An unexamined life is not worth living.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Book Review - "How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom" by Garry Kasparov and Mig Greengard

Since I have little idea of what the heck it means to make "right moves in the boardroom", I was not sure what to expect from Kasparov's most recent book, "How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom". The book proved to be an entertaining read, I finished it in less than 2 days. Stories of Kasparov's encounters with top players are surely fascinating to any chess fan, and mixed with anecdotes about politics (e.g. why Edwards was a bad pick as vice -president in 2004) - 200 pages flew by in no time.

I have always been fascinated by trying to draw the parallels between strategies that we use in chess and 'strategies' that we use in real life. When researching for a long essay on the battle of Stalingrad, I kept thinking about the chess concept of overprotecting the key square on the board. Both Soviet and German armies were drawing more and more forces to Stalingrad, raising the importance of the outcome of the battle.

Of course armies moving on the map naturally draw analogies with the pieces moving on the board, but Kasparov's book goes far beyond that. I my opinion, the main chess/life analogy is not in the strategies, but rather in how one approaches personal growth and development of character. Once you master the basic theorems of chess (early development, weak squares, etc) at the rating level of roughly 2000, the rest of a chess player's growth is based on learning specific openings, developing tactical sharpness, and making sure that you get enough tournament practice. All those are mostly not in the area of strategy, but are rather domain specific skills. And I think Kasparov does not ever show or try to show how a grandmaster can be a better CEO than a class A player. However multiple examples from Kasparov's own top level chess battles give insight into psychological aspects of the game that definitely do occur in many other situations in life.

At any point in his life Kasparov has always been convinced that he is right, and it's good to see that he admits many of his mistakes and explains why he made them (for example, decision to split from FIDE in 1993 is described as the biggest mistake of his life). I think this is a skill he learned from analytical approach to chess - while you are playing the game, don't think about what could have happened two moves, but after game is over - you must spend a day analyzing it and figuring out where you went wrong, and track trends between your mistakes, and work on eliminating those.

1 comment:

  1. A good review, some interesting observations. I'm currently reading the book myself and and find it curious that he's admitting to some mistakes whereas while he's doing whatever he's doing he comes across as someone who strongly believes that he's right.


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