While enjoying some blitz games, I was watching the pieces till someone passed me the phone:
"John! It's Garry..speak to him, he needs your help".
I noticed that Garry was no ordinary chap given the earlier discussions of him coming to Singapore. So I asked:
"Please...please speak to him" replied the owner of the phone.
I took over the handset and an anxious voice immediately responded " Hello..Hello..this is Garry Kasparov!"
With tingles rising all over, I composed myself and answered : "Yes Garry, this is John Wong. I am in charge of your lecture in Singapore. How may I help?"
Garry asked if I can provide a screen attached to a computer with ChessBase, which of course is no problem. He then asked what should he be speaking?
" How about your game with Topalov in 1999 Wijk Ann Zee?"
"Very good, good choice! That's the one I was thinking of! Please prepare the file thank you."
Some weeks later, I met the man over breakfast at 7am on August 15 2010. He looked tired but was cheerful to discuss the day's events, after apologising for the lack of sleep he had on route to Singapore because of a crying baby onboard. Garry was also briefing us the state of affairs as he saw it in the chess world, why he was keen to promote chess over the next few years and his mission to see chess elevated to a world sport. Thought a little upset at the response of the SCF at snubbing him, he brushed it aside and believed that his name alone would stir the chess-loving public in more ways that we'd imagined. And he was right! The crowds came, the fans came, even the press (who normally bypass any chess events)!
Back to business as I knew time was short - Kasparov asked for a 15min shut-eye after breakfast so I had to run through the chessbase file with him, deleting what's not important comments and highlighting the threats on the chessboard for the benefit of the audience. With that, I excused myself and went about to Thomson CC. The rest of it you can read here.
It's slightly over 2 years from the day I spoke with the ex-World Champion, a great honour for me. Though we are the same age, one can notice the radiance and the regality he possesses, like an Emperor of the chess world. He was groomed for this since young and he makes no excuses for it. Garry is likely to be on the path again soon, championing his cause for chess in schools. He has succeeded in New York and the EU. Hopefully, we can see him persuading our new ministers what chess can do in stimulating great thinkers and entrepreneurs??