Former world chess champion turned political activist Garry Kasparov celebrates his 50th birthday today.
Born Garry Kimovich Weinstein in Baku, his chess talent emerged early in life and he was selected to train at the famous Mikhail Botvinnik school of chess. He changed his name to Garry Kasparov (after his mother's maiden name, Kasparian) early in life after his father passed away.
His chess stength grew quickly, and as a mere 12 year-old Kasparov won the powerful Soviet Under 18-Championship! He became a Grandmaster, Junior World Champion, and joint Soviet Champion in 1980.
Kasparov earned the right to challenge Anatoly Karpov for the World Chess Championship by winning the 1983/84 Candidates matches, defeating Alexander Beliavsky, Viktor Korchnoi and Vassily Smyslov. Already ranked #1 in the world, the stage was set for an epic series of matches with the great champion Anatoly Karpov.
In the first Karpov v Kasparov match in 1984, Karpov stormed to a 4-0 lead in the first to 6 wins match, and eventually led 5-0, but Kasparov recovered to trail by just 5-3 before the open-ended match was controversially abandoned after 48 gruelling games.
Karpov v Kasparov 1984, the start of an epic rivalry
In the 24-game rematch in 1985 Kasparov became the youngest ever world champion at just 22 years of age by beating Karpov 13-11. He then defended his title successfully against Karpov in an epic series of matches which have gone down in chess history.
As Karpov's strength waned, Kasparov went on to successfully defend his title against Nigel Short (1993) and Vishy Anand (1995), before finally losing the crown to his former student Vladimir Kramnik in the year 2000. However, Kasparov remained the top ranked player in the world until his shock retirement in 2005.
Kasparov was ranked #1 in the world for an incredible record of 255 months, and his record Elo rating of 2851 was finally beaten by Magnus Carlsen just this year.
Kasparov also memorably played two matches with the IBM super-computer Deep Blue, winning the first in 1996, but sensationally losing the second in 1997.
Since his retirement from competitive chess, Kasparov has become active in Russian politics. But he still remains a significant figure in the chess world as a writer, pundit and occasional coach.
Happy 50th birthday Garry Kasparov!
Kasparov with his third wife Daria