Kasparov, the retired champ who can not give up chess

In this Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009 file photo, former chess world champion Garry Kasparov, right, and Anatoly Karpov, left, play an exhibition rematch in Valencia, Spain. (AP)
Updated 13 August 2017
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Kasparov, the retired champ who can not give up chess

ST. LOUIS, USA: Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov owned the game for 15 years, gaining superstar status among fans before retiring and throwing himself into politics — but he just can’t seem to stay away from the chessboard.
The 54-year-old former world champion is coming out of retirement Monday to play in an official tournament in St. Louis, Missouri against nine top-notch players.
Kasparov, known for an aggressive, high-energy attacking style, is widely considered one of the game’s greatest.
And the so-called “Beast of Baku” — nicknamed after the capital of his native Azerbaijan — has nothing left to prove.
Still, here he comes, taking on much younger players in a return seen as reflecting a drive to enhance the cult-like status he earned through years of masterful play — and make up for a few setbacks he suffered along the way.
Kasparov was given a wild card entry in the tournament dubbed Rapid and Blitz, and will be the oldest among the field of 10 players when play starts Monday.
“Ready to see if I remember how to move the pieces! Will I be able to announce my re-retirement afterward if not?!,” Kasparov tweeted last month when it was announced that he was coming out of retirement.
Born Garik Weinstein in Azerbaijan to an Armenian mother and Jewish father, Kasparov has been described as “a monster with 100 eyes, who sees all.”
At age 12, he took on his mother’s surname and launched what became one of the longest and most grueling rivalries in the history of chess, against Soviet grandmaster Anatoli Karpov.
The icy, stone-faced Karpov was a symbol of the once mighty but then crumbling Soviet Union, while Kasparov was just a young pup from little Azerbaijan.
In 1985, Kasparov beat Karpov and, at just 22, became the youngest world champion ever, kicking off an era of unprecedented dominance.
Kasparov held that crown for 15 years and set about breaking molds in the world of chess.
He was a show unto himself — a theatrical bundle of nerves who wanted to win at all costs, shunning draws in games and sometimes even speaking of himself in the third person. Other players feared him. His bigger-than-life style earned him critics, too.
Kasparov took the chess world into a new modern era, with endorsement deals, televised games and high technology.
He pioneered using computer databases as a tool for practicing — a venture that would come back to sting him.
Kasparov had declared haughtily that no machine could ever beat him at chess.
He took on the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue, beating it in 1996 but then losing to the machine a year later. He and the computer were tied at five games each in a match in which the first to reach six won. When Kasparov lost, he cried foul.
Three years later, Kasparov lost his world title to his former student, Vladimir Kramnik, and retired from competitive chess in 2005.
Kasparov never managed to cut ties with the game, even attempting in 2014 to become president of the World Chess Federation by dethroning its wealthy and well-connected leader, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
But Kasparov’s outspoken personality dogged his campaign and he lost after only securing 61 federation delegates votes out of 175. Ilyumzhinov, who was close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, prevailed.
The young chess retiree took to politics, becoming fixated on a bid to checkmate Putin.
After leaving the game in 2005, Kasparov founded the anti-Putin opposition movement Other Russia, accusing the president of returning the country to its dictatorial past.
He became a powerful political voice and even tried to win the Kremlin in the 2008 Russian presidential election.
Kasparov took part in unprecedented anti-Putin demonstrations in 2011 and was arrested in 2012 after a rally in favor of the punk rock feminist group Pussy Riot.
In 2013, he opted for life in exile, moving to New York to calculate his political moves at a distance.
Now, after 12 years of jousting with the Kremlin, Kasparov has found the allure of his first love too great to resist — and his return to the board could grant him the chance to regain the crown.


Boris Becker’s diplomatic passport is ‘fake’, says Central African Republic

Former German tennis player Boris Becker. (AFP)
Updated 41 min 36 sec ago
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Boris Becker’s diplomatic passport is ‘fake’, says Central African Republic

  • Becker, responding through a German magazine, insisted that he held genuine diplomatic status
  • The document’s serial number corresponded to one of a batch of “new passports that were stolen in 2014

BANGUI: The Central African Republic (CAR) said on Tuesday that a diplomatic passport that tennis star Boris Becker claims entitles him to immunity in bankruptcy proceedings in Britain “is a fake.”
“The diplomatic passport that he has is a fake,” foreign ministry chief of staff Cherubin Mologbama told AFP.
The document’s serial number corresponded to one of a batch of “new passports that were stolen in 2014,” he said.
In addition, the passport — a copy of which has been seen by AFP, and bears the date of March 19, 2018 — does not carry the signature or the stamp of the foreign minister, Charles Armel Doubane, Mologbama said.
Becker, responding through a German magazine, insisted that he held genuine diplomatic status.
“It’s the truth. It is a fact that I am, today, a diplomat” of the CAR, he said in a filmed interview with Top Magazin Frankfurt.
On Friday, lawyers for Germany’s three-time Wimbledon champion lodged a claim in the High Court in Britain saying that he had been appointed a sports attache for the CAR to the European Union (EU) in April.
This, they argued, granted him immunity under the 1961 Vienna Diplomatic Convention on Diplomatic Relations from bankruptcy proceedings over failure to pay a long-standing debt.
“Becker’s job profile does not exist” in the CAR’s records, Mologbama said.
Furthermore, the passport says that Becker’s diplomatic function is “financial charge de mission,” a role that “has nothing to do with sporting questions,” he noted.
In April, the 50-year-old former tennis star had tweeted a picture of himself shaking hands with CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera at a meeting in Brussels.
Becker shook up the tennis world at Wimbledon in 1985 when, as an unseeded player, he became the then youngest-ever male Grand Slam champion at the age of 17, defending the trophy the following year.
The German went on to enjoy a glittering career and amassed more than $25 million (21.65 million euros) in prize money.

The CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking at the very bottom of the 188 nations in the UN Development Programme’s 2016 Human Development Index.
Landlocked, rich in gold, diamonds, oil and uranium, the country of 4.6 million people has been chronically unstable since it gained independence from France in 1960.
Presidents have traditionally been surrounded by “sleazy courtesans” and “dodgy counsellors who talk loud,” French writer Jean-Pierre Tuquoi wrote in a book published last year.
Its modern history has been studded with coups, foreign mercenaries, assassination attempts, shadowy business deals and improbable figures, he says.
They include Jean-Bedel Bokassa, a former army corporal and fan of Napoleon who became president, then president for life — and finally declared himself emperor before being ousted by France in 1979 after a massacre of school children.
One of his successors, Francois Bozize, was named in a law suit filed in France in 2015 by the CAR government, which said that during his tenure, “numerous advisers and relatives... benefitted from passports of convenience” in exchange for money.
These including a Kazakh opposition figure, Mukhtar Abiazov, a female adviser to former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and an Israeli businessman, according to the suit filed by the CAR’s attorney, William Bourdon.
Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by a mainly Muslim rebel alliance, the Seleka. His elected successor, Faustin-Archange Touadera, has effective rule over only a fraction of the country as most of it is in the hands of militias.
Poor governance and a tradition of graft make for a toxic mixture, says Thierry Vircoulon, a CAR specialist at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).
“Given the authorities’ extreme weakness and corruptibility, crooks and conmen of every stripe always find a way to gain access to the president and make money,” he says. “This country is perfect for business pirates.”