Slav Defense

We note that former world chess champion Garry Kasparov has been arrested in Russia for leading a protest rally. According to reports he has been sentenced to five days in jail.

I have no doubt that Kasparov is quite rightly seen as a dangerous opponent by Vladimir Putin. He is enormously intelligent, is obviously a brilliant and cunning strategist, and is idolized in Russia, where chess is roughly what baseball is to Americans. And while chess masters are many, world champions are few, and they are distinguished from merely great players by an almost inhuman will to win: to crush their opponents not just on the board, but in spirit as well — a trait of which Garik is perhaps the greatest exemplar since Fischer, or even Alekhine. Dr. Emmanuel Lasker — philosopher, mathematician, friend of Einstein, and above all one of the greatest champions of all time — saw chess as being, first and foremost, a struggle of wills. At the world-champion match level, where calculation and opening theory are already at the limit of human capability, it is the one with the superior will who triumphs. In Lasker’s day that was Lasker; in our time it was Kasparov. The man simply will not be intimidated, and I am confident that Putin knows that with the board in its current position, Kasparov will neither resign nor offer a draw.

Putin must play conservatively here; he knows the world is watching, and he knows that he must handle Kasparov with care, given his enormous popularity. Simply to have him eliminated would be a risky move indeed. But Garik will, as always, be quick to spot any point of weakness, and to apply pressure.

This game is not yet out of the opening. Read an account of Kasparov’s arrest here.

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