By Ian Rogers
The battle between Greece and one of its debtors, the IMF, could also be viewed as a battle between two chessplayers.
Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras (cover and above), was a modest club player in Greece before he entered politics on an anti-austerity platform.
His ideological rival was Grandmaster Ken Rogoff who, as the IMF’s chief economist, argued that debt caused lower growth and that by implication austerity measures were necessary to enable a healthier economy.
Since Greece has accepted further austerity measures in their new deal with the EU and the IMF it could be argued that Rogoff was victorious in their conflict, yet recently it seems that both players have recently changed colours.
Tsipras returned from his negotiations with the EU and IMF successfully urging his parliament to accept severe austerity measures while Rogoff (below, left) – no longer with the IMF – has recently been arguing that his debt to growth findings “do not equate with an unambiguous call for austerity.”
Last month Garry Kasparov (above, right) travelled to Greece to publicly urge Tsipras not to make a deal with Vladimir Putin. Kasparov failed to meet any of the main players in the Greek government and Greece signed a deal to have a gas pipeline run from Russia through Greece into Europe, so the GM lost to the 1500 player in that battle.
Plenty of world leaders have claimed to be chessplayers, with historians debunking fabricated games by Napoleon, composed problems by Pope John Paul II and, in the modern era, watching the illegal (chess) moves of Muammar Gaddafi on video.
There is reason to believe that Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel became serious players thanks to extensive practice during long years in prison but Tsipras is one of the few rated tournament players to be elected head of a country. The strongest was Vytautas Landsbergis, who became Lithuania’s first President after independence from the USSR, having earlier been a medallist in the Lithuanian Championship.
One could argue that Greece is a model of what happens when you allow your country to be run by chessplayers, since their (admittedly largely figurehead) President from 1995-2005, Konstantinos Stephanopoulos, was also a strong amateur player.
Despite Greece’s current economic problems, the country continues to host its traditional summer island circuit, with the most recent event, the Ikaros Open, being won by Hungarian GM Peter Prohaszka with a perfect 9/9. Australia’s David Smerdon was one of Prohaszka’s victims, eventually finishing third.
Ikaros Open 2015
Opening: Queen’s Gambit Declined