Garry Kasparov is not only considered the Michael Jordan of Chess, he also does not have any cold feet in self proclaiming him so. However, in the book he tells us more than one of the mistakes he´s made and how his work in chess helped him prepare for being one of the heads of the political reform for the post soviet democratic Russia.
Not only it was one of my favorite books of lately (probably since Bill Simmons Book of Basketball), and not only because I am a chess player myself, but the book can be read by anyone, wether a chess player or not, and be enjoyed also. Of course, for understanding every example he uses, it´s better to know some chess.
In the book, Kasparov tells some chess stories about players who turn out to be “players” like Capablanca, or the ultra shy almost paraonid Rubinstein who hid in the room up until his oponent made his move; the uber obsesive Alekhine who even named his cat “Chess”, or the cretive genius of Mikhail Tal, whose classic hippopotamus story is rescued by Kasparov:
JOURNALIST. It’s perhaps not convenient to interrupt at such a culminating moment, but I would, nevertheless, like to know whether extraneous thoughts ever enter your head during a game?
CHESS PLAYER. Oh yes! For instance, I will never forget my game with Grandmaster Vasyukov in one of the USSR Championships. We reached a very complicated position where I was intending to sacrifice a knight. The sacrifice was not altogher obvious, and there was a large number of possible variations, but when I conscientiously began to work through them, I found, to my horror, that nothing would come of it. Ideas piled up one after another. I would transport a subtle reply by my opponent, which worked in one case, to another situation where it would naturally prove to be quite useless. As a result my head became filled with a completely chaotic pile of all sorts of moves, and the famous ‘tree of the variations’, from which the trainers recommend that you cut off the small branches, in this case spread with unbelieavable rapidity.
And then suddenly, for some reason, I remembered the classic couplet by Korney Ivanovich Chukovsky:
Oh, what a difficult job it was
To drag out of the march the hippopotamus.
I don’t know from what associations the hippopotamus got onto the chess board, but althoug the spectators were convinced that I was continuing to study the position, I, despite my humanitarian education, was trying at this time to work out: just how would you drag a hippopotamus out of the marsh? I remember how jacks figured in my thoughts, as well as levers, helicopters, and even a rope ladder. After a lenghty consideration I admitted defeat as an engineer, and thought spitefully:”Well, let it drown!” And suddenly the hippopotamus disappeared. Went off from the chess board just as he had come on. Of his own accord! And straightaway the position did not appear to be so complicated. Now I somehow realized that it was not possible to calculate all the variations, and that the knight sacrifice was, by its very nature, purely intuitive. And since it promised and interesting game, I could not refrain from making it.
And the following day, it was with pleasure that I read in the paper how Mikhail Tal, after carefully thinking over the position for 40 minutes, made an accurately- calculated piece sacrifice…”
Well, anyways, this is by far one of the best books I´ve read in a long time. I strongly recommend it to anyone, specially chess players and chess enthusiasts.
Full Title: How Life Imitates Chess, from the board to the boardroom
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (September 30, 2008)
Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
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