‘Chess is black and white but politics is grey’

Chess icon turned political activist Garry Kasparov used his Cannes Lions platform to call for unwavering support for Ukraine in its war with Vladimir Putin’s invading Russian army. Denouncing the Russian president as “evil”, he called on delegates to play their part in defending freedom.

“What is at stake is not just Ukraine, but the existence of the kind of world we live in.”

Kasporov on stage speaking animatedly to the audience
Garry Kasparov

Russia-born Kasparov has been a vocal opponent of Putin for the last 20 years. “How did I know he was a problem? Because I listened to what he said. The way he talked about spheres of influence and the Soviet Collapse persuaded me that democracy was in danger. The thing about dictators is that they lie about what they have done, but they often tell us exactly what they plan to do.”


Kasparov retired from chess in 2005 and turned his attention to pro-democracy activism. “Friends told me it was a mistake because chess is black and white but politics is grey. But to me what is happening in Ukraine is black and white.”


In terms of what Cannes Lions delegates can do to support the Ukraine effort, Kasparov said the key is to maintain pressure on politicians to see the war through to the end. “Putin has moved to a hybrid strategy which combines military with diplomacy. As the war drags on and there are stories about the energy crisis or disruption to food supplies, it is important not to be dismayed.

We need a to deliver a message of hope, resilience and defiance to the public, so that they continue to put pressure on their politicians to act

During his talk, Kasparov shared a film featuring Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs Dmytro Kuleba in which he urged Cannes Lions delegates to support the Ukraine brand, which stands for “bravery, courage and the future”. Echoing Kasparov, he said, “Russian propaganda is strong, but your creativity is stronger.”


Kasparov was introduced to a packed Lumiere audience by Richard Edelman in a session entitled Garry Kasparov on the Imperative for Brands to Act Now, (hosted by Edelman Data & Intelligence Monday.