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Kasparov Trades Chess For Politics

Garri Kasparov For the last two decades, one man -- Garri Kasparov -- has dominated the world of chess. But now the world's number one says he has played his last professional game, and he's going into politics instead.

Washington, 13 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Kasparov had just won another chess tournament on 10 March when he made his announcement.

The former world champion says he'll continue to play -- but only for fun, not professionally.

"I have done everything in chess that I could, even more," he says. "Now I intend to use my intellect and strategic thinking in Russian politics."

Aleksandr Roshal, editor-in-chief of a popular chess magazine, says Kasparov realized he could no longer compete at the same level as when he was young man.

"Garri finally understood that there was [no longer] a direct route [to victory], only bypasses. But he didn't have the time [or the patience] for round-abouts. [He has] no desire. And don't forget that he will be 42 years old in a month. He won more than 40 super tournaments. And he could win more professional chess matches, but what else could he do other than what he has already achieved before?" Roshal said.

At 22, Kasparov became the youngest world champion ever. He repeatedly defended his title and suffered only two real defeats in his career.

The first was in 1997 when he lost to a computer -- IBM's "Deep Blue." And in 2000, he lost his world title to the younger Vladimir Kramnik.

But Kasparov is still ranked number one by the World Chess Federation.

In national politics or in the politics of chess, Kasparov's record has not been as victorious.

Kasparov twice tried to launch alternative world chess associations, but both folded.

And in Moscow politics, Kasparov has frequently picked the losing side.

In 1991, Kasparov made his political debut when he participated in the creation of Nikolai Travkin's Democratic Party of Russia.

That party foundered, and Kasparov later hitched his star to the Congress of Russian Communities, whose party list was topped by the late General Aleksandr Lebed and Dmitrii Rogozin. That party failed to enter the Duma.

More recently, Kasparov together with independent State Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov launched the Committee-2008. The group aims to ensure that President Vladimir Putin steps down by the end of 2008.

Kasparov says Russia under President Vladimir Putin is moving in the wrong direction. At the group's launch last year he spoke of what he said was the growing threat to democracy.

"We see a clear danger, a clear and present danger, for the current constitution, for our democratic rights and that is why we are bringing [together] all different people, citizens, on the basis of our citizenship, that believe in democracy as an institution," Kasparov said.

Meanwhile, some of Kasparov's old chess associates wonder if he has the right temperament for a career in politics.

Roshal believes that so far Kasparov has displayed just enough control over his incendiary nature.

"His impulsiveness is such that he never quite goes over the edge. If he can [continue] to do this in the future then his good fortune will continue," Roshal said.

(RFE/RL's Russian Service contributed to this report)

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