For nearly three decades, since he first exploded onto the world scene, Garry Kasparov ruled the chessboard. A product of the Soviet system that elevated chess and its greatest champions to a pantheon reserved only for the most revered members of the elite, this grandmaster from the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan was at once worshipped and feared. Millions played this de facto national game in small, crowded, smoky rooms and vest-pocket parks across the Soviet Union. Those at the pinnacle of political power feared him as they watched, helplessly, the arrival of a popular outlander into their most hallowed precincts. At age 13, he won the Soviet junior championship, and within three years was rated number 15 in the world, becoming a grandmaster a year later.

It was in the final decade of the Soviet era that Kasparov rose to international...

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