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Skilled former champions played politics, too

As I write this, Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik are playing for the World Chess Championship in Bonn, Germany, with little mention or fanfare in the U.S. media.

It's a far cry from the Fischer-Spassky and Kasparov-Karpov matches of yore. Each of those events had two ingredients not present today: political conflict and players of super-extraordinary ability.

Although the Kasparov-Karpov matches involved two nominally Soviet players, their political allegiances were disparate. Karpov was a darling of the Kremlin, while Kasparov was an Azerbaijanian outsider who questioned the tenets of the Soviet system.

Kramnik and Anand are great players. But three of the others – Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov – rank among the top players ever.

What most distinguished them was their extraordinary ambition and will to win.

Kasparov and Fischer also worked harder at the game than anyone before.

Shelby Lyman