Chess Wimbledon with Garry Kasparov in Pula

Total Croatia News

TCN’s Michel Percan meets childhood hero Garry Kasparov, as a 13 year-old girl from Rijeka tests the former world champion.

While the atmosphere of the gloomy rainy weather overflowed within the reception zone of Hotel Amphitheatre, I was impatiently looking at the time numbers on my phone for the fifth time within as many minutes.

I am not often nervous when life provides a meeting with celebrities and those in power, but it seemed that the game of fate that made ​​me see a documentary about the chess duel of the century , so-called “Battle of K – s”, on one of my rare free Sundays afternoon last month, filled my old memories and restored respect with a touch of anxiety. Garry Kasparov means, without being too pathetic, my childhood. It is the name of the man who with his intelligence had defeated the entire world. Today, of course, I know better, but I admit that for the first few moments I remained highly impressed, probably looking like some groupie girl who shook hands with a tattooed drummer of her favorite band.

So much that I almost forgot all about the key questions I had chance to ask. Serious as the cloudy sky above us, Kasparov was visibly disappointed with the rain, which re-located simultaneous chess event from the ancient Arena to the beautiful interior of the large hall of the House of Croatian Defenders. The building was built in the time of Austrian balls and carriages, and its appearance is kept up to date, so it is not surprising that it proved to be a worthy replacement for the rain- soaked arena.

Somewhere in the half-time of our brief meeting I finally blurted out the name of Anatoly Karpov – his eternal rivalry, but Kasparov refused to pay too much attention to the past and the old battles, changing the focus on what was in front of us: Simultaneous chess with 18 competitors , which in this popular format as he himself admits , he did lose once but that was back in 2001.

(TCN’s Michel Percan meets childhood hero Garry Kasparov)

The rainy backdrop of Kandler Street was soon replaced with the ceremonial hall of the Home of Croatian Defenders. I arrived early. Early enough that I had chance to briefly ask one of the most influential competitors, former Croatian President Ivo Josipovic about his expectations . The response I got was already starting to sound familiar : I’ll try to hold out as long as possible. I guess this had to be in the mind of all the others that had a great honor to play a game with the world champion. But among the opponents were not only influential and well-known figures , there were also more than willing young members of the chess club “Pula”, “Rijeka” and “V.Gortan” from Poreč, who as it later turned out were more than a determined resistance to Kasparov.

Around 19 hours with the applause that lasted longer than it would probably lasted in some another country, Kasparov arrived.

The relationship between Croatia and Kasparov is reaching far back into the sad history of the siege of Vukovar, in an era in which a well-known chess player with his influence lobbied and helped this young European country in the making. Croatia repaid him last year, by giving him citizenship, an act for which he is now known as the most famous bearer of Croatian passport. This was also pointed out from the Minister of Defenders Predrag Fred Matic who sincerely thanked him for all that he has done for Croatia, including a large tourist promotion over the last few years in Europe and the world.

As for the simultaneous game, it of course ended with 18:0 in favor of the Russian champion. Mayor of Pula Boris Miletic was the one who stayed longest of all the celebrities and politicians who played, making it a bit difficult for Kasparov to make an easy win with his occasional tactical moves that he learned in his student days. As for the last stage, it was surprisingly the female who remained. 13-year-old Anamarija Radiković from the chess club “Rijeka” has managed to stop most of the Kasparovs skilled moves even with noise and the full attention of the camera and lights around her. She even showed no sign of pressure with the live broadcast that for the first time in this format was delivered over the Internet. This will certainly be a boost of confidence to both her and the other young players. And there lies the very essence of such an event.

It should also be noted that the goal of this simultaneous chess event was primarily to promote the project “Chess with the school” funded by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, which is currently being carried out as part of extra-curricular activities in a dozen schools in Zagreb, and plans to expand it soon in the other Croatian schools.


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