Book Review – “How Life Imitates Chess” by Garry Kasparov (8.5/10)

Today I finished reading Garry Kasparov’s latest book, “How Life Imitates Chess.” Kasparov was world chess champion for over a decade, and the highest-ranked chess player in the world for almost two decades. It goes without saying that this man knew how to stay on top of his game.

The book was very easy to read. Kasparov includes little bits of history and quotes from notables across the spectrum of great achievers, such as Goethe and Simon Bolivar. But he does more than speculate on historical results, and includes concrete parallels from his own career as a chess grandmaster, and even into his childhood. Granted, this is my first full read of a self-improvement book, but I think it was well worth it. He offers some interesting stabs at better understanding solid decision-making.

Some key concepts I found helpful: the division of everything into 3 factors when making a choice into Material, Time, and Quality. You judge the quality (the value/worth) of each material thing and also how time affects their value, and how material affects time. (E.g., in chess, a pawn in one square may be worth more than its sister pawns in other squares.) This “MTQ” line of thinking is, in my view, very simple and robust. If you’re not using certain material to your advantage, then it has no value–and is worth sacrificing for other gains. Also, it’s good to keep changing your routine, so that you don’t get into habits. Habits–even good ones–can be harmful, because the environment is always changing. You don’t want them to become second-nature, and to this end Kasparov recommends breaking your routine often. I agree. Why not? Breaking your routine may give you a fresh perspective on how you think about things.

I’m not going to spill all the details, but the book itself, weighing in at 204 pages, is a breeze to read. I give it a 8.5/10.