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A child chess prodigy who started playing as a five year old, Kasparov qualified as an International Chess Master at the age of sixteen. Those close to the unique Russian know his unrestrained contagious laugh, his kindness and his caring outlook.
All of his adult life the courage of his convictions has been put to the test. His matches against Anatoli Karpov were widely regarded as a show of individual opposition to the authoritarian state. Kasparov was in the fore-front of the anti-communist movement and the resulting threats to his well-being were real.
In 1988, a computer program was devised to analyse a vast collection of chess statistics, in order to create a ranking of the all-time chess greats. Top of the list, was the twenty-five year old Garry Kasparov. He successfully defended his title more times than any other champion in this era. On each occasion his famous attacking style of play and brilliant strategies have proven too much for his opponents.
The Brain Club and Synapsia elected Garry as its first Brain of the Year and described him as “The World Chess Champion, athlete and humanitarian both, and a cultivated and curious man who closely follows literature, films and politics”. Today Gary Kasparov is also a great public speaker.
Eager for new challenges, he retired from professional chess in 2005 after a record 20 years as the world’s top-ranked player. Kasparov wasted no time after leaving chess, joking that he would be “far busier as a retiree.” He quickly became an important voice in the Russian pro-democracy movement against the repressive regime of Vladimir Putin. He formed the United Civil Front, of which he is still the chairman, and co-led The Other Russia coalition that focused on uniting the Russian opposition to Putin under the banner of free and fair elections.
Kasparov also turned his energy to writing and public speaking. “I have spent my life thinking about thinking,” he said, “and I find many others are as interested in the field of improving human performance as I am.” Kasparov’s keynote lectures and seminars on strategic thinking, achieving peak performance, and tech innovation have been acclaimed in dozens of countries. His 2007 book on decision-making, How Life Imitates Chess,was translated into over 20 languages.
The Kasparov Chess Foundation (KCF) was launched in New York City in 2002 with the purpose of bringing chess into the educational system in the USA and worldwide. Kasparov has long promoted the many benefits of chess for schoolchildren KCF’s program is now used in thousands of schools. KCF formed branches in Europe and Africa and will continue rapid expansion. Kasparov travelled to over a dozen countries to promote scholastic chess programs in one year alone.
Everywhere he goes he is a guaranteed news story. This is brought about by his forceful personality, his outspoken political and economic views and his greatest passion of all – an undying love of the game of chess.
2020 update: Gary Kasparov, with chess coach Bruce Pandolfini, has developed and created the chess matches in the brilliant Number One Netflix series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ based on the book by Walter Tevis.
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