King to C5

Kasparov comes to Harvard  
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  October 17, 2007

071019_garry_main
I couldn’t help wondering whether, if Anatoly Karpov had been there to start his chess clock ticking at 7 pm, Garry Kasparov would have dared appear 25 minutes late Monday evening at the First Unitarian Church in Harvard Square. Not that the packed house seemed at all impatient for the 44-year-old former world chess champion from Baku (and the only modern player you could speak of in the same breath with Bobby Fischer) to take the podium. He was preceded by Mig Greengard, the “with” co-author of his new How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves — From the Board to the Boardroom (Bloomsbury), who explained that he met Garry back in 1998, “when the enemies were [chess players] Karpov, Kramnik, and Anand. Now they’re Putin and the KGB.”

Kasparov is, of course, no ordinary former world chess champion — in 2005 he retired, at age 41, to take up politics, with the hope of challenging Vladimir Putin and creating a more democratic Russia. “Thanks for missing Red Sox,” he said, camera flashes popping. (Greengard, no less eager to make a good local impression, had called Kasparov “the Bill Belichick of chess.”)

Rather than read from his book, Kasparov told us about its tortuous journey, how there are three versions — the original; the American, which is more streamlined; and the Russian, which is more philosophical. Bloomsbury, it seems, made him take some of the chess out of the American version. That might not have been the best move, since it left Kasparov spouting business bromides such as, “First, you have to understand your own abilities, your own strengths and weaknesses. . . . We all have different strengths and weaknesses.”

He did better when he stuck to chess, describing 1960s world champion Tigran Petrosian as the “great master of do nothing and suddenly winning the game,” and remembering how (in a story right out of the book) former champ Boris Spassky advised him on how to beat Petrosian: “Squeeze his balls. But don’t rush. Squeeze one, not both.”

There was some wry humor straight out of David Remnick’s October 1 New Yorker profile: “Our goal is not winning elections. Our goal is having elections.” But he didn’t give any idea of what Other Russia would do if there were elections and it did win. And after a half-hour, he was done, as if this had been speed chess. Well played, Garry.

  Topics: Books , Culture and Lifestyle, Games, Hobbies and Pastimes,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY JEFFREY GANTZ
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   MAMA KNOWS BEST: THE HUNTINGTON'S FEEL-GOOD A RAISIN IN THE SUN  |  March 19, 2013
    Fifty-four years after its groundbreaking Broadway premiere, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun remains as dense, and as concentrated, as its title fruit.
  •   LIGHT WAVES: BOSTON BALLET'S ''ALL KYLIÁN''  |  March 13, 2013
    A dead tree hanging upside down overhead, with a spotlight slowly circling it. A piano on stilts on one side of the stage, an ice sculpture's worth of bubble wrap on the other.
  •   HANDEL AND HAYDN'S PURCELL  |  February 04, 2013
    Set, rather confusingly, in Mexico and Peru, the 1695 semi-opera The Indian Queen is as contorted in its plot as any real opera.
  •   REVIEW: MAHLER ON THE COUCH  |  November 27, 2012
    Mahler on the Couch , from the father-and-son directing team of Percy and Felix Adlon, offers some creative speculation, with flashbacks detailing the crisis points of the marriage and snatches from the anguished first movement of Mahler's unfinished Tenth Symphony.
  •   THE NUTCRACKER: BUILDING A BETTER MOUSETRAP?  |  November 19, 2012
    "Without The Nutcracker , there'd be no ballet in America as we know it."

 See all articles by: JEFFREY GANTZ