Garry Kasparov discusses with Lex Fridman about his mindset playing chess, the greatest chess player of all time, loss to IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997, machines and morality, and communism in the Soviet Union.
Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) is a former World Chess Champion, Writer, and Political Activist from Russia. He became the youngest ever undisputed World Chess Champion in 1985 at the age of 22 after beating Anatoly Karpov. After his retirement from professional chess in 2005, Kasparov has been involved in writing and politics. He has written a few books including Winter is Coming and Deep Thinking. Garry formed the United Civil Front movement and joined as a member of The Other Russia, a coalition opposing the administrative policies of Vladimir Putin. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative (RDI), an American non-profit organization championing the cause of liberal democracy in the U.S. and abroad.
Enjoy the conversation takeaways put concisely in this Artificial Intelligence Podcast Garry Kasparov Show Notes.
- As a chess player, Garry Kasparov always believed that the quality of his game determined the outcome of the game, irrespective of the opponent he was facing. He admits that it might sound arrogant but that mindset enabled him to keep getting better as a player.
- Garry Kasparov says that his motivation as a chess player was to always create something new, like new openings or transitions in middle games.
- Garry notes the invisible connection between preparation for games and moments of brilliance in games. He says that somehow all the hours put into preparation helped in coming up with something brilliant on the chessboard.
- The argument for the best chess player of all time is a difficult one to make. Bobby Fisher was way ahead of his competition during his time while Garry Kasparov was able to stay consistently on the top for a long time. Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen is the current top grandmaster with the highest-ever FIDE rating of 2882 (achieved in 2014). According to Garry, the generation gap combined with the improved knowledge and access to information for every new generation makes the argument invalid.
- Garry Kasparov lost a match for the first time in his career when he faced IBM’s Supercomputer, Deep Blue in 1997 in New York.
- Machines will beat humans in any closed system with a set of rules.
- Garry says that AlphaZero is the first step towards machine produced knowledge. It is a computer program developed by DeepMind to master the games of chess, shogi and go.
- Garry Kasparov opposes communism and says that it caused more damage than any other ideology in the 20th century.
- He lives in New York due to threats to his life in Russia due to his vocal opposition to the administration and policies of Putin.
- He believes that Russia played a role in the U.S. Presidential Election in 2016, in Brexit, and in elections in almost every European country.
- Garry Kasparov is happy with where he is. He takes the analogy of Forrest Gump referring to life as a box of chocolates where you don’t know what’s inside and have to go one by one.
Garry Kasparov Quotes
- “I always believed that the result of the (chess) game had to be decided by the quality of my play. You may say it sounds arrogant but it helped me to move forward because I always knew that there was room for improvement.”
- “Fear of mistakes guarantees mistakes.”
- “Any new generation knows much more about the (chess) game than their previous one.”
- “Machines will always beat humans in what I call closed systems (systems with rules).”
- “I think we’re just learning that it’s no longer human versus machines, it’s about humans working with machines.”
- “It’s very important to understand that you cannot expect machines to improve the ills of our society, and moreover, machines will simply amplify.”
- “There’s no absolute good but there’s an absolute evil.”
- “Human history is a never-ending quest for perfection.”
- “Communism caused more damage than any other ideology in the 20th Century.”
- “Life is exciting. As long as I can feel that I have energy, I have strengths, I have (the) passion to make the difference, I’m happy.”
Biggest Motivator in Playing Chess
Garry Kasparov does not credit the fear of losing or the joy of winning as his motivator for playing chess.
- The biggest motivator for Garry in playing chess was wanting to create something new, like finding new openings or transitions in middle games.
- He believed that his quality of play had to decide the result of the game, irrespective of his opponent’s abilities. This mindset improved his game and made him a better player.
- The fear of making mistakes guarantees mistakes.
- Garry observed the invisible connection between practicing chess for hours and coming up with moments of brilliance during games.
Greatest Player of All Time?
Garry Kasparov thinks that it is hard to pick the greatest player of all time due to the generation gap and knowledge gap between generations.
- Bobby Fisher was way ahead of the competition during his reign in the Chess World. However, Garry Kasparov remained on top for a long time, meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen is the current torchbearer for the sport having achieved the highest FIDE rating (2882) for any chess player in history.
- Garry thinks that every new generation has more information than the previous generation which makes the argument for the Greatest Chess Player of All Time a difficult one.
The Loss to IBM Deep Blue and Understanding Machines
Garry Kasparov was undefeated until he was beaten by IBM’s Super Computer, Deep Blue in 1997.
- Garry Kasparov ruminated about his loss to Deep Blue in 1997 and realized that machines will outperform humans in all closed systems.
- According to him, closed systems are any system with a set of rules to it.
- He believes that we have to understand that it is no longer humans vs machines, rather it is humans working with machines.
Machines and Morality
Garry Kasparov thinks that machines will never reach 100 percent perfection. The only expectation we have to have from machines is for them to make fewer mistakes.
- According to Garry, machines will not improve the ills of society. If at all anything, it will only amplify it.
- A human moderation to machines will ensure the machines can perform better than when left alone.
Lesson from the Soviet Union Fall in the 20th Century
Garry Kasparov states that the Soviet Union’s fall is a lesson demonstrating that undemocratic and totalitarian states that control its citizens and give no opportunities for private initiatives are doomed.
- Garry says that the ideology of Communism caused more damage than any other ideology in the 20th Century.
- He believes that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty signed in August 1939 by Hitler and Stalin was a criminal treaty with the motive of enslaving Europe and was what started the second World War. Most of the Eastern European countries annexed by the USSR suffered from the Communist agenda after World War II.
Life in America and Russia’s Interference in Elections
Garry Kasparov currently lives in New York due to the threat to his life in Russia.
- Garry Kasparov lives in New York with his wife and two kids from his second marriage. He is also close to his two kids born from his first marriage.
- His mother lives in Moscow and he visits her a few times a year.
- Garry believes that Russia interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election in 2016, in Brexit, and in elections in almost all European Countries.
- His outspoken views on the Putin regime mean that he has to careful in traveling to places where his security could be compromised.
- Garry doesn’t want to go back and relive a single moment. He gives the Forrest Gump analogy of life to a box of chocolates where one doesn’t know what’s inside and the only way to know is to go through the chocolates one by one.
- To him, life is still exciting and as long as he feels that he has the energy, strength, and passion to make a difference, he’s happy.