I have known Gary for more than 20 years (we first met at the 1988 Olympiad). When I told him that I was glad to see him at the Supernationals, he responded jokingly: “I am alive and free.” Gary is in Nashville with his wife, Mig Greengard and Michael Khodarkovksy.

I attended Gary’s lecture and Q&A session this afternoon. Here are some of the topics discussed:

He started with a joke that while it is only his first visit to TN, he felt right at home here as it neighbors Georgia just as his native Baku (in Azerbaijan).

On Bobby

Gary talked about Bobby Fischer’s popularity in Russia back in the 1970’s. He said actually Bobby “was the best representative of the Russian school of chess”. What he meant was that in the old Soviet Union, they immensely respect good chess and Bobby was the best at it in the beginning of the 1970’s.

The real secret is to work hard

He stressed a number of times during the lecture that there are no miracles in chess.The “real secret” is to work hard no matter what the training tools are. In his days it was books and notebooks and today it is computers. He said “The tools can be different but what is important remains the same.” Kasparov also said that “I don’t think champions are born, I think they are made, it’s all the result of very hard work.” However, he further added that “being able to work hard is unique talent.”

He also said that there is nothing more important than having a dedicated Mom, Dad or Coach to help support a young aspiring player.

First game against Karpov

Gary talked about his early days and his first memorable game (preceding their 180 official games later) against a future arch rival Anatoly Karpov. It was in November 1975 when Karpov gave a simul and Gary was just one of the talented juniors. He stills feels emotional about it today. He is sorry that he missed to opportunity to upset the then World Champion, and lost a good game.


Kasparov also talked about how grateful he is and he owes a lot to the late chess legend and former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik. Botvinnik accepted him as a student in August 1973 to the famous “Botvinnik chess school.”

If you compare to today’s conditions, the Botvinnik chess school had very modest tools such as a magnetic demo board, a few chess books and notebooks. Gary said “But I’ll be forever grateful for Botvinnik giving us his passion, inspiration, and methods on how to study.”

The happiest day of his life

November 10, 1985. At the closing ceremony when he was crowned as the 13th World Chess Champion, the widow of former World Champion Tigran Petrosian (who was a great fan and supporter of Gary) told him: “I am sorry for you.” Gary was shocked and asked but why? Her response was: “The happiest day of your life now is just gone.” Gary’s thought was: “The bad news was she’s probably right. The good news was it gave him the motivation to prove her wrong”.

Computer chess

He recognized the enormous growth of computer chess. He gave a simul in 1985 against 32 top chess computers. He won all the games. The only game that he was in danger of losing was against the computer named after him. During the game, he felt terrified that if loses he will be accused of promoting his product – which he had no intention to do. But at the end, he managed to “trick” the computer and won.

However, even with all the computer inferences, chess still very much remains a human game. He said he recently saw a seven piece position which according the computer’s (perfect) analyses was winning for one side in 500-600 moves! Of course we already knew for years that there are some K+R+B versus K+2N positions which are only winnable after a series of 220 or so perfect moves in a row! He added with a smile “What should we think of the quality of our games which typically end in 40 moves?”


“Chess is for everyone.” He mentioned Magnus Carlsen, Hou Yifan and Sergey Karjakin, all just teenagers. Anand is still on top of his game and about to celebrate his 40th birthday while a veteran like the legendary Victor Korchnoi who not long ago was still a member of the “Top 100 Club”.

When Gary announced that he was retiring from competitive chess, Korchnoi was upset with him and told him “I haven’t even played my first World Championship match at your age.”

Gary added that his online blitz rating is still not bad as he called himself “the highest rated kibitzer”.


When asked about his future political ambitions, he said: “We (as part of the opposition party to Putin’s regime) are fighting not to win the election but to HAVE an election.”

As the last advice to all the parents in the room who would like their children to get ahead, Gary said: “Passion, dedication, love – that’s all you need to succeed!”

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Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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