Former chess champion Gary Kasparov reiterated his support for 22-year number one Magnus Carlsen in the ongoing world championship match against Viswanathan Anand, but remarked that after the first day of the clash, it was too early to say anything. Kasparov is in Goa for the THiNK festival where he spoke on Saturday and will then fly to Chennai for two of the games.
"The match is far from clear," he said, after the first of 12 games that started on Saturday and ended in a draw. "Today was a quick draw, not a very big game, no surprises and uneventful."
Carlsen has been heralded as a rare new talent and been widely seen as the challenger to upstage Anand, the reigning world chess champion. "I had said that in my view Carlsen is the favourite," Kasparov clarified, in response to a question as to why he thought Carlsen would win. Kasparov previously worked with Carlsen in 2009. In the second half of his career he built up a rivalry with Anand.
"Retiring and passing one's prime is not synonymous," said Kasparov, on a question about Anand and retirement. "Vishy is turning 44, it's just age... But he plays extremely well in world championships and I won’t be surprised if he does well this time. Vishy among active chess players has the greatest expertise."
However, his admiration for the young Norwegian is clear, the man he believes can rejuvenate chess. "He is absolutely unique," he said. "He is one of the best talents I have seen in my life... Chess needs dynamic personalities to make the game popular. But nothing counts unless you are world champion."
Kasparov has been one such towering figure in the game, and described his rivalry with Anatoly Karpov earlier on Saturday as the "longest and toughest in the history of any sport".
Kasparov exploded on to the scene in 1985, becoming the youngest chess world champion at 22 and then holding the number 1 ranking for 20 years. In his first match against then champion Karpov, he was trailing before he mounted a comeback. "It was a defining moment in my career," he said.
Kasparov retired in 2005, and since then has plunged into the politics. A staunch critic of Kremlin policies and of President Vladimir Putin, Kasparov repeatedly referred to him as a "dictator".
"In Russia, we aren’t fighting to win elections," he said. "We're fighting to have elections."
But that's not the only fight Kasparov has on his hands just now. Last month he announced his candidacy for the presidency of FIDE, the body that governs chess, a body whose current incumbent has held the job for 18 years. Kasparov isn't a fan of that president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, either.
"The current FIDE president is doing a great disservice for chess," said Kasparov.
His own vision for chess includes "making chess a part of education".
"Chess could play a small but important role in teaching how to think," he said.