Garry Kasparov is a chess grandmaster, writer and political activist. He is a legend in the international sports arena for his 20-year reign as the world’s number one chess player. He started playing chess at the age of five and was a child chess prodigy by the age of seven, winning the Soviet Junior Championship when he was 12 years old, the youngest player in history to do so. When he celebrated his 16th birthday, he entered a foreign adult tournament for the first time, beating 14 chess Grandmasters. Kasparov turned Grandmaster at the age of 17. At 21 years of age, Kasparov was the youngest player in chess history to compete in a World Championship final match, and the following year, at age 22, became the youngest ever World Chess Champion, and the number one ranked player in the world.
For over 20 years, except for a short period, Kasparov held the title of the world’s number one chess player. He has broken numerous chess records and competed in highly contested and highly publicised chess games against formidable opponents – human and machine.
In 1990, Kasparov created two milestones in chess history. First, he moved past Bobby Fischer’s best ever point rating of 2785, and broke the magical 2800 ELO ratings point sound barrier, the first player to do so. It was the chess equivalent of breaking the four-minute mile. In November 1999, after winning three major events that year, Kasparov set a new record in chess by achieving an ELO rating of 2851, the only player to ever pass the 2850 level. From December 1981 to February 1991, Kasparov never lost a single official event for 10 years.
In February 1996 Kasparov played IBM’s Deep Blue computer, which could analyse 50 billion moves in three minutes. In New York in May 1997, he again played the super computer. The series stands at one match each and World Champion Kasparov, backed by the world’s estimated 200 million chess players challenged IBM to a tie-breaking third match, but to no avail. Kasparov’s famous stand-off with the world’s fastest computer at the time, gave chess the greatest exposure the game had ever received.
Kasparov again took on the might of machines when he competed against the reigning world computer chess champion, an Israeli chess programme called Deep Junior. The highly publicised and tightly contested event was played in New York and saw Kasparov battle the computer to a 3-3 draw.
Apart from his match against Deep Blue and Deep Junior, Kasparov has always been at the cutting edge of innovations in chess. For four months in 1999 he battled “The World” on the internet in a Microsoft-sponsored event, which opened new frontier for chess.
Kasparov balances his exceptional talent for chess with his passion for expanding chess into the educational system globally. In 2002 he set up the Kasparov Chess Foundation, which is headquartered in the United States and promotes chess in classrooms across the nation. The Kasparov Chess Foundation has published three volumes of Teaching Chess Step by Step. Kasparov makes all three books (teacher’s manual, exercises and activities) available free of charge to schools worldwide who only have to pay shipping charges. In March 2012, Kasparov launched the African Chapter of the Foundation in South Africa.
On 11 March 2005, Kasparov retired from competitive chess after 22 years as the number one ranked player in the world.
Kasparov is described as a passionate person who stands up for what he believes and is a pro-democracy leader in the fight to restore democracy in Russia. In 2008 he competed in Russia’s elections saying “We are not fighting to win elections, we are fighting for having elections.” Kasparov is a regular speaker at international business and leadership events in cities as diverse as Mexico City, Abu Dhabi and New Delhi. In 2007 he published a book on decision making entitled How Life Imitates Chess, which has been published in over 12 languages. He regularly writes for the Wall Street Journal where he has been a contributing editor since 1991.