Commentary Magazine


Topic: Garry Kasparov

Wave of Anti-Putin Protests Hits the U.S.

I agree with Max’s post below. While Friday’s sentencing in Russia of three members of a punk rock protest outfit was a travesty of justice–the girls were each give two-year prison terms–it also exposed the Putin regime’s thuggish tactics to a broader audience, making it more difficult for apologists to gloss over the government’s oppression. As Seth noted, Pussy Riot’s treatment is being condemned by celebrities, who may be politically clueless but can still bring a lot of much-needed attention to the issue.

The regime’s response to protesters after the sentencing has only invited more global outrage. Human Rights Foundation chairman Garry Kasparov, a prominent chess champion and activist, was reportedly beaten severely by Russian police outside the courthouse where the sentencing took place today.

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I agree with Max’s post below. While Friday’s sentencing in Russia of three members of a punk rock protest outfit was a travesty of justice–the girls were each give two-year prison terms–it also exposed the Putin regime’s thuggish tactics to a broader audience, making it more difficult for apologists to gloss over the government’s oppression. As Seth noted, Pussy Riot’s treatment is being condemned by celebrities, who may be politically clueless but can still bring a lot of much-needed attention to the issue.

The regime’s response to protesters after the sentencing has only invited more global outrage. Human Rights Foundation chairman Garry Kasparov, a prominent chess champion and activist, was reportedly beaten severely by Russian police outside the courthouse where the sentencing took place today.

“If anyone had any doubts about the despotic nature of Russia’s regime, the arrest and violence used against someone simply standing outside a courthouse perfectly illustrates the dire situation in that country today,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation, in an public statement.

The sentencing sparked protests at Russian embassies from NYC to London. In Washington, D.C., there were demonstrations in front of the embassy and the Russian ambassador’s residence.

At one protest in D.C., organized by the Center for American Freedom (which runs the Washington Free Beacon), demonstrators carried signs decrying Putin and calling for the prisoners to be released. “How’s the oppression going?” CAF’s chairman Michael Goldfarb yelled at people entering the residence, while a group of protesters — including someone in a gorilla suit and a woman in a Putin mask — waved signs nearby. According to Goldfarb, this was CAF’s first direct action demonstration. He said he wanted to send a message to Putin that “there’s still a few people who care.”

If today’s global protests are any indication, it’s far more than just a few. Whether that gets through to the “Reset” enthusiasts in the Obama administration — which issued a fairly mild statement saying it was “concerned” about the “disproportionate sentencing” — remains to be seen.

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Kasparov, Nemtsov call McFaul’s Bluff

On Tuesday, I wrote about U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul’s objection to tying America’s economic interaction with Russia to the promotion of human rights. McFaul was in Washington for a conference and also to push for repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a piece of Cold War-era legislation that sanctioned Moscow’s trade status for restricting Jewish emigration. Now that Russia is joining the World Trade Organization, Jackson-Vanik disadvantages American businesses, and so it’s time to repeal it.

But I argued that McFaul’s emphasis on repealing Jackson-Vanik was a dodge, since its repeal is uncontroversial. The real issue is whether it should be replaced by legislation that would hold Vladimir Putin’s administration accountable for its atrocious human rights record. Were McFaul not representing the Obama administration, I added, he might very well support such action–McFaul is the author of several books on promoting democracy in the post-Soviet space. Today, Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov, two outspoken Russian opposition figures, take to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to make those points, and a few others.

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On Tuesday, I wrote about U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul’s objection to tying America’s economic interaction with Russia to the promotion of human rights. McFaul was in Washington for a conference and also to push for repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a piece of Cold War-era legislation that sanctioned Moscow’s trade status for restricting Jewish emigration. Now that Russia is joining the World Trade Organization, Jackson-Vanik disadvantages American businesses, and so it’s time to repeal it.

But I argued that McFaul’s emphasis on repealing Jackson-Vanik was a dodge, since its repeal is uncontroversial. The real issue is whether it should be replaced by legislation that would hold Vladimir Putin’s administration accountable for its atrocious human rights record. Were McFaul not representing the Obama administration, I added, he might very well support such action–McFaul is the author of several books on promoting democracy in the post-Soviet space. Today, Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov, two outspoken Russian opposition figures, take to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to make those points, and a few others.

The authors note that McFaul challenged a crowd on Monday to ask Aleksei Navalny, a popular Russian activist and blogger who has become a vocal leader of the protest movement, what he thinks. McFaul was certain his interlocutors would decline to accept the challenge. Kasparov and Nemtsov called McFaul’s bluff:

So we asked Mr. Navalny, who, along with several other members of the opposition leadership, signed a letter cited by Mr. McFaul calling for the removal of Russia from Jackson-Vanik. “Of course no one in Russia is foolish enough to defend Jackson-Vanik,” he told us. “But we also understand that it should be replaced with something else. And we said as much in our letter when we recommended the passing of the Magnitsky Act, as has been done in Europe.”

Mr. Navalny is referring to the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011, which was introduced in the U.S. Senate last May with wide bipartisan support. Named for the Russian attorney who died in police custody in 2009 while investigating official corruption, the Magnitsky Act would bring visa and asset sanctions against Russian government functionaries culpable of criminal and human rights abuses.

Kasparov and Nemtsov also challenged the administration’s realpolitik approach to the “reset” policy, arguing that McFaul’s devotion to his own policy (the “reset” is McFaul’s handiwork) is causing the erstwhile defender of human rights to subjugate his own value system in the mad dash to defend his legacy. What’s more, the authors point out the assault on logic the administration must conduct in order to justify its behavior:

Moreover, if economic engagement is the best way to promote an open society, why does the Obama administration not forge a free-trade pact with Iran instead of levying sanctions? Russia will be joining the World Trade Organization regardless of what the U.S. does. But WTO membership will not undo Mr. Putin’s monopolization of political and economic power. If Mr. Putin and his oligarchs believed for an instant that the WTO might weaken their grip, they simply would stay out.

The Obama administration is not only attempting to overturn a law, but also its spirit. As Mr. Kissinger did 39 years ago, Amb. McFaul is trying to make the case that human rights should not get in the way of realpolitik and the business of doing business. He reminds us that the State Department already has its own secret list of banned Russian officials, and so nothing more need be done. But the entire object of such laws is to publicly shame and punish the rank and file of Mr. Putin’s mob so they know the big boss can no longer protect them.

The Obama administration talks a lot about human rights. Kasparov and Nemtsov are right to ask if those speeches are, as the president himself might say, just words.

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Five Best?

What are the five best chess books? The Wall Street Journal solicited my opinion, and I offered it in today’s paper right here. For those of you don’t subscribe to the paper, I’ve pasted in a copy below. Just click on: Read More

What are the five best chess books? The Wall Street Journal solicited my opinion, and I offered it in today’s paper right here. For those of you don’t subscribe to the paper, I’ve pasted in a copy below. Just click on:

1. My 60 Memorable Games

By Bobby Fischer

Simon & Schuster, 1969

The great chess books are great less for their prose style than for their insight into the application of highly controlled violence. “My 60 Memorable Games” was written while Bobby Fischer was still on his steep ascent to the world-champion title — and long before the slide into madness that ended with his death in January. He recounts his eviscerations of some of the most brilliant minds of the mid-20th century. But Fischer was never content with victory alone; he aimed to inflict agony on his opponents — in his own words, “I like the moment when I break a man’s ego.” Where did such ferocity come from? Fischer, who never knew his own father, once explained that “children who grow up without a parent become wolves.”

2. Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors

By Garry Kasparov

Everyman, 2003-06

Before Garry Kasparov ended his playing career in 2005 to battle for democracy in Russia, he was rightly considered to be the greatest grandmaster of all time. But here he humbles himself charmingly before giants such as world champions Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900) and José Raúl Capablanca (1888-1942). In this comprehensive study of grandmaster play — from the “Italian school” of the 16th century to our current postmodern synthesis — Kasparov aims to connect his forebears’ playing style with “the values of the society in which they lived and worked” and the “geopolitical reality” of their respective eras. The result is a work of unparalleled depth, spirit and ambition — it already stretches into five volumes, and a sixth is on the way.

3. Tal-Botvinnik, 1960

By Mikhail Tal

Russell Enterprises, 1970

How exactly do grandmasters think? Mikhail Tal’s account of his struggle for the world championship title nearly a half-century ago is not merely an analysis of 21 thrilling games. It is an intimate view of the chessboard fantasies of a supreme tactical genius. Tal (1936-92) was pitted against Mikhail Botvinnik (1911-95), the world’s foremost “scientific” player, the defending title-holder and the dean of the Soviet school of chess. In the resulting clash of styles, Tal prevailed by a convincing margin. His victory was a vindication of unfettered imagination and a demonstration that chess can be scientific only in the way that Soviet socialism was scientific, which is to say not at all.

4. My System

By Aron Nimzowitsch

1925

Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) described “My System” as a “chess manual” based “on entirely new principles.” His idea that pawn masses at the center of the board might be a liability — vulnerable to attack from the flanks — was revolutionary, toppling verities and generating fierce resistance. “The reward for my new ideas consisted of abuse,” he wrote bitterly, “or at best systematic silence.” Today, nearly a century later, he would delight to know that his “hypermodern” approach is widely accepted. But if Nimzowitsch’s “My System” aimed at rationalizing chess, as the title suggests, its premise was supremely romantic: “For me,” he wrote in a characteristic passage, “the passed pawn possesses a soul, just like a human being; it has unrecognized desires which slumber deep inside it and it has fears, the very existence of which it can but scarcely divine.”

5. Lasker’s Manual of Chess

By Emanuel Lasker

Dutton, 1927

The German mathematician Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941) wrote in his “Manual of Chess” that the game “would be laughable, were it not so serious.” After decades of studying philosophy, he came to believe that truth could be found only in mathematics and chess. Of the contest of wills between two players manipulating 32 wooden pieces on 64 squares, he wrote: “Lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of a lie; the merciless fact, culminating in a checkmate, contradicts the hypocrite.” Lasker, a close friend of Albert Einstein’s, won the world championship in 1894 and held the title for 27 years, the longest reign so far.

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Bobby Fischer’s Perfect Death

Bobby Fischer is dead, at 64, a young but perfect age for a chess genius to die: there are of course 64 squares on the chessboard. Fischer was certainly one of the greatest chessplayers in history, eclipsed perhaps only by Garry Kasparov. But his life was tragic, and for all the interest in chess he generated here in the U.S., his net contribution has to be counted in the negative column.

The problem, of course, was his madness, which began to manifest itself quite early in his career. Signs of trouble were already visible in 1962, when at age nineteen and already a giant on the chess stage, he encountered “personal problems” and dropped out of high-level competition for a period of years, falling under the spell of various radio-preachers. His semi-retirement ended in 1968 and he began his quest for the world championship, which ended in his celebrated victory over Boris Spassky in 1972. From there, a long spiral downhill began.

In 1982, he published a pamphlet, “I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!,”  the consequence of a mistaken arrest as a bank-robbery suspect. Two years later, he wrote to the Encylopedia Judaica asking for his entry to be removed (the underlinings are as in the original):

Gentlemen:

Knowing what I do about Judaism, I was naturally distressed to see that you have erroneously featured me as a Jew in ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA. Please do not make this mistake again in any future editions of your voluminous, pseudo-authoritative publication. I am not today, nor have I ever been a Jew, and as a matter of fact, I am uncircumcised.

I suggest rather than fraudulently misrepresenting me to be a Jew, and dishonestly abusing my name and reputation as a kind of advertising gimmick to improve the image of your religion (Judaism), you try to promote your religion on its own merits — if indeed it has any!

In closing, I trust that I am not being unrealistically optimistic, in thanking you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter.

Truly yours,
Bobby Fischer
The World Chess Champion

A passionate hatred of Jews was to stay with Fischer for the rest of his life.

Anti-Semitism has been likened to a disease in the way it sometimes infects entire societies, and it is indeed a suitable metaphor to describe that phenomenon. But when applied to individual anti-Semites, the disease metaphor has the defect of removing responsibility for evil words and actions. But in Fischer’s case, as was made plain by so much else about him, his anti-Semitism truly was the consequence of disease.

Thanks to Bobby Fischer’s illness, the public has absorbed the idea that great chessplayers tend to be madmen. And while there have been several deranged grandmasters, it is doubtful that the frequency of mental illness in this group is higher than the average rate among geniuses. In the end, Bobby Fischer deserves to be remembered for his contributions, even if those contributions were seriously marred by the disrepute he brought upon the game of chess.

Bobby Fischer is dead, at 64, a young but perfect age for a chess genius to die: there are of course 64 squares on the chessboard. Fischer was certainly one of the greatest chessplayers in history, eclipsed perhaps only by Garry Kasparov. But his life was tragic, and for all the interest in chess he generated here in the U.S., his net contribution has to be counted in the negative column.

The problem, of course, was his madness, which began to manifest itself quite early in his career. Signs of trouble were already visible in 1962, when at age nineteen and already a giant on the chess stage, he encountered “personal problems” and dropped out of high-level competition for a period of years, falling under the spell of various radio-preachers. His semi-retirement ended in 1968 and he began his quest for the world championship, which ended in his celebrated victory over Boris Spassky in 1972. From there, a long spiral downhill began.

In 1982, he published a pamphlet, “I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!,”  the consequence of a mistaken arrest as a bank-robbery suspect. Two years later, he wrote to the Encylopedia Judaica asking for his entry to be removed (the underlinings are as in the original):

Gentlemen:

Knowing what I do about Judaism, I was naturally distressed to see that you have erroneously featured me as a Jew in ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA. Please do not make this mistake again in any future editions of your voluminous, pseudo-authoritative publication. I am not today, nor have I ever been a Jew, and as a matter of fact, I am uncircumcised.

I suggest rather than fraudulently misrepresenting me to be a Jew, and dishonestly abusing my name and reputation as a kind of advertising gimmick to improve the image of your religion (Judaism), you try to promote your religion on its own merits — if indeed it has any!

In closing, I trust that I am not being unrealistically optimistic, in thanking you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter.

Truly yours,
Bobby Fischer
The World Chess Champion

A passionate hatred of Jews was to stay with Fischer for the rest of his life.

Anti-Semitism has been likened to a disease in the way it sometimes infects entire societies, and it is indeed a suitable metaphor to describe that phenomenon. But when applied to individual anti-Semites, the disease metaphor has the defect of removing responsibility for evil words and actions. But in Fischer’s case, as was made plain by so much else about him, his anti-Semitism truly was the consequence of disease.

Thanks to Bobby Fischer’s illness, the public has absorbed the idea that great chessplayers tend to be madmen. And while there have been several deranged grandmasters, it is doubtful that the frequency of mental illness in this group is higher than the average rate among geniuses. In the end, Bobby Fischer deserves to be remembered for his contributions, even if those contributions were seriously marred by the disrepute he brought upon the game of chess.

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Schoenfeld vs. Sharansky

Natan Sharansky was in town yesterday and dropped by the offices of COMMENTARY– where I challenged him to a game of chess, thereby fulfilling a decades’ long dream. The trouble was, we did not have a chess set handy, which led him to remark that this meant that COMMENTARY was not a Jewish magazine. One of my colleagues ran out to the wonderful stationery store, Sam Flax, which agreed on the spot to sponsor the match and provided us with an odd but perfectly usable set.

During long years as a Soviet refusenik, and then a decade in the Gulag on the trumped-up crime of treason, Sharansky had a lot of time to ponder the fine points of the royal game. As the New York Times reported, “he had little time for chess during his dissident years in the Soviet Union, but he recovered his skills in prison, where he said he spent the long days in solitary confinement playing three simultaneous games in his mind.” Sharansky told the newspaper, “I played thousands of games, and I won them all.”

In Russia, he had earned the title of candidate master, which is equivalent to the rank of American master. The latter is the title I earned in 1989, the last year in which I played a game of competitive chess. Sharansky has played twice against the former world champion Garry Kasparov, emerging with one draw and one victory, an excellent score for an amateur even considering that both games took place at exhibitions in which Kasparov was playing multiple players simultaneously.

Lately, however, Sharansky has devoted most of his time to preventing the state of Israel from (to use chess lingo) sacrificing its pieces without adequate compensation. And so his chess, though strong, may not be as strong as it once was. When we sat down to play, I had little idea what I would be up against.

In our first game, playing black, Sharansky responded to 1.e4 with the ultra-aggressive Schliemann Defense in the Ruy Lopez. Unfortunately, I fell into a trap and the game was over in a mere seven moves, a humiliation for Connecting the Dots akin to the Arab defeat in the Six-Day war, and one that cried out for another round.

In our second game, I had the black pieces. I steered into one of my favorite lines of the rock-solid Caro-Kann. Before too long, I was able to exchange off some of Sharansky’s most actively placed pieces and then I managed to win one of his central pawns, obtaining a very strong position. On his 24th move, Sharansky made a blunder and gave up a second pawn. The game was now all but won.

But my opponent proved to be nothing if not resourceful, and unfortunately, through inaccurate play, I helped him along. As I pushed my pawns forward he managed to maneuver his rooks onto the seventh rank, whereupon I agreed (prematurely, it turns out) to a draw. At a score of 1/2 to 1 1/2, I ended up with the same result against Sharansky that Garry Kasparov had obtained against him, a score that left me immensely satisfied that I had been able to lay a finger on this remarkable Russian, Israeli, Jewish hero.

GAME 1

Schoenfeld vs. Sharansky

Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5

2.Nf3 Nc6

3.Bb5 f5

4.Bxc6 dxc6

5.Nxe5 fxe4

6.Nc3 Nf6

7.0–0??

chess-pic-1b.jpg

POSITION AFTER 7.0-0??

White walks right into a trap and the game is over. I should have resigned immediately after Sharanksy’s next move, but was too stunned by the sudden turn of events.

7… Qd4

8.Re1 Qxe5

9.Nxe4 Nxe4

10.d3 Bf5

11.dxe4 Bg6

and realizing, belatedly, that I was lost, I resigned.

0–1

 

GAME 2

Sharansky vs. Schoenfeld

Caro-Kann

1.e4 c6

2.d4 d5

3.Nc3 dxe4

4.Nxe4 Nd7

5.Nf3 Ngf6

6.Ng3 e6

7.Bd3 Bd6

8.0–0 Qc7

9.c4 0–0

10.c5 Be7

11.Re1 b6

12.b4 a5

13.cxb6 Qxb6

14.bxa5 Rxa5

15.Bd2 Ra8

16.Qc2 Ba6

17.Bxa6 Qxa6

18.Ne5 c5

19.Nxd7 Nxd7

20.d5?

Akin to pulling out of Gaza. This gives up a pawn without compensation.

20… Bf6

21.Bc3

If 21.dxe6 Bxa1 22.exd7 Qxa2 23.Qxa2 Rxa2 24.Bg5 f6 25.Bf4 Be5 26.Bxe5 fxe5 27.Rxe5 Ra1+ 28.Nf1 Rd1 and white is up the exchange for a pawn in a winning endgame.

21… Qc4

22.Rec1 Qxc3

23.Qxc3 Bxc3

24.Rxc3 exd5

Black’s imposing central pawns give him a powerful advantage.

25.Nf5 Rfe8

26.a4??

Sharansky is momentarily distracted and drops a pawn after I explain to him that at Annapolis Olmert has just yielded the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem in exchange for the right to shake hands with the Saudi deputy foreign minister.

26… Rxa4

27.Rd1 d4

28.Rf3 Ne5

29.Rg3 g6

30.Nd6 Re6

31.Ne4 Rc6

32.f4 Nc4

33.Ng5 f5?

Unnecessary. Better to proceed simply with the attack via 33. Ne3.

34.Nf3 Ne3

35.Rc1 d3

36.Nd2 Ra2

37.Rxe3 Rxd2

38.Re7 Rc2?

Never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity, I make the worst move on the board, giving white a draw. Far better is 38…Rb6 39.Ra1 Rb8 40.h3 Re2, and black runs out of threats.

39.Ra1 Rc8

40.Raa7 Re2

41.Rg7+ Kf8

42.Raf7+ Ke8

43.Rd7??

chess-pic-2b.jpg

POSITION AFTER 43. Rd7??

A disastrous comedy of errors. Sharansky would have had a simple draw by repetition after 43.Rb7. But my own play is even worse since I now offer a draw in a won position. 43…d2! wins.

1/2-1/2

Natan Sharansky was in town yesterday and dropped by the offices of COMMENTARY– where I challenged him to a game of chess, thereby fulfilling a decades’ long dream. The trouble was, we did not have a chess set handy, which led him to remark that this meant that COMMENTARY was not a Jewish magazine. One of my colleagues ran out to the wonderful stationery store, Sam Flax, which agreed on the spot to sponsor the match and provided us with an odd but perfectly usable set.

During long years as a Soviet refusenik, and then a decade in the Gulag on the trumped-up crime of treason, Sharansky had a lot of time to ponder the fine points of the royal game. As the New York Times reported, “he had little time for chess during his dissident years in the Soviet Union, but he recovered his skills in prison, where he said he spent the long days in solitary confinement playing three simultaneous games in his mind.” Sharansky told the newspaper, “I played thousands of games, and I won them all.”

In Russia, he had earned the title of candidate master, which is equivalent to the rank of American master. The latter is the title I earned in 1989, the last year in which I played a game of competitive chess. Sharansky has played twice against the former world champion Garry Kasparov, emerging with one draw and one victory, an excellent score for an amateur even considering that both games took place at exhibitions in which Kasparov was playing multiple players simultaneously.

Lately, however, Sharansky has devoted most of his time to preventing the state of Israel from (to use chess lingo) sacrificing its pieces without adequate compensation. And so his chess, though strong, may not be as strong as it once was. When we sat down to play, I had little idea what I would be up against.

In our first game, playing black, Sharansky responded to 1.e4 with the ultra-aggressive Schliemann Defense in the Ruy Lopez. Unfortunately, I fell into a trap and the game was over in a mere seven moves, a humiliation for Connecting the Dots akin to the Arab defeat in the Six-Day war, and one that cried out for another round.

In our second game, I had the black pieces. I steered into one of my favorite lines of the rock-solid Caro-Kann. Before too long, I was able to exchange off some of Sharansky’s most actively placed pieces and then I managed to win one of his central pawns, obtaining a very strong position. On his 24th move, Sharansky made a blunder and gave up a second pawn. The game was now all but won.

But my opponent proved to be nothing if not resourceful, and unfortunately, through inaccurate play, I helped him along. As I pushed my pawns forward he managed to maneuver his rooks onto the seventh rank, whereupon I agreed (prematurely, it turns out) to a draw. At a score of 1/2 to 1 1/2, I ended up with the same result against Sharansky that Garry Kasparov had obtained against him, a score that left me immensely satisfied that I had been able to lay a finger on this remarkable Russian, Israeli, Jewish hero.

GAME 1

Schoenfeld vs. Sharansky

Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5

2.Nf3 Nc6

3.Bb5 f5

4.Bxc6 dxc6

5.Nxe5 fxe4

6.Nc3 Nf6

7.0–0??

chess-pic-1b.jpg

POSITION AFTER 7.0-0??

White walks right into a trap and the game is over. I should have resigned immediately after Sharanksy’s next move, but was too stunned by the sudden turn of events.

7… Qd4

8.Re1 Qxe5

9.Nxe4 Nxe4

10.d3 Bf5

11.dxe4 Bg6

and realizing, belatedly, that I was lost, I resigned.

0–1

 

GAME 2

Sharansky vs. Schoenfeld

Caro-Kann

1.e4 c6

2.d4 d5

3.Nc3 dxe4

4.Nxe4 Nd7

5.Nf3 Ngf6

6.Ng3 e6

7.Bd3 Bd6

8.0–0 Qc7

9.c4 0–0

10.c5 Be7

11.Re1 b6

12.b4 a5

13.cxb6 Qxb6

14.bxa5 Rxa5

15.Bd2 Ra8

16.Qc2 Ba6

17.Bxa6 Qxa6

18.Ne5 c5

19.Nxd7 Nxd7

20.d5?

Akin to pulling out of Gaza. This gives up a pawn without compensation.

20… Bf6

21.Bc3

If 21.dxe6 Bxa1 22.exd7 Qxa2 23.Qxa2 Rxa2 24.Bg5 f6 25.Bf4 Be5 26.Bxe5 fxe5 27.Rxe5 Ra1+ 28.Nf1 Rd1 and white is up the exchange for a pawn in a winning endgame.

21… Qc4

22.Rec1 Qxc3

23.Qxc3 Bxc3

24.Rxc3 exd5

Black’s imposing central pawns give him a powerful advantage.

25.Nf5 Rfe8

26.a4??

Sharansky is momentarily distracted and drops a pawn after I explain to him that at Annapolis Olmert has just yielded the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem in exchange for the right to shake hands with the Saudi deputy foreign minister.

26… Rxa4

27.Rd1 d4

28.Rf3 Ne5

29.Rg3 g6

30.Nd6 Re6

31.Ne4 Rc6

32.f4 Nc4

33.Ng5 f5?

Unnecessary. Better to proceed simply with the attack via 33. Ne3.

34.Nf3 Ne3

35.Rc1 d3

36.Nd2 Ra2

37.Rxe3 Rxd2

38.Re7 Rc2?

Never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity, I make the worst move on the board, giving white a draw. Far better is 38…Rb6 39.Ra1 Rb8 40.h3 Re2, and black runs out of threats.

39.Ra1 Rc8

40.Raa7 Re2

41.Rg7+ Kf8

42.Raf7+ Ke8

43.Rd7??

chess-pic-2b.jpg

POSITION AFTER 43. Rd7??

A disastrous comedy of errors. Sharansky would have had a simple draw by repetition after 43.Rb7. But my own play is even worse since I now offer a draw in a won position. 43…d2! wins.

1/2-1/2

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A Tale of Two Republics

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people thronged to the streets of Tbilisi on Friday to protest the government of Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili. Most news accounts are treating this as an indictment of Saakashvili, a Columbia-trained lawyer who took power four years ago in the Rose Revolution, and who is a close ally of the United States. That may well be right (although the protesters are not seeking to overthrow him; they merely want elections moved up).

Undoubtedly, like any other leader of an emerging democracy, he has made some mistakes and alienated some people. But what struck me as notable, and what hasn’t been mentioned in most press reports (see here and here), was the restrained reaction of the authorities.

Saakashvili didn’t call out an army of riot police to bust up the protests. The police presence was limited to a few lightly armed officers who, for the most part, got along well with the crowds. Contrast that with Russia, where far smaller anti-government rallies have been broken up by club-wielding riot police who have assaulted some protesters and arrested others, including the former chess champ Garry Kasparov.

This is clearly a tale of two former Soviet republics going in different directions: Georgia toward liberal democracy, Russia toward autocracy. Whatever his mistakes, Saakashvili deserves credit for his efforts to create greater freedom, including the freedom to protest against the government.

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people thronged to the streets of Tbilisi on Friday to protest the government of Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili. Most news accounts are treating this as an indictment of Saakashvili, a Columbia-trained lawyer who took power four years ago in the Rose Revolution, and who is a close ally of the United States. That may well be right (although the protesters are not seeking to overthrow him; they merely want elections moved up).

Undoubtedly, like any other leader of an emerging democracy, he has made some mistakes and alienated some people. But what struck me as notable, and what hasn’t been mentioned in most press reports (see here and here), was the restrained reaction of the authorities.

Saakashvili didn’t call out an army of riot police to bust up the protests. The police presence was limited to a few lightly armed officers who, for the most part, got along well with the crowds. Contrast that with Russia, where far smaller anti-government rallies have been broken up by club-wielding riot police who have assaulted some protesters and arrested others, including the former chess champ Garry Kasparov.

This is clearly a tale of two former Soviet republics going in different directions: Georgia toward liberal democracy, Russia toward autocracy. Whatever his mistakes, Saakashvili deserves credit for his efforts to create greater freedom, including the freedom to protest against the government.

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Kasparov and Putin

In this country we’re not used to thinking of our politicians as heroes. And they seldom are—with some notable exceptions, such as Reagan, who cracked jokes after getting shot, or FDR, who grinned and bore his paralysis, or Lincoln, who directed the war effort with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Our politicians don’t have to be heroes; the Founders created a system in which average men and women could govern themselves.

But in other countries, especially in emerging democracies or in countries still oppressed by a dictator’s whims, being a politician can be a very heroic act. One thinks of Ayman Nour in Egypt, imprisoned for daring to run against Hosni Mubarak. Or Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, imprisoned in her homeland, separated from her husband as he was dying, because she dared challenge the junta that rules Burma.

The latest to join the ranks of heroic politicians is Garry Kasparov, who has announced that he will take on the thankless task of challenging Vladimir Putin’s handpicked successor in Russia’s presidential elections. Kasparov—the subject of a long New Yorker profile by David Remnick last week—is widely considered to be the greatest chess player of all time. He is a rich man who could easily live a life of leisure in New York, London, or Tel Aviv. He has instead chosen to seek political office in Russia even though he knows the odds of victory are nonexistent. The odds of getting killed by the Kremlin’s thugs are considerably higher.

Yet he is running nevertheless simply because he believes in democracy and wants to preserve some sparks of freedom in a country increasingly falling under dictatorial control.That doesn’t mean that he is a political sage or that he is right about every decision he makes. I’ve had discussions with Kasparov (whom I know slightly) in the past where I disagreed with his arguments. And it is certainly possible to question the wisdom of his current alliance with Edward Limonov of the National Bolshevik Party, the closest thing Russia has to a fascist party. Kasparov wants to unite all the opposition groups under one banner, but there are some opposition elements which are too odious to be tolerated by civilized people.

But that’s a matter of tactics on Kasparov’s part. No one could possibly imagine that he is sympathetic to fascism himself or has any but the highest motives for his actions. It is easy to be cynical about the motives of most politicians. But it is hard, if not impossible, to think of any self-interest that Kasparov has in doing what he is doing. He is truly a hero. I only hope he does not become a martyr.

In this country we’re not used to thinking of our politicians as heroes. And they seldom are—with some notable exceptions, such as Reagan, who cracked jokes after getting shot, or FDR, who grinned and bore his paralysis, or Lincoln, who directed the war effort with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Our politicians don’t have to be heroes; the Founders created a system in which average men and women could govern themselves.

But in other countries, especially in emerging democracies or in countries still oppressed by a dictator’s whims, being a politician can be a very heroic act. One thinks of Ayman Nour in Egypt, imprisoned for daring to run against Hosni Mubarak. Or Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, imprisoned in her homeland, separated from her husband as he was dying, because she dared challenge the junta that rules Burma.

The latest to join the ranks of heroic politicians is Garry Kasparov, who has announced that he will take on the thankless task of challenging Vladimir Putin’s handpicked successor in Russia’s presidential elections. Kasparov—the subject of a long New Yorker profile by David Remnick last week—is widely considered to be the greatest chess player of all time. He is a rich man who could easily live a life of leisure in New York, London, or Tel Aviv. He has instead chosen to seek political office in Russia even though he knows the odds of victory are nonexistent. The odds of getting killed by the Kremlin’s thugs are considerably higher.

Yet he is running nevertheless simply because he believes in democracy and wants to preserve some sparks of freedom in a country increasingly falling under dictatorial control.That doesn’t mean that he is a political sage or that he is right about every decision he makes. I’ve had discussions with Kasparov (whom I know slightly) in the past where I disagreed with his arguments. And it is certainly possible to question the wisdom of his current alliance with Edward Limonov of the National Bolshevik Party, the closest thing Russia has to a fascist party. Kasparov wants to unite all the opposition groups under one banner, but there are some opposition elements which are too odious to be tolerated by civilized people.

But that’s a matter of tactics on Kasparov’s part. No one could possibly imagine that he is sympathetic to fascism himself or has any but the highest motives for his actions. It is easy to be cynical about the motives of most politicians. But it is hard, if not impossible, to think of any self-interest that Kasparov has in doing what he is doing. He is truly a hero. I only hope he does not become a martyr.

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Russia’s New Dissidents

Anne Applebaum has a troubling piece in the Spectator on the new dissidents in Russia, the anti-Western rhetoric permeating Pravda and political discourse generally, and the rapidly growing authoritarianism that has characterized Putin’s presidency. Near the piece’s end, she makes this disturbing observation:

Slowly, Russia’s new political class is bringing not just a change in rhetorical tone, but a familiar kind of violence. Last weekend, some 2,000 members of the political opposition—among them Kasyanov, Kasparov, and Limonov—organized a march in Moscow. They were met by 9,000 club-wielding riot police. At least 170 people were arrested, among them Kasparov, who was charged with “shouting anti-government slogans in the presence of a large group of people.”

Kasparov has deemed these harsh new police tactics evidence that the regime is “scared.” Others suspect the Kremlin fears a repeat of the Ukrainian Orange Revolution, whose adherents used street protests to change the regime. I am not so sure. The new aggression might, on the contrary, be evidence that the Kremlin is now so self-confident that it no longer needs to make any gestures to Western public sensibilities at all.

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Anne Applebaum has a troubling piece in the Spectator on the new dissidents in Russia, the anti-Western rhetoric permeating Pravda and political discourse generally, and the rapidly growing authoritarianism that has characterized Putin’s presidency. Near the piece’s end, she makes this disturbing observation:

Slowly, Russia’s new political class is bringing not just a change in rhetorical tone, but a familiar kind of violence. Last weekend, some 2,000 members of the political opposition—among them Kasyanov, Kasparov, and Limonov—organized a march in Moscow. They were met by 9,000 club-wielding riot police. At least 170 people were arrested, among them Kasparov, who was charged with “shouting anti-government slogans in the presence of a large group of people.”

Kasparov has deemed these harsh new police tactics evidence that the regime is “scared.” Others suspect the Kremlin fears a repeat of the Ukrainian Orange Revolution, whose adherents used street protests to change the regime. I am not so sure. The new aggression might, on the contrary, be evidence that the Kremlin is now so self-confident that it no longer needs to make any gestures to Western public sensibilities at all.

Applebaum also notes that the new generation of dissidents—including Garry Kasparov and ex-PM Mikhail Kasyanov—have joined forces with older ones, like the the human-rights activist Lyudmila Alekseyeva. But to little avail:

Oddly enough, in their mixed motives and varying backgrounds, this new generation of dissidents does resemble its Soviet predecessors. They, too, were unpopular. Peter Reddaway, then the leading scholar on the subject, reckoned that at its zenith in the early 1980’s the dissident movement had made “little or no headway among the mass of ordinary people.” Today, the mass of ordinary people are probably not merely indifferent but actively hostile to Kasyanov with his liberal economics; to Kasparov with his mixed ethnic origins; to Alekseyeva with her high principles; to Limonov with his madness. Yet despite this—or perhaps because of it—the Putin regime increasingly treats these new dissidents in much the same manner as the Soviet regime once treated its dissidents.

The whole piece deserves your attention.

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