Garry Kasparov plays in his first competitive tournament since 2005. (Bill Greenblatt/AFP/Getty Images)

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov is proving he’s still got it this week at the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz tournament. Announcing he was pushing the pause button on his retirement for five days to compete for a piece of the $150,000 prize, the 54-year-old impressed fans by holding his own against today’s top stars, including Sergey Karjakin, Hikaru Nakamura, and Leinner Dominguez Perez.

Kasparov drew against all three men to remain competitive in his first professional tournament in 12 years.

“I was quite pleased with my performance as my plan was to survive Day One!” Kasparov said (via Chess 24) after finishing the first three rounds just one point shy of the lead, held by Levon Aronian, Le Quang Liem and Fabiano Caruana.

Onlookers appeared pleasantly surprised with Kasparov’s form, including First Post chess analyst Venkatachalam Saravanan, who lauded Kasparov’s tactical skills.

“He impressed tactically by not committing any serious calculation error, and was in trouble only in the second game against Nakamura when he stared at defeat in an ending with a bishop against a knight,” Saravanan wrote. “But his ability to fight back and offer stubborn resistance also meant that he still retained his fighting qualities.”

Kasparov, who emigrated to the United States after becoming a political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, announced his temporary return to competitive chess on Sunday on Facebook, warning fans his game may not be as good as it once was.

“At the age of 54, I would have as much hope of returning to my chess form of age 40 as to my hairline of age 20!” he wrote, adding that any money he earned in the tournament would go toward charitable foundations to promote chess in Africa.

“I have no plans to play after this event,” he added. “Saint Louis is a special place for me, and I’m glad to take advantage of this unique opportunity accorded me by the organizers. … But this is not an end to my retirement from chess, only a five-day hiatus. Human rights activism, writing, lecturing, promoting chess via my foundation, and especially spending time with my family — these things are my life today, and I will not risk ruining a winning position!”

Indeed, Kasparov has found time to continue voicing his opinion on social issues throughout the tournament. On Tuesday, he tweeted about the unrest in the United States following a deadly march in Charlottesville on Saturday that saw white supremacists, Nazi groups and Ku Klux Klan members come out in violent support of keeping a statue of Confederate Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee in the city.

Kasparov will return his attention to chess Tuesday afternoon when the Rapid and Blitz tournament continues in St. Louis. The winners will be determined after 10 rounds of each type of quick-playing chess on Friday or Saturday, depending on if the need for a playoff exists. The top prize is $37,500.

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