Gaddafi, blood and chess

We adore the magical world of stage and screen, but how often do we remember that its hidden magic springs work in the same way in the real world?  

I became acquainted with the theatre quite early. Which, of course, was neither the Moscow Art Theatre nor Bolshoi Theatre and nor even Obraztsov Theatre. Yes, there are wonderful theatres that we liked to go to in Elista. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always possible.
Provincial boys had no computer games or the Internet in the seventies of the last century. TV had only two programmes dedicated to successes of the Soviet economy and plans of the communist party. We had to entertain ourselves our way.
Luckily, we had plenty of imagination and courage. Therefore, in addition to ‘Cossacks against robbers’ game and football tournaments between neighbouring courtyards, there appeared ideas exotic enough even for street daredevils. One of those was setting up an amateur theatre. It was to be like the real one - with decorations, costumes and props. Adults, of course, didn’t take our ideas seriously so we had to design performances ourselves. Well, you were lucky if your mother’s beloved headscarf or your grandfather’s pipe were not missed.
There was no end to our imagination on a homemade scene! We enjoyed ourselves as best as we could - up to performing Dance of Little Swans.  Artek had practically a real theatre and, of course, there were no such problems with decorations and costumes as in Elista. But that’s not the point. Another thing is important.


I did not even think about it then, but I saw something important there. Theatre is not only about Romeo under Juliet’s balcony. This is about the work of many people who created Verona, the very balcony and costumes of heroes out of canvas and sticks. Never mind that Juliet secretly makes the sign of the Cross every time before going up to the shaky structure depicting her house, and that Romeo's sword is just wood painted with silver paint. At the time of performance, the audience believes it and is transferred to medieval Italy. 

Of course, one-man show is also possible, and you can do it simply with fruit boxes on the stage. You can read Hamlet's monologue wearing the same jeans and a sweater that you wore when you went for bread yesterday. But you have to admit that not everyone would like it. A big, colourful performance requires as many workers behind the scenes as actors on stage and even more. In addition, workers must love their work and do it with the same dedication as actors on stage.
We do not always notice their efforts, and, of course, we do not exclaim, "Ah, how fast they change the scenery!" But if something goes wrong, we would immediately see it. The work of people behind the scenes is sometimes akin to magic, and so I would not call them cogs in a machine.
Just tell me is the ordinary life different in any way? There is always invisible but hard work of many people behind any event that seems a miracle to us.
In 1993, Garry Kasparov and some grandmasters, protesting against newly adopted FIDE rules, left FIDE and created the Professional Chess Association with its own ratings and tournaments. Of all the other problems of the chess world, such as chronic lack of money and loss of popularity, the split was the worst. What kind of development can we talk about when some of the best chess minds are pulling the blanket on their side while game lovers are torn between two organizations, not knowing which one to choose?
The return of unity in the chess world took a long thirteen years. Only in 2006, FIDE Champion Veselin Topalov and PCA World Champion Vladimir Kramnik agreed to meet in the unification tournament in Elista. Believe me; it was very difficult to convince them to do it: both grandmasters could not stand each other and did not want to recognize themselves as equal rivals.
Had I been alone, I would never have managed to do it even for thirteen or fifteen years.
Many reputable chess players, coaches, fans of the game as well as both grandmasters took part in negotiations that eventually led to unification match.
Of course, even the hard work of many people does not always bring the desired result. In 2011, I travelled around the countries of the African continent.  For a long time this continent was ignored by FIDE, and there were many unsolved problems. These were organization of competitions, training of coaches and arbiters and, of course, introduction of the Chess in schools programme. I would not say that we started from scratch in Africa but it was close to that. In June, I arrived in Libya, which was under totally barbarous "humanitarian bombardment" by the United States and their western allies.
Therefore, I had another special goal in this unfortunate country. Let me remind you that the destruction of this beautiful African state was conducted under the pretext of "democratization" of its society and "The liberation of Libyan from the bloody tyranny of Gaddafi".  Western press depicted the Jamahiriya's leader as a crazy dictator with blood on his hands. However, I knew him since 1991, and I knew that he was a big patriot of his country, very simple and lyrical person. I may seem naive, but I thought that if you show the world such a Gaddafi, a man who can be negotiated with, it will be possible to stop the bloodshed.
At our meeting, I invited him to play chess and record a video of our game. I reasoned that, probably, after seeing a completely intelligent, not sick and not injured politician playing chess, his opponents would understand that it is not necessary to use bombs to achieve the result one can get by negotiations.
Gaddafi   - despite the fact that bombing killed members of his family the day before - agreed. They brought chess, the film crew appeared, and we played a quick game in live broadcast.
Of course, it was prearranged to some extent. Since I met him, I played with Gaddafi about ten times and I knew that he constantly kept a chessboard and chess pieces nearby. TV crews, of course, constantly stood by at his residence. There is no need to say how many people ensured the safety of this meeting and the like. Unfortunately, we did not understand then that Libya was doomed, and its leader was sentenced by the so-called international community. Behind the scenes of the Western world decision had been already made and we could hardly change anything.
So, was it not worth trying? Moreover, they constantly remind me that this game with Gaddafi was a mortal sin. But I do not think so.
May the reader forgive my pathos, but the true struggle between good and evil also goes behind the scenes hidden from the mere mortals' curious eyes. In other words, from the eyes of the same "cogs" at whose expense all those who consider themselves the powerful of this world solve their problems. The result is determined by the outcome. Has life in Libya “democratized by humanitarian bombardments” become any better? The answer is obvious.
I did what I thought was necessary. Moreover, in fact, each of us faces a choice every day and every minute. As a Buddhist, I do not just believe but I firmly know that each of our actions inclines the scales on this or that side. Our every act changes the universe to good or evil, to order or chaos.
And it does not matter what place you occupy in this life. Long before I learned that the whole world is a theatre, and the people are actors in it, I had learned that only those behind the scenes move it. Except for actors who are expected to be more responsible.