My Favorite Quotes from Garry Kasparov’s “How Life Imitates Chess”

By Olga Inglis, Premier Chess Manager of Business Development 


  • “You must always be aware of your limitations and also of your best qualities.”
  • “The ability to adapt is critical to success.”
  • “Being too far ahead of your environment can be just as bad as lagging behind your competitors.”
  • “Only when the environment shifts radically should you consider a change in fundamentals.”
  • “Avoid change for the sake of change.” (Learn more about transformational moves in this blog post by National Master Evan Rabin).
  • “Long-term success is impossible if you let your heat-of-the-moment reactions trump careful planning.”
  • “Sometimes the teacher must learn from the student.”
  • “It is so important to question success as vigorously as you question failure.”

Strategy and Tactics at Work

  • “You should have a solid and well-developed position before going on the attack, is applicable to every field of battle.”
  • “Trusting yourself means having faith in your strategy and in your instincts.”
  • “The worst enemy of the strategist is the clock.”
  • “The best plans and the most devious tactics can still fail without confidence.”
  • “Courage is the first of human qualities because it guarantees all others.”


  • “Like the weatherman’s forecasts, the further ahead you look, the more likely it is you will miscalculate.”
  • “It is still impressive how many poetical blunders derive from “obvious” assumptions.”
  • “It doesn’t matter how far ahead you see if you don’t understand what you are looking at.”
  • “The key to calculation is understanding its limits.”


  • “Chess, along with music and mathematics, is one of the few pursuits in which superior ability and originality can manifest at a young age.”
  • “Just about every young star in any field can give credit to a determined parent giving talent a push.”
  • “I believe it’s essential to push the boundaries and constantly widen the angle of the lens we use to view the world.”
  • “If you daydream a little about what you’d like to see happen, sometimes you find that it is really possible.”
  • “Fantasy must be backed up by sober evaluation and calculation or you spend your life making beautiful blunders.”
  • “The more you experiment, the more successful your experiments will be.”


  • “If critics and competitors can’t match your results, they will often denigrate the way you achieve them.”
  • “Be suspicious when these criticisms emerge right on the heels of a success.”
  • “Steady effort pays off, even if not always in an immediate, tangible way.”
  • “I am a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it (Thomas Jefferson).”
  • “I believe that if opportunity isn’t provided at a young age, it can be created later in adulthood through discipline and imaginative involvement in the pursuits we care about.”
  • “It is critical to know what motivates you, to find out how to push yourself that extra mile.”
  • “Through practice and observation, you must take an active role in your own education.”

MTQ:  Material, Time, Quality

  • “Being told the value is one thing, but only experience really teaches you what those values signify in the “real world” of chess.”
  • “The worst type of mistake was one produced due to a bad habit because it made you predictable.”
  • “This game serves as a testament to my philosophy of preferring time over material, favoring dynamic factors over static factors.”
  • “And I might add that in everyday life, “victory” can simplistically, perhaps a little romantically, be defined as happiness.”

Exchanges and Imbalances

  • “The cold blooded investor knows that getting something now is better than nothing later.”
  • “In chess as in life we total up the pluses and minuses in a position, then go to work figuring out how to improve our side of the ledger.”
  • “The first law of thermodynamics tells us that the total amount of energy in a system is constant, that if we move energy into one area, we lose an equal amount from another.”
  • “Physics also tells us that “ordered systems lose less energy than chaotic systems.”
  • “This is why a company that is in financial trouble should never gamble on a risky venture.”


Phases of the Game

  • “All the study and preparation in the world can’t show you what it’s really going to be like in the wild.”

The Attacker’s Advantage

  • “Many bad decisions come from wanting to just get the process over to escape the pressure of having to make the decision.”
  • “I like to say that the attacker always has the advantage.”
  • “‘Buy the rumors, sell news.’ Anticipation of something’s happening can be more powerful than the event itself or, put another way, is inseparable from the event itself.”
  • “If you don’t stay aggressively in front, you will quickly be left behind.”
  • “Just like Darwinism in nature, innovation is quite literally about survival. We have to keep evolving, and that means staying aggressive instead of standing still.”
  • “Pushing the action gives us more options and a greater ability to control our fate, which creates positive energy and confidence.”

Question Success

  • “I lost because I was overconfident and complacent.”
  • “This is what I call the gravity of past success. Winning creates the illusion that everything is fine.”
  • “Constant reinvention is a necessity in fast-moving areas such as manufacturing and technology.”
  • “Regardless of the methods we use to motivate ourselves, we have to create our own goals and standards and then keep raising them.”
  • “Finding ways to maintain our concentration and motivation is the key to fighting complacency.”
  • “Perhaps you should create your own “happiness index,” which can be as simple as a mental or actual list of things that motivate you and give you pleasure and satisfaction.”
  • “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”

The Inner Game

  • “South American liberator Simon Bolivar said, ‘Only an inexperienced soldier believes that all is lost after being defeated for the first time'”
  • “To believe the casino is to do little more than to follow superstition.”
  • “No matter how great his chess skills, he lacked the people skills to be a self-promoter and fund-raiser.”
  • “Overthinking can distract us from our concrete objectives.”

Man vs. Machine

  • “It’s a bad habit to become over reliant on one skill or way to doing things just because it has in the past worked well for you.”
  • “Successfully avoiding challenges is not an accomplishment to be proud of.”


  • “The result of trying anything is either failure or success. If you wish to succeed, you must brave the risk of failure.”
  • “Detecting trends, preferably before anyone else, is often based on intuition and intangible elements.”

Crisis Point

  • “Crisis really means a turning point, a critical moment when the stakes are high and the outcome uncertain.  It also implies a point of no return.  This signifies both danger and opportunity.”
  • “Instead, real success depends on detecting, evaluating, and controlling risk.”


  • “What we make of the future is defined by how well we understand and make sense of our past.”
  • “My personal map is full of gray areas, and its outer borders are never entirely complete. Most important, I have learned not to fear those unknown territories.”
  • “Whenever I’m faced with a difficult path, her words inspire me: “If not you, who else?””
  • “How success is measured is different for each of us. The first and most important step is realizing that the secret of success is inside.”






1 thought on “My Favorite Quotes from Garry Kasparov’s “How Life Imitates Chess””

  1. Thanks for such great quotes from the legend that so beautifully represent teachings one can take from chess and implement them in one’s life for significant improvement in it at both the personal and professional levels. Waiting for more such awesome content!

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