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28. Februar 2002
Linares, Linares!

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, friends, seconds…); 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 time again.

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 body.

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.


Copyright © 2002 by Christian Hörr