Story here. You might recall a few months ago that Garry Kasparov applied for Latvian citizenship, but that fell through. He's still a Russian citizen too, but his aim in acquiring Croatian papers is to help him maintain his freedom to travel. This seems a good move for him, and altogether apart from any ambitions he has for the FIDE presidency. Vladimir Putin seems to have the brass knuckles out these days.
Entries in Garry Kasparov (25)
It isn't really a chess story, but news about Garry Kasparov is generally interesting to chess fans - at least to those of us who have been in the game since before 2005, when he retired from professional play. So the news is that Kasparov is looking to obtain Latvian citizenship (without giving up his Russian citizenship) to have a safe base for his political activities. Why Latvia in particular? This article hints at a family connection, but it's left unclear whether that was relevant to the decision.
More on this as warranted.
HT: Chess Today
There's a neat, short autobiographical essay by Sergey Shipov (which doubles in passing as an ad for his outstanding books on the Hedgehog) that can be obtained from Mongoose Press. He discusses his career as a player, then as Garry Kasparov's sparring partner in blitz, and then in a non-playing capacity. He concludes with some highlights from his career, focusing on a 2006 win over Magnus Carlsen.
You can look through the goodies for yourself (the booklet/essay can be obtained as a free PDF by writing mongoosepress [you know the symbol to use] gmail.com), but I will focus on just one of the things he wrote. I've heard from when I was a kid all the way up through a year or so ago that Kasparov was mainly an openings expert. A very strong grandmaster all-around, obviously, but he wouldn't have been such a dominant force aside from that particular strength. Even Hikaru Nakamura has made a comment to that effect. By contrast, here's what Shipov had to say on the matter.
By the way, those fools who for years explained Kasparov’s dominance only by his opening superiority (which, let me point out, is not a gift that falls from heaven, but rather comes from hard labor) simply had no idea what they were talking about. I remember we played six games of Fischerandom chess, and there was no battle there at all! In completely unfamiliar positions, Kasparov’s advantage over me was far greater than in normal chess. In the absence of the usual pathfi nders his flights of fancy, his sense of dynamics, and his ability to instantly separate the important from the secondary became particularly salient.
As intriguing as many find the upcoming world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, there is as yet no rivalry in chess history that compares with that between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. They played five world championship matches in a six-year period, comprising 144 games in total (no wimpy 12-game matches for those two), and in all of them the outcome was unclear until very near or even at the very end.
Here is a video compiling both photos and footage of their rivalry from a simul battle in the mid-70s through their rapid and blitz match in 2009. A remarkable highlight to me is the footage of the end of the Seville match in 1987, which must have been one of the most shattering events of Karpov's career - if not his life. To look at Karpov (at the 9:00 mark; see the next 75 seconds or so as well) when he resigns the 24th game is to be amazed. Just to judge by outward appearances, he looks no more disappointed than many of us would be after losing a game at our local club. I've been unhappier after losing blitz games than he seems to be. That kind of remarkable composure probably helped him a great deal in his career.
For many years Garry Kasparov railed against the international chess federation (FIDE). In 1993 he broke from FIDE so as to contest his world championship match with Nigel Short where they wanted to play it, and he created a series of alternative organizations in the hopes of taking its place. In 2010 Kasparov waged an unsuccessful proxy war by supporting Anatoly Karpov(!) against incumbent FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Finally, enough is enough, and Kasparov is running for the top spot himself.
If he gets elected, will he be more successful in maintaining gains than he was with Intel, IBM, Microsoft, the GMA, the PCA or any of the other organizations he lured into chess or helped create? We'll see, and first he must unseat Ilyumzhinov, which will not be an easy task.
Garry Kasparov - or more likely, I suspect, his amanuensis - has been commenting on the World Cup on his Facebook page. (But not only on the World Cup, so depending on when you look some scrolling may be in order.) No analysis, but some predictions and general impressions; good, light reading, in other words. Enjoy, and if you're a fan of his politics (which we won't discuss here!), you'll enjoy it all the more.
At least if you live in London or New York. "The Machine" is a play revisiting the second match between Garry Kasparov and Deep(er) Blue, won by the computer when Kasparov cracked and disintegrated in the sixth and final game. Needless to say - unfortunately - the historical event is of no particular importance to the play; it's just offers a convenient scaffolding for whatever idea the playwright has in mind.
Here are a couple of representative quotes from playwright Matt Charman:
I didn't want to write a play that was just about chess. In fact, the chess is almost the least important part of the play.
[So what is the story about? What's the driving idea? The answer:] You've got these two guys [Kasparov, and Deep Blue's primary programmer and designer Feng-Hsiung Hsu] coming into America wanting what it's got to offer and, I think, both being seduced and ruined by it."
Huh? The match happened to be in the United States, but how is this a "coming to America" story? Kasparov had been here many times and has an apartment in New York, but he wasn't "coming" here for any interesting reason. As for Feng-Hsiung Hsu, he had been in the U.S. for over a decade, beginning with his time as a grad student. It's also hard to see how either person was "ruined". It was a blow for Kasparov, but his chess career and life continued successfully after that event. In fact, just two years later Kasparov began the best run of his chess career, winning something like seven consecutive super-tournaments and pushing his rating to a then-record of 2851. It was no blow for his human "opponent" either: he won, gained some fame, and has continued his very successful work in the computer industry.
So, if you have to miss one play this year, "The Machine" is it. In fact, I'd even consider leaving London or New York during the play's run.
Here's an obvious question for the playwright: why not just write an original story, preferably one that's not about chess? It seems to me that "historical fiction" is a fancy way of minimizing the need for originality and creativity and getting a little free PR (based on the familiarity of the principals or the historical events). Meanwhile, an author has the freedom to lie like a psychopath engage in a bit of artistic license, just as long as he hides behind the term "art" and includes a boilerplate disclaimer.
Please note: I'm not saying that there is anything slanderous or defamatory in this play. My point is that "historical fiction" is a genre that allows for defamation under the guise of "art". Thus while Charman's cartoons of Kasparov and Feng-Hsiung Hsu may produce characters who are just as praise- or blameworthy as the real individuals, it doesn't seem from the quotations that he has much concern for the principals' actual motivations.*
Another "winning" quote:
A piece of software beat the best and the brightest. What does that actually mean? We're suddenly not the smartest thing on the planet.
Er, no, that's not what it means, and it's hard to believe that any reasonably intelligent person who stops to think about that claim for a few moments could really believe it. I think we would all agree that Kasparov is an exceptionally intelligent individual, but few people would claim that he is - or at least was as of 1997 - the smartest person (or "thing") on the planet. It isn't even clear that intelligence is such a tight, unified concept that one can identify, even in principle, someone who is THE smartest person on the planet.
Comparatively speaking, that's a quibble; here's a more serious problem. We can grant that Deep Blue was a better chessplaying entity than Kasparov, but that's where its reputed intelligence ends. Deep Blue could only play chess, so all the things Kasparov could do that Deep Blue couldn't gives him an enormous plus in the intelligence department. Nor would reprogramming Deep Blue to perform other functions have solved the problem. Recognizing faces is a mundane and very routine skill for humans - even very young children have it down, and don't need to go to college to develop it. For computers, especially those of that era, it was a task at which they were utterly incompetent, and there are many other skills and feats that are routine for us and difficult-to-impossible for machines.
Even more fundamentally, Deep Blue couldn't have been the smartest thing on the planet, because it didn't have any smarts at all. Even if one thinks computers will eventually be conscious or thinks we are just really fancy biological computers ourselves**, no one believes that Deep Blue was conscious. (I don't recall anyone picketing IBM and accusing them of murder when they ended the project and used its processors for other tasks.) No one thinks an abacus is "smart". Useful, sure, but not smart. Unless there's someone "there", computers like Deep Blue are also useful - incredibly useful - but still not smart.
Enjoy the performance.
HT: Bob Banta
* Alert readers, especially those who disagree with what I'm writing, may think that I'm creating a caricature of Mr. Charman, and am thus guilty of doing what I've just criticized. In that case, consider this post as a satire. Now that it's art, the problem has been solved. See how easy that is?
** I grant neither assumption, or for that matter the assumption that the things we call computers exist as things in their own right as opposed to being collections of parts whose "unity" is a matter of performing functions of human interest, but I waive these challenges above for the sake of argument.
Here is a nice article by Garry Kasparov, extolling the virtue of chess as a way to aid education, especially in the developing world. Phiona Mutesi features prominently in the article, and hers is an inspirational story. Worth a read, especially if you haven't heard of her.