30.03.2005 B.Alterman talks about Kasparov's retirement

Do you think Kasparov will return to serious chess?

After that story with Ponomariov I said in the interview to the Ukrainian website that Kasparov is the one who suffered most. The cancelled match with Kasimdzhanov has only worsened the situation. Many people laughted at it. 'Who cares about Kasparov's cancelled match when we are starving without tournaments – and he is a millionaire, he'll survive it'. However, let's consider this from another point of view.

Kasparov is not only a great chessplayer, but also an outstanding person! Many people dislike him, but it this case not only Kasparov suffered – it also harmed chess. Garry has always felt responsibility for his work (being his helper, I was often surprised with his fantastic committment), he is a true professional. The preparation required not only a lot of physical and mental effort, but also a serious financial investment. In the end the match was cancelled without compensating any expences, nobode even apologized to Kasparov. Still everybody thinks that only the Ukrainian was offended. Kasparov could not stand this arbitrariness any more.

In my opinion, Kasparov will not return unless FIDE is seriously reconstructed, its present bosses are replaced and their treatment of chess professionaks improves.

Where would you place Kasparov among the other world champions?

Kasparov is a number one, my opinion is not very original there. Number two is Fischer. He alone conquered the Soviet chess machine. I can't imagine what strength of mind and capacity for work it takes to continue imroving during the 2 or 3-year break off the competitions. It is difficult to think of a modern top five player who would cease his activities for 3 years, and then return and crash everybody. What about the number three?.. Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Karpov... I don't know who is greater - each of them was great in his own way.

How will his retirement affect the chess society? What negative (or, perhaps, positive) consequences do you expect?

It’s difficult for me to judge about the situation with sponsors as I’ve not been playing in tournaments for 6 years, but I don’t think that Kasparov’s withdrawal will improve anything. The point is that Kasparov’s participation meant more than just the games. I often comment the Linares and the Wijk aan Zee games on the ICC, and I’ve noticed that his games were a great event for the people. His games always attracted twice as many people even when there were scarcely kings on board. The audience stayed for even 6-7 hours to watch the game. It was not just their desire to learn something new, to get the result of the game – everybody wanted to see the miracle, extraordinary move, a stretch of the imagination – it was Garry Kasparov playing!

On the other hand Kasparov’s retirement demands the ACP’s respond. Is it a serious organization or just a nonevent? Nothing has been done so far but a criticism against the FIDE and a strange system of Grand Prix calculation (it reminds me of the PCA rating calculation which has been existing for 10 years already but nobody knows the point of it). Many serious tournaments were achieved a status of Grand Prix according to the ACP, what’s to come next? Annual “Masters” as in tennis might be carried out, or not. Nothing definite has been heard about this tournament, there are no clear regulations, sponsors’ financing, almost no information. No surprise that Topalov, Ponomariov and others dropped out of the ACP. Those who didn’t were actuated by the principle: it would be in bad taste to drop out as we joined, maybe something will be changed…

While FIDE will carry out another knock-out. There are no problems – they will find financing, if not – Kirsan will help. FIDE is an official organization after all and it will be reckoned as long as Ilyumzhinov supports it financially.

Should the FIDE proposal concerning the championship match-tournament remain in effect, or it makes sense to reconsider or even call it back? Do you like the idea of the championship match-tournament?

An unfeasible idea. The fact is that the champion is hardly interested in the event of such a kind. The problem is not in the lineup which will constantly be reconsidered because of selection criteria uncertainty, but in the fact that Kramnik won’t be able to take part in it for various reasons, the main one is that having won the world championship match, the champion won’t play for the title in the tournament, even against the strongest. The situation resembles the dragon tale: a knight having killed a dragon seizes the gold and turns into dragon, which guards the gold himself. Generally many world champions chose the similar tactics – Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, also Garry refused to be seeded in the semi-final in Ilyumzhinov’s championship in 1998. Not the champions are to blame, but the chaos that gave rise to this situation.

Photo from ChessBase archive

 Questions were asked and translated by Misha Savinov.

This article is published with permission of Association of Chess Professionals

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