While the fashion career of his former protégé, Magnus Carlsen, continues apace, Garry Kasparov has recently been involved in an advertising campaign of his own. It’s fair to say his promotion of the Polish division of ING Bank shows the ex-World Champion as you’ve never seen him before!
What makes the campaign particularly interesting, for a chess audience, is its ambitious attempt to really make use of the game. It’s a step up, for instance, from Viktor Korchnoi losing to a cow, or Kasparov himself struggling against a Pepsi vending machine. Although one of the videos below is in English and needs little explanation, the others are a curious mix of Polish, Russian and English, which is where Chess in Translation might come in handy! Despite the linguistic difficulties, don’t give up before the final Chuck Norris joke…
The campaign, in brief, is for an internet bank account with no regular fees. At its homepage you find a large image of Kasparov at the board next to the words: “Kasparov’s waiting for your move!” Lower down there’s “Free lessons from a grandmaster”, followed by videos of Kasparov talking about chess openings.
The following video seems to serve as an introduction to those:
In case you didn’t follow… here’s a translation. Note the Polish host, Marek Kondrat (of whom more later) speaks in Polish, while Kasparov answers in Russian:
MK: In his life he’s often determined the fate not only of kings but also of simple pawns. Ladies and gentlemen: Grandmaster Garry Kasparov.
GK: Thank you very much.
MK: How much would you charge for a chess openings course?
GK: You’ll be surprised – not-a-thing! (the word is simply “nothing”, but Garry stresses all three Russian syllables) Go onto the internet and study on your own, though of course my help wouldn’t do any harm.
MK: Let’s go onto the internet. (and they do!)
GK: Don’t be afraid – on this internet customers don’t pay.
The opening course that follows might not quite provide all you need to make it to grandmaster level, but it’s certainly unique. The English Opening is explained, naturally, in English:
A quick change of headwear later, there’s the Russian Defence (the Petroff). Again, both speak in Russian: (note: it seems ING decided to remove this video)
MK: Welcome to our internet chess openings course – as you’ve all no doubt guessed, it’s the Russian Game.
(Garry shows the moves.)
MK: Why is chess so popular in Russia?
GK: Probably because in chess a pawn can become an important figure/piece.
MK: There you go…
For the Polish Defence (1.d4 b5!?) they have feathers in their caps, and both speak Polish, but some more background is perhaps required: A curiosity of the videos is that while there’s much regret in chess circles that Garry Kasparov has chosen politics over chess, it’s also a cause célèbre (in Poland) that Marek Kondrat has chosen working for ING Bank (and a wine business) over “serious” acting. He’s one of the top Polish actors, probably best known for playing the main character in the wonderful “Day of the Wacko” (Dzień Świra).
A recent long and fascinating interview in Gazeta Wyborcza saw him bemoan the strains of the acting profession (for him personally) and ended with Grzegorz Sroczyński asking:
And each morning one of the best Polish actors thanks a Dutch bank that he doesn’t have to act any more. Yes?
It would be better to write: each morning an average Polish actor, who by a fluke managed to play important roles, wakes up glad to be alive.
And you won’t act anymore?
It’s not all bad, though. He recently came top in the Forbes ranking list of the “100 most valuable Polish show business stars”, ahead of the Formula One driver, Robert Kubica. As Kondrat remarked in the same interview:
In any case, in those rankings I’m a place above Kubica, which amuses me. You’ve got a young guy who whizzes around the world in a fast car and suddenly he’s overtaken by some great-grandfather of Lenin. Nice.
Almost there! All that needs to be added is that Kondrat made his debut – “debiut” in Polish, *and the same word that’s used for chess openings* – as the 10-year-old star of the 1961 period drama “The Yellow Slippers” (“Historia żółtej ciżemki”). The name sounds even odder in Polish, as the “slippers” in question are those funny pointed medieval boots… Garry Kasparov never had a chance!
MK: Welcome to the free internet chess openings school: Today, the Polish Defence.
Garry points out the moves (in Polish! – though it’s almost the same as in Russian).
MK: Have you heard of “The Yellow Slippers”?
MK: That’s what we call… Kondrat’s Opening! (or debut)
As well as those extremely light-hearted contributions to opening theory, in another video Kasparov talks about the role of the Scheveningen Variation in his becoming World Champion (he’s back speaking Russian):
When we learn to play chess as children we all play the most varied of openings, though of course at a very primitive level. It’s only later, in the course of our chess and personal development, that we discover those schemes, those opening variations, that suit our taste and our chess understanding. But in my case it was different. The Scheveningen Variation of the Sicilian Defence, which in a very general sense was shown to me by my first trainer, Oleg Privorotsky, all the way back in 1972, became Garry Kasparov’s trademark opening, and served me faithfully during the course of my whole chess career. But above all else, in the decisive game of my World Championship Match with Anatoly Karpov, when I once again chose my main weapon, it didn’t let me down. And, having won what was probably the most important game of my whole life, on 9 November 1985, at 22 years of age, I became the youngest World Champion in chess history.
All that’s left is the promised Chuck Norris joke:
If you’ve just watched the video then you might be able to reconstruct the text yourself :) Here’s a translation that doesn’t include the punch line (note that “mate” is “mat” in both Polish and Russian):
MK: (in Polish) Garry, did you ever manage to beat your opponent on the first move?
GK: (in Russian) In one move? No, only Chuck Norris can manage that.
MK: (in Russian) Ah, I understand… (punch line)