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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 18 April 2007
The first thing to say about this book is that it's really intended for non chess players and doesn't contain any actual chess moves. That said, as a chess player myself, this book gave me great insight into the background psychology of competitive chess, which is difficult to get from the serious chess books.

Garry Kasparov discusses what he learned over more than three decades of top-level chess competition, and applies these learnings quite convincingly to other domains, especially business, personal and political arenas. As he is famously embarking on a politcal career, it is perhaps not surprising that he devotes the last chapter to how his chess career qualifies him for politics. The cynic could thus dismiss the whole book as a manifesto, but I think this would be a mistake - this chapter is relatively small and is a little bit non-sequitous, and it didn't feel to me as if the whole book was leading up to that conclusion (rather feels almost like an afterthought).

Overall, the book is a good read and contains many insights that are valuable to anyone who deals with interpersonal relationships (which is just about all of us). As Garry points out, practical chess is really about psychology, personalities and intuition because the mathematics of it get out of hand far too quickly. For me, the main take away of the book is the brain's ability to recognise patterns, which should be exploited (in whaever field) through practice and exposure, and by having faith in the intuition that results from experience. (Hopefully this will go some way to reduce the tendency in some organisations to distrust expertise and rather have decisions taken by spreadsheets!)

A very good book with far-reaching lessons. I would recommend this over and above many of the popular self-improvement books out there, and I would also recommend it to chess players for psyhological insights free from the distraction of studying the detail of the games.
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'How Life Imitates Chess' is an excellent book from Kasparov that is part autobiography, part chess analysis, part motivational book and more besides. It looks at chess techniques and mindsets and explore how these can be applied to everyday life. It follows Kasparovs own development in the game and how his experiences have shaped his thoughts on many aspect of life. It has a great deal of useful information and is definitely one of those books that warrants repeated readings to glean as much information from as possible. His style is easy to read and you get a real feel for his intense way of looking at life, with Kasparov there seems to be no half measures and he imparts this feeling with full force. It inspires you to look at your chess with renewed vigour, but more importantly also to look at your life (and your goals) with that same renewed enthusiasm. It looks at the history of chess, other players, the rise of computers, as well as his retirement and his move into politics. A thoroughly engrossing read for lovers of chess and also for those who wish to learn some valuable life lessons. A highly recommended read.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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on 11 February 2009
When I told my sister about this book she was pretty scornful saying it would be cold and calculating....how to manipulate others by seeing ahead 15 moves etc. But I bought it...I read it...and I can tell you it is nothing of the sort. You don't even need to appreciate chess to appreciate this book. It is brilliant. GK talks about strategy, tactics, material vs time advantage and illuminates his book not only with reference to chess but also with fascinating historical references to Napoleon, Churchill, the business world, the political world etc. Long term strategy, short term gain, being creative in the 'middle game' (the period where it is literally impossible to prepare for....not school...not old age...this is where we as individuals make our mark)....a truly interesting angle is taken at many points...there have been many tedious books written about How To Improve Life etc but GK here is truly illuminating, at least for me, on the decisions one makes in everyday life...whether you are a CEO, a military general or just ordinary folk like us. And the comparison of life to chess is an interesting one....the opening which can be probably be best equated with school/education....the middle game in which we make we show our true ability and then the endgame which is more predictable but which requires more atttention to detail (such as one's health for example). Of course Chess is just a game, a fight almost. And life is much more than that. But this book shows you how poor decisions can have disatstrous consequences....at any stage of the game. We do need to plan ahead to some extent, if not for 10 moves!! Then at least truly think through the consequences of one's actions..that's not calculating, it's common sense. "Go Placidly amidst the noise and haste...and remember what peace there is in silence." as the famous poem says. One of the most illunminating quotes from this book is "Tactics is knowing what to do....strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do" Classic! GK even mentions such every day things like "To Do Lists" which we all have....which all concentrate on the short term but which never mention long term goals. This book does not teach us how to be ultra clever or solve the world's or one's own problems....but provided me with a valuable guide on the importance of seeing the 'big picture'. Whether it be on the chess board...or in real life. It is the same dilemma.

Thank you Gary....you are not only a great chess player who defeated Karpov et al in all those matches. You are also a most insightful and well read person and I, for one, truly appreciate this thought-provoking and ground-breaking book.
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on 29 December 2007
How Life Imitates Chess- A Review

Like Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Margaret Thatcher and any other person who has been extremely successful in their chosen field(s) of endeavour, Garry Kasparov has had to answer many questions from many people regarding the `secrets' of his success in the highly competitive world of professional chess. Eager to share his insights on competitive success, but not content with the limited scope media interviews and business conference presentations gave him, Kasparov decided to begin writing this book after his career shift from professional chess to Russian politics in 2005. The result is a deeply insightful, interesting and well written book that, as Kasparov makes explicit, is aimed at anyone (not just the keen chess player) who is seeking to improve their performances in their chosen field of endeavour, whether it be their career, their vocation or their hobby.

According to Kasparov, a persons success in any given field is determined by their decision making ability. However because we are all unique, there is no `universal recipe that we can all follow to achieve great results every time' (page 1). Thus `this isn't a cookbook...there are guidelines...but each person has to discover which works for him through practice and observation' (Page 87).

Drawing on his wealth of experience as columnist for the Wall Street Journal, history buff, Chairman of the Russian opposition, chess player extraordinaire and much much more, Kasparov lays out his guidelines to achieving better decision making in a clear and well structured format consisting of three parts. Part one establishes the fundamental ingredients of a decision, such as strategy, tactics and personal talent. Part two examines the evaluation and analysis of these ingredients using concepts such as MTQ (material, time and quality) and innovation. And part three evaluates how best to combine the ingredients and the evaluation-and-analysis of them in order to come to the best decision by looking at topics such as complacency avoidment, global thinking and crises.

Each of the well reasoned points he makes are explicated and exemplified in a host of intriguing, instructive and at times amusing examples, personal anecdotes and analysis drawn largely from the worlds of war, business, chess and politics. They by and large serve their purpose well, providing persuasive evidence that the guidelines he is giving are tried-and-tested, proven at the highest levels of human endeavour. Among the most memorable of his examples are unsurprisingly his recollections and evaluation of some of his key world championship matches against Anatoly Karpov and of course his `nemesis', Vladimir Kramnik. The numerous non-chess examples he gives are also highly instructive, interesting and play a vital role in ensuring his points remain broadly applicable, though generally they are not as detailed as his chess examples, perhaps a testament of Kasparov's lesser personal experience in the worlds of business, history and politics. One of the standouts of these non-chess examples lies in his strategy for democracy in Russia today epilogue which demonstrates how he has used his guidelines to improved decision making to good effect in strengthening the democratic movement in Russia.

The main criticism I have to aim at this book is that it doesn't draw enough upon other peoples analyses and evaluations to make its points. Admittedly it is not an academic book and thus doesn't have to do this, and undoubtedly Garry Kasparov is amongst the most qualified in the world to write a book about how to make better decisions. But it would have made for a significantly more convincing read if he had contrasted his guidelines for success with those of Sun Tzu, Niccolo Machiavelli and the numerous other experts and sages who have written about the same topic. My second, much more minor criticism is its lack of an index which makes finding passages in it that bit harder, despite its excellent contents section. My final criticism is that the title does a huge disservice to its contents and its author. Its criminally misleading in fact as it suggests that the book is about comparing all aspects of life to a game of chess, which it isn't, and that Kasparov is a narrow minded competitive fool, which he clearly is not.

Apart from these criticisms, How Life Imitates Chess is an entertaining, insightful and rewarding read which serves as a great set of guidelines for improving a persons unique decision making process. Furthermore it is a great testament to Kasparov's experienced ability as a writer, thinker and most importantly successful doer. I wish him and his colleagues in the Other Russia Coalition all the best with their aim of bringing true Russian democracy into existence.

p.s. this book gets 4 out 5 due mainly to my primary criticism of it. For comparison, The Happinness Hypothesis gets a 5 out of 5 score in my opinion
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on 13 April 2010
This book is a must have on any chess enthusiasts bookshelf. Kasparov illustrates that the unlimited number of subtle and intricate potential moves that lie within the 64 squares of a chessboard are totally applicable to business, politics, and everyday life. His exceptional experience in the chess world allow him to give an excellent insight into how the 'Royal Game' can help you step back and evaluate yourself to identify you strengths and weaknesses and therefore better your game. Well written with a humorous touch, the book does exactly what it says on the cover and more.
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on 29 December 2007
How Life Imitates Chess- A Review

Like Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Margaret Thatcher and any other person who has been extremely successful in their chosen field(s) of endeavour, Garry Kasparov has had to answer many questions from many people regarding the `secrets' of his success in the highly competitive world of professional chess. Eager to share his insights on competitive success, but not content with the limited scope media interviews and business conference presentations gave him, Kasparov decided to begin writing this book after his career shift from professional chess to Russian politics in 2005. The result is a deeply insightful, interesting and well written book that, as Kasparov makes explicit, is aimed at anyone (not just the keen chess player) who is seeking to improve their performances in their chosen field of endeavour, whether it be their career, their vocation or their hobby.

According to Kasparov, a persons success in any given field is determined by their decision making ability. However because we are all unique, there is no `universal recipe that we can all follow to achieve great results every time' (page 1). Thus `this isn't a cookbook...there are guidelines...but each person has to discover which works for him through practice and observation' (Page 87).

Drawing on his wealth of experience as columnist for the Wall Street Journal, history buff, Chairman of the Russian opposition, chess player extraordinaire and much much more, Kasparov lays out his guidelines to achieving better decision making in a clear and well structured format consisting of three parts. Part one establishes the fundamental ingredients of a decision, such as strategy, tactics and personal talent. Part two examines the evaluation and analysis of these ingredients using concepts such as MTQ (material, time and quality) and innovation. And part three evaluates how best to combine the ingredients and the evaluation-and-analysis of them in order to come to the best decision by looking at topics such as complacency avoidment, global thinking and crises.

Each of the well reasoned points he makes are explicated and exemplified in a host of intriguing, instructive and at times amusing examples, personal anecdotes and analysis drawn largely from the worlds of war, business, chess and politics. They by and large serve their purpose well, providing persuasive evidence that the guidelines he is giving are tried-and-tested, proven at the highest levels of human endeavour. Among the most memorable of his examples are unsurprisingly his recollections and evaluation of some of his key world championship matches against Anatoly Karpov and of course his `nemesis', Vladimir Kramnik. The numerous non-chess examples he gives are also highly instructive, interesting and play a vital role in ensuring his points remain broadly applicable, though generally they are not as detailed as his chess examples, perhaps a testament of Kasparov's lesser personal experience in the worlds of business, history and politics. One of the standouts of these non-chess examples lies in his strategy for democracy in Russia today epilogue which demonstrates how he has used his guidelines to improved decision making to good effect in strengthening the democratic movement in Russia.

The main criticism I have to aim at this book is that it doesn't draw enough upon other peoples analyses and evaluations to make its points. Admittedly it is not an academic book and thus doesn't have to do this, and undoubtedly Garry Kasparov is amongst the most qualified in the world to write a book about how to make better decisions. But it would have made for a significantly more convincing read if he had contrasted his guidelines for success with those of Sun Tzu, Niccolo Machiavelli and the numerous other experts and sages who have written about the same topic. My second, much more minor criticism is its lack of an index which makes finding passages in it that bit harder, despite its excellent contents section. My final criticism is that the title does a huge disservice to its contents and its author. Its criminally misleading in fact as it suggests that the book is about comparing all aspects of life to a game of chess, which it isn't, and that Kasparov is a narrow minded competitive fool, which he clearly is not.

Apart from these criticisms, How Life Imitates Chess is an entertaining, insightful and rewarding read which serves as a great set of guidelines for improving a persons unique decision making process. Furthermore it is a great testament to Kasparov's experienced ability as a writer, thinker and most importantly successful doer. I wish him and his colleagues in the Other Russia Coalition all the best with their aim of bringing true Russian democracy into existence.

p.s. this book gets 4 out 5 due mainly to my primary criticism of it. For comparison, The Happinness Hypothesis gets a 5 out of 5 score in my opinion
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on 12 July 2015
I enjoyed reading this book, but found myself enjoying some aspects more than others. For instance, whilst I realise it was meant to be written as a kind of 'self-help for the way to live your life' type of book using chess analogies, I became much more interested in the anecdotes of Kasparov's life and chess games. So, whilst I would recommend the book, I will now be looking for an autobiography of Kasparov.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
'How Life Imitates Chess' is an excellent book from Kasparov that is part autobiography, part chess analysis, part motivational book and more besides. It looks at chess techniques and mindsets and explore how these can be applied to everyday life. It follows Kasparovs own development in the game and how his experiences have shaped his thoughts on many aspect of life. It has a great deal of useful information and is definitely one of those books that warrants repeated readings to glean as much information from as possible. His style is easy to read and you get a real feel for his intense way of looking at life, with Kasparov there seems to be no half measures and he imparts this feeling with full force. It inspires you to look at your chess with renewed vigour, but more importantly also to look at your life (and your goals) with that same renewed enthusiasm. It looks at the history of chess, other players, the rise of computers, as well as his retirement and his move into politics. A thoroughly engrossing read for lovers of chess and also for those who wish to learn some valuable life lessons. A highly recommended read.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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on 16 December 2013
This book is more about Kasparov and the philosophy of chess than how life imitates chess. Despite the claim of not being a book about chess, if you are not a chess enthusiast I'll doubt you'll enjoy reading it, I didn't (and I like chess!)
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on 23 November 2013
Makes you see things with perspective. A nice reading during your winter evenings in your bed.. go for it.. Bye
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