On Monday, June 18, Garry Kasparov, the thirteenth world chess champion and arguably the greatest player of all time, will take a break from his new career as chief thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin to play twenty games of chess simultaneously in Toronto. The event is being orchestrated by Belzberg Technologies.
A couple of years ago, I watched Kasparov give a simul—also sponsored by Belzberg—against twenty-four traders on the New York Stock Exchange. I describe the simul in my book King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game:
Kasparov had limited the event to people who were rated below 2000. The emphasis on rating seemed strange to me, because Kasparov had achieved godlike status in 1998 by demolishing the entire Israeli national chess team of grandmasters and international masters—players rated in the 2500s and 2600s—in simultaneous play. At the stock exchange, the opponents were complete amateurs and he disposed of them all, 24-0, in only an hour and forty-five minutes.
Although the competition was weak, I was impressed by how earnestly he had taken the event. To make it interesting for himself, he had been determined not to concede a single draw, let alone a loss. One of the games stayed with him. “If he had played better,” Kasparov told me afterward, “I’m not sure I could have won. I’d have to play like Karpov”—his archrival, against whom Kasparov played 144 games in five world-title matches. He chuckled at the thought. “Yeah, like Karpov, grinding him slowly, slowly down in an agonizingly long game.”
We were wolfing down a buffet dinner at the stock exchange because he was about to fly to Germany, but the conversation kept returning to this particular game. “Maybe if I played f5, I could have broken through,” he said, interrupting some non-chess story that I was relating. Kasparov could not stop thinking about the game until he had determined the truth of the position. It was remarkable how the greatest mind in chess managed to turn an informal encounter with an amateur into a rich intellectual challenge.
You Can Buy King’s Gambit at: