Saturday, June 25, 2016

Kasparov Newsletter 6/21/2016

Dear Friends and Colleagues, 

I just finished one of the busiest periods I can remember, with a mix of business, political, and chess speaking engagements and events in a dozen cities over five weeks. Starting with lectures on education and artificial intelligence in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, I traveled to Oslo, St. Louis, Washington DC, Madrid, Paris, Mönchengladbach (Germany), and New Orleans. After a few more events in Belgium I’ll be ready for a much-needed break. 

2016 Oslo Freedom Forum was a heartfelt gathering of those for whom the fight for freedom means action rather than just words. This year we had the most diverse and impressive collection of dissidents and speakers from around the world. Our theme this year was “Catalysts,” and, as I said at my opening toast, it’s an illustration that all of us, no matter our background or role, can be agents of positive change, and inspirations for others who are fighting for freedom. I encourage you to visit our site and social media to experience the Forum for yourselves. 

On June 1 I spoke in Madrid at the Management and Business Summit on a few of my favorite themes: strategy, decision-making, and the future of artificial intelligence, especially in the business world. The human-machine relationship is quickly becoming the most important development in technology, industry, and education. Understanding this dynamic will determine who shapes the 21st century so it’s essential to stay up to date. At a tech conference on AI this week, a speaker compared AI not to big data or the internet, but to electricity: something so fundamental and pervasive that it will power an entirely new world. I agree. Are you ready? 

It was an honor to be featured in a Mönchengladbach “Pioneers of the World” event the next day, first playing a chess exhibition and then speaking to a great crowd about the life lessons I learned during my chess career. It’s hard to believe that my book, How Life Imitates Chess, on many of these decision-making and self-improvement themes, was written ten years ago. Time flies, just like on the chess clock during a blitz game, so make all your moves count! 

The Grand Chess Tour hosted a truly grand event in Paris on June 9 and I was pleased to attend—as an honorary guest and not as a player. It was a little strange to make the ceremonial first move on the board of world champion Magnus Carlsen, a role many dignitaries performed on my board over my career. I resisted requests to make a few more moves! American Hikaru Nakamura narrowly outstripped Carlsen to take the top prize in Paris and now the players have moved on to the next GCT event in Leuven, Belgium. You can see all the action here June 17-20. 

I was also recently in Washington DC for meetings and a Winter Is Coming book event at the Aspen Institute. Many of my most politically-engaged friends are so disgusted by this US election that they are close to putting their heads in the sand until November. This is a bad sign for democracy and a result of how the fringes are calling the shots today, leaving the “sane center” without representation. Populism and demagoguery are always present, but today they are ascendant. In this toxic environment, with quasi-fascism and utopian socialism going mainstream in America, more than ever we must stay engaged and insist on talking about real ideas and policies, not just soundbites and scandals.

I even found time for a little chess in St. Louis, taking on the top three finishers at the US Championship in a blitz tournament. It wasn’t easy to shake off a decade of rust against three of the top ten players in the world: Caruana, Nakamura, and So, and a few “senior moment” blunders ruined my chances at a better result despite some flashes of good chess. I was happy to win my last two games and my mini-match with winner Nakamura. It was a great show for the spectators on and offline, and part of my goal to promote chess as a sport and in the classroom. If there’s a next time I’ll try to get in a little more practice first!

- Garry Kasparov