“This is natural baldness. I will be right for a shampoo advertisement,” says Leontxa Garcia, stroking his bald pate. The 57-year-old from Spain, one of the world’s most famous chess commentators, loves it this way. “This gives me an identity. Nobody can miss me,” he says.
His looks combined with an extensive knowledge of chess, thanks to numerous trips across the world covering major international championships since the 1980s, have made him one of the most authoritative voices in the sport.
For him, chess is more than a sport. It is very close to his heart as he not only writes on chess regularly, he teaches chess to children in Spain and abroad. He has published a book, Chess and Science: Combined Passions, and has also done extensive research on the game.
The book, says Garcia, deals with the sport’s links with science, pedagogy, psychology, computers, etc. Three editions have been sold out already, he says. Chess, he describes, slows ageing and develops intelligence. The future of chess, as a social tool, according to him, is bright.
Garcia cherishes commentating at the Garry Kasparov-Anatoly Karpov 1987 World championship in Seville (Spain) the most. “It was a best-of-24-game match and went down to the wire. There were 13 million followers for the match on the Spanish channel, where I was the main commentator. It was extraordinary. Those were the best moments of my career,” he reminisces.
The other major highlight, according to him, was covering the 1985 World championship in Moscow between Kasparov and Karpov, where he describes the atmosphere as tense because of the players’ differences (both in playing style and political views).
“In the 1983 World Candidates tournament semifinal clash in London between Kasparov and Victor Korchnoi, politics overshadowed the game. It was a symbolic match. Korchnoi had defected from the Soviet Union while Kasparov was the hero of the new Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev,” Garcia says.
His hands are full now. “I work for Radio Nacional de Espana, write analysis for a website, also write for chess magazines and for El Pais, a Spanish daily,” he says.
There is no sign of tiredness in the man for he is enjoying his association with chess. “I love travel, journalism and chess, and I am getting paid for it. What more can I expect!”
A FIDE Master now, Garcia requires one more norm to become an International Master. “It doesn’t matter anymore, as the last tournament I played was in 1983,” he says.