for Hege who always complains our posts are just greek to her!
I never really liked chess. Perhaps that says something about my intellect; on the other hand, it might all be my brother’s fault. Him being 6 years my senior and the centre of my universe during my early years (up to adolescence, then the “war” began) he would make me play chess with him where I’d imperiously lose and then would be ridiculed about it. OK, on second thought, I might be exaggerating here but the point is that I’ve always felt an aversion to chess and deadening boredom at its sight. I also felt slightly ashamed to admit it. I was considered much too clever as a child so I had to like chess.
The thought of chess came to me again about a month ago when I stumbled upon this article. There I learnt that in the southern Russian republic of Kalmykia (yes, I know, it didn’t ring any bells here either!), apparently the capital of chess (its president being also a long-standing president of the world chess's governing body, Fide), there was a new world chess champion after a long battle. This meant the end of a long divide in the chess world, “a 13-year schism between two factions of chess, each claiming to name the world's best player”. This schism was created when a new organisation, different from Fide but serving the same purpose, was set up in 1993 by rebellious Garry Kasparov; since then the two organisations have been at loggerheads. After a rapprochement in 2002, the two finally became one last October.
I have long known about Kasparov’s temperamental and explosive personality and found out more when about a year and a half ago we attempted inviting him to an event organised by a small politics club I participate. He was spending some time in UK back then and there was word going around that he might be a candidate for Russia’s 2008 presidential elections. He was in London to push his agenda so the timing was perfect. We’ve been warned that he was… kind of… well, crazy and suffering from persecution mania (well, judging from what happened to Yushchenko, the Ukrainian president, perhaps he wasn’t that far off it) but nothing could have prepared us enough for the surreal experience of actually talking to his secretary. Needless to say, this was a fruitless endeavour.
I started following the story of the final when I read this article. It read that half-way through their 12-game match, one of the players, Kramnik, forfeited one match in protest for being banned from using his private toilet! The ban was imposed after complaints of his rival that Kramnik was using the toilet much too often, even 50 times in a 6-hour game. Despite the gravity of the context, I found peculiar and awkwardly funny that serious, eminent players would fight over … a bog!
I assiduously cut off these articles from the newspaper and passed them on to a friend who writes magnificently. Or at least I believe he does so. Earlier this summer, he asked me to buy him Bobbie Fischer Goes to War from London (the usual story: Amazon has not officially been invented for some Greeks residing in Greece :-P). He is currently considering writing on a Greek modern “hero” (I cannot divulge more; someone might actually steal his idea!). Since I don’t see him focusing too much on this project and given his interest in the Bobbie Fischer story, I decided to entice him with a by-project, a chess-centred one. It seemed to me that the aforementioned events could make a good basis for a nice story. Don’t you think? Even Kalmykia sounds like a name taken out of a fairy tale. Anyway, I’m still waiting to see what he will do. I will keep you posted.