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Tag: Russia

Magnus Carlsen Retains World Chess Title

Magnus Carlsen put the final nail in the coffin for the 2016 World Chess Championship with a spectacular finish in the 25 | 10 rapid tiebreaker. Carlsen had been frustrated throughout the event and fell behind before managing to equalize the standings in Game 10. He went on to win the last two games of the rapid event, which finally put an end to his challengers efforts and solidified his place as World Chess Champion for the next two years. As the main portion of the event drew to its conclusion, many in the chess world began taking note of the precarious position Sergey Karjakin could find himself in against one of the strongest rapid and blitz players in the world.

The first two tiebreaker games were drawn with Karjakin narrowly escaping a loss in the second game but unable to stop the onslaught that ultimately allowed Carlsen to retain his title.

Carlsen’s incredible finish to the rapid tiebreaker event.

The position above is stunning and reaffirms why Magnus Carlsen is the best chess player in the world. With Qh6+, Magnus brought his opponent’s bid to become the next world champion to his stunning halt. There were moments throughout the event where it seemed that Sergey Karjakin was poised to overtake Carlsen, but never found a way to convert his opportunities into solid wins. Of course, there were moments throughout the event were Magnus seemed to struggle both with his chess abilities and his ability to keep his emotions in check (no pun intended). Magnus took a little bit of criticism on social media for his outburst following his loss in the classical round, but I have to say that him storming out of the press conference is the kind of stuff that chess needs if it wants to become a popular, respectable, and marketable activity in the United States.

Viewership Review

Agon, which has become a four letter word In the chess community has refused to release (at least for now) the exact number of people who purchased their premium package for viewing the event, but initial estimates project that less than 10,000 people paid for the premium streaming and commentary package. Personally, I was pleased to be able to follow the games as a premium member of Chessbase, on ChessBomb, and to watch the exceptional commentary and analysis from some of my favorite people over on chess24.com. Still, just a long way to go if it wants to build an American audience to the point where corporations like Pepsi, Red Bull, or other major corporations are willing to sponsor the events. As mentioned in an excellent news article published shortly after Carlsen’s victory, chess needs a series of dramatic stories in order to sell itself to the American people. Bobby Fischer made history as the lone genius who challenged the world’s greatest chess power, the Soviet Union, during the Cold War which allowed the American people to relate what was happening on the board to what was happening every day in their news. When professional chess can find a way to bring the drama and excitement of playing the game to people in a way that relates to their everyday struggles and experiences, then it will find itself at a buffet of sponsors and fans. Compelling drama and personal connection sells products, not frivolous litigation.

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WCC2016: Too Early to Draw Any Conclusions

All eyes are on New York City as Magnus Carlsen defends his World Chess Champion title against Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin. Carlsen is the heavy favorite to win the tournament but if the first few games are any indication of what to expect from the whole tournament, we might be in for a long ride. As the name of the post suggests, its too early to draw any conclusions from these games, but there are many conclusions in these games that end in draws

Game 3: Bending Space and Time

Hopes were high after the first two games that there would be some dramatics appearing in the third game and they came…in a sense. Reminding players, commentators, and fans alike that chess requires mental and physical resilience, the players battled it out in a 7-hour, 78-move nightmare that ended…you guessed it..in a draw.

Game 4: Drawing Up A New Strategy?

After the marathon of Game 3, I was very impressed that the players were able to squeeze out the next game, which went 94 moves before ending in another draw. It was apparent in this game, however, that Magnus was becoming frustrated with Karjakin and that a draw was certainly not on his list of game ideas for the day.

Game 5: Drawn of the Dead

Game 5 was played earlier today and felt like a blitz game at times. The moves were fast in some areas deep into the position with Magnus finding himself in trouble against his challenger for the first time in the match. There were certain moments in the game when Karjakin had clear advantage on the board, but Magnus was able to bring these situations back into balance and force a draw on move 51.

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America Shows Agon How an Open Market Works

Just prior to the start of the 2016 World Chess Championship (WCC) in New York City, Agon Limited filed suit in United States Federal Court against Chess24, Chessbomb, and ChessGames.com to prevent them from broadcasting the moves just as they did (and lost) in Moscow earlier this year.

“These entities expend no time, effort, or money of their own in organizing, producing, or hosting the chess events for the World Championship and instead reap economic benefit from free-riding on the work and effort of World Chess.” – Reuters

However, just as with their loss in Moscow, New York District Judge Victor Marrero ruled in favor of the defendants for most of the reasons that have been covered on this blog and in countless others in the chess community already. The most important of those? CHESS IS FOR THE MASSES!


Chess is a game that transcends all boundaries. (Credit: WikiMedia)

RIAA of the Chess World

Although they were readily handed defeat in two countries, Agon promises to continue pursuit of its business model despite widespread business and consumer disapproval. Despite obvious attempts to assist the company with its model, Agon refuses to acknowledge that its attempts to restrict access to tournament moves is misguided. As a direct result, it seeks to force consumers to engage its unreliable and third-rate content delivery system instead of offering a compelling service for fans of the game to watch and enjoy.

Agon has quickly turned itself from an obscure entity into the modern chess equivalent of the Recording Industry Association of America which successfully sued a multitude of families in the early 2000s for downloading mp3 files from Napster and other file-sharing services. By suing grandmothers and teenagers for untold millions of dollars, the RIAA quickly became synonymous with corporate greed, censorship, and created a gap between recording artists and their fans from which some artists never recovered.

Hope for an Agon awakening remains dim, but I am pleased to see that both the United States and Russia dealt a blow for freedom to its blatant attempts to monopolize public domain information.

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Ad Victoriam Ad Valorem

Editor’s Note: I am pleased to welcome my good friend Howard Darkes as a guest author today on Campfire Chess. Howard is a longtime philosophy and literary mentor of mine. I hope that you enjoy his heartfelt reflection of Memorial Day. -Wesley Surber


Hello, Campers! My name is Howard Darkes and I first want to thank my longtime friend Wesley for granting me control of the blog today to share reflections on the past and to address some troubling concerns for the future. Today is Memorial Day in the United States of America and I believe that this is something that needs to be said because there is much mourning going on across the globe today. As the professional chess world is knee-deep in the Shamkir Chess Gashimov Memorial tournament that commemorates one of the greatest players of our generation, my country takes time during the season to reflect and recognize the countless men and women who have sacrificed their lives to defend the sovereignty of our nation and to continue our way of life.  It is on this day that we recognize, remember, and honor the people whose lives were sacrificed in pursuit of this selfless service or whose lives have since expired upon returning from home to enjoy the freedoms they so valiantly fought for.

Originally from Germany, my family has a long history of military service with the most recent generation being among those to continue that tradition. In memoriam, my paternal Grandfather served in the United States Army during World War II against the Axis Powers. It is today that our nation honors men like him, who has long departed this earth but his children, grandchildren, and now countless great grandchildren continue to enjoy freedoms that generations prior could only have dreamed of.

Unfortunately, the memory of those sacrifices and the freedoms that came with them are being tainted by the very men and women who have sworn an oath to uphold and defend the laws of our nation and to promote the very way of life that sets us apart from the rest of the world. These days, it is popular to hate America. In fact, it is almost as though hating America is much more socially acceptable than to acknowledge America’s contributions to the rest of the world throughout history. That is why, when sitting US President Barrack Obama gave his speech at the Hiroshima Memorial on May 27, my blood boiled for a while but my patriotism and depth of knowledge about the sacrifices of military service and dedication to duty that comes with such service helped me to overcome those feelings.

There were many moments in the Hiroshima Speech that betrayed the memory of fallen service US service members, but I want to take this Memorial Day to highlight a few of them.

The world war that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art. Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes, an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints.

In his speech, Barrack Obama paints a picture of World War II as some kind of playground dispute among the rich kids. It was the wealth, power, and quest for domination that drove the United States to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not the carefully calculated decision to avoid millions of casualties assured by a US invasion of the Japanese mainland. Furthermore, he asserts that the players in the war had advanced ideas of justice, harmony, and truth. Yet, the philosophies of Nazi Germany resulted in the execution of countless Jews, Soviets, homosexuals, and other minority groups that President Obama has championed throughout his reign. Although it is often lost in the sensational history reports of Nazi atrocities in Europe, the Japanese Empire was no better. Japan’s notorious Unit 731 killed 3,000 people while conducting horrific medical experiments and approximately 300,000 people died as a result of biological weapons developed at the facility.

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Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.

This is the crux of his speech because, in his opinion, American morality has evolved past the need for nuclear weapons and for war. His statements imply that if the United States, Nazi Germany, and Japan were engaged in a worldwide conflict that the American Government (and the American people) would never support the use of nuclear weapons against another nation. His words imply that Japan was attacked by the US out of fear because its people were different. Yet, it was the Japanese Empire that forced the US into a conflict with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Before that moment, the US had not been engaged in a war with the island nation. However, the attack prompted a response by America that raged across the Pacific Ocean and its myriad of tiny islands until the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki put an end to the fighting and forged an alliance of peace between the two countries that brought about a technological revolution!

While the devastation levied on the two cities is tragic in-itself, it cannot be said enough how those sacrifices most likely saved the lives of countless others whose lives would have been snuffed out when the US launched an invasion of Japan. The pending invasion, known as Operation Downfall, projected that 500,000 US service members would have lost their lives and the fanatical warrior culture of the Japanese Empire would have required hand-to-hand combat in almost every home on the island. Some estimates of the initial invasion suggested that around 100,000 soldiers would be killed in combat on the island per month, so at one point, 500,000 Purple Hearts were commissioned by the War Department to prepare for the losses. Yet, intelligence on the nature of the Japanese enemy caused the US Government to make its calculated decision to deliver the nukes in an attempt to stave off the need for such an invasion. Japan surrendered six days later, after around 130,000 people were killed in the blast.

Why We Come Here

President Obama ended his speech with this:

Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

Taken out of the context of the rest of the speech, it is an accurate assessment of life and death. Ancient warfare philosophies have always taught that fighting should be done only as a last resort. When Hitler’s Germany and the Japanese Empire began systematically invading other countries and slaughtering innocents, the United States and its allies fulfilled their moral duty to intervene and to save those less fortunate. President Obama can speak all he wants to about the need for moral revolution, but a revolution is not the same as evolution. A moral revolution does need to occur in our society, but it needs to look to the heroes of World War II for the way ahead. The young men and women who laid down their lives for their brothers, sisters, and even for those who they did not know are the reason that I am able to sit here today and be critical of the man who stands up and claims to speak for the free world.

ww2nuke

The reality is that Barrack Obama speaks for no one but himself. Even a half-hearted apology for the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a betrayal of the worst kind to the memory of the soldiers who gave their lives fighting to defend their homes and families. If anything, the bombs prove the American resolve to preserve life and to defend the lives of others. If that were not the case, then Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been just the first wave in a series of greater bombings and conquests that would not have ended with Germany and Japan’s surrender.

The Man Who Speaks for No One

Instead, I prefer to join the millions of people in the United States and around the world who disagree with President Obama’s self-loathing and anti-American sentiment. Those people in Europe whose families were rescued by the Allied powers continued to appreciate and respect those sacrifices. And I appreciate the sacrifices of every man and woman around the world who has decided to give his or her life for something greater than their own personal desires; to defend their homes, families, and the freedoms that they hold so dear. Today, we honor them all by reminding the world that the fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen gave their lives not to defend the personal philosophies of the United States Government or the opinions of its leaders. These people pledged to defend the foundations that make us different, which are rooted in the United States Constitution, by sworn oath ad victoriam ad valerum.

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Karjakin Withdraws from Norway Chess 2016

Interesting…

GM Sergey Karjakin, who is the current challenger for the title of World Chess Champion against Magnus Carlsen in New York City later this year, has withdrawn from the Altibox Norway Chess tournament and provoked the rage of the tournament’s organizers.

Chessdom and Susan Polgar have posted a series of responses from the tournament organizers that explain in clear terms that Karjakin’s withdrawal from the tournament is disrespectful:

  • Karjakin has a signed contract with us and it does not state that he can withdraw from the tournament if he qualifies for the World Championship in November, states Jøran Aulin-Jansson.
  • This action feels disrespectful to us as the organizers of the event as well as the other players in the tournament, not to mention the entire chess world that were looking forward to the dress rehearsal for the World Championship match between Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen, says Aulin-Jansson.
  • Sergey Karjakin is a great chess player and he is still welcome as a participant in Altibox Norway Chess 2016. He has, after all, won both times he has participated, says Aulin-Jansson.
  • Karjakin obviously has a lot of nerves before his first World Championship match, however, we truly wish Karjakin and his advisors understand that one can not just run away from agreements because it suddenly does not fit in preparation for a match that does not start until about half a year later.

For more information, contact:
Jøran Aulin-Jansson
Board Member
Phone: +47 913 32 242
joran@norwaychess.com

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The Agon Monopoly – The World Takes Notice

It took some time but the mainstream media has started to notice and report on the war between Agon and the rest of the chess world. A recent article on Bloomberg has raised interest in the company’s move to monopolize the 2016 Candidates Tournament broadcast and that of any subsequent tournaments connected to the World Chess Championship cycle. As many of us already know, the move has deepened the wedge between the World Chess Federation and countless fans across the globe. As explained in the article,

The company hired by the World Chess Federation to organize and broadcast the ongoing tournament in Russia announced earlier this month that other websites would not be allowed to offer live coverage, as many had done in the past.

This paragraph represents how the situation most likely appears to outsiders because it is how Agon/FIDE has worked to project its position in relation to live tournament broadcasts. Agon appears to be a legitimate company hired by FIDE to manage the championship tournament cycle because that is how the elaborate pyramid system involving FIDE and Agon is established and portrayed. It goes without saying that the boards of entire corporations have been put in prison in the United States for engaging in the same activities that have been undertaken by the leadership of the World Chess Federation and its phantom company. Let us take a moment to break down the history of Agon, its influence and relationship with the World Chess Federation.

  • Agon was founded in 2012 by Andrew Paulson, an American businessman for the sole purpose of managing and promoting chess tournaments and specifically, the World Chess Championship cycle. Because of missteps in management and controversy over the company’s ownership, Agon never organized a single chess event or sponsorship under Paulson and shortly after he became president of the English Chess Federation, Paulson sold the company to its current owner, Ilya Merenzon. Although it operates primarily out of the Russian Federation, Agon is registered as a private company based out of New Jersey.

  • As early as 2014, accusations arose that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of the World Chess Federation, was to be provided 51% in shares of Agon, which would have made him a majority shareholder and a de facto controller of the company and its assets. Conflict of interest is a term ill-suited to describe that kind of situation. Because of Ilyumzhinov’s reputation for deception and monopolistic control of the World Chess Federation, it is hard difficult to determine exactly where fiction ends and reality begins in the story of his relationship to Agon.

When Agon announced its intentions to limit the broadcast rights of chess websites around the world shortly before the start of the 2016 Candidates Tournament, the reaction was swift and furious. Campfire Chess joined in support of Chessdom, Chess24 and Chessbomb as they defied the company’s demands and continued broadcasting the live moves in protest throughout the tournament. I continue to stand by this position because everything that I am says that dissent in this case is the right thing to do. According to the official website, Agon has filed legal action in Moscow against Chess24, ChessGames.com, The Internet Chess Club, and Chess24 because of their defiance, but it will be curious to how the whole scenario plays out because Agon has no standing to pursue action against these sites, as has been demonstrated in case law and in settlements as recent as 2015 with Major League Baseball.

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Kent Brockman reporting… (Credit: Fox)

Naivety and Corporate Expectations

I am certainly not blind to the needs of companies to turn a profit from their products. Campfire Chess is a nonprofit organization funded entirely by me, but my long term dream is to monetize some kind of product. However, the rules of business are much more complicated than ordering other companies to cease their operations so that another company can turn a profit.

This is what Agon and FIDE leadership do not understand. If they want to build sponsorship and monetize chess tournaments, then they need to offer a product that is in higher demand than others. Chessbase, Chess24, Chessbomb and countless other sites in the online chess ecosystem offer live commentary, video lessons, and a sense of community that draws people in to their services. This is what Agon should be doing if it wants to compete. I am entirely open to watching tournaments on an exclusive tournament site if that site offers coverage and supplemental material that makes the experience worth it.

Until they figure that out, dissent will continue because chess is for the people.

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World Chess Championship: Now We Know

Makeup of a Championship

The 2016 Candidates Tournament, which has been mined in controversy, is finally over. In a triumphant return to the world chess stage, Sergey Karjakin of Russia has earned the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Chess Championship in New York City. Karjakin finished the tournament with a solid win over American GM Fabiano Caruana. After holding a relatively balanced position for most of the game, Caruana blundered a critical rook move:

Carlsen remains a clear favorite to retain his title, but Karjakin has an opportunity to snatch it away from Norway and bring it back to Mother Russia, whose state-funded system dominated world chess for almost a century. Congratulations and praise poured out from the community following the win.

Vishy Anand, who challenged Carlsen in 2014 and looked poised to return to the championship at certain points in the tournament, showed an amazing depth of class by symbolically passing the torch on to Karjakin via Twitter.

Giri’s Drawing Streak

As if this tournament did not already have enough oddities and challenges associated with it, Anish Giri managed to draw every one of his games in the tournament, a staggering 14/14 drawn games! Family, friends, and fans watched as Giri went from a theoretical challenger to the world champion to the subject of memes and jokes spread across the blogosphere.

Nakamura’s Implosion

Perhaps nothing besides Agon’s coverage policy was as disappointing as Hikaru Nakamura’s performance in the tournament. The American GM, who was among the candidates high on the list to challenge Magnus Carlsen, literally imploded. He regained some ground in the later rounds, but it was not enough to catch Karjakin, Caruana, and Anand who had pulled well ahead of their competitors.

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GM Hikaru Nakamura will have to wait another cycle. (Image Credit: FIDE)


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Final Standings Crosstable (Image Credit: Chessbase)

Now the chess world turns its attention to Norway Chess as the next major tournament gets set to begin in just a few short months. Check out the entire collection of games from the 2016 Candidates Tournament below:

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Kirsan Illyumzhinov Sanctioned by the United States

You might have already read this story making waves across the online chess community, but its potential effects on international chess warrant another mention. The United States Department of the Treasury has slapped sanctions on Kirsan Illyumzhinov because of his continued support of oppressive regimes like those in Syria and the former governments of Iraq and Libya. Kirsan’s eccentric political connections are well known and often despised within the chess community, but these sanctions come primarily because of his connections to the government of Syria. American intelligence has linked Syrian government assets to support of the terrorist group known as ISIS. These sanctions come at a difficult time for Illyumzhinov and the World Chess Federation as the organization is actively searching for a US-based venue for the 2016 World Chess Championship.

For an in-depth exposé into the developing story along with the official response from Kirsan himself, check out this article on Chessbase.

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Russia’s Next Major Move



It is no secret that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov loves Russia and its benevolent leader Vladimir Putin. Chess websites and blogs painted the web today with news that the FIDE Candidates Chess Tournament 2016 will be held in Moscow. The winner of the Candidates tournament will face Magnus Carlsen at the World Chess Championship 2016 in the United States. Of course it is no real surprise that the tournament is set for Moscow. The FIDE president has a long history of mingling with some of the world’s most unusual and dangerous people.

  • Muammar Gaddafi
  • Saddam Hussein
  • Aliens

Okay, so the third one is up for debate but he once tried to arrange a World Championship match in Baghdad and played chess with Gaddafi shortly before the dictator was overthrown by UN and UK forces. Curiously, Ilyumzhinov visited Libya and Iraq both shortly before their downfalls. Now as Vladimir Putin’s Russia continues to take on more aggressive roles in world politics, Ilyumzhinov is once again cozying up to the longtime president. Is Russia making moves to become a major influence in world chess once again? My money is on the revitalization of a Soviet-like chess machine and the return of the Russian Bear.

Read more about the 2016 Candidates Tournament on Susan Polgar’s website.

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FIDE Bans Garry Kasparov for 2 Years

Greetings, campers! This is a post that I never expected to write. For as long as he dominated the professional chess world Garry Kasparov has been an outspoken and often controversial figure. He has a longstanding hatred of Vladimir Putin and tends to see himself as more of a political activist than a chess ambassador. Unfortunately the way that Russian politics tends to deal with its rivals is to ridicule (or outright kill) them. Kasparov gained notoriety in this sense with the hilarious flying penis incident that has probably appeared on every funniest video countdown show since then.

Kasparov launched a massive campaign in 2014 to oust longtime president of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov but was literally destroyed in the lopsided election. Kasparov accused Ilyumzhinov (a close personal friend of Vladimir Putin) of winning the election through dirty politics that included bribery, extortion, and even the unusual step of removing a chess federation entirely from the list of FIDE organization and replacing it with a pro-Ilyumzhinov federation. Suffice to say that 2014 was a very exciting year for chess fans because politics and Kasparov both draw a crowd so interest was high on whether the former World Champion would be able to remove Ilyumzhinov. Kasparov remained relatively low key after the loss and made an appearance at the 2015 Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis but now he returns to the headlines by receiving a 2-year ban from FIDE for bribery! Here is the exact determination from the FIDE Ethics Commission:

ETHICS COMMISSION JUDGEMENT

Upon due consideration by the Ethics Commission of the factors relevant to the sanction, including the gravity of the offence and the presence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the Ethics Commission imposes the following sanction:

Mr Kasparov and Mr Leong are both banned for a period of two (2) years from holding any office or position within FIDE, including its member federations, continental associations or any other affiliated international organisations, as well as participating in any FIDE meeting as delegate, proxy-holder or other representative of a FIDE member. This ban will be effective from the period 21 October 2015 until 20 October 2017.

So, what did they do? In 2014 when Kasparov was running for the FIDE Presidency he made a deal with Ignatius Leong so that he would switch his federation’s vote from Ilyumzhinov to Kasparov in exchange for monetary contributions. Having worked in government service I have come to learn that appearance is everything and intentions are seldom taken into account. Kasparov’s camp argued that the $500,000 contribution for Leong providing 10 votes for the presidential campaign was to create an offshoot of the Kasparov Chess Foundation in Asia. Unfortunately the truth in the situation does not matter. Kasparov made a political blunder in that he did not see how his opponents would be able to manipulate the selling of votes. In some ways its almost as though he walked into a fool’s mate because his entire campaign was run on the premise of removing Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and ridding FIDE of its corrupt government once and for all. Yet it was a sneaky move that cost him 2 years of membership in FIDE or participation in its activities. Kasparov had this to say in response to the commission’s original findings:

“Back in Russia I got used to being falsely accused by puppet courts and this one has as little value and credibility as those. Being accused of corruption by Ilyumzhinov is like being accused of foreign aggression by Putin!

“My mission has always been to promote chess and to build the future of the game. I once hoped that could happen with FIDE, but it is clearer than ever this work will continue despite FIDE, which continues to take resources out of the sport and to drive away those who love it.”

This is the kind of stuff that makes it difficult to take Kasparov and his activities seriously. He never wishes to admit that he made a mistake or something that went wrong might actually be his fault. Surely at some point in his life he had to have stepped away from the chessboard and realized that he was making errors in his games. How else could he have learned and become one of the greatest players in history? Failure is an opportunity to try again but Kasparov never seems willing to admit that he can fail of his own doing. Unfortunately that seems to be something ingrained into Russian politics and Kasparov has proven himself to be the true son of his motherland: a devious Russian politician.

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