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Sports & Games

Mental Toughness

Garry Kasparov

Lesson time 17:40 min

The poster that hung over Garry’s bed as a kid included a line borrowed from Soviet dissidents: “If not you, who else?” Garry talks about triumphing in the most grueling matches of his career, as well as how he recovered when his mistakes felt like a physical pain.

Garry Kasparov
Teaches Chess
Garry Kasparov teaches you advanced strategy, tactics, and theory in 29 exclusive video lessons.
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It's kind of a chicken and egg problem, whether your character helps you to improve your chess or your chess eventually shapes your character. If we speak about mental toughness, I can hardly help but not thinking of my first match with Anatoly Karpov. It started in 1984 in September, September 10th. The match lasted 159 days, the longest match not just in history of chess, I think in history of any sport. The match that ended up with no result when then FIDE President Florencio Campomanes, on the insistence of Soviet authorities, stopped the match in February, 1985-- the match where I was trailing four to nothing after nine games and eventually five to nothing after losing game 27-- and still managed to stay on the competition, not losing until the final, sixth game, which could end not only my quest for the title in 1984, but it could be a bleeding wound that could forever damage my psychological confidence. That match served as the ultimate test. What was in me? It's whether my character was strong enough, whether there was enough steel in my spine to survive this ultimate challenge. I remember that-- entering the match, I was full of hope. And I can hardly blame myself-- 21-year-old challenger, aggressive, arrogant, expecting to win because I could feel the winds of history in my sails. And I failed to gauge my opponent correctly. And this is something also to learn for others who might be one day competing at the highest level. Winning the candidates, beating other great players, and eventually facing the world champion-- it's not the same story. Because you're facing someone who was not just great, but better than others, someone who made history by staying on top and by bringing something new to the game. And after I lost game nine and the score was four to nothing, many believed that that was not just the end of this match. That was the end of Garry Kasparov as a serious contender for the world title. And what helped me, of course-- it's an advice my mother, advice of Mikhail Botvinnik, people who believed in me, loved me, and just convinced me that it was just-- maybe it was not about this match, but it's about recovering from these devastating losses, staying in the game, and learning for the future. And the best way was to change your game. It's not to be as aggressive as you used to be, but to play different kind of chess. Make draws, short draws-- it doesn't matter. The longer you stay in the match, better your chances to learn. That's the test of your character. That's you recognizing that you have to go against your own nature, because it's all about survival. It's your instinct of survival, your strengths, your mental toughness to live under this pressure. And I made many draws in a row. But still, I was not ready to turn the tide. And I lost game 27. It was five to nothing-- one more game, one more mistake from my side, one more victory for Karpov, a...

Elevate your game

At age 22, Garry Kasparov became the youngest world chess champion. After beating Bobby Fischer’s peak rating, he outranked his fiercest competitors for over twenty years. Now, Garry is ready to share the chess strategy that made him a six-time world champion. Through detailed lessons, including his favorite openings and advanced tactics, you will develop the instincts and philosophy to become a stronger player.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Really found the conversations with Kasparov enthralling and enlightening. The strength of the class is not in learning X's and O's of chess--it's gaining insights on how to be a stronger and more effective person. It is learning the nature of excellence.

I have learned a few endgame tricks, as well as additional opening theory.

My masterclass helped me in improving my weakness and it is inspiring to hear about garry's story but i am not done with masterclass yet i still need review it back again

A lot of heartfelt personal details from Garry and a real desire to impart the knowledge he has made this masterclass excellent. Of course, one course alone cannot make you an excellent chess player. But it can inspire you to work, and it's done that. I'm playing chess again after not playing that much for the last 20 years, and looking to improve and regain some of my former prowess at it.


Sawyer W.

I can imagine playing chess after retiring is way less stressful for you because you already got what you wanted out of the game.

Zubair N.

Likely the most important lesson in the entire class. A lesson that can only come from a championship who have been to the top of the world in his sport.

Vickie R.

How about we play Chinese Checkers instead? Mucheasier for me and I forget most of the chess lessons i learned as a kid when I manged to beat my father in Hawaii. All I recall are that the pawns go straight and don't let the King or Queen getcha. I was very good at chess ss a kid and can't figure out why I can't recall the game now? Maybe I'm too old? Or too much marigjuana back in highschool?

Chris B.

Potentially valuable link in the PDF workbook seems broken... Masterclass support folks able to fix it or show us where it was meant to go? The link is supposed to be "Learn how you can build your mental toughness." (last sentence in the following paragraph of the workbook) ...Maintaining healthy mental stamina isn’t just important for your chess game, it will also help every aspect of your life in strategic and tactical ways. Learn how you can build your mental toughness.

Thomas M.

"Look in the mirror and say to yourself, you're going to do better!", I'll remember that!

Nathaniel S.

I have a great deal with respect for Gary Kasparov!! I would like to know some exercises for forgiving yourself for losing a game due to blunders. How can you minimize the volume of grief connected with losing games.

A fellow student

'Playing chess today gives me pleasure'' says Garry Kasparov, at the end of this class. 'And how Garry, and how1 Seeing his reaction to the impression to how chess has treated him personally over the decades since he won the Worle title is thrilling.

Ricardo L.

"I managed to sleep for 5 or 6 hours"? That's supposed to be a good long night's sleep? How long do you usually sleep, Garry?

Dezso R.

David, believe it or not it takes a lot of mental toughness just to reach a draw in a game.

David B.

Seems in competition there are a lot of draws. How does one judge a game is a draw? Mental toughness implies draws should never be offered or accepted...