Monday, September 24, 2007

Russia: Kasparov v. Putin


Last night, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007, CBS “60 Minutes” did a spot on Garry Kasparov, former FIDE World Chess Champion, who “retired” from chess at 42 in 2005. Correspondent Steve Kroft did a story on him and his United Civil Front, to oppose the policies of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Kasparov accuses Putin of running a “police state” and squashing dissent, running the country for the sake of the elite. In some ways, he sees Russia as reverting back to the society under communism of the former Soviet Union. But under Soviet regimes, he probably would have been imprisoned in a gulag, at least until Gorbachov.

Another good article is on the Volokh Conspiracy, “Garry Kasparov on Putin’s Russia and the Godfather,” (July 29, 2007), here:

Garry Kimovich Kasparov was born Garri Weinstein. He has a new book “How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom”, to be published on Sept. 25.

As an international chess champion, Kasparov was known for his creative style, balancing positional play with tactics. He would challenge dogmatic theories, such as those about an isolated pawn. He had a knack for finding opening lines considered less desirable and rehabilitating them, and bringing them back into the mainstream of opening theory, as with the Tarrasch Defense of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. (Look at “Tarrasch Defense Rules” here: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chesscollection?cid=1003670 ). He tended to prefer queenside openings with white, but often chose aggressive lines and played them in a more tactical style. He was very effective in playing for wins with the black pieces.

Kasparov is certainly becoming a historical figure from the liberty point of view. Chess is the most individualistic of all major games (except for Go, maybe, and perhaps international tennis or solo events like skateboarding (Shaun White) and skiing). It is interesting how the game and the way he plays it expresses his personal philosophy, and how he wants to use it to free the world’s largest country (except for China), with its authoritarian history.

Given all the wild East Internet activity, Russia certainly has gotten a reputation for "new capitalism." Yet, since the 1990s, and with the Russian financial crisis of 1998, there has always been a legitimate fear of Russian nationalism and the fear that it can lapse back into a new totalitarianism, as with some reports of some communo-fascist pro-Putin youth groups. It's confusing was to what Russian political identity will morph to.

Kasparov is certainly out of his element, playing on the road, or with the Black pieces, and his position is not yet minus over plus.

Update: Sept. 30, 2007

According to an AP story by Lynn Berry on Sunday, Sept. 30, Kasparov entered Russia's presidential race on Sunday. His candidacy still needs to be registered and he could be blocked.

His book is "How Life Imitates Chess" and it is reviewed on my books blog (see profile)>

Putin is said to be interested in running for the parliament so that he could become a Prime Minister after his term as president expires.

Update: Nov. 25, 2007

There is an AP story today by Mansur Mirovaley in the Detroit News, "Kasparov jailed after anti-Putin protest", here. Kasparov was sentenced to five days in jail.

Update: Dec 3, 2007


Review of CNN's report by Christiane Amanpour, "Czar Putin", here, as well as discussion of the Sunday Dec 2 election.

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