The Tsar’s Opponent
Garry Kasparov takes aim at the power of Vladimir Putin
by David Remnick
On a recent summer evening, the greatest player in the history of chess, Garry Kasparov, wrapped up an exhausting series of meetings devoted to the defeat of the Kremlin regime. After days of debate, a motley pride of unlikely revolutionaries – bearded politicos, earnest academics, and multigrained environmentalists – collected their cigarettes and left Kasparov’s apartment, divided and worn out. Little had been accomplished. Crumpled drafts of fevered proclamations lay scattered on the kitchen table. Puffy-eyed and unsmiling, Kasparov grunted a curt farewell to his comrades and went off to make yet another urgent telephone call.
Kasparov is forty-four. He was the world chess champion for fifteen years. Until his retirement, two years ago, his dominance was unprecedented. Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Fischer – none came close. Chess has outsized meaning in Russia, and Kasparov at home was a cross between the greatest of athletes and a revered intellectual. Now he has volunteered for grim and, very likely, futile duty. As the most conspicuous leader of Drugaya Rossiya (the Other Russia), an umbrella group of liberals, neo-Bolsheviks, and just about anyone else wishing to speak ill of Vladimir Putin.