I love Chess.
It’s a fascinating, incredibly deep game that strips away all elements of chance, allowing two players to match their wits, knowledge base, and ingenuity against each other.
Unfortunately, I’m not very good at chess.
I’m a solid “okay” at chess. I know the rules, I know how the pieces move, I even know an opening or two (Sicilian Defense is black’s best opening, don’t hate), but I definitely get bogged down all too quickly.
So, I figured that I ought to give Garry Kasparov’s MasterClass a shot.
MasterClass, for those of you who don’t know, has a variety of awesome video courses by legendary instructors on topics as varied as filmmaking, cooking, music, and (yes) even chess.
Since I already had a membership, I figured that I would use the opportunity to learn some tricks of the trade from a grandmaster of the game, Garry Kasparov.
In my ultimate Garry Kasparov MasterClass review I’ll tell you absolutely everything you need to know about this popular class. By the end, you’ll know whether this class is right for you.
Let’s play, shall we?
Who is Garry Kasparov?
Garry Kasparov is a Russian chess grandmaster.
What’s a grandmaster? It’s the highest title in chess that a player can achieve, outside of “world champion.”
And Kasparov also is a former world champion. He reigned from 1985-1993 and had an ELO ranking of 2851 — one of the highest chess ELOs of all time.
In 1996, he lost a highly publicized match to IBM’s Deep Blue Supercomputer (no knock against Kasparov — but a major coup for machine learning!). When he’s not teaching and playing chess, he spends his time championing liberal democracy around the world.
The long and short of it is that Kasparov is an outstanding chess player. He’s one of the greatest players to live, and it’s a real treat to learn from him.
What is MasterClass?
MasterClass is making waves as an online education platform because the instructors are some of the world’s most successful people.
The format of MasterClass is pretty standard for the e-learning industry. You get access to lessons in the form of videos and notes.
What makes MasterClass unique, and utterly compelling, is this:
- The instructors are legends in their field. MasterClass has 80+ instructors and all of them are household names. It’s pretty staggering how MasterClass were able to recruit these instructors to come aboard.
- The video lessons are epic. This is because the production quality is Hollywood level good and that the instructors are so candid when they talk about their craft.
I’ve taken over a dozen MasterClasses and I found each one valuable. You can read about my overall experience with MasterClass in my review here.
What is Garry Kasparov teaching?
Garry Kaspaov is teaching you Chess.
Chess itself is a centuries-old game that has inspired countless books on theory, optimal play, superiority and inferiority of chess colors (the player who has the white pieces moves first), the list really goes on.
The point being: the game has a rich background.
When you’re learning chess, a great deal of classical learning goes into memorizing specific lines of attack.
This has always bored me. I don’t want to memorize! I want to play!
This is what drew me to Garry’s class. I hoped that perhaps the grandmaster may have something more interesting and ingenious for me to learn from rather than old attack lines (he didn’t get to be grandmaster by simply playing lines that other players have done before).
So, armed with that knowledge, I jumped in to see what exactly he was going to teach.
How much does the Gary Kasparov MasterClass cost?
You have two options to access Gary Kasparov’s MasterClass.
The first is to purchase the All-Access Pass for $180, which gives you unlimited access to the 80+ instructors for one year.
The second is to pay $90 just for Garry’s class.
I love MasterClass and have watched over a dozen of the different classes in full. So the All-Access Pass is a no-brainer for me.
However, if you only want to watch Garry’s class and don’t have much of an interesting in learning from the other instructors, then buying the single pass is your best option.
If you’re in two minds, I recommend you look at the entire MasterClass catalog to see if there are other MasterClasses that pique your interest.
Check out my article about the cost of MasterClass here.
How is the class structured?
Garry Kasparov structures his class across 29 lessons that vary from around 7 minutes to nearly an hour. It’s a wide amount of material.
He starts out with an introduction which outlines his own styles of attack (dynamic, offensive), before delving into the fundamentals of chess.
From there, he covers some basic chess concepts such as pins, skewers, discovered attacks, overloading, and so on. After walking you through the basics, he spends three lessons apiece on the endgame and the opening, which is a real boon for developing certain aspects of play.
Afterward, Garry walks you through case studies of specific games that he and others have played, along with his very publicized loss against Deep Blue, before wrapping up with a bonus video on how he wishes he had played a game vs. the mistakes he made.
It’s an impressive array of knowledge, wisdom, life experience, and philosophy delivered in these easily accessible video classes.
Like all the classes on MasterClass, it comes with a companion guide. His runs over 80 pages long. In it, he focuses primarily on chess puzzles that you can try out on your own, before revealing the optimal strategy for play. Plus, each puzzle contains an ample section for notes.
The dude wants you to do your homework.
29 lessons, one 80 page notebook, one grandmaster, and thousands of budding grandmasters-in-the-making: welcome to the the Garry Kasparov MasterClass!
Who is this MasterClass for?
This course is for someone who wants to learn how to play chess beyond the “which way does the knight jump?” level of comprehension.
By that, I mean it helps to have more than a passing understanding of how the pieces move, how pieces attack, how you put the king in check, and so on.
It’s not Chess 101.
Once you know how the game roughly works, and you’ve decided that you want to try your hand at learning the complexities of it, then that’s where you turn to Garry Kasparov.
This class is for the chess learner that wants to develop their own unique style of play. That’s one of Kasparov’s biggest points: the style must be unique to you. You will not find success emulating the playstyle of Bobby Fisher, instead, you have to discover your own tempo and strategy.
While Kasparov gets into the nitty-gritty of specific tactics, chess problems, and strategies; he often returns to move philosophical, artful discussions of chess play—how it is important to practice, practice, practice not so you can memorize lines, but so you can recognize patterns, and intuitively react to patterns you see.
This MasterClass is for the chess player who wants to learn about strategies to knock your opponent off balance, for the player who wants to learn the value of “inaction heroes,” and how to improve their own style rather than copy another.
Who is this MasterClass not for?
This class is not for the player who wants to pretend to be Garry Kasparov. He wants you to discover your own play style.
Similarly, this class is not for somebody who isn’t willing to think critically.
Garry mentions how making an exchange (taking an opponent’s piece at the expense of yours) can be beneficial, but only if you can exploit the exchange. Making an ill-conceived exchange is just as bad as avoiding prudent exchanges. By this, he means you have to think! You have to think through why you should take that piece or why you should avoid it. You shouldn’t just assume an exchange is good, or a sacrifice is bad, you have to think critically.
If you aren’t willing to push yourself to think on “why would I move there” rather than “I’m supposed to move there,” then you probably aren’t going to like Garry’s class.
I’ve got to take the time to call out the mini-series of lessons within his master class called “The Simul” Garry takes on three separate chess players (of varying ranks) simultaneously.
The video is nearly an hour-long, and it shows Garry quietly pacing across three tables as he expertly clacks the pieces along each board, slowly (or in one case, quickly) wearing his opponents down to victory.
It’s a stunner.
It’s also one of the most unusual classes I’ve seen on MasterClass; it’s an hour without nearly any dialogue.
Why do I bring this up?
Because I think this is a really good example of the type of class Garry conducts. As a chess player, you may find this mesmerizing (I know I did). I couldn’t help but be in awe of Garry as he breached the players’ defenses, before finally knocking them each down.
On the other hand, if you’re not terribly familiar with chess (or aren’t into silent classes), you may find this demonstration a little tiresome. After all, it is nearly an hour.
What comes next though is a really appreciated aspect of the class.
He spends three videos examining the games he just played. He walks the opponent and the class through their mistakes, his motivations, how the game played out, and possible alternatives that the player could have chosen instead.
It all happens quite rapidly, and it’s a little difficult to parse (thank God there’s rewind), but it shows the depth of Garry’s mastery. He very clearly knows chess so well that he is playing his opponents’ games for them.
It’s quite beautiful to see how a novice vs. a high-level player takes Garry on (and also interesting how nerves get the best of one player!), and I recommend the class just for that video alone.
What surprised me about this class?
I was surprised to see how Garry Kasparov dissected games in his case studies.
I knew that he understood chess on such a deep level, but I was amazed to see how instinctively he would play the game, casually stating which lines were the perfect moves to play. I can’t get over how many moves ahead he can think.
I also liked how he defined tactics as (I’m gonna butcher this) “what to do when there is something to do,” and strategy as “what to do when there’s nothing to do.”
That’s applicable to all aspects of life.
Is it worth the cost?
Garry Kasparov’s mastery is so incredible, and his style of teaching is really approachable. I felt like I could easily incorporate the lessons he was teaching me into my own playstyle. He gives you 29 lessons and an 80+ page workbook for hours of material for you to internalize and practice until it becomes intuitive.
He teaches you how to play chess openings, how to handle endgames, how to analyze … he leaves no stone unturned. He even examines his own history of wins and losses allowing you to look at how his theory has been put into practice.
What are the alternatives?
If you want to deepen your understanding of chess, there are some alternatives out there.
There are plenty of YouTube channels that have a variety of chess auteurs teaching the fundamentals as well as examining famous games in history. These are free and pretty fun.
Heck, there’s even an awesome video of World Champion Magnus Carlsen allowing his opponent eight free moves before he annihilates him.
You can learn a great deal from these videos. They’re free, informative, and easy to find.
They aren’t, however, curated to the degree that Garry Kasparov’s MasterClass is. Garry infuses his class with wisdom, history, and practice in a manner that feels much more like a well-crafted course. It’s even complete with homework and a study guide.
It’s so much more “put together” than the DIY chess tutorials floating around the internet.
The pros of the Garry Kasparov MasterClass
What are the pros of Garry Kasparov’s chess MasterClass?
If I had to boil it down to one thing, it’s Kasparov himself. He’s a legend, and he imparts his wisdom to us in such a captivating way.
Other great reasons to take his MasterClass are:
- The breadth of material. Garry covers fundamentals, openings, skewers, pins, endgames, analysis, tactics, strategy. There is practically nothing he doesn’t cover.
- The depth of knowledge. Garry’s grasp of chess is so shockingly strong, it feels instinctive. However, he is always able to clearly articulate his concepts, so the viewer never feels lost.
- The theory. Garry brings his philosophy of chess to the fore when he explains the game. He dives into the art of the game, encouraging you to develop your own playstyle.
- The practice. Garry shows how theory works in practice by highlighting chess puzzles and playing three games simultaneously. His game autopsy is well worth the watch.
The pros don’t stop there. It’s difficult to fully capture all the things I liked about the class in this Garry Kasparov MasterClass review. I thought it was terrific.
The pros of the Garry Kasparov MasterClass
There aren’t a lot of cons. It’s a great class. But here are the things that may not appeal to everyone.
- No ability to practice in real-time. This is more of a MasterClass criticism, but there’s no tool to practice your newfound knowledge against a computer or another classmate. This is basically a solo learning experience.
- No ability to interact with Garry. Like all MasterClass classes, this is a one-and-done experience; Garry doesn’t do Q&As or coaching sessions.
- Chess is complicated. Chess is a complicated game. It’s an abstract representation of war. Conversations can quickly spiral into very theoretical lines of thought that are very difficult to parse for the early learner. While Garry does his best to avoid these pitfalls, sometimes the teachings verge into abstract territory.
Garry Kasparov MasterClass review: My verdict
Thanks for reading my Garry Kasparov MasterClass review.
For me, the Garry Kasparov’s MasterClass lives up to its title: it’s a master class in the game of chess. He teaches you the fundamentals of the game, from opening to endgame, and highlights useful tactics and strategies while empowering you to find your own playstyle.
It’s fascinating to hear him explain the game, as well as put his theoretical approach into practice. Beyond that, it’s awesome to see him autopsy each game so that you can learn from them. He’s a world-class player and a teacher, and his master class highlights these.
There’s a great breadth and depth of knowledge, and plenty of material to keep you busy for hours.
If you’re a chess player hoping to up your game while learning from one of the greatest living chess minds, then Garry Kasparov’s chess MasterClass is the class for you.
I can’t recommend it highly enough.