By Denis Bilunov
|Interview with Klara Kasparova |
"Now I can feel free"
thirteen years running Klara Shagenovna Kasparova, so famous in the
world of chess and still so mysterious, has forborne to grant
interviews. On November 20 she broke the vow of silence: the KC site
presents an exclusive interview. On Klara Kasparova’s special
request we draw the attention of all the other mass media to the
fact that the republication of any material given below is not
allowed without KC special permission. |
during many years you have been close to the center of the chess
universe. “Kasparov’s mother” is nearly a legendary image, which is
well known even outside the chess world itself...
begin by explaining the reasons for my agreement to grant you an
interview, or rather to have a word with you. It is the first time
in the 13 years that I have decided to do so.
I am commonly
referred to as “Kasparov’s mother”, but during all these years I
have done a great deal of work in his team. We have always had the
team: All those matches, tournaments, and training camps take a lot
of your time and energy. So someone must stand by you and settle all
the organization matters. It so happened that I emerged as Garry’s
assistant of this kind. Thus one should speak of me as Garry’s very
close assistant rather than “Kasparov’s legendary mother”. And this
assistant has always been a good and self-sacrificing confidant.
Surely my son’s interests have always come first with me: Garry is
my dearest person on earth.
Kasparov has spent 25 years
playing chess. Within this period Garry played high-level chess for
20 years and enjoyed the champion’s title for 15 years. He witnessed
many events which determined the development of the chess life. All
through that time I tried to be an objective observer, but since I
am his mother, the subjective approach could win out in certain
situations. The world of chess didn’t take my activities in the same
way: Some people took me positively, others – negatively, and still
others – with a good deal of irritation. But there is one thing all
of them are likely to agree about: These twenty years have become a
good school for me. So now I have the right to say the things which
are impossible to leave unsaid. I believe I have deserved the right
to display my point of view.
Does this mean that soon
your memoirs will come out?
I am unlikely to ever get
down to writing my memoirs. This is impossible: Generally I don’t
quite understand the people who tend to write their memoirs. With so
many years behind you, your judgement of the past is different. So
the event’s evaluation you provide in your memoirs never corresponds
to what happened in reality. Keeping a diary is a different pair of
shoes. If written immediately after the events described, these
diaries contain the real and true-to-life characters. I have my
diaries. Those written in 1984 and 1985 are the most complete, the
one written in 1990 is partly complete. But… It’s difficult to put
it into words… Let me put it like this: The more I get to know
people, the more I understand that I don’t know them at all! I don’t
understand the majority of people and their mentality. Maybe I have
grown old… So I will never publish either my diaries or my memoirs.
And now I am simply prepared to talk -– without going into
great detail -– about Kasparov’s activities, which the world of
chess doesn’t understand.
Do you think you are part of
the world of chess or a detached observer?
that in the last three or four years I have become a detached
observer. Garry’s life has considerably changed. Of course there are
tournaments and competitions, but the chess world is not merely
tournaments, it is also (to a greater extent) a policy. After Garry
had abandoned FIDE, he was separated from this policy. And in the
chess world there is no policy other than the policy enforced by
FIDE. In other big sports there are huge corporations which
determine developments within this or that sport, and so there
arises a reasonable competition among these corporations, and all of
this causes new inflows of money. As far as chess is concerned, the
situation is absolutely different: There is no world of chess other
than the world of FIDE. That’s why I have been a detached observer
lately. Of course Garry carefully follows everything that is going
on and comments on certain events. We discuss something, but we
don’t take part in anything directly.
other hand, up to 1995 our participation was very active. The
Olympiad of 1994 was literally organized in our apartment. I can’t
say I took a very active part in the whole thing, but I was
certainly in touch with everything and sometimes I surely
recommended this that and the other. I believe that now it is of no
importance… As far as the period of the Grandmasters Association
(and PCA) is concerned, I believe that I was second to Garry in
knowing all the ins and outs… |
Practically no one speaks
about those times now… Now that the emotions have subsided, it is
easier to draw conclusions. So people might as well start making
The tragedy of the chess world consists in
the fact that in the twenty-first century, chess is the only one
(among the big sports) not to be supervised by any official
corporation in the world. This is nonsense, this is nearly disaster
Garry tried to remedy the situation for 15 years.
In the beginning it was called the “commercialization” of chess.
This dates back to the times of the Grandmasters Association. I
don’t think that now you can find a single chess player who recalls
this period with indignation: Hundreds of thousands of dollars
flowed to chess then. True, most grandmasters didn’t behave quite
adequately at that time.
The climax came at the meeting of
the Association in Mursia in 1990. Nearly all the participants of
the meeting voted unanimously for Garry’s heading the Association,
but his program, which advocated the grandmasters’ rights in respect
to FIDE, was rejected. It was a close vote, but yet we lost, and
then Garry had to quit. One grandmaster spoke his mind in this
regard: “Garry, you were elected president because you can
So am I to take it that Kasparov must
procure money, and someone else will allocate it?
cooperation between RCA and Intel is just another story. God knows
how much time and effort we’ve spent in order to find a company that
would be chess-friendly in spirit. Garry negotiated a great deal
with the managers of different hi-tech companies, he looked for ties
and connections, and his contract with Intel became a real
breakthrough. So, Intel’s desire to quit chess was really a hard
blow to us.
I would not like to go into all the details, it
is another and long story, but it has to be revealed eventually as
people have a completely distorted idea about this story. When I
talked to Vaiser not long ago, I learnt to my utter astonishment
that he had got all the information about PCA’s failure from
Bacrot’s father, and in fact, his knowledge has nothing to do with
real life. He told me: "But Klara Shagenovna, that is what everybody
The main reason is very simple -– serious companies
will not sponsor any sport with no professional management, nor a
sport that is at war with itself.
You mean the war
between PCA and FIDE?
Of course! There is hardly anyone
who can imagine what a huge amount of organizational work Garry has
performed in order to make the world championships happen, bypassing
FIDE’s official machinery. Well, maybe it was his mistake. Maybe
chess players don’t even want to have as much money as other
sportsmen do. Maybe they just don’t need it, just don’t care. While
Kasparov was there to find money, OK. If not, there is always FIDE
to pay something, or various tournaments. They think they will
survive. They are very queer people.
Are you saying they
are not able to stand up for their interests?
always two sides of a coin: they could not figure out why Kasparov
spent so much energy on some dubious projects. Maybe he just has too
much money? This is a very important moment. Believe me, I know the
opinion of many chess players, and of very respected ones. If
Kasparov runs this or that event and it is a success, it means he
profits from it, and this is absolutely obvious for them. And I
reckon the chess players will never be able to comprehend that he
didn’t make anything, leave alone the fact that very often he
defrayed organizational expenses. And I can quite understand that.
This is really absurd nowadays.
The many years Garry worked for
the Wall Street Journal have opened a lot of doors for him
both in America and in Europe. This created an illusion of power.
And I say "illusion" because all his actions faced immense
resistance of the chess world, and this resistance was based on the
assumption that everything Kasparov does he does to earn money, so
what’s the use of helping him.
And what exactly did
Kasparov spent his money on?
His biggest investment was
in 1991. This is the prize fund of the Grandmaster Association
qualification tournament in Belgrade (when the GM council cancelled
the event in September as there was no money). Later on, half a
million dollars was deposited on a special FIDE account in order to
secure the prize fund, until a private sponsor was found. This money
was lost for Garry, as it paid for FIDE’s next cycle (most probably,
it was included in the prize fund of the Karpov-Timman match). In
1995 Garry paid $275,000 US to organize a match with Anand.
I will not tell everything, as this is anyway
"unbelievable", as the English put it. Now Garry and me, we do feel
sorry about it: if only there was an opportunity to preserve at
least a small part of all that was wasted -– both money and energy
–- then life would have probably been smoother, the nervous system
would have been healthier, and the results better.
think that Kasparov achieved his goal in the opposition with
The year 1990, when the Association rejected
Garry’s resolution, marked the beginning of his confrontation with
FIDE. In these ten years I have not read a single article that would
run something like: "But let us consider -–what if there is some
reason in Kasparov’s ideas?" But there are loads of articles stating
that Kasparov is a destroyer, a warmonger… Excuse me, what did he
destroy? People do not even realize what they are talking about. It
was FIDE that ruined the system of holding world championship
matches. Just look, they have turned their championship into
complete nonsense! Kasparov just quit when he sensed a threat to the
system of holding world championship matches. Had he been supported,
the alternative system would already be working now.
once misbehaved much more seriously -– he just stopped playing, and
for a few years nobody knew what to do.
Gary’s small victory
is in the fact that even Ilyumzhinov has recently acknowledged that
the fate of the crown should be decided in a match between the two
strongest chess players. Such a match has just ended in London, and
it did take place thanks to Kasparov. And no, the future no longer
depends on him.
Klara Shagenovna, since we have already
started talking of Ilyumzhinov, what is the essence of the
opposition between Kasparov and the FIDE President?
topic goes far beyond chess borders. This is a conflict of
personalities, of two different mentalities. Undoubtedly,
Ilyumzhinov is a very prominent personality. Doing what he has done
–- gaining absolute control over an international organization that
consists of highly intellectual sportsmen in just a few years –-
demands a lot of effort.
|Camponanes, for instance, never succeeded. Kasparov and
Ilyumzhinov live in different worlds, and the breach that happened
in 1995 is quite logical. And this is a well-known story: before
Ilyumzhinov left to the FIDE Congress, he came to see us. We
discussed our plans and not a word was said about his running for
the presidency. But… he decided to play for high stakes… Honestly, I
would not like to go into this in detail. |
Let us go back
to your vision of the chess world. What kind of people make it up,
and what is your attitude towards them?
were very different some years ago. Their spiritual demands, their
aspirations, were those of true intellectuals. They had very wide
professional interests. Sports is sports, but it was not just
victories they thought of. After the 1960s, though, after the
generation of Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, the situation changed. Don’t
misinterpret me, I do not want to belittle the advantages of modern
chess players, I know a lot of very talented, versatile players. For
instance, Arthur Yusupov, Lev Psakhis, Evgeny Vladimirov (regardless
of all the problems we had, I have to admit that he is a very well
educated man, with versatile talents), and Emil Sutovsky among the
young. And still there is a tendency -– the interests of the chess
players are limited by the size of the chessboard. Alas, many of
them are not interested in anything but chess. This tendency started
with Fischer. To a certain extent, such concentration is quite
normal, but what is really disappointing about the young generation
is its passivity. Even in the 1980s I remember many players who led
a very active life. But there is hardly anyone among today’s
greenery who would dare to proclaim some organizational ideas, or
formulate his creative and life credo, or even prove to be a true
personality. I don’t see a single attempt. The young generation is
able to gingerly disagree on the pages of "64" magazine with some of
the FIDE positions, at most.
It seems to me this is not a
characteristic of chess only. Those who are now in their twenties
and thirties find it difficult to position themselves in society, to
feel that something depends on them. A lot of people prefer to step
A don’t agree. The majority of managers in
Europe, I mean those working in new business spheres, aren’t even
40, some are still in late twenties.
I am troubled by the
inertness of the chess people. One might say that it’s all very easy
once you are rich. They say there is nothing they can do in their
poverty. But the longer you keep silent the poorer you get. Unless
you start developing what your sport lacks. I mean the changes that
happened in more successful sports in the 1970s.
is to blame, for he took too much upon himself and the rest simply
stopped thinking about it. If this is right, this is his fault and
his tragedy. He wanted to do a lot for chess, but he was never
backed, never supported.
And why, how do you
You know, in the end of the 1970s, when Garry was
to leave the Pioneer Palace for "Spartak", it gave rise to a
conflict. The Chairman of the Sports Committee told me: "Klara
Shagenovna, I know that you can say whatever you want, nevertheless,
I am sure that the real reason of any conflict lies in economics.
Then comes politics, and personal motives come
Certainly, dislike for Garry started with money. Why
so much? -- always the main concern of the ill-wishers.
Unfortunately, I have to admit that it is especially characteristic
of chess players from the former Soviet Union. They don’t count
somebody else’s money in the West so much.
In fact, now that
Kramnik got $1,300,000 US, I think this will lead to a certain
dislike for him as well.
Look, Kasparov has not only chosen
Kramnik out of the others, and then lost the crown to him, but he
has also given a million bucks to him.
By the way, in the
chess world many thought that the London match was fixed. I heard it
more than once; it even shone through the materials on your site.
This is exactly what we have just been talking about. Kasparov found
the money, so it can’t possibly be that he would pass it over to
Kramnik. Why? He did not even consider a possibility of a rematch,
which means he simply could not lose. Therefore, he will grab a part
of the money in some other way, he’ll arrange it with Kramnik in
this way or another.
After we returned from London I read a
vast number of various articles and interviews. What a fount of
wisdom! Anatoly Karpov, for example, said about the Kasparov-Kramnik
match: "I call them [such matches – KC] “matches with no
right for the victory”. Because the victor, a priori, is the one who
found the sponsor, And that is Kasparov." This logic reveals the
very essence of the chess players’ mentality -– you judge for
yourself: Kasparov HAD to provide himself with at least half of the
prize fund BEFORE the match. How -– this is up to him to decide. He
could, for instance, have provided for a possibility of a rematch
(at the least). But he told me: "I can’t, Mother, they will say that
Kasparov thinks of nothing but money."
It does look naive
now, and I am sure that somebody will say: "Goodness me, why on
earth does Klara Shagenovna feign poverty?" OK, do, but say it
I hope that the outcome of this match has convinced
everyone that Kasparov’s last concern was to secure himself with
prize money when he signed a contract with BG.
We can talk
about it for ages, but there is one more very simple explanation –
they are sick and tired of him. They are tired of Kasrarov’s reign.
They can’t stand it for so long. Kramnik said before the match that
he was tired of being second all the time. I remember when Ivanchuk
lost to Garry in Linares in 1999, he ran out of the hall and nearly
bumped me. In a lit of temper he said: "Klara Shagenovna, when is he
going to give up chess?! I can no longer play like that!" That was
also point out Garry’s complicated character... Recently Dolmatov
wrote that, for this reason, there were few players eager to join
his team and cooperate with him. [“Taking into consideration
Kasparov’s character, not any one would welcome the idea of working
with him.” – “Vremya novostey”, November 3, 2000 – ed.] Boris
Gelfand was of the same mind.
Kasparov’s non-chess team
You know, since 1980 there
have been quite a few different grandmasters on our team. They were
all people of varying personalities, and I came through a lot of
experiences. The core of our team in the 1980s was the chess players
who, under the regulations of the Sports Committee, were not allowed
to leave this country -– those who were not welcome “at court”...
They were absolutely different people, and our opponents managed to
win some of them over, but now I won’t think back to all that.
Since 1990 the team’s line-up has been based on another
principle. We could choose among a larger number of chess players.
Dolmatov worked with Kasparov from 1987 till 1991. He accompanied
Kasparov at two matches and several training camps, he witnessed
different situations. So it was an excellent and very useful
preparatory school for himself. We have never done anything against
the professional and personal interests of the coaches on our team.
Working among Kasparov’s team has always been interesting,
profitable and, I would say, convenient (something that the coaches
sometimes made the most of). Let Mr.Dolmatov, who is doubtless an
honest man, call the name of any grandmaster who was invited by
Garry for cooperation and who turned down this engagement.
As far as Gelfand’s interview is concerned, I have read it,
and I would like to discuss it in greater detail. Kasparov charged
him with not letting us know about his cooperation with Kramnik, but
Gelfand doesn’t put some part of this story in the open. When he
arrived in Croatia to participate in our training camp
(incidentally, he had accepted the invitation on the spot too), he
said: “Garry, I won’t analyze the Grunfeld Defence with you, because
I am examining it with Vladimir.” Garry’s reply was as follows: “I
respect your professional way of taking your work. So we won’t
analyze the Grunfeld Defence, but we will examine three other
openings: the Sicilian Defence, the King’s Indian Defence and the
Slav Defence.” Kasparov said in his interview that Gelfand should
have let him know about his cooperation with Kramnik, “because one
of the openings might be played in the match.” Surely Garry meant
the Slav Defence, but Gelfand, talking about the Sicilian Defence,
misled the readers.
Gelfand says that Kasparov himself used
to turn to Beliavsky, who had earlier worked with Karpov. And here
he misrepresents the facts! Beliavsky cooperated with us in 1993,
when Garry played a match with Short, not with Karpov, whose team
really included Beliavsky in 1986. It stands to reason that this
makes some difference.
And now we are getting back to the
subject at hand: Most grandmasters are reluctant to fight for any
single right thing in their sport.
Gelfand points out in his
interview: “When Kasparov lost to Deep Blue, he accused “IBM” of
machinations. I am not too much interested in the reasons of his
behaviour.” But it is not the reasons that he is not interested in:
What he is not interested in is the truth concerning the very
complicated situation that arose in the world of chess at that time.
I spoke to quite a few grandmasters, and all of them had a profound
conviction that the second game of that match had not been played
solely by the computer. But they wouldn’t speak their mind! They saw
no point in opposing “IBM”: Maybe they would have to deal with that
company some day... So the chess world acted in a cowardly and
indifferent fashion. And though the names of the grandmasters who
worked for “IBM” are well known, no one dares tell the truth. No
wonder that three or four weeks after the match “IBM” disassembled
the machine. Kasparov’s fiasco suffered from “IBM” is the chess
world’s fiasco: The gigantic corporation managed to cheat it with
utmost ease. The world of chess didn’t want to stand up for its
Klara Shagenovna, all of this appears to be
rather a gloomy picture. And yet, is there any chance left for
At present I see no opportunity of drawing
corporations’ money into chess. It is necessary to bear in mind that
no sport exists by selling tickets only. Even the sports which draw
a lot of crowds depend on the sponsor’s money. It was only at times
that Kasparov changed the existing situation.
FIDE is now trying
to find financial resources inside the world of chess. This method
has been known for a long time. Specifically, in this country the
Government levies new taxes in order to beat the budget, but we only
know too well who will have to assume this burden.
Everything that is taken away from the organizers, is taken
away from the chess players, i.e., from their prize money. And the
chess community is silent, as usual.
Do you think it can
happen that Kasparov, doomed to misunderstanding among the chess
community, will abandon the world of chess?
things of a personal character. Garry loves chess too much to quit
Is a compromise between Kasparov and FIDE possible?
What do you think of the various ideas of holding the unifying
The world of chess was destroyed through no
fault of Kasparov’s, but through the fault of FIDE. It is no good
inventing some new schemes now. When serious people with legal money
appear, the necessary scheme will automatically (and rapidly) appear
You have said a lot about the indifference of
contemporary GMs. How do you think the new champion Vladimir Kramnik
Time will tell. Now that Kasparov is
ex-champion, I hope that the youngsters will become active, I hope
they got tired of staying inert. I have known all the young chess
players since they were kids, they all grew before my very eyes. I
remember their habits as children, I know their present habits… I
treat a lot of what they are doing from the height of experience, I
know that some of them will mature, and others will stay in their
green years forever. It’s a shame that in his speech at the closing
ceremony the new champion did not say a single word about his
predecessor, except for the offensively faceless “my
I remember the evening before the closing
ceremony of the match in 1985. The champion’s speech usually lasts
for 3-4 minutes, but they stay in one’s memory for much longer than
that. Such performances should be very seriously treated. Back in
1985, Garry said a lot of warm words about one of the most
outstanding chess players of the century, Anatoly Karpov, who taught
him a priceless lesson. A title match is a two-person action, there
are two people creating at the board, not one. I used to think I
knew Vladimir well enough. He used to come to our place quite a lot,
he came to the training sessions, was present at the match in 1995.
So I have just realized once again that I do not understand people…
The new fourteenth chess champion said that he wanted to
introduce order in the world of chess. I can say that I will very
carefully watch him doing this.
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