"LIMITS OF PERFORMANCE"
Humanities, Athletics, and Medicine Symposium
Panel Discussion with Garry Kasparov, World Chess Champion
The panel discussion featuring Garry Kasparov is a component of the "Limits of Performance" symposium that will be taking place on campus May 7-8.
[Schedule of Symposium Events in May]
[Topic Description for Limits Symposium]
Garry Kasparov (pronounced: Kas-PAH-rof) was born in 1963 in Baku, Azerbaijan. In 1980 he was the world junior champion, in 1981 the Soviet champion, and in 1985, at the age of 22, the youngest ever world chess champion, after defeating Anatoly Karpov. He has now been the top chess player in the world for 14 years
and there are no signs of his winning streak stopping anytime soon.
A month ago, Kasparov played in one of the world's most competitive
chess events held in Linares, Spain. Kasparov showed the world again why
he is number one in the world, going undefeated. An addition of 18
points to his rating in this tournament, and of 9 more points in another
world-class tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, resulted in a record
rating of 2839 points. This is the highest rating that has been achieved
in the history of chess. Because of the way the rating system works,
Kasparov will need to show the same caliber performance in the future in
order to maintain his rating. The next best players in the world suffered
significant losses in Linares, and unless they compensate for this damage
soon, there will be only five or six grandmasters with a rating greater
The road to this chess champion's success appears to have been
quite smooth. Garryck Weinstein (his mother changed the family name to
Kasparov when Garry was 7 years old), the prodigal child of an Armenian
mother and a Jewish father, started to play chess at age 4. In 1976
Kasparov won the USSR youth championships. At 1980, at age 17, Kasparov
won the world youth championships and became a grandmaster. One year
later he conquered the USSR championships (together with grandmaster Lev
Psakhis). In 1985, Kasparov became the 13th world chess champion as the
youngest champion ever to hold the title.
When twenty-two-year-old Garry Kasparov made his winning move in the
final game of the World Chess Championship, on November 9, 1985, giving
him a 13-11 point victory in the series of 24 games against the
then-reigning champion, Anatoly Karpov, spectators packed into Moscow's
Tchaikovsky Hall surged to their feet, chanting "Garry, Garry."
Spontaneous celebrations erupted in the lobby for the triumph of the
youngest world chess champion in history, with fans from the Soviet
Union's southern republics jumping, hugging, and kissing each other. One
fan explained Kasparov's enormous popularity as follows: "Because he is
young, because he is more pleasant than the other one, and because he is
not just a chess player, but an artist."
Garry is indeed more than a chess player. In the time remaining
after his chess activities, Kasparov takes an active role in politics.
For him, politics were as irresistible as chess.
He realized early on that there was something terribly rotten in the
state of Russia. Kasparov never trusted Gorbachev, stating "If you
listened to what Gorbachev repeatedly said, he wanted to improve the
Communist system. Every time he repeated the same story: 'We wanted the
socialism with a human face.' My constant reply was that Frankenstein
also had a human face." His fears were horribly realized when
Azerbaijanis in Baku and elsewhere turned on their Armenian neighbors,
including many of Kasparov's friends and relatives. It was an ethnic
blood bath Kasparov believed was provoked by Gorbachev to quash
independence and keep the Communists in power. Garry helped sixty-four
people to leave Azerbaijan. He is not sure that he will ever return to
To say that Garry is involved in the politics of chess would be an
understatement. Kasparov has had a number of disputes with the
International Chess Federation (FIDE), a dominant power in the
international chess scene. So Kasparov began to organize his own
tournaments. In 1987 he founded the Grandmasters' Association (GMA) which
launched a World Cup of six tournaments. In 1993 he and Britain's Nigel
Short founded the Professional Chess Association (PCA). The two men
arranged a match in London to compete with the FIDE-sponsored
Karpov-Timman match being played simultaneously in the Netherlands. To
make it more appealing to casual spectators, Garry shorted the time
The world chess champion also set up his own chess academy outside of
Moscow in Podolsk. He strongly encourages youth chess activity, even
sponsoring players to come to Moscow to compete in the Kasparov Cup, a
traditional open tournament he created for the strongest chess players
under 17 years old. Usually there are between 30 and 40 of the strongest
young chess players from Russia, former USSR republics, and foreign
countries. Many players in past Kasparov Cups have become active chess
professionals. Kasparov Cup-99 just started in Moscow on March 23.
With his appearances on David Letterman's show and hundreds of public
events, Garry Kasparov is the most publicized chess player since Bobby
Fischer in the 1970s. However, many people remember him most in
association with Deep Blue, from the epic "human vs. computer" matches.
In 1997, Kasparov was invited by IBM to play against an improved version
of Deep Blue, which he had formerly defeated. This new chess computer was
given the name "Deeper Blue". Kasparov lost in a six-game match, but he
points out that the tournament conditions were very unfair.
Kasparov was never allowed to see the computer. The computer was
located in another building from the tournament hall. Garry was not
allowed to see any games played by the computer. This is very different
from normal playing conditions, since Kasparov's usual opponents have
well-charted histories, and their former games can be retrieved from
databases. He uses these games to get an idea of his opponent's style and
can prepare accordingly for the match. This was disturbing enough to
Kasparov, but there were also suspicions of human intervention. There was
a very strong team of grandmasters preparing Deeper Blue for the opening
stages of the game. They had access to hundreds of Kasparov's games, and
could have helped Deeper Blue to find weaknesses in Garry's repertoire.
During the match, the Deeper Blue team may have used human intuition to
steer the computer away from riskier variations. This would have taken
away Garry's primary advantage over the machine.
While Garry realized that Deeper Blue would be disposed to lines
where memory and tactical calculations are very important, he was
confident that the computer would not out-calculate him. Kasparov tried
to use his positional intuition to tackle the program, not letting his
pieces come in close contact with those of his adversary under later in
the game. However, Garry claims the program did not make computer-like
moves, and actually played good positional chess. He stated that while
most people would be able to tell from a human vs. computer game which
color the computer was playing, not even a grandmaster could guess which
side the computer was on in these games.
When he asked for printouts of the computer's thought processes
during the match, he was denied. This, Kasparov could not understand:
"Suppose it's a sport event, so what would be the first obligatory
procedure for anybody who breaks a world record? Doping control. You go to
a room and you must give your blood test. A printout is a blood test for
computer. Where are the printouts? I don't know what's wrong with them. I
would imagine that after such success you would like to trumpet it all
over the world, and to show the great minds that are working inside IBM.
Though, it didn't happen."
After the match, Kasparov challenged IBM for a rematch, laying his
title of world champion on the match. However, the computer was taken
apart. Garry warns, "Now, the danger doesn't come from computers. The
danger comes, in my opinion, from those, who do not care at what price
they achieve their results."
Kasparov is, himself, a proponent of computers. His web site, "Club
Kasparov", was set up in the final goal of
developing an "integrated chess solution on the Internet". The site
contains chess news, tournament commentary, future events, games, an
on-line playing area, and articles written by him on a variety of
subjects. Garry also launched the idea of "Advanced Chess", where
computers are used during a match, reducing the dangers of tactical
oversights, and improving the quality of play.
Garry Kasparov is one of the best things that has happened for
chess. His creativity, his flare, his imagination are evident in every
game he plays. He has inspired countless chess players to become better
and open up their minds to the incredible opportunities that chess
provides. His efforts in the political and organizational realms will
have a lasting positive effect for generations to come. Kasparov is truly
one of the great figures of our era.
By Adrian Keatinge-Clay
Senior, Biology and Chemistry, Stanford University