Archive for the ‘Kasparov’ Category

Legislating Good Behavior at the Chessboard

June 26, 2007

There is something about chess that brings out not only the artist but also the beast in both amateur players and professionals.  Garry Kasparov, the greatest player ever, has been known to storm off like a bull after losing, nearly running over unfortunate spectators and autograph seekers who happen to be in his way.  Bad behavior is nothing new: William the Conqueror, after being defeated by the Prince of France, reportedly smashed a chessboard over his royal opponent’s head.  FIDE, the world chess federation, doesn’t condone such violence, of course.  But today, FIDE’s presidential board went one step further and declared that it would forfeit players who did not behave like perfect gentlemen:

“Any player who does not shake hands with the opponent (or greets the opponent in a normal social manner in accordance with the conventional rules of their society) before the game starts in a FIDE tournament or during a FIDE match (and does not do it after being asked to do so by the arbiter) or deliberately insults his/her opponent or the officials of the event, will immediately and finally lose the relevant game.”

Kasparov KO’s 21

June 19, 2007

When Kasparov arrived in Canada yesterday, he told the customs official that he was going to play chess in Toronto. The official said, “Chess? What is that?” The man had not heard of him, either.

But the thirteenth world champion put the Canadians in their place at the unfamiliar activity called chess by winning twenty-one simultaneous games in the course of ninety minutes. If only checkmating Putin were this easy!

The simultaneous exhibition was arranged by Belzberg Technologies.

Kasparov Takes Toronto

June 15, 2007

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 simulalso sponsored by Belzbergagainst 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.

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Kasparov in Zugzwang

June 5, 2007

Chess players are amused when the language of their game—checkmate, stalemate, pawn, gambit—shows up in nonchess contexts: “He’s just a pawn to be sacrificed.”  I particularly like the word zugzwang

Normally in chess it is a big advantage to be the player who is on move. But there are those rare chess positions in which whoever must move is at a huge disadvantage, because he has no choice but to give ground (In chess, you have to move a piece when it’s your turn; you can’t opt to stand still).   This kind of standoff has the beautiful guttural name zugzwang.  It is worth striving for such chess positions, even if you’re on the losing side and must give way, just so that you have a reason to utter the double-z word, which can’t even be spelled in Scrabble without resorting to a blank tile.

At BookExpo, the publishing gala in which 30,000 booksellers, editors, and authors crowded the Javits Center, I visited the booth of Bloomsbury, publisher of Garry Kasparov’s forthcoming semi-self-help book How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom.  There was a huge stack of his book, and next to it, an equally mammoth stack of Zugzwang,

 Click for 300dpi imageMaking the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom

Ronan Bennett’s murder-thriller set in St. Petersburg.  Now if only they had interlaced the stacks, so that the removal of any single book would cause the whole pile to collapse.  That would have been true zugzwang.