Linares. A tournament like any other
– and yet like no other. This slightly paradoxical
remark is the quintessence of a recently published book,
subtitled "A Journey into the Heart of Chess".
The book itself is a paradox: it evocates a positive
overtone yet quite definitely sends negative signals.
It's the highly praised "Linares, Linares!"
by Jan ten Geuzendam.
What the vast public normally learns
about this strange tournament in the middle of Andalusia
is the result, selected games and some cheap gossip.
Geuzendam instead gives us a glimpse behind the scenes
which, as he tells it, portrays a world which is no
different from the daily world in any office, factory,
school or shop or wherever, where of necessity people
come together and have to deal with each other. The
banality of the everyday is everywhere, even so with
our most adored chess heroes. There is no reason to
believe, that someone who is capable of making brilliant
moves should be a better person than you or I. In an
immense muddle of interests, aims, problems, connections,
preferences, friendships and animosities it is always
difficult to judge who is right and who is wrong. The
main ingredients of this mixture are the organizer and
promoter Luis Rentero, his junior, the journalists,
who often compete against each other; the players and
their company (wives, mothers, fathers, girlfriends,
); fans and enthusiasts.
But the personality who stands out above
all of this is the enigmatic character of Kasparov:
he is the key-figure. As long as he is going to play
at the top level - as becomes clear - there can be no
other real world champion, even though Kramnik has beaten
him and even were FIDE to present another champion every
year. Chess at this level is like a touring circus,
moving from place to place to unwind its show and Kasparov
is the director and main attraction united in one person;
the lion that jumps through the burning hoop time and
The whole undertaking has become both
a fairground and a business, less in the terms of the
financial sense but in the sense of busy (busy-ness).
There is no point in complaining about it, chess is
like that! But is it? Not really - this journey is by
no means a journey into the heart of chess, only into
the heart of chess traffic. Luckily chess itself as
an abstract entity is not touched by that sort of busy
occupation, just as little as a person cannot be confused
with his/her activity or the occupation with its executive
A book like this would have been unthinkable
in former times. It satisfies - though in a serious
manner - a very modern need: the need for gossip and
idle talk and with it it signals a significant change
of interest and mentality towards chess in modern society.
However embarrassing the scandals may be, they are now
the focus of the event.