Garry Kasparov discusses chess, AI, business strategy, politics, and truth

by Albert Silver
11/2/2021 – Patrick Bet-David, CEO of Valuetainment, sits down with Garry Kasparov, in what was easily one of the best interviews by the former world champion in years. He candidly discusses topics such as chess today compared to his day, AI and why it is not the boogeyman, politics, Putin, the US, and truth. "I'm not a politician, I'm not running for office; I won't waffle, I won't duck." And he didn't.

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16 years after he officially retired from professional chess, Garry Kasparov has remained active and relevant, from political activist, to auteur extraordinaire, with a fantastic body of contributions to chess literature, and further books on themes such as business and AI. You would think that with this many works compounded by his regular articles and interviews (Bill Mahar, anyone?), that we had seen it all and heard it all, yet in a recent interview done on the YouTube channel, Valuetainment, he showed that he still had insights to share and inspire.

Don't be put off by the length, since frankly one is left wanting more, a feeling that was echoed by others in the video's comments section.

Here are a few highlights (edited for clarity and conciseness):

Chess today with engines

(15:37) I started Kasparov Chess Foundation in this country 20 years ago, and from 2005 we have regular sessions with talented kids (...) and more and more I can see how their play is influenced so much by machines, and it's good that they can collect all the data. Today the kid at age 12 knows more than Bobby Fischer learned in his entire life again simply because he or she can swipe the finger [miming using an iPad] and just find all the data.

But again how you deal with this data, (...) because when we analyze the games I look at them and say, "Okay here's a move. It's not a good move so why?" The junior will reply, "it's not a good move because the machine said so." I insist, "I can also look at the screen. Can you tell me why?" and many of them stared at me, confused. "What do you mean why? because the machine said so." So sometimes they lose this the ability, the very human ability, to look deep down and understand what it's all about.

On Risk

(42:14) "Taking risks is risky yet not taking risks is much riskier. (...) For so long the philosophy of business was to mitigate risk, how to reduce it. Once i did an experiment: you can use a Google engram and you can look at the books for 100 years and find out how certain words have been used and (...) and it shows the change in the public attitude. You put the word 'computer' and it goes up and down, then you query the word 'phone', and so 'phone' goes up and then a little bit down. There's only one word that I found that that didn't follow this pattern, it's called 'risk'. Until the mid to late 60s it was almost non-existent and then it jumped exponentially. We 'discovered' risk and we wanted to mitigate this risk, we wanted to handle it, we want to minimize it, forgetting the fact that if you minimize risk you also have to sacrifice benefits."

On freedom and the US

(48:51) The problem with Americans is that you take things for granted. You keep forgetting the wise words of Ronald Reagan from his inaugural speech in 1967 when he became governor of California that freedom is a fragile thing and it's never more than one generation away from extinction. (...)

There's no perfection in this world but you compare this country to any other place on the planet you will not find a place that offers more opportunities for people of all races and genders. (...) That's why people like me are so concerned when self-criticism turns into self-flagellation. (...) These attacks on the very foundation of this great nation are what help dictators in Russia, in China, in Iran.

On Truth

(1:09:26) We know that truth does exist, but there's only one way to tell the truth, and there are millions of ways thanks to social media to lie. Truth is lonely and we have to find ways to defend it.

While these do bring up some salient highlights, don't for an instant think this is all there was. His comparison of different strengths as illustrated by two very different armies was as eloquent a comparison as can be. 

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.
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Serse Serse 11/5/2021 12:22
We all know Garry. He has been part of the world chess landscape for so long, so we know what to expect from him. His huge ego, his conviction that he is always right, and sometimes his lack of judgement. But we also know that he would never have got where he has without that pervasive ego. I was lucky enough to watch his first match against Karpov almost live (there was no internet at the time...). Do you really think he could have survived the match and the whole surrounding context without a disproportionate confidence in his abilities?Ok, he is sometimes very annoying (his first autobiographical book…)Ok, he is sometimes very annoying (his first autobiographical book...) but his thoughts are often sensible. I read Deep Thinking because the subject is in my professional field (AI and cognitive science). It's not scientific literature, of course, but it's not insane and GK has a certain legitimacy to tackle these subjects. More than some recent articles published on the ChessBase site anyway...
@Erony @Albert Et puis, je suis peut-être parano mais quand je vois certaines réactions outrancières contre Garry, je ne peux m’empêcher d’y voir l’oeil du Kremlin...
Green22 Green22 11/3/2021 04:59
Definitely not a fan of Kasparov. I don't think he's a bad guy but his ego is somewhere near the planet Pluto, and his constant excuse making and cry babying when he loses or lost reminds me of a couple guys I grew up with and played sports with.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/3/2021 01:53
@tom_70 I also happen to dislike globalism. But his point about the USA providing excellent opportunities for its citizens of different genders and race is spot on.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/3/2021 01:52
Garry Kasparov is a Leftist of the good kind. He is a Liberal in the classical sense, not in the "neo-Liberal" sense, that is essentially marxism with a twist. He is anti-marxist just like he has always been and now with the new popularity of neo-marxist ideas in the Western world which was fortunate-enough not to see it ever in practice, his sane words affects the radical marxist Left like garlic affects a vampire.

While I disagree with Garry about almost everything, I share his views in one very important topic: freedom of the individual. And I applaud him for standing up against the new wave of aggressive identity politics, which may call itself gender theory or critical race theory, but in truth, it is marxism 2.0.
tom_70 tom_70 11/3/2021 09:27
I like Garry's chess, but not his politics. He is another globalist stooge for the Democrats.
Albert Silver Albert Silver 11/3/2021 02:18
@erony - Mais oú le mensonge entre-t-il dans la qualification de l'entrevue? Il ne s'agissait pas d'une série de déclarations de faits, et oui un débat sur les affaires étrangères et des conseils stratégiques liés au business: le risque et comment utiliser vos points forts au dépit des points faibles de l'adversaire. Tirés des échecs, evidemment, mais applicables à bien d'autres domaines.
abhishikt abhishikt 11/3/2021 12:45
Remind me of Garry's interview with Bill Mayer -
erony erony 11/2/2021 11:36
Bonsoir Albert,
Bien sûr, un génie des Echecs dit parfois des choses "convaincantes", mais ce Monsieur est un "menteur pathologique", comme l'avait dit Bobby Fischer, ce qu'il n'a cessé de confirmer.
Albert Silver Albert Silver 11/2/2021 11:12
@erony - Pourquoi? Personellement, je trouve qu'il s'exprima de maniére convaincante avec de bons arguments.
jproc jproc 11/2/2021 10:23
Incredible-Garry should be the President of the USA
MauvaisFou MauvaisFou 11/2/2021 09:19
merci erony
thanks Theochessman
erony erony 11/2/2021 08:28
Quand Kaspy se taira, quel soulagement ce sera !
Vidmar Vidmar 11/2/2021 04:11
Garry is certainly a renaissance man, having special insight deserving of attention.
AWKUZ AWKUZ 11/2/2021 03:00
Каспаров один из тех, кто является великим шахматистом. И очевидно по этому он решил, что имеет право судить о политике в России. Его политические убеждения мало кого интересуют в России. Он - мумия прошлого, которая захоронена под руинами времён Ельцина. В этом и проблема личности господина Каспарова. Он чужой в России. Станет ли своим в США, вопрос... Все и всегда будут знать Каспарова, как гражданина СССР, который выиграл великое противостояние у гражданина СССР Карпова. И никто больше о нём ничего не вспомнит.
Theochessman Theochessman 11/2/2021 12:55
Garry, no disrespect but....why not stick to Chess?
That's what you are known for and what you are really good at.
As a chess player, I am not interested in politics.
And as a non-Russian, I am even less interested in Russian politics.