MOSCOW, March 11 -- Garry Kasparov, the brilliant and aggressive tactician regarded by many as the greatest chess player of all time, has announced his retirement from professional play. He said he planned to write books and become more active in the politics of his native Russia, which he said was "headed down the wrong path."
Kasparov has emerged as an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and is playing a leading role in Committee 2008: Free Choice, a group formed by liberal opposition leaders. "I will do everything in my power to resist Putin's dictatorship," he said in a statement cited by the Interfax news agency on Friday.
Kasparov, 41, has been ranked No. 1 in the world since 1984 and has applied his formidable energy, discipline and intellect to dominate chess for two decades. His announcement came shortly after he won the 14-match Linares tournament in Spain.
Kasparov's mastery of chess sometimes seemed almost superhuman. His most famous loss was a 1997 rematch against the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue.
Alexander Roshal, chief editor of 64, the popular Russian chess magazine, said Kasparov had no peers in the chess world. "There's no one else of his caliber," he said. "No one comes close. He saw that, and said you go on without me."
Kasparov was born in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, then a Soviet republic. His chess talent was apparent early. At 12 he became the youngest player ever to win the USSR Junior Championship. Four years later, he won the World Junior Championship, and became a grandmaster on his 17th birthday.