Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Karpov tried to visit Kasparov in jail

Garry Kasparov was released from jail last week. USA Today reports:

The authorities' goal in jailing him "was to send a message," Kasparov said after stepping out of the police car that delivered him to his Moscow home.

Kasparov said he would continue his efforts to build opposition to Putin and predicted he would be arrested again on more serious charges.

"The Putin regime is entering a new phase of confronting its own people," he said.

Kasparov said he was treated well in jail and received food parcels.

Fascinatingly, while Kasparov was inside his former great rival Anatoly Karpov tried to visit him:

"He [Karpov] was trying to visit Kasparov but he was not allowed to do so," Marina Litvinovich, a senior member of Kasparov's United Civil Front, told Reuters.

"Karpov is a member of the Public Chamber (collective government oversight body) and has the right to visit those detained. All the same, they would not let him in," she said.

"Karpov must have been seeking to extend moral support or see the conditions in which Kasparov is being held."

Karpov is probably one of the most underestimated world champions in the games history. Some of us never forgave him for taking over from Bobby Fischer without playing a match, thought it was entirely down to Fischer's demands that the match never took place.

After becoming world champion in 1975 Karpov won numerous tournaments, defeating all his closest rivals. And when Kasparov arrived as a challenger in the mid 1980s, Karpov all but matched him over the next decade. If Kasparov is the greatest ever, then Karpov cannot be far behind.

Perhaps it was a matter of style. Fischer's games were so easy to understand that he made you fell you could play that well yourself. Kasparov's play was so extraordinary that you had to play over his games twice before you could begin to understand what was going on. Karpov was not like that: he came over as efficient, but a little dull.

Politically, Kasparov and Karpov were a world apart. Garry Kasparov was identified with Gorbachev, glasnost and perestroika, while in the eyes of the previous generation Karpov was a model Soviet citizen. He was not even Jewish.

The young Kasparov was once told by an official: "We already have a world champion. We don't need another one". When, in their first match, Karpov was close to exhaustion it was the Soviet authorities who had the match called off.

So it was remarkable that Karpov should make the gesture of trying to visit Kasparov in jail.


Paul Linford said...

Did Karpov become champion without playing a match? I thought that when Fischer was stripped of the title there was a match between Karpov and Korchnoi for the vacant crown?

Jonathan Calder said...

The Karpov vs Korchnoi match was for the right to challenge Fischer.

So, yes, Karpov had won the right to be the challenger (beating Boris Spassky on the way), but he did take Fischer's title without playing him.