Acknowledged by many as the greatest chess player of all time, Garry Kasparov has been marching to his own algorithm his whole life.
Born in Baku in 1963, Kasparov has taken on the greatest champions and won. And since retiring from the game, he has been involved in a political battle with one of the most powerful and controversial men alive – Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.
Sir David Frost travels to Abu Dhabi to join Kasparov on his mission to promote chess in the Gulf. Kasparov shares his secrets of the game, discusses milestones in his life and expands on why chess should be compulsory in school curriculum. He even offers a few tips to some of the young chess players.
Kasparov impressed his parents at a very young age, when he finished a chess game they were struggling to solve. “I knew it was a game designed for me,” he tells Sir David.
After losing his father when he was only seven, Kasparov’s mother dedicated her life to nurturing her son’s talent.
For a young boy, there was no better place to be a gifted chess player than the former Soviet Union. The game which is 1,500 years old, was actively promoted by Soviet leaders as to them, chess was a way of demonstrating not only sporting but intellectual superiority.
By 1976, Kasparov had won all the Soviet junior titles, and by the age of 14, he knew he would be a real contender. “I knew I was good, even special,” he says.
I knew I was good, even special…
Kasparov tells Sir David the key to his success has not only been his talent but his discipline and intuition: “if you don’t trust your intuition you will never become a good decision maker”.
Strategising is a crucial element of the game and Kasparov can visualise up to 15 moves ahead. And demonstrating his exceptional memory, he recalls games and moves as far back as 30 years ago. Some of those games include headline-making matches against his arch-rival, Anatoly Karpov.
“Karpov is a very solid player, positional, quiet…. I’m totally the opposite… Any match of that calibre is a personal rivalry, period,” he tells Sir David.
For five months in 1984, the two players battled it out but the International Chess Federation eventually intervened to call it a draw. Kasparov was furious and remains so to this day. He tells Sir David how he broke away from the federation, forming his own alternative, the International Chess Association. The institution did not last and it coincided with the demise of the Soviet Union.
But, the crumbling of the Soviet Union triggered a personal tragedy for Kasparov.
In 1990, Kasparov and his family, who are of Armenian descent, were caught up in the vicious pogroms against Armenians in Azerbaijan, forcing thousands of ethnic Armenians to flee. And that is when Kasparov escaped to Moscow.
“The psychological trauma was awful – this thought is still painful” he says.
Following his move to Moscow, Kasparov engaged against a new partner – IBM’s super computer, Deep Blue, which created huge interest worldwide.
But most recently, having retired from the game of chess, Kasparov has embarked on a new mission – to bring democracy and justice to Russia and to see Putin ousted from power. He tells Sir David of his treatment at the hands of Russian police, of being arrested and his time in a Russian prison, and why he was keen to stand up for the members of the rebel pop group Pussy Riot, who were jailed after an anti-Putin video.
Kasparov finishes his conversation with Sir David by telling him why he is now too old to play competitive chess and the show ends with an extraordinary twist on Garry Kasparov’s future – he will no longer be returning to Russia.
The Frost Interview can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 2000; Saturday: 1200; Sunday: 0100; Monday: 0600.
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