The King is dead, but Kasparov is having none of it

In ancient Persia, where the terminology of chess derives, checkmate means "the King is dead". At his press conference yesterday, after losing his title of 15 years, the former world chess champion Garry Kasparov was having none of it.

In ancient Persia, where the terminology of chess derives, checkmate means "the King is dead". At his press conference yesterday, after losing his title of 15 years, the former world chess champion Garry Kasparov was having none of it.

"I feel I am very much in business," he said. "Very soon I will start proving that this was a very unfortunate slip in my career." Sounding full of bonhomie he said: "This thought [retirement] never visited me during the match."

Kasparov's defeat by Vladimir Kramnik, 25, involved two losses and 14 draws, which was a dreadful result from the internet-televised Riverside Studios match for the man known as "The Beast of Baku". The excessively calm Kramnik won the second game and never looked back.

His second win came in the 10th game, when he annihilated Kasparov in just 24 moves. This has led to questions about whether the great brain has "lost it".

And this is hardly surprising. In a sport where pretty much nothing happens most of the time, driving would-be describers into frenzies of hyperbole, the reign of Kasparov has been a dreamboat of dramatic gestures. He had a spat then a split with the world chess federation, and after he lost to Nigel Short in 1993 he obligingly threw a hissy fit.

Citing lack of preparation and a new "fashion" in chess playing, as exemplified by his former protégé Kramnik, Kasparov left those hoping for histrionics yesterday puzzled.

"The new fashion is very pragmatic," he reflected. "It's very, very professional. It is accumulating the main knowledge of the game of chess and it is a very good choice of openings. It involves excluding additional risk.

"I was aiming to be five or six points clear and in order to get a good result you have to take more risk. His approach," he nodded amiably at the nearly supine Kramnik, "has proven to be superior today and I have to learn. Even at the age of 37 I should learn. After Karpov I had to go through the same kind of academy."

At which point he began to resemble a slightly grizzled PR girl. He had had the best experience of his life with chess over the past two years, he said. He felt he had a lot of energy, "a lot of fresh ideas". He looked forward to sharing the limelight with Kramnik and put his defeat down to the fact that he hadn't lost anything for two years.

He chose to exclude all discussion of his turbulent private life with a swift "the reasons for my loss are purely related to my preparation".

But when he was asked how he could appear to be a calm and happy man, his expression immediately changed. He looked, quite frankly, a bit annoyed. "You want me to cry?" he hissed, raising a crooked eyebrow. "Lay down on the floor? I behave with class all my life and I behave with class now." And he stalked out through the entrance hall, walking over the black and white squared motif on the floor.

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