Late last Thursday, having just won the prestigious Linares tournament in Spain, Garry Kasparov announced that he was quitting professional chessHis decision to quit after Linares seemed bizarre because he had been back to his very best. So why, at 41, has he decided to retire? "I made a conscious decision well before the tournament," he says. "These kind of decisions you don't make overnight. It takes time before you decide to quit one of the most successful careers in the history of any sport. I grew up with chess, built up my character with chess, won everything at the chessboard, gained recognition as the best chess player. So for me every aspect of life was related to chess. In your early 40s in chess you don't feel like retiring, especially if you are still the No1-rated player in the world. But I had to find a new target. My nature is that I have to excite myself with a big challenge." That challenge is Russian politics. Except that Kasparov says the very term "Russian politics" is a misnomer. "I wouldn't say that I'm entering Russian politics, because politics doesn't exist in Russia in the terms you use here," he explains. "I will be trying to help Russia to get back into normal political life and to make sure my country lives in a civilised way." Kasparov is already a leading figure in a pro-democracy organisation called Committee 2008: Free Choice, which was formed last year. Now he has decided that the threat to freedom of expression in Russia is so great that he needs to devote himself to campaigning full time.
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