Presidents and Dissidents

Время публикации: 22.05.2015 20:59 | Последнее обновление: 23.05.2015 04:53

In this piece, the heroes (and villains) of chess history will be presidents and dissidents. These words provide a
nice rhyme, but which stories are the funniest, I leave to the reader to judge.

Telephone duel

When a Soviet chessplayer became world champion, then he inevitably became an important public person, and for the GM, this was no less an event than victory in the match. It was another matter for Fischer, who never felt any deference even to the president of his country. The famous American columnist Art Buchwald once wrote a hypothetical telephone conversation between the chess king Robert Fischer and US President Richard Nixon. I'm have just changed it a little.

- Hello, Bobby - called Nixon immediately after Fischer had completed his match with Spassky. - Congratulations on the victory in Reykjavik!
- Keep it short. I'm tired - said Fischer.
- This is a great day for America.
- Greater still for me, today I pocketed 150,000 dollars.
- You know, Bobby, when I was in college, I almost made the chess team.
- And you called me specifically just to tell me this joke?
- I would like to invite you to a dinner at the White House.
- And how much will you pay me if I come?
- What do you mean, Bobby! After all, the reception will be attended by members of the Cabinet, the Supreme Court and our leading politicians.
- OK, you persuaded me. But I will show up, only if you send the presidential plane to Iceland to pick me up. In addition, you'll have to meet me at the gangway, provide a limousine, a private tennis court, private swimming pool and ten Secret Service agents to keep the press away.
- I'll give the order to do it, Bobby.
- And no talking around the table while I eat.
- It is not easy to keep everyone quiet at a dinner party at the White House.
- That's your problem. If I hear the slightest noise, I will immediately leave the room.
- OK, Bobby. After all, this dinner is being arranged in your honor.
- That's good. But I'll bring with me my own chair, because I don't want to risk sitting on an unfamiliar chair. And of course, the light should not be bright. If the lighting is too harsh, I will not even touch the food.
- I understand you, Bobby. I would just like to add, that we all are proud of you. You inspire the youth of America.
With these words, the president hung up and called the CIA Director, Richard Helms:
- Dick, I'm sending a plane to Iceland for Bobby Fischer. Do me a favor: as soon as he gets on board, arrange for the plane to be hijacked and flown to Cuba ... 

The dissident Fischer is arrested

The victory of democracy

In 1998, I, together with my friend the photographer Boris Dolmatovsky, visited several Swiss cities and then reached Lausanne, to follow every move of the FIDE World Championship match Karpov - Anand. After the end of the final game, we went down to Lake Geneva, spent a long time enjoying the scene, and asked each other: to whom do we owe this holiday in life? Indeed, in the old days the best that we could expect was a visit to the Kineshma pioneer championship. The consensus we quickly reached was that this happy week we owed to one person in the world, his name - Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gorbachev in Lausanne

And ten minutes later, returning to the Olympic Museum, which hosted the games, we were almost struck dumb - Gorbachev himself was there to meet us... not a double, or an imposter, but the man himself, the first natural (and last) Soviet President. "Are we asleep, is it a dream?" - we thought and just in case, pinched ourselves. But no, it was Gorbachev himself, the father of modern democracy at home, in person.

Borya takes a historic picture: the President of the USSR at the chessboard

Two hours later, there was a case illustrating the principles of democracy Swiss-style, and Gorbachev became the hero again.

... At the closing ceremony of the match, the chair next to Gorbachev at some point became empty and was immediately occupied by an unknown Swiss. He was immediately approached by the organisers of the evening and asked to leave.
- This place is for Gorbachev's security people - he was told.
But the Swiss guy did not react. He was told again that this was the security guard's seat. And then the chess fan replied calmly:
- I'm at home, I am a free man and I sit where I'm comfortable. And you will please solve the problems of protecting your president yourself, without involving me.
How would this matter have ended with us? The stubborn man would have been thrown out on the street or arrested. But in Switzerland, the staff explained the situation for the third time. But then several of his compatriots, sitting nearby, rose from their seats and said: "If you force him to leave his place, then we will also leave the room. It seems that you have forgotten about human rights!". The poor manager of the evening finally cracked and fully admitted defeat ...
It remains to add that when Gorbachev heard a translation of the discussion unfolding before his eyes, he unhesitatingly supported the Swiss audience, noting that at that moment, he was present in a private capacity and joked in English, "OK!".
The complete triumph of democracy!

From Lenin to Putin

Alexander Gurnov, co-creator of the programme "Vesti", played tennis from the age of five, and later became candidate master of downhill skiing.
- It seems that ever since childhood, you have been preparing to get on with Russian Presidents, - one correspondent surprised him by saying, - Because Yeltsin played a lot of tennis, and Putin enjoys skiing.

Illyumzhinov invites Putin to take up chess

- When I went in for sports, few people had ever heard of Yeltsin and Putin, - replied Gurnov, offended. - Could anyone have guessed that these sports would ever become "presidential"?
- But if you play chess and want to live a hundred years, - said the popular TV presenter, - you are probably waiting for for the moment when the president will be a chess player.

It remains to say that the first head of the country called the Soviet Union took a great interest in chess.

Lenin and Stalin at the chessboard

Fantasy and Reality

Leningrad dissident Lev Kvachevsky (now living in Austria) was a prominent chemist and a strong candidate master. And in the mid-60s he was unlucky: he spent four years in prisons and camps. That was how the KGB reacted to his activities of defending human rights.
Eventually, Lev got fed up that none of his fellow prisoners could compete with him over the board. However, the Leningrad chess figure Eliyahu Levant decided to help Kvachevsky. He sent a letter to the prison, asking that they let him send the "64" magazine. And after this, Lev started a quite different, almost happy life.

Remember, the hero of "The Royal Game" by Stefan Zweig, after a year in custody, playing chess all the time, when he was released managed to beat the world champion Centovic. Kvachevsky never got to cross swords with any of the chess kings, but in the early '90s he played on the same team as Karpov in the Austrian Bundesliga. Literary imagination and the reality of life sometimes intertwine.

Dissident Lev Kvachevsky tells the author about his life in prison

PS. I learned this story from Kvachevsky in the summer of 1996. He was in Elista for the FIDE world championship match Karpov - Kamsky as a correspondent of an Austrian newspaper. And in the autumn, an event occurred, which reminds one even more of Zweig's well-known novella...

The Lefortovo option

The famous Soviet human rights activist Anatoly Scharansky was arrested in 1977 and sentenced to thirteen years in prison, although he served "only" nine. He was helped to withstand all the horrors of prison and the camps by chess, which he played a lot in his school and college years, and at which he was a strong candidate master.
In 1986, Sharansky, like Solzhenitsyn, was deprived of his Soviet citizenship, put on a plane, and sent to the West. In Israel, where he settled, the human rights activist successfully entered politics, becoming the Minister of Industry and Trade, and headed his party.
But his chess training in Lefortovo was not in vain. At the end of 1996, Garry Kasparov visited Israel, and gave a simul against VIP-opponents. One who took part was Sharansky, who defeated the world champion in brilliant style! The latter could not hide his bitterness at this single defeat. [in that simul on 25 boards, Kasparov in fact lost 3 games including the one to Scharansky - Ed.]

Nathan Sharansky beats Garry Kasparov

And in 1997, the first time after a break of twenty years, the ex-dissident appeared in Moscow as a free man, and stayed here for four days. I managed to meet up with Nathan and interview him the next day; it was published in the newspaper "MK". The article was called "The Lefortovo Variation" and the subtitle was a quote from Sharansky: "I owe my life chess." The interview was accompanied by his victorious game against Kasparov.
The same day, the Israeli Minister left for Moscow. In the morning he visited the Lefortovo prison, sat a short time in his "favorite" punishment cell (this time voluntarily): once he spent several months in it and played hundreds of exciting blindfold games against himself.
And in the evening, at a farewell meeting in the House of Cinema, Sharansky said the following secret words: "In the early years, I dreamed of becoming a chess king, built castles in the air, dreamed of my games someday being published in national publications. And now my dream has come true: my win against Kasparov was published in the most popular Moscow newspaper!"

The pianist, the chessplayer and the KGB

The famous pianist, winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition, and friend of Richter, Andrei Gavrilov, in the 1970s, after winning the competition toured the world. He often shook off his KGB tail and spoke with foreign musicians of different sexes. Later, he fell out of favor with "Big Brother", with all its consequences: he was seen as a dissident, he was prevented from travelling abroad, and they even tried to poison him ...

Andrey Gavrilov, pianist and dissident

The teachers at the Conservatoire decided to help the young genius of music in an original way, and in 1980 they nominated him as a candidate for the Central Committee of the Komsomol. However, the district committees and city Party immediately issued letters of complaint, and activists demanded the removal of this "shameful candidacy". And they succeeded - the person elected to the supreme authority, the Komsomol, instead of Gavrilov was the world chess champion Anatoly Karpov.

The question is, what is the joke here? But to the modern reader it is really funny - two outstanding players, one of the piano and one of chess, stood for the highest public recognition, and the winner was the one who was closer to the KGB - after all, Karpov was successfully recruited by the KGB as an agent under the pseudonym Raoul (This was revealed recently in the book published in Moscow, "The KGB plays Chess").


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