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 Interviews

By Denis Bilunov
Interview with Klara Kasparova
"Now I can feel free"


 
For 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.

Klara Shagenovna, 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...


I must 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?

I suppose 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.
 
On the 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 inferences.

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 for chess.

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 procure money.”

So am I to take it that Kasparov must procure money, and someone else will allocate it?

The 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 says…"

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?
 

There are 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.

Do you think that Kasparov achieved his goal in the opposition with FIDE?

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.

Fischer 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?

This 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?

Chess players 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 aside.

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.

Maybe Garry 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 think?

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 last."

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 aloud!

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 really revealing.
 

Kasparov’s non-chess team
People 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.

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 interests.

Klara Shagenovna, all of this appears to be rather a gloomy picture. And yet, is there any chance left for chess?

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?

There are things of a personal character. Garry loves chess too much to quit it.

Is a compromise between Kasparov and FIDE possible? What do you think of the various ideas of holding the unifying matches?

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 as well.

You have said a lot about the indifference of contemporary GMs. How do you think the new champion Vladimir Kramnik will behave?

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 opponent”.

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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