Garry Kasparov was born Garri Weinshtain in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR to an Armenian mother and a Jewish father. He first began the serious study of chess after he came across a chess problem set up by his parents and proposed a solution.
His father died when he was seven years old. At the age of twelve, he adopted his mother's Armenian surname, Kasparyan, modifying it to a more Russified version, Kasparov.
Kasparov began to study chess seriously, and developed quickly.
He became world chess champion in 1985, but then broke with the world chess organization, FIDE.
In 2005, Kasparov announced that he would be retiring from serious competitive chess. He cited as the reason a lack of personal goals in the chess world (he commented when winning the Russian championship in 2004 that it had been the last major title he had never won outright) and expressed frustration at the failure to reunify the world championship. Kasparov said he may play in some rapid chess events for fun, but intends to spend more time on his books, including both the My Great Predecessors series and a work on the links between decision-making in chess and in other areas of life, and will continue to involve himself in Russian politics, which he views as "headed down the wrong path."
Kasparov's political involvement started in the 1980s. He joined the CPSU in 1984, and in 1987 was elected to the Central Committee of Komsomol. In 1990, however, he left the party, and in May of that year took part in the creation of the Democratic Party of Russia. In June 1993, Kasparov was involved in the creation of the "Choice of Russia" bloc of parties, and in 1996 he took part in the election campaign of Boris Yeltsin.
In 2001 he voiced his support for the Russian television TV channel NTV. After his retirement from chess in 2005, Kasparov turned to politics and created the United Civil Front, a social movement whose main goal is to "work to preserve electoral democracy in Russia. Kasparov was instrumental in setting up The Other Russia, a coalition including Kasparov's United Civil Front, Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party, Vladimir Ryzhkov's Russian Republican Party and other organizations which oppose the government of Vladimir Putin.
The Other Russia has been boycotted by the leaders of Russia's democratic opposition parties, Yabloko and Union of Right Forces as they are concerned about the inclusion of radical nationalist and left-wing groups in its ranks, such as the National Bolshevik Party and former members of the Rodina party. However, regional branches of Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces have opted to take part in the coalition.
Kasparov says that leaders of these parties are controlled by Kremlin. Kasparov helped organize the Saint Petersburg Dissenters' March on March 3, 2007 and The March of the Dissenters on March 24, 2007, both involving several thousand people rallying against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saint Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko's policies. On April 14, he was briefly arrested by the Moscow police while heading for a demonstration. He was held for some 10 hours, and then fined and released.