Keynote Kasparov

by ChessBase
10/27/2003 – This week one of the world's leading providers of application software, PeopleSoft, was holding its annual Connect conference, with thousands of attendees, in Barcelona, Spain. The final keynote speaker was a chess player: Garry Kasparov, who told an audience of software experts how computers had transformed the game. We bring you a pictorial report of Kasparov in Barcelona.

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Kasparov's keynote address

By Frederic Friedel

Garry arrived in Barcelona on Tuesday evening and took residence in one of the most spectacular hotels in Europe. The Rey Juan Carlos has the full patronage of the King of Spain, and it is a place where many foreign dignitaries (and celebrities) have stayed.

Barcelona's five-star GL Hotel Rey Juan Carlos. The hotel is located at the upper end of the "Diagonal", Barcelona's main avenue, and offers a spectacular panoramic view over the city and the sea.

Orange trees and date palms in the driveway of the hotel. It reminds you that Barcelona is in the south of Europe, where the vegetation does not close shop for five months per year.

And a full olive grove, bearing fruit in the middle of October. I tried my "you've got to taste fresh olives" trick, but unfortunately every potential victim had read the relevant Linares reports and refused to comply.

The lobby of the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos – it takes your breath away

Silent, gliding glass elevators take you to the top

A view from the top balcony can scare the daylights out of anyone, even the strongest chess player of all times, who refused to even contemplate taking the trip. And right he was too. Standing up there, looking down from the balcony, one realises how intrinsically unnatural the situation is. Normal human beings have a very profound respect for gravity and understand exactly what it is capable of.

The giant congress center where the PeopleSoft Connect convention was held. It is attached directly to the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos. In the congress center we were led into a theatre of awe-inspiring dimensions (pictures below). A team of PeopleSoft technicians were at hand to set up the projection and Internet connection for my notebook.

That's me in the middle, getting help with the projection and Internet technology. We are trying to opening a port so we will be able to log into the server during the presentation.

Garry arrives for a full dress rehersal on the stage. He too was in shock and awe at the size of the place. It probably brought back memories of his matches against Anatoly Karpov in the 80s, some of which were held in giant Russian goverment buildings.

Look at the size of those projection screens!

After everything was set up, and a couple of hours before the lecture, I sat down with Garry in the lobby (see above) to help him run through his notes and occasionally supply a word or phrase. Garry had four typewritten pages, with lots of handwritten notes around the edge. During the lecture he took a single page of notes onto the stage, apoligised for using this "primitive technology", glanced at it once and then held the entire lecture from memory.

Running through his lecture notes in the hotel lobby

The obligatory book signing

The real thing, with the giant projection screens displaying the speaker

Kasparov lecture retraced the history of chess research, which essentially started with the invention in 1450 by Gutenberg of the printing press. Over the centuries books became more abundant, perodicials appeared, and chess knowledge could be very widely disseminated. But when Garry Kasparov became world champion in 1985 he did so essentially using the technology invented by Gutenberg.

Then the world changed, the computer revolution was upon us. In 1986 the first professional database was created, partly on his instigation; in 1991 the first easy-to-use chess engines assisted with analysis, and then in 1996 the Internet increased the speed of data acquisition dramatically. A number of demos on the notebook illustrated this for the non-chess but extremely computer-savvy audience.

At the end of the lecture Garry spoke about his upcoming match against X3D Fritz in New York.

Meeting old friends

Now to the personal part. Garry had brought along his wife Julia, who has not been able to travel with him so freely in the last few years, having to look after their son Vadim. But now the lad is happy to spend some quality time with his grandparents, and so we can hope to see Julia at more events in the future

Meeting an old friend – Julia Kasparova with her man

I first met Julia during Garry's match against Deep Blue in Philadelphia in 1996 – the one he won 4:2. At the time she was 19 and hotly pursued by the US television reporters, who were determined to do an in-depth portrait of this beautiful creature. Julia didn't want to give interviews and it became my duty to shield her from obstrusive cameras. At one stage this involved actually wrestling with a Connie Chung-type anchor who tried sneaking an interview using a long zoom lens. I was always in the way, she tried to push me out of the line of sight, screaming that she would sue me for obstructing her in her professional activity. Quite frightening. In the end the best way was to lock Julia in the VIP section or simply go shopping with her. We became friends.

This was Julia when I first met her in Philadelphia in February 1996

In the evening there was one of the spectacular dinners which you learn to expect when you are with Kasparov. It was in the Restaurante Casa Dario in the Consell de Cent (number 256). We got some kind of a special menu which involved platter after platter of sea-food specialties being carried in, each more delicious than the other. A culinary adventure that requires a robust digestive system, especially if you dig into the different clams, sea-snails, oysters and other bottom-feeding crustaceans (which I most certainly did). In the end I snuck a peek at the check – it was not at all exorbitant. Go there if you are in Barcelona.

A spectacular many-course sea-food dinner with Garry, Julia, a lawyer friend named Manuel and Kasparov manager Owen Williams

From the Casa Dario it is a short walk to the Rambla, Barcelona's (and one of the world's) most famous prominade. Even if you go there in the evening it is full of life, with jugglers, musicians and living statues entertaining the public between streetside restaurants and colourful stalls. There are a remarkable number of animal vendors, with song birds and parrots of every kind, cats, rabbits, hamsters, stoats, even chickens and ducks.

Checking out the animals on sale on the famous Rambla prominade

Julia's favourite animals: cuddly little furballs pretending to be baby rabbits (they are chinchillas!)

At the end of the Rambla is the Port of Barcelona with the Christopher Columbus monument and a recreation complex where you can eat, play and shop. Some of the shops are very beautiful, and we came out with a number of treasures: wall plaques in the style of Antoni Gaudi, beautiful porcelain-like statues that are actually candles.

The Kasparovs in the world's most incredible candle shop

End of the evening stroll, in front of the Port de Barcelona building

The champ and his wife ending a successful stay in Spain

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