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Garry Kasparov’s How Life Imitates Chess

I finished reading How Life Imitates Chess a few months ago, and finally had the chance to go through my notes this afternoon during lunch break.

Having followed the world of chess ever since I was a teenager, I’ve always been interested to know how great chess players think, to know their opinions about life, to know the things they went through to achieve their extraordinary skills… and this book offers exactly that.

Garry Kasparov wrote about his experience, his thinking process, and how he applied all those things into various aspects of life. These are my favourite quotes from the book:

Ch1 – The lesson
p14
It’s not enough to be talented. It’s not enough to work hard and to study late into the night. You must also become intimately aware of the methods you use to reach your decisions.

Ch2 – Strategy
p19
“Why?” is the question that separates visionaries from functionaries, great strategists from mere tacticians. You must ask this question constantly if you are to understand and develop and follow your strategy.

Ch3 – Strategy and tactics at work
p36-37
… our goal is to improve our position. You must avoid creating weaknesses, find small ways to improve your pieces, and think small – but never stop thinking.

Ch4 – Calculation
p50
A computer may look at millions of moves per second, but lacks a deep sense of why one move is better than another; this capacity for evaluation is where computers falter and humans excel. It doesn’t matter how far ahead you see if you don’t understand what you are looking at.

Ch5 – Talent
p65
Break your routines, even to the point of changing ones you are happy with to see if you can find new and better methods.

Ch6 – Preparation
p73
If you said you didn’t have enough time, that meant you were not well organized.

Botvinnik summed up his philosophy by stating, “The difference between man and animal is that man is capable of establishing priorities!”

Ch7 – MTQ: Material, time, quality
p96
But I believe that by using your time wisely you can put all your material to your best advantage and achieve the ultimate goal of quality. That’s the promise of the material-time-quality concept–in chess and in life.

Ch8 – Exchanges and imbalances
p102
If we can detect or cultivate a weak spot in our opponent’s position, we can then attempt to transform our position to take advantage of that weakness.

Ch 9 – Phases of the game
p112
So dedicate yourself to making the time, finding a space in which you can think and learn, and finding new ideas with which to shock your adversaries.

Ch11 – Question success
p135
Question the status quo at all times, especially when things are going well. When something goes wrong, you naturally want to do it better next time, but you must train yourself to want to do it better even when things go right.

Ch12 – The inner game
p145
That’s why I always think of Simon Bolivar and remember that experienced soldier who studies the battlefields in the aftermath of the war returns with both wisdom and renewed courage.

Ch13 – Man vs. machine
p166
Weak human + machine + superior process was greater than a strong computer and, remarkably, greater than a strong human + machine with an inferior process.

Ch14 – Intuition
p178
As they develop, our instincts–our intuitive senses–become labor-saving and time-saving devices; they literally cut down the time it takes to make a proper evaluation and act. You can collect and analyze new information forever without ever making a decision. Something has to tell you when the law of diminishing returns is kicking in. And that something is intuition.

Ch15 – Crisis point
p184
But in fact, crisis really means a turning point, a critical moment when the stakes are high and the outcome uncertain. It also implies a point of no return. This signifies both danger and opportunity…

Another thing I like about this book is that it also validates my belief on the importance of wanting to improve the way you do things, and also on the importance of understanding what you are doing.

And regarding Garry’s current involvement in politics… as much as I wish him all the best, I’m afraid this is one battle he’s unlikely to win despite his brilliance (and I’d love to be proven wrong!). Politics defy any form of logic and reasoning, chess is a much more peaceful world in any way.

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3 Comments

  1. Chess Strategizer

    This just got bookmarked!

    “That’s why I always think of Simon Bolivar and remember that experienced soldier who studies the battlefields in the aftermath of the war returns with both wisdom and renewed courage.”

    Top quote!

  2. MaGoU

    The puilosopical outlook is what I expected of the world champ.

    I look up to Garry because his political aspirations take the grand master into the humanly responsible.

    He doesn’t have to win the battel by himself; just living his philosophy is setting a standard for his country and people.

    Could Garry do it better? I’m sure he’s already asking that of himself.

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