunch.
The same year Kasparov wins in World Trade Center in New York his match over Anand under PCA version, which he and Short created after they left FIDE. As it turned out, this was the last official event under the PCA aegis. Since the moment of Ilyumzhinov’s election as FIDE President Kasparov refuses to play in the tournaments under FIDE aegis, stating that Ilyumzhinov organises his championships for “dirty money”.
Approximately around the same time the battle at the “Eastern front” is becoming more agitated: Karpov and Kasparov are clashing over the control in the Russian Chess Federation, and in reality – as it seems – just for the right to manage the Central chess club on Gogolevsky blvd. This time in an exhausting struggle, after long legal suits the 13th World champion and his team won. Immediately after this moment the legendary club was let to various private companies, having nothing to do with chess. It is a mystery for me personally, where the money from these leases went. As GM S. Dolmatov was saying at that time, these years “the RCF budget was of a totally closed character. I as a Grandmaster, was not aware how and what money the RCF was making and how it spends it”. Dolmatov meant first of all the Chess Club and was demanding to organise a “comprehensive” inspection of it, saying that “there are some dirty games going on behind our backs”.
1996. Elista is staging a World Championship title match between Karpov and Kamsky with the prize fund being provided by the President of Kalmykia. Karpov convincingly wins and Kamsky, declaring that Karpov and Kasparov will never allow him become World Champion, leaves chess for nearly a decade.
Kasparov plays a commercial match against Deep Blue, sponsored by IBM. Intel, an opponent of IBM, who has been sponsoring PCA for three years and spent during this period more than five million USD, immediately calls off future cooperation and leaves chess, which causes the collapse of Kasparov’s organisation. One year later, having lost another match to the same computer, Deep Blue, Great and Terrible, as admirers, followers and true friends of Kasparov call him, publicly and harshly accuses IBM in unfair play, and as a consequence, chess loses another large sponsor.
1997. First knockout World championship was organised. Ilyumzhinov thanked Karpov for his Presidency by a unique format – after winning six most difficult mini-matches, Anand – the current World Champion- in a few days- met Karpov for a six-game so-called final, where Karpov has been resting for a month preparing for the forthcoming event. So, it was not a surprise when exhausted Anand lost the tie-break. Karpov became a knockout “World Champion”.
1999. Second World knockout Championship is organised in Las Vegas. This time the negotiations with FIDE have not brought a desirable result and the Champion has to defend his title from the second round. Karpov is indignant and sues FIDE. Besides, after having refused to participate, in the US he is trying all his resorts to cancel the 3 million USD prize fund event, writing to the Nevada Governor a request to do it. Having learnt about it, chess players were very angry, and a German GM Lobron was chasing Karpov during a Dortmund tournament (Lobron has drank too much) with the aim to inflict light bodily damage.
The result of a conciliatory encounter of Ilyumzhinov and Karpov was his withdrawal of his suit. We can only guess the reason which made a principled person give up his claims.
2000. Kasparov, who has not defended his World Championship title for five years, finally picks up his challenger – Vladimir Kramnik. Before this, due to various reasons, including financial ones, two matches for the titles fell through – against Shirov and Anand. Kasparov loses the match in all aspects and violating the contract signed by both participants before the match, immediately demands the revenge. We should remind you here that in the mid-80s, as a result of some serious struggle, he managed to cancel such matches, as Karpov was a stickler of the revanche.
2001. M. Botvinnik Memorial in Moscow. Kasparov, Kramnik and Karpov in a match-tournament. Shortly before the start, after reaching the agreements with the organisers of this event which had aspirations to become historical, Karpov “suddenly” refused to play and preferred due to some reasons which we can only guess about, the knockout World Championship, “incidentally” organised by FIDE during the same dates in the same city. In the first very round he lost to a Chinese player, who was not well-known. This is the end of the brilliant chess career of Karpov.
2002. Ukrainian R. Ponomarjov becomes FIDE World Champion. Kasparov, as it seems, is trying a campaign of public lauding of Ilyumzhinov’s virtues with the aim of returning the World Championship title by any means. They say that at the Bled Chess Olympiad, having his turn for a move, but just seeing Ilyumzhinov in the playing hall, Kasparov rushed to hug and kiss him under the approving roar of the audience. The same year Kasparov in fact started a campaign against Ilyumzhinov’s “chase” by media, praising the achievements of the latter in his capacity as Kalmykia’s state figure and a unique world chess leader. “Kommersant” newspaper wrote: “ The most expensive present was handed to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov by a chess player Garry Kasparov – his assurances in sincere friendship and his support of all the initiatives as FIDE President, and recognition of his being wrong in the past”. Quote from “Moskovsky Komsomolets”: “Kasparov underlined that now they are connected by business and commercial relations, which sometimes are stronger than friendly ties”.
The result of these in my opinion, humiliating speeches of Kasparov was the famous Prague Agreement and the right for a FIDE World championship title without any sporting qualification, which actually was canceled the last moment. Ponomariov refused to play the match due to very strong pressure from Kasparov himself and a number of FIDE officials. Karpov at that period was accusing Kasparov in destructive activity: “Kasparov has made many mistakes. The situation in FIDE and the fact that the former harmonious World Chess Championship system is now turned into something incomprehensible – this is the result of Kasparov’s intrigues and activity”. Then chess circles had the following ironical saying: “President of FIDE and Kalmykia now has only clean banknotes. So Kasparov can play for them with his conscience being clear”.
2004. After Kasimdzhanov becomes new World knockout Champion, Kasparov of course receives a right to play a match for the title against him. Ilyumzhinov refused to personally provide the prize fund, and Kasparov failed to attract other sponsors. Years of public humiliation were wasted, he did not managed to return his title, and Kasparov again joins Ilyumzhinov’s opposition.
2005. Kasparov announces that his chess career is over.
2006. Karpov declares that he is going to run for the FIDE Presidency. As a result of a personal meeting Iyumzhinov succeeds to find solid arguments, and Karpov gives this idea up.
2006–2009. Happy years for chess. Several matches for the title were played. Chess world is unified. The number of top tournament increases alongside with earnings of professional chess players.
2007. Karpov as a member of the Public Chamber, brings the 64-Chess Review magazine to Kasparov in his detention cell. He was not allowed to see Kasparov, and he passes his small present through the mother of Kasparov – Klara. Historical reconciliation of earlier implacable opponents takes place.
2009. Karpov-Kasparov rapid chess match in Valencia. The announced series of similar matches does not take place due to the absence of interest in the world to their creative and sportive components.
2010. Karpov declares that he is intending to run for the FIDE President’s position with the objective of “saving chess which are in the deepest crisis”. Kasparov immediately renders him informational and moral support, trying to secure votes in a number of Western countries and the USA.
Of course, this is just a fraction of the events which have been taking place during these years with participation of Karpov and Kasparov. But even a quick glance is enough to understand that if destructive energy of two pupils of the Soviet chess school is united in one position – FIDE President, then chess players will have difficult times ahead of them. I do believe that this shall not happen.
Translation: Susan Polgar