Garry Kasparov, probably the greatest chess player in the history of the game, has announced his retirement from professional competition. He now plans to focus his considerable energies on Russian politics through his involvement in Committee 2008.
Kasparov has dominated global chess for 20 years, first winning the world championship in an epic match with Anatoly Karpov in 1985. It took 15 years until Vladimir Kramnik knocked him off the top, and many still consider that result a major shock. The measure of his influence on the game over the last 20 years is probably best summed up by Nigel Short, who challenged him for the world title in 1993 – and was annihilated.
"He is one of the very few opponents I’ve been afraid to play. I can play a guy like [world number two Viswanathan] Anand and I respect him greatly, I’ve huge admiration, but I’m not afraid of him.
"I think [Kasparov’s] greatest strength was the moves on the board but there was this physical presence when you played him, you felt this aggression."
The chess world doesn’t seem to have any real stars left these days and will be very much the poorer for his retirement.
Kasparov is the chairman of Committe 2008, which he says was founded to:
make everyone, in Russia and abroad, aware of the extreme danger to democracy represented by the Putin regime. Our specific goals center around making sure the 2008 elections are open and fair. Removing Putin himself is secondary, but is essential for the future of Russian democracy.
He is a liberal though and, given the lack of respect with which liberals are held by many in Russia today, he will have his work cut out to make a real impact. But for a man with the determination, energy and intelligence of Kasparov, who would really bet against him ending up on the winning side.