Garry Kasparov, the former chess world champion and political activist, gave a public lecture at Tallinn University on Wednesday, followed by a fundraising simul at a local café.
Kasparov visited Estonia a number of times last year, including for the Open Society Forum and a meeting of the Russian political opposition. Advocating for the incorporation of chess in K-12 education, Kasparov said Wednesday that a project introducing chess lessons in the curriculum of 12 Estonian schools last fall has been successful and will hopefully be expanded soon.
At the simultaneous exhibition, which was held as a fundraiser to support local chess programs, the grandmaster took on two Estonian MPs and the former head of Estonian Air's supervisory board, among others.
Earlier, at the lecture, Kasparov said finding the next Bobby Fischer was only a side effect of his initiative - the Kasparov Chess Foundation. The organization has brought chess to thousands of schools around the world, claiming that the game has all kinds of developmental benefits, including improving mathematics, creativity and self-esteem. .
Kasparov has also famously drawn parallels between the game and life, promoting it as an instrument for decision-making in areas such as business.
He praised Armenia, the only country to make chess mandatory in all of its schools. Meanwhile, Russia, traditionally seen as the center of the chess world, has not been much of a role model, he said. In the USSR, chess was a tool of Soviet propaganda, but after the break-up the Russian government rejected Kasparov's proposals for adopting chess in schools, according to Kasparov. "Making kids more intelligent is not part of the state agenda nowadays," he said.
Kasparov also touched on the game's reputation for eccentric characters, an image which he said was shaped by pop culture. Many notable people in physics and math have been mentally unstable - "but that doesn't mean you have to stop studying math in school," he said. "It caused me a lot of problems in defending the image of the game […] It is painless for intellectual health. On the contrary, it brings great intellectual happiness to those who can master the the game."