Strategic Thinking: How Chess imitates Life!

Garry Kasparov was the official World Champion of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) from 1985 to 1993. After his disengagement and removal in a dispute, he remained the holder of this title recognised by most of the chess world until 2000. In 2005, he surprisingly retired from chess. For a large part of the chess public, Kasparov is considered the strongest player in chess history.

Since then, Garry Kasparov has been active as a Russian opposition activist. Among other things, he founded the opposition alliance “The Other Russia”, which, however, was not admitted to the Russian parliamentary and presidential elections in 2007/08. In October 2007, his alliance was refused entry to the Duma elections because it was not a party. On 13 December 2008, he founded a new opposition movement together with Boris Nemtsov.

Garry Kasparov: DEEP THINKING – Where machine intelligence ends and human creativity begins.

His mother, Klara Shagenovna Kasparyan, was Armenian and came from Nagorno Karabakh, an Armenian-populated enclave in Azerbaijan, and was a music teacher. His father, Kim Moisseyevich Weinstein, was a German-born Jew. Both parents had a university education and allowed their son to enjoy an atmosphere of intellect and education from an early age. Kim Weinstein came from a music-loving family, played the violin himself and was the brother of the Azerbaijani composer Leonid Weinstein.

As a five-year-old, Garik, whose mother tongue is Russian, learned the rules of chess from his father. In Kasparov’s own words: “I had never played chess before, but I watched in suspense as they struggled and finally gave up in resignation. The next morning I showed them the move leading to the solution.” From the age of seven, Garik Weinstein received regular chess lessons at the Young Pioneers’ Palace in Baku.

When he was six or seven, his father died of leukaemia. At the age of 12, his mother changed her son’s name from Weinstein to Kasparov. At the age of ten, he joined three-time world chess champion Mikhail Botvinnik in his chess school. Botwinnik became Kasparov’s chess mentor and at the same time role model, trainer and critic. At the age of 15, Garri even took on a kind of assistant function in the chess school. Awarded a certificate of honour by the President of the Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijan SSR. Junior Champion of the USSR in 1976 and 1977. In 1979 he became International Champion, and in 1980 the then 17-year-old Kasparov was awarded the title of Grandmaster (GM). In the same year he won the World Junior Championship in Dortmund.

The road to the world championship

Anatoly Karpov was considered by the Soviet Chess Federation to be the desired World Chess Champion. The other Soviet chess grandmasters were to support him in his further World Championship matches, but not to compete against him. The young Garri Kasparov opposed this. He refused to make his chess analyses available to Anatoly Karpov for his World Championship match (1981) against Viktor Korchnoi. In order to prevent Garry Kasparov from challenging World Champion Anatoly Karpov, he was not allowed to leave the country in 1983 for the Candidates Tournament match against Viktor Korchnoi, allegedly because of security concerns. This eliminated Kasparov from the Candidates Tournament to challenge the World Champion. Kortschnoi, however, did not want to progress without a win and proposed a match against Kasparov to be rescheduled. This match came about and was won convincingly by the young Garri Kasparov. This cleared the way for the World Championship matches against Anatoly Karpov. Kasparov qualified in convincing fashion as a challenger to the world champion in the 1983/84 candidate matches. In the quarter-finals in Moscow he beat Alexander Belyavsky 6:3, in the semi-finals in London Viktor Korchnoi 7:4 and in the final in Vilnius former World Champion Vasily Smyslov 8.5:4.5. Kasparov’s first competition against Anatoly Karpov for the World Championship began on 10 September 1984 in Moscow. The match was played in the mode that had been customary since the 1978 World Championship: the first player to win six games would become World Champion; draws did not count. After Karpov had taken a convincing 4-0 lead, Kasparov changed his tactics. Instead of continuing to attack impetuously – and unsuccessfully – he played for a draw and wanted to hold out as long as possible. Karpov managed a fifth win after a long series of draws, but then the World Champion began to show signs of exhaustion. He became more and more exhausted both physically and psychologically, lost 11 kilograms and was hospitalised several times, while Kasparov remained fit.

Garry Kasparov came as close as 5:3 in a few games before the match was abandoned on 15 February 1985 after 48 games and over 300 hours of play. The match was abandoned under still unexplained circumstances at the instigation of the then FIDE President Florencio Campomanes, who officially justified it with consideration for the health of both players. In his 1987 autobiography, Kasparov accused Campomanes, his opponent Anatoly Karpov and the USSR chess officials of plotting against him. At the same time, however, he admitted that his chances of winning the title had increased considerably as a result of the abandonment. FIDE scheduled a repeat of the competition for October 1985, again in Moscow, under a different mode. The winner was to be the first to score 12.5 points, but a 12:12 was enough for the World Champion to defend his title. In the second World Championship match in 1985, which was limited to 24 games and in which the drawn games were counted again, Kasparov won with 13:11 and became the 13th and youngest World Champion in the history of chess to date on 9 November 1985.

Garry Kasparov successfully defended his world title in three more encounters with Karpov: in 1986 there was a revenge match in London (first 12 games) and Leningrad (last 12 games) after FIDE had surprisingly reintroduced the world champion’s revenge privilege (this had been abolished in 1963). Kasparov defended his title with 12.5:11.5. In 1987 the two opponents played their contest in Seville: only by winning the 24th game did Kasparov manage 12:12 and defend his title. In 1990 Karpov was qualified again through the Candidates’ Matches. Kasparov won the contest, which was played half in New York City and half in Lyon, with 12.5:11.5.

In 1993, disagreements arose with the world chess organisation FIDE, which subsequently withdrew the world championship title from him. Kasparov subsequently founded the PCA (Professional Chess Association) with Nigel Short and won the PCA World Championship matches in 1993 against Nigel Short (6 wins, 1 loss, 13 draws) and in 1995 against Viswanathan Anand (4 wins, 1 loss, 13 draws).

Braingames as “successor” to the PCA

The PCA disbanded after hosting the 1995 World Championship. For five years, neither an organisation nor a sponsor could be found to organise a World Championship with Kasparov. In 2000, however, Braingames sponsored Kasparov’s last World Championship competition. Surprisingly, he lost to Vladimir Kramnik (2 losses, 13 draws).

The Prague Agreement of 2002

In the course of efforts to reunite the two competing world titles, Kasparov, Kramnik and representatives of FIDE met in Prague in May 2002 and agreed on a unification plan, which provided that Kasparov should play a match with the winner of the FIDE World Championship in Moscow 2002/03 – this became Ruslan Ponomarev – whose winner should play the winner of Kramnik’s world championship match with the winner of the Braingames Candidates Tournament – this became Péter Lékó; This match was supposed to represent the reunion, but in the end it did not come off.

Man against machine

His competitions against chess programmes aroused great interest. In the 1980s, Kasparov had claimed that he would never be beaten by a chess program. In 1989 he played two games against the IBM-built computer Deep Thought, both of which he won. In 1996, Kasparov won against its successor Deep Blue in a six-game match 4-2, but became the first world chess champion ever to lose to a chess program under tournament conditions with his first competitive game. The following year, Kasparov lost to Deep Blue in the rematch 2.5:3.5.Kasparov considered the possibility that unauthorised human intervention may have taken place, partly based on the fact that IBM did not give him a look at the computer logs. However, these were later published.Another “man-machine” match against the PC program Deep Junior in 2003 ended in a 3:3 draw.

Garry Kasparov against the world

A similarly media-rich event was a “Kasparov vs. the World” match played online via the Internet portal MSN in 1999. A team of four young chess talents (Étienne Bacrot, Florin Felecan, Irina Krush and Elisabeth Pähtz) and Grandmaster Daniel King analysed and commented on the current position and made move suggestions. Everyone could vote on the internet for the next move of the world team, and the move with the most votes was then executed. The game ended after four months on move 62 with Kasparov winning.

Kasparov’s retirement from chess

In November 2004, Kasparov once again won the Russian National Championship. But neither a match against Ponomarev, whom FIDE disqualified, nor a match with the next FIDE World Champion, Rustam Kasimjanov, materialised. Kasparov held FIDE solely responsible for these circumstances and declared his retirement from professional chess after the Linares tournament on 10 March 2005. He explained that, at almost 42 years of age, it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to play through a tournament without making mistakes. He felt he no longer belonged.

Playing style

Kasparov’s chess style is dynamic and aggressive – here he resembles his chess role model World Champion Alexander Alekhine. Kasparov is also known for his excellent opening preparation – here he resembles his second role model, World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik. An example of this is the Kasparov Gambit, which brought him an important victory in the World Championship match against Karpov in 1985.

In 1990, Garry Kasparov left the CPSU and participated in the founding of the Democratic Party, of which he became deputy chairman. A year later he resigned from the party after disputes over its programme. Also in 1990, his book I Always Win was published. From 1999 onwards, Kasparov published a series of commentaries in US newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal, from 2004 onwards as the newspaper’s “contributing editor”, in which he praises American policy and criticises Russian policy. He is still a member of the neoconservative National Security Advisory Council (NSAC) in Washington.


In 2006, Garry Kasparov was listed as an advisor on the website of the American Center for Security Policy. However, he denied ever having worked for the organisation and only acknowledged having received the Keeper of the Flame Award in 1991. In 2007, the news magazine Time included Kasparov in its list of the 100 most influential people. Editor Richard Stengel called him a “hero” who was leading a “lonely fight for more democracy in Russia”. On 19 September 2007, Kasparov was awarded the newly endowed Pundik Freedom Prize, worth 100,000 kroner, in Copenhagen. In July 2008, Foreign Policy magazine ranked him 18th in its list of the World’s Top 20 Public Intellectuals.