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.”






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