March 16, 2005
With two of the major news stories being followed within the past few weeks having chess undertones, perhaps I should mention them. I am of course typing about Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov. Caught in Japan's Fischer net, Bobby wants to go home to Iceland. Garry Kasparov wants to retire and to go into Russian politics. Neither of these two chess wonders want to play the game.
With Fischer I now know what a love-hate relationship is. Nearly everyone in the American chess scene for the past 40 years is in exactly the same place. Bobby, the greatest chess talent since Paul Morphy, is brilliant and honest and even heroic at the cheesboard. He has produced the most amazing results in the modern chess era with unbelievable march to the title in 1972. He then gave up the game to go into hiding.
Finally he reappeared in 1992 to play a second match with Boris Spassky. He won it once more just as convincingly, but this time, instead of being a Cold War hero playing with the approval of Henry Kissinger, he garnered the disapproval of the Bush 41 administration for playing in an area determined unsafe where the military was practicing their war games.
Of coure, part of what drew the government ire is that Bobby is really an unrepentant anti-semite, anit-American paranoid who hates everything most Americans hold dear. In short he is a despicable character with only one redeeming value - his ability to play chess.
Today he sits in a jail cell in Japan where he was caught with an expired US passport. He has renounced American citizenship and has been granted a passport and asylum by Iceland, the home of his World Champioship victory. But Japan isn't letting him go and are holding him while the IRS puts together it's Al Capone case. This week he got put in solitary when I guard wouldn't give him his daily ration of one egg - he grabbed the guard and now he is where inmates who grab guards go.
He is sick and demented and should be put somewhere he won't hurt anyone. I'm not sure I appreciate the effort the government is putting in getting it's revenge against him - it seems so petty because he is so small nowdays - but the rest of us would be better off if he would just disappear again. I liked him much better when the world was still searching for Bobby Fischer.
Garry Kasparov is just the opposite of Fischer. While he is like Fischer in being the best of his generation & the World Champion who ushered in a whole new way to train and prepare for matches using the latest computer and chess software in his regimon, he is an overachiever in everything he does.
After taking the title from Karpov, he has clearly become the strongest playe in the world. When FIDE wouldn't respect his wishes for next cycle of the world championship, he formed his own association of professional chessplayers and held his own championship. He is active in Russian politics and supports democracy. He is fiercely pro-chess, pro-democracy, pro-Russia, and pro-Kasparov in a very capitalistic way. He would have made a great American champ - the one we wanted Fischer to be.
But he says he has accomplished everything there is to accomplish in chess and is wanting deeper water. I think we all wish him luck but hope in our hearts that he will return to the board and gift us with more wonderful and exciting chess games.
Seeing the carreers of these two chess champions come together in nexus like this leaves me with some great sorrow for Fischer, the free-world champion who has become a third world refuge, and great amiration for Kasparov, the Soviet chess savant who proved to be so much more when let out into the free world.