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Como La Vida Imita Al Ajedrez/ How Life…

Como La Vida Imita Al Ajedrez/ How Life Imitates Chess (Spanish Edition) (edition 2007)

by Garry Kasparov, Montse Roca (Translator)

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One of the most successful chess players of all time, Garry Kasparov shares his insights into life as a game of strategy, drawing on his own story as well as examples from the worlds of business and politics.
Title:Como La Vida Imita Al Ajedrez/ How Life Imitates Chess (Spanish Edition)
Authors:Garry Kasparov
Other authors:Montse Roca (Translator)
Info:Debate Editorial (2007), Paperback, 348 pages

Work Information

How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom by Garry Kasparov


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How Life Imitates Chess by former World Chess Champion and grandmaster Garry Kasparov does an incisive job of showing how life is a mirror for chess. Or is it the opposite?

Filled with much erudition regarding the intricacies of life, How Life Imitates Chess sifts through Kasparov's career in search for the gems of wisdom[syn] that not only helped him become a sharper, stronger, and more intuitive individual, but also dives into the importance of quality actions via precise decision making which undoubtedly help individuals rise to meet challenges as they go.

Throughout the length of the book Kasparov carries out a rather trenchant job in detailing many of the data points, or perhaps 'life-lessons' is a better term, which helped him grow as a chess player that became a grandmaster, but more importantly, as an individual. Each of these life-lessons helped him grow in countless ways, regardless whether it was facing dismal defeats, or manifesting intense resounding victories.

To that effect, Kasparov makes it a point to go into why constant self-analysis is essential not only to survive in the world, but in fact to thrive. Self-awareness and peak performance go hand in hand, as many of you know, and because of this he urges everyone to become conscious of our inherent decision making process and strive to polish it to become wiser.

An interesting component in the book are the myriad fascinating stories of individuals, chess matches, companies et al. which are used to drive home lessons to be gleaned from the events that took place within those instances.

Another notable point mentioned in the book is the importance of not becoming your own enemy. In one instance, the author noted how it’s important to find the nascent stage of a crisis before it becomes a full-fledged crisis. This might seem obvious at first blush, but we've all seen our mental state - or that of someone else - be overridden by emotions, which therein overrides our logic. And not being able to use logic is downright disastrous since your mental precision is only a shade of its true power.

Furthermore, when an individual get emotional, not only does the amygdala go into overdrive, but "...the logic center processors [neocortex] get almost turned off and blocked. Adrenaline, hormone levels, and blood pressure rise, and our memories become less efficient. We begin to lose our ability to communicate effectively, and we turn to a form of autopilot to make decisions.”[1][Emphasis Added]

Hands down, my favorite part of the book, although admittedly there were many intriguing points, was how Kasparov relentless speaks about having to question everything. As he warns:

"Question the status quo at all times, especially when things are going well. When something goes wrong, you naturally want to do better the next time, but you must train yourself to want to do it better even when things go right."[2][Bold Emphasis Added]

This reminds me of poker, as well as many other things in life, where one might make the most ridiculous and stupid choice, and still get rewarded. If an individual chooses not to question their actions, they will simply not grow. Someone may make a very poor choice, and still end up winning untold sums of money. When such is the case, individuals rarely if ever opt for introspection to verify that they were correct. The assumption is that if the money is won...then the choice 'had to' be a good one. Nothing could be further from the truth.


"Questioning yourself must become a habit, one strong enough to surmount the obstacles of overconfidence and dejection. It is a muscle that can be developed only with constant proactive."[3]

Another additional point brought up by Kasparov was about the vital significance not only to move out of our comfort zones, but also to challenge ourselves in creative ways to push us into new boundaries.

Regarding this, Kasparov minces no words:

"When we regularly challenge ourselves with something new - even something not obviously related to our immediate goals - we build cognitive and emotional "muscles" that make us more effective in every way. If we can overcome our fear of speaking in public, or of submitting a poem to a magazine, or learning a new language confidence will flow into every area of our lives Don't get so caught up in "what I do" that you stop being a curious human being. Your greatest strength is the ability to absorb and synthesize patterns, methods, and information. Intentionally inhibiting the ability to focus too narrowly is not only a crime, but one with few rewards."[4]

This book almost has shades of being a self-help book, almost. The book isn't that, but it's so versatile, and the book harpoons so many little nuggets of knowledge that it can certainly be used as such a tool.

Regardless, the book offers more than ample information for it to be worth the price, and it gives plenty of grist for the mill for individuals to ruminate upon.

Sources & References:

[1] Christopher Hadnagy, Unmasking The Social Engineer, p. 166.
[2] Gary Kasparov, How Life Imitates Chess, p. 135.
[3] Ibid. pp. 34-35.
[4] Ibid. p. 170. ( )
1 vote ZyPhReX | Feb 13, 2017 |
At the beginning I disagreed with the public library listing this book under Biographies but art the end they might be right.This biography is full of anecdotes and the view Kasparov has on several topics related to success. Simple reading. Interesting quotes from chess champions and celebrities. You can enjoy this book even if you are not into chess at all. ( )
1 vote qgil | Nov 13, 2011 |
Anatoly Karpov (b. 1951) and Gary Kasparov (b. 1963) were adversaries in one of the great chess rivalries of modern times. In five world championship matches between 1984 and 1990, the two grandmasters played 144 games, with Kasparov winning 21 and Karpov winning 19; 104 games were draws. Kasparov has said that the pressure of having to prepare for competition with the older champion helped him realize his full potential as a player.

Although the two players were closely matched in strength, their playing styles were mirror images of each other. Karpov was known for cautious positional play, waiting to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes; while Kasparov’s style was characterized by aggression and creativity. The difference in their chess playing seems to have analogs in their subsequent careers: while Karpov is currently serving in the Russian government, Kasparov has emerged as one of the leading oppositional figures to the Putin/Medvedev administration.

Chess and the Art of Negotiation takes the form of a dialogue between Karpov and Jean-François Phelizon, CEO of Saint-Gobain Corporation. Many readers will find it disappointing that Phelizion does most of the talking, applying lessons from writers on strategy (principally Sun Tzu) to his own experience in business negotiations. Nevertheless, Karpov’s recollections and insights into what is required to succeed in chess at the highest levels are quite illuminating.

Karpov emphasizes the need for total preparation—physical, intellectual, and moral. Moral preparation—knowing oneself—is the most difficult part of planning (on this point he is at one with Kasparov), but becomes critical in tournament play, where a player must fall back on reserves of character. As important as planning is, Karpov also stresses the need to think creatively and posits this as one of the reasons for Russian preeminence in chess: “In Germany and Japan, high-level players can master technique, but they sometimes seem to have trouble when they find themselves in a new situation. That is not the case for the Russians. For centuries, we have always considered that laws were made to be broken. Perhaps that is why we tend to be so creative.”

How Life Imitates Chess has a looser structure than Karpov’s book, and from its style appears to be the product of conversations Kasparov has had with his co-author. Kasparov’s subject is strategy and decision making. For Kasparov, success at high levels is predicated on knowing oneself, a condition that is only possible from rigorous and often painful self-examination. Perhaps the most important wisdom (valid for most aspects of our lives) Kasparov imparts in the book is his contention that “better decision-making cannot be taught, but it can be self-taught.” Ultimately, Kasparov writes, mastery in chess is the product of synthesis, “the ability to combine creativity and calculation, art and science into a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts.”

Kasparov is at his best when he discusses chess strategy and forces the reader to connect the lesson to other competitive arenas. For example, in the final game of the 1985 world championship, Kasparov writes how Karpov opened untypically with a direct assault on Kasparov’s king. However, at the critical moment, when faced with the decision of whether to commit irrevocably to the assault he had spent twenty moves setting up, he reverted back to his more familiar, cautious style of play. As Kasparov writes, “when it came time to play for the kill, Karpov played a move that fit his prudent style but not the win-at-all costs situation that he himself had created. His personal style was in conflict with the game strategy that was required in order to win, and he veered off course.”

Of the two books, most readers are likely to find Kasparov’s the more enjoyable and useful. How Life Imitates Chess is not without flaws. Kasparov’s analogies between chess and historical events are not always convincing, and the author would have been better served if he had stayed focused on chess strategy and left it to his readers to ponder the game’s wider lessons for life. Nevertheless, Kasparov’s analyses and reflections on his career and some of his most important games more than make up for the book’s shortcomings. How Chess Imitates Life contains accessible lessons on strategic thinking by one of the world’s great devisors of strategy. It should be read by anyone aspiring to master this most elusive art.

Published in Regent University Library Link, July 2010
  eumaeus | Jul 27, 2010 |
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One of the most successful chess players of all time, Garry Kasparov shares his insights into life as a game of strategy, drawing on his own story as well as examples from the worlds of business and politics.

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