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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Carlsen could be 2900 if we continued chess together: Kasparov

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2012

Hi everyone,

We have quotes from the legendary Gary Kasparov just given in an exhaustive interview to Leadership magazine. You're not going to believe what he says about Carlsen. There's a whole lot more in the interview - about Karpov's influence, about leadership, about innovation and more. We are not very sure about the date this interview was taken (We had to tweak a sentence or two). Nevertheless, we could not miss carrying the golden words of a chess legend on Enjoy!

Children and chess
  • Chess helps to shape the way children think. More affluent schools have other sorts of disciplines or tools to enhance thinking, but in underprivileged districts, kids have no opportunities to actually get help with elementary skills such as concentration and the ability to actually identify the problem and to see the different elements of the big picture.
  • Chess is the only game that doesn’t have the traditional poverty constraints, so it goes beyond race, social status, physical capabilities.

Computers have solved chess? 
The number of possible positions in the game of chess is in the region of 10 to the power of 120, which is considerably more than the number of atoms in the universe. Obviously, what machines can do with any engine that you run on your PC or your laptop now is phenomenal compared to what we saw 20 or even 10 years ago, and it’s almost impossible for the strongest players to beat the leading chess engines now, but the game is still very, very far from being solved. It’s mathematically impossible because the numbers are simply too big.

Human-computer combination
  • But the most powerful combination is man plus machine: that brings together the brute force of calculation and creativity. We saw this several years ago in so-called freestyle competition where you could actually cheat on the Internet, play with an engine, team up or do whatever you want. The winner was not a strong grandmaster with a strong engine: the winner of the competition was a team of two very average players from the United States with three average computers!
  • So I would probably add that a powerful engine will beat the human player; the human with an engine will beat the engine; but human or a group of humans that are relatively weak with average engines, but have a superior process will prevail, so the process actually is where we can make the most difference. This is what chess can bring to the table because this is a unique field where you can actually experiment with human abilities and the machine’s brute force of calculation. I’m looking for methods to maximise the effect of this co-operation by improving the process of decision-making.
How did chess and character-building combine in Kasparov’s case? 
  • “Undoubtedly Karpov. I spent so many hours at the chess board, hundreds of hours and years of my life struggling against Karpov. The matches with Karpov played a role not only for my chess biography and chess career, but also for my character because I grew up by playing Karpov and surviving the first match when I was down 5 to nil, and Karpov failed to win one more game to complete the match, and then beating Karpov and taking over the world title: that’s very much what built up or polished my character.
  • I’ve always said Anatoly Karpov was my best teacher because I learnt the most valuable lessons in the most alien environment.
Kasparov on Magnus Carlsen
  • I’m not working now with Magnus Carlsen, and regarding talent, I could say that Magnus is actually unique. It’s just a talent of the highest calibre, so of Anatoly Kasparov’s class. He definitely has his weak spot as well, and I wish we could have continued, then I’m sure he could cross not only 2850, but maybe even 2900 so he’s really number one. Also, I think he slowed down, but it’s not only about talent, it’s about your ability to concentrate on the game, but also to work really hard.
Could the lessons of chess be applied to leadership? 
  • “Absolutely. It’s the topic of The Blueprint, a book that I’ve been working on with my friends Peter Thiel and Max Levchin, the founders of PayPal. Peter was also the angel investor of Facebook. To cut a long story short: we believe that the last 30 years were the worst years in the history of technology. Contrary to popular belief, we’re approaching some sort of technological slowdown because every day, every week we see some new gadget without recognising that it’s not any kind of breakthrough or innovation. It’s what we call incremental progress at a horizontal level.
Kasparov on innovation
  • “For example, we still fly the same planes as 40 years ago. All these new planes – Boeing, Dreamliner, 787, Airbus V80 – it’s the same family as Boeing 747, and the first flight of Boeing 747 was in 1969 – so it’s all about fuel efficiency, comfortable seats, better services, but at the same speed. Actually, it’s not the same speed: we are going down because there is no Concorde – so it’s the first time in human history that we are travelling from A to B slower than before. When you start looking at all the so-called innovations that people are getting really excited about, you’ll find the roots in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s. The first Internet was developed by the Advanced and Research Project Agencies Arthur Group in ‘60 to ‘63. Professor Leonard Kleinrock – I had the privilege to meet him, and he’s interviewed for the book – wrote the work on packet switching in 1962. The conclusion is that we’re not innovating the way we did before: we are substituting innovations by financial instruments; so instead of space engineers, we have financial engineers. Today, every business plan starts with risk production concern.
Too much management, not enough leadership? 
  • Absolutely. Leadership means that you are willing to go beyond conventional wisdom and to take risks. Today, risk production is not only for business, it’s also in politics. In 1969, when Americans landed on the moon, the entire computing power of NASA was the size of one iPhone. What these people did, creating the software to bring the crew to the moon and then back to earth, was phenomenal. Now we think that if NASA had the same computing powers then as they have today, maybe they wouldn’t have done it because computer simulation can show probably a 20% chance of failure, and no US president could authorize a mission with such a high chance of failure. So it seems that we are so complacent and so risk-averse now, precisely because of too much management. We have to tell our kids that the iPad is a tool, not a solution.
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