Altucher podcast with Garry Kasparov

by ChessBase
5/27/2017 – James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, bestselling author, venture capitalist and podcaster, founder of more than 20 companies. Also a chess master, Deep Blue trainer. His fondest wish was to play Garry Kasparov, which he recently did, during a podcast with the Champion. A one-hour discussion that provides unique insights into Kasparov's career, his match against Karpov, his training with Botvinnik, and a lot more. Miss this incredible discussion at your own peril.

How to play the Queen's Gambit How to play the Queen's Gambit

Garry Kasparov took to the Queen’s Gambit at a relatively late stage of his chess career, but then had the best training anyone could imagine: in his first match for the world championship against Anatoly Karpov, this opening appeared on the board no less than 19 times. Now he shares his knowledge with you.


Garry Kasparov – Become The World’s Greatest at What You Love Most

By James Altucher

Reproduced from this article with kind permission of the author

I can die now.

But first I want to explain why. It’s not a suicide note. It’s a love note.

In 1984 I became obsessed with chess. It was basically a replacement for the fact that no girl would go out with me. I had braces, acne, wild hair, and did I mention more acne?

At the time there was a young contender for the world chess championship, Garry Kasparov. He was up against the older, more “Soviet” champion, Anatoly Karpov. I followed every game. I played through them after each one, studying all the nuances as I began my own rise through the chess ranks.

Years later, because I was ranked a US master, I got accepted to graduate school (I am convinced chess is the only reason) and my office mate were the creators of a little computer called “Chiptest”, which at the time was the best chess computer in the world.

My job: play Chiptest all day long every day. Eventually they renamed “Chiptest”, “Deep Thought”, after the famous most powerful computer in the universe featured in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. And then IBM “bought them” – hired my officemates and “Deep Thought” became “Deep Blue”.

They offered me a job as well. I went as far as taking the urine test for drugs and then I turned down the job. Because I had a girlfriend who I would have missed. And because I was so insecure, I actually turned down what would then have been the opportunity of a lifetime.

A month later she broke up with me.

Six years later, I was in the audience in New York City when Deep Blue beat the World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov in a historic match. For the first time, a computer has enough “intelligence” to beat the greatest player who ever lived.

Again, I studied every move. I’ve probably played over every game Garry Kasparov has played in his career. But this match was an important milestone in both computer and human history.

But that’s not why I would kill myself. My lifelong dream – play one game against Garry Kasparov, has been fulfilled. Here’s the video of the game. For those a little deeper into it: here are the moves.

[Event "Friendly game"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.04.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Altucher, James"] [Black "Kasparov, Garry"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E70"] [PlyCount "56"] [SourceDate "2017.05.22"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nge2 {I played an opening I’ve been playing for 32 years (the Nge2 Variation of the King’s Indian Defense). I first studied this opening with Michael Wilder, who was the US champion at the time.} a6 6. Ng3 h5 7. h4 Nc6 {After playing this opening perhaps thousands of times, I was stumped. Garry Kasparov made a move I had never seen before (7…Nc6). Then he slowly crushed me. I don’t think I can play this opening ever again. (Greg Shahade…should I use the Classical b4 you played against me in DC 1997?)} 8. d5 Ne5 9. f4 Neg4 10. Be2 c6 11. Qc2 cxd5 12. exd5 b5 13. cxb5 Qb6 14. Rf1 O-O 15. Bd2 axb5 16. Bxb5 Nxd5 17. Nxd5 Qxb5 18. Nc3 Qb7 19. Bc1 f5 20. Qd2 Be6 21. Nh1 Bc4 22. Rf3 Rf6 23. Nf2 Re6+ 24. Kd1 Bxc3 25. bxc3 Bb3+ 26. axb3 Rxa1 27. Kc2 Qa8 28. Bb2 Rae1 0-1

A couple of small things I noticed. I noticed (see the video) how he was constantly adjusting my pieces. I think he instinctively tries to dominate the board in every way including physically intruding into his opponent’s space to say “I control all of the pieces on the board”. This is a small thing but I also like how he pounds his piece into the board on a move, as if to say, “this piece is going in exactly the perfect spot. Don’t mess with it!” That said, he obviously did not need psychology to beat me.

So, one of my final bucket list items achieved, I feel good about where my life has taken me. Thank you podcast.

Click to listen to this unique one-hour podcast with Garry Kasparov

It’s rare to speak to someone who has achieved the #1 peak status of an area of life that I, and millions and millions of others, look up to. How do you do it?

Get a teacher!

Garry Kasparov studied under the former world champion Mikhail Botvinnik, who was the world chess champion from the mid-1940s until the mid-1960s.

And then Magnus Carlsen, the current World Chess Champion, also studied under a World Chess Champion – Garry Kasparov!

Study the History

Garry’s written many books on chess. But by far his best are his series, “My Famous Predecessors” where he studies and breaks apart the games of every world chess champion before him.

Study Your Failures

In his first match for the World Chess Championship, Kasparov was down 5 games to 0. If he lost one more game the match would be over. He studied all his failures. What was he doing wrong? And then he began the meta-game. Instead of playing for a win, he played for a draw in each game. After 40+ draws, his opponent, Karpov, started to collapse under the pressure. Eventually the match was cancelled and re-started, giving Kasparov more of a chance to study where he had gone wrong. He won the rematch and became world champion.

Study Your Opponents

Although Kasparov was talented and a superior player, he was also the first to use computers to study his opponents. Ever since the 80s he put together databases of all the games his opponents ever played and he studied each one to learn their styles, stuidy their moves, and figure out the secret surprises he can use to beat them in tournaments and matches.

Anticipate Your Weaknesses

Garry Kasparov’s teacher, Mikhail Botvinnik, was very sensitive to smoke, during a period when chessplayers would regularly smoke at the table during games. So he would practice while having someone blow smoke straight into his face!

Magnus Carlsen (who Kasparov coached) was recently in NYC to play for the most recent World Championship. I was at the matches, watching. He kept getting into winning positions and failing to “close the deal” and win (although he eventually won the match in the tie-breakers).

The commentator, Judit Polgar, said, “his coach is going to have to set up position after position where he is slightly winning so he can learn how to win these”. He had to “learn” even though he is now the best. “Beginner’s Mind” never stops.


Nobody, not even a world champion, can do one thing his whole life. Kasparov has been a frequent commentator on Russian politics and his Anti-Putin politics has even brought him to the candidacy for President of Russia at one point (probably why he lives in America now!). He is also a frequent commentator on the topic of artificial intelligence, hence his most recent book and the subject of this podcast. The book, is “Deep Thinking”.

Artificial Intelligence

Since the 1940s, computer scientists have wondered if artificial intelligence would be achieved if a computer could beat the best chessplayer in the world. Kasparov has gone to great depths to studying what “artifiical intelligence” actually means. The answer is that as computers get faster, they get better at calculating and mimicking much of human behavior. But this is not the same as intelligence or consciousness. We still have a long way before that happens.

I can tell you, having built chess programs and having seen the inner workings of what became “Deep Blue” the comptuer that beat Garry, nothing close to artificial intelligence was achieved. In fact, intelligence was stripped out of the software so that the hardware could go as fast as possible. It was speed and simplicity that created the best chess computer. Not any insight into how the biology of the brain can be replicated by a computer.

Having now read all the academic papers on the topic, I am a lot more impressed by the techniques used the computer software built by Google to beat the best Go player in the world (Go is an Asian game that has been much more difficult for computers to conquer). But even then I see it using simply a combination of speech recognition techniques, chess program techniques and a technique called Monte Carlo analysis often used by software the models the stock markets.

In any case, what does it matter? Do we say Ursain Bolt is not a peak performer simply because a car can beat him in a race? Garry Kasparov is probably the best chessplayer in world history.

I’m not sure he wanted to play me in chess at the end of the podcast. But I asked and he said “yes”. I got to play Garry Kasparov!

Listen to the episode

On "The James Altucher Show", Altucher interviews "really incredible people":

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Garry Kasparov is a World Champion Chess Master. He has made a name for himself through his unmatched intelligence and skill. In this special anniversary episode, I share my interview with Garry Kasparov from 2017. We talk about his mindset from the beginning of chess all the way to becoming a world champion. And drill down to get simple steps that anyone can use to improve their own mindset.

About the author

James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, bestselling author, venture capitalist and podcaster. He has founded or cofounded more than 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr, and says he failed at 17 of them. He has published eleven books, and he is a frequent contributor to publications including The Financial Times,, TechCrunch, Seeking Alpha, Thought Catalog, and The Huffington Post. [Wikipedia]

Also read: ChessBase article, Kasparov on the future of Artificial Intelligence

Garry Kasparov: Deep Thinking

In May 1997, the world watched as Garry Kasparov, the greatest chess player in the world, was defeated for the first time by the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. It was a watershed moment in the history of technology: machine intelligence had arrived at the point where it could best human intellect.It wasn't a coincidence that Kasparov became the symbol of man's fight against the machines.

Chess has long been the fulcrum in development of machine intelligence; the hoax automaton "The Turk" in the 18th century and Alan Turing's first chess program in 1952 were two early examples of the quest for machines to think like humans – a talent we measured by their ability to beat their creators at chess.

As the preeminent chessmaster of the 80s and 90s, it was Kasparov's blessing and his curse to play against each generation's strongest computer champions, contributing to their development and advancing the field. Like all passionate competitors, Kasparov has taken his defeat and learned from it. He has devoted much energy to devising ways in which humans can partner with machines in order to produce results better than either can achieve alone.

During the twenty years since playing Deep Blue, he's played both with and against machines, learning a great deal about our vital relationship with our most remarkable creations. Ultimately, he's become convinced that by embracing the competition between human and machine intelligence, we can spend less time worrying about being replaced and more thinking of new challenges to conquer.

In this breakthrough book, Kasparov tells his side of the story of Deep Blue for the first time – what it was like to strategize against an implacable, untiring opponent – the mistakes he made and the reasons the odds were against him. But more than that, he tells his story of AI more generally, and how he's evolved to embrace it, taking part in an urgent debate with philosophers worried about human values, programmers creating self-learning neural networks, and engineers of cutting edge robotics. He surveys the serious questions facing a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on AI, creating an essential guide for the business readers and educators he speaks to by the thousands every year.

Recent books by Garry Kasparov:

Garry Kasparov

Born on April 13th 1963, Garry Kasparov was the 13th World Champion in the history of chess.

The young Kasparov followed the typical route for talented young Soviet players through the famous Botvinnik school and lived until 1990 in the Azerbaijani city of Baku, where he was born. When things became too dangerous for him there because of political unrest, he moved in 1990 to Moscow and took Russian nationality.

From 1.1.1984 until his retirement in 2005 Kasparov was almost uninterruptedly the number one in the world ranking list, and even his rivals would describe him as the player with the most universal understanding of chess of all time. With his dynamic style, Kasparov had an epoch-making influence on the development of tournament chess at the end of the 20th century. The basis of his exceptional position in chess was extraordinary talent combined with hard work, enormous will-power and a boundless memory. He himself once characterised his style as "a combination of Alekhine, Tal and Fischer".

Kasparov won most of the competitions in which he took part. With his series of victories in 1999 he built up a lead of 80 points in the Elo list; the rating of 2851 which, until the advent of Magnus Carlsen, had never been equalled, despite Elo inflation. Kasparov also set the standard as an author of chess books, with the greatest attention being earned by his series on the world chess champions "My Great Predecessors".

Order these very popular Kasparov's DVDs in the ChessBase Shop

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