Garry Kasparov MasterClass Review (2020): Will This Improve Your Chess?

If MasterClass were going to offer a chess class, there would be two ideal teachers:

  1. Magus Carlsen
  2. Garry Kasparov

With Carlsen an active reigning world champion and Kasparov retired from competitive chess since 2005, the 13th world chess champion is the obvious choice.

I recently took the Garry Kasparov MasterClass to see if it would make me a better chess player.

After completing the entire class and putting Kasparov’s teachings to practice, here is my ultimate Garry Kasparov MasterClass Review.

What is MasterClass?

If you’ve never heard of or taken a MasterClass before, you might be wondering what it’s all about?

Well, MasterClass is an online education platform providing inspirational, engaging and informative online classes at an affordable price. It was founded in 2015 on the idea that everyone should have “access to genius.”

MasterClass offers a deep dive into many artistic and creative topics from masters in their field. Here are some of the classes you can take:

If I wanted to learn and be entertained while spending more time at home, MasterClass has what you need.

How much is the Garry Kasparov MasterClass?

An individual MasterClass course like Garry Kasparov’s will cost you $90 and give you lifetime access. However, for the price of two courses ($180), you can watch every single MasterClass for a year.

How does that work?

Masterclass has what is called an All-Access Pass. This comes at a fee of $180 and will give you full access to the 80+ classes that Masterclass currently has on offer as well as any other further classes that they regularly add.

Before giving MasterClass any money, I would recommend you view their full course catalogue to see if you can get more bang for your buck.

I’ve personally purchased the All-Access Pass and am learning a lot about topics like Writing, Photography, Cooking and more.

Who is the Garry Kasparov MasterClass For?

Before taking the MasterClass, I was curious about what sort of players would most benefit from enrolling in this class. While searching through the Garry Kasparov MasterClass FAQ page, I found this:

“Who is this class for? Intermediate and advanced players. Garry will walk through principles, tactics, and strategies that will push intermediate players, but also has lessons and challenges for advanced players. The class will test players with a US rating of 1300–1700 and include more advanced concepts and examples that will benefit 1800+ rated players.”

I would largely agree with that. It mostly explores fundamentals rather than advanced concepts and Kasparov has mentioned that he put a lot of thought into creating a MasterClass that many people could benefit from.

If you’ve never played chess before, I would recommend you familiarize yourself with the game before taking this course as a lot of the content would simply go over your head.

As an intermediate player myself, I found this MasterClass to be helpful in identifying my own strengths and weaknesses. While going through the course, it became apparent about what areas of my game need improvement.

I presume more advanced players would also find the same.

The Garry Kasparov MasterClass would be great for anyone who’s looking to reignite their passion for the game. Personally, I’d played very little chess this year. However, I’m now consistently playing 5–10 games per day.

Garry Kasparov MasterClass Overview

The Garry Kasparov Teaches Chess MasterClass comes with twenty-nine HD lessons. Each is an average length of 15 minutes and gives a total viewing time of 7 hours and 14 minutes.

Aside from the lessons themselves, there is also an eighty-six-page workbook and MasterClass community that you get access to upon purchase.

Here’s what they all look like:

Garry Kasparov MasterClass: The Lesson Structure

In his Chess.com interview, Kasparov said: “It’s a conversation, and I’m trying to describe my passion for the game.”

He continues: “I wanted to set up an intimate experience with the students. I may be talking to thousands if not millions, but it’s important that everyone is able to enjoy and learn individually, and not feel as if they are part of a crowd.”

When he says that, he’s not speaking figuratively. With it being filmed with such professionalism and quality, it really does feel as if you’re sitting across from Garry as he shows you the beauty of the game one-to-one.

 

Introduction

The course begins with a short introduction video followed by an eighteen-minute video where Kasparov discusses the difference between tactics and strategy, personal playing styling, pattern recognition and more.

 

This lesson was titled, “Garry’s Chess Fundamentals,” and was one of my personal favorites as it’s only the beginning of the course but Garry is already dropping beautiful knowledge bombs. For example, this one:

“Playing a game of chess is like trying to paint a masterpiece while someone is tugging at your sleeve. It’s a sport at the end of the day, a competition. You can’t expect everything to go just as you like.”

After the two introductory lessons, Kasparov moves onto talking about middlegame and the relevant tactical topics.

Middlegame (Tactical Lessons)

Here is the first time in the MasterClass that we see Gary pull out a chessboard. In this 9 lesson section, Kasparov covers numerous middlegame tactics to improve your game.

These lessons begin with Gary explaining the concept and then giving further illustration with studies of both theoretical examples as well as positions from his own and other famous games.

As you can see in the screenshot below, they are nicely shot with a real-life chessboard on one side of the screen and a computerized board on the other.

These lessons are each about 10–20 minutes long, and you can see the title of each lesson here:

  1. Double attacks (Part 1)
  2. Double attacks (Part 2)
  3. Skewers
  4. Discovered Attack
  5. Pins
  6. Deflection/Attraction
  7. Interference
  8. Overload
  9. Winning Trades

I thought the lesson on Interference was particularly useful as it’s a topic seldom mentioned in other chess resources. While the lesson on Deflection/Attraction is also worth an honorable mention.

Endgame

In the endgame section, we see Gary explaining a number of endgame principles and fundamentals in a three part series. Each are an average length of 15 minutes and are titled, “Endgame — Part 1, 2 and 3.”

Here’s what they cover:

  • Part 1: Reti, Shouldering, Opposition, Zugswang, and Stalemate
  • Part 2: Pawn endings, Rook endings, Queen vs Pawn, and Role of King
  • Part 3: Endgame Paradoxes, Domination, Bishop + Knight, and Mistakes

This was without a doubt some of the best content on the endgame that I’ve ever come across. Of course, we all know that the endgame is possibly the most important part of winning a game of chess, and Gary reiterates that point.

However, it’s often difficult to come across any material that is simple and digestible. Although Gary Kasparov’s MasterClass is an exception!

These lessons are so valuable and immediately applicable that I am already winning more games as I now understand the key winning principals.

Even if the Masterclass had ended here, I would’ve been happy but there’s still more:

Openings

Like the endgame section, Kasparov doesn’t give any prescriptive advice here, but rather, simply explores a few useful opening principals.

If you’re wanting to see Kasparov walk-through how to play his favorite openings, you’re definitely not going to find that in this MasterClass. Instead, this is what you will find:

  • Openings — Part 1: How Garry started his opening prep and grew his repertoire.
  • Openings — Part 2: What happens when your opponent plays your opening? Is there universal opening advice?
  • Openings — Part 3: Opening analysis and new ideas in openings.

When there are so many other resources on how to play specific openings, this is really all the content you need from Kasparov as it provides useful information from the perspective of a Grandmaster.

Which of course, is also what you’re paying for as you can’t get that perspective everywhere.

If you’re still wanting to learn Kasparov’s openings, however, I’d suggest you try YouTube or his book, Batsford Chess Openings.

Simultaneous Exhibition and Analysis

In a fifty-three minute lesson titled, “Simul,” Kasparov takes on three players with ratings 1266, 1515, and 2103 in a simultaneous exhibition match.

I really hoped this would be one of the best lessons as it could be a great learning tool.

Although unfortunately, this was some of the most difficult chess you could watch. Seriously, everyone in the comments had agreed that this was a great waste of 53 minutes.

Because of the way they had chosen to film, it’s very hard to follow. Instead, you’re left watching Kasparov pace back and forth from one chessboard to the next with no idea of what’s actually happening in each individual game.

Thankfully, however, you can quickly skip over this lesson and move onto the analysis of each game. These returned to the standard format of having a real-life board on one side of the screen and a computerized board on the other.

It was simple to follow and Kasparov added some useful pointers for how the players could’ve played better as I’m sure I won’t be spoiling anything by mentioning that Kasparov defeated them all.

Case Studies

Here are another two great lessons where Kasparov walks us through both endgame and opening tactics and strategies.

First, is the Opening Case Study where Kasparov discusses the mechanics of the Evans Gambit and then analyses a match when he played it against Viswanathan Anand in 1995.

If you’re not familiar with the opening, it is an aggressive variation off the Roy Lopez, and you’ll definitely want to add it to your repertoire after seeing Kasparov beautifully discuss and play it.

In the second case study, Kasparov moves to focusing on pawn endgames. He covers a lot of different positions and also recommends some books for further reading:

While the Simul had been rated by fellow students as probably the worst lesson, these were the more highly rated lessons and I can certainly see why.

Miscellaneous Lessons

The last six lessons in Gary Kasparov’s MasterClass are a collection of assorted videos that discuss his chess career, post retirement activities, computers and chess, and many other topics for about an hour. Here are the titles in full:

  1. Garry’s Journey
  2. How to Analyze
  3. Computers and Chess
  4. Mental Toughness
  5. Closing
  6. Bonus — Secret Novelty

Sadly, I really thought these were just time fillers almost. If you’re simply interested in playing chess as a hobby, there isn’t much here that will improve your individual game.

If you play the Kings Indian opening, however, you’ll enjoy the bonus lesson where Kasparov breaks down a King’s Indian variation he discovered but never actually played.

Equally, it was nice to just listen to someone of Kasparov’s caliber talk about the game of chess so beautifully and passionately for an hour.

 

Garry Kasparov MasterClass: The Workbook

With any MasterClass, I’ve always found the workbook to be exceptional. They tend to summarize the video content in an easy and digestible way.

In the case of the Garry Kasparov MasterClass workbook, the same can be said. It covers the core information from the lessons and also includes additional practice positions to study.

Although on top of just rehashing the video content, the workbook also clarifies ideas and terminology that were only briefly mentioned in the lessons.

For example, it discusses the idea of a “poisoned” pawn: “A “poisoned” pawn or piece is one that looks like it can be won freely, but in fact cannot be captured without suffering consequences.

Garry Kasparov MasterClass: The Community

Sadly, the community for the Garry Kasparov MasterClass is not very active. As you can see in the screenshot above, the number of active discussions can be counted on one hand.

Secondly, it reveals the rating of other players who are also taking the course. From the discussion, I gathered that most players were rated somewhere between 1000–1500.

So again, that gives a hint to what sort of rating range this MasterClass mostly appeals to.

Overall, if you’re wanting to join a lively chess community, you probably won’t find it here. Instead, I’d suggest you try Chess.com, Lichess or Reddit forums.

Garry Kasparov MasterClass Review: The Pros

What are the best parts of the Garry Kasparov MasterClass?

  1. The Quality of Production: As I’ve said, the level of production in this and every other MasterClass is phenomenal. It really does feel as if you’re sitting across from the teacher one-to-one.
  2. Plenty of Practice: Not only does Kasparov highlight how to apply the theory with case studies in his video lessons, but there are also plenty of puzzles in the workbook to practice the relevant skills on your own.
  3. Knowledgeable and digestible: Garry is obviously one of the best chess players to walk the globe. So, he’s got a wealth of knowledge. Although what’s amazing is how he’s able to impart that knowledge onto others in such an easy and digestible way.
  4. Further Direction: This class is great as Kasparov not only provides suggestions for further material to check out. But also by simply taking the course, you’ll be able to see what areas of your game need more focus.

Of course, there are plenty more positives about this MasterClass. Although I can’t write this article forever. So, you may have to take the course yourself to find them out.

Garry Kasparov MasterClass Review: The Cons

The Garry Kasparov MasterClass is not without faults. Here’s why you might not like it:

  1. It’s Not Prescriptive Advice: In the very first lesson, Kasparov says, “You have to use this MasterClass as a platform for future learning.” This course is not going to suddenly teach you everything you need to know to improve your game. If you’re serious about getting better at chess, this MasterClass will set you well on your way. However, there’ll still be plenty more to learn.
  2. There’s No Community: Unfortunately, the community for Gary Kasparov is almost nonexistent. As a result, you are very much doing this course as a solo learning experience. If you’re looking for a community of like-minded individuals to discuss chess tactics, then don’t expect to find it here.
  3. Non-Native English Speaker: Obviously, Garry Kasparov is from Russia, and thus, is a non-native English speaker. Although it’s clear that he’s been speaking English for a while and is nearly fluent without much of an accent. To see what I mean, just check out his MasterClass trailer here. I mention this, however, as there are rare moments through-out the course where Kasparov stumbles or struggles to find the right words to say, which could aggravate some people.

Garry Kasparov MasterClass: Is it Worth it?

My final verdict is that the Garry Kasparov MasterClass is without a doubt worth it.

While the simultaneous exhibition and miscellaneous lessons don’t offer much, you still get five and a half hours of top-quality chess material as well as an eighty-six-page workbook.

When I purchased the MasterClass All-Access Pass, I saw that Garry Kasparov had a course and immediately jumped on the opportunity to learn from a Grandmaster. After fully completing the course, I can say that it was with no regrets.

From the Garry Kasparov MasterClass I learned:

  • 20+ Endgame fundamentals
  • Bishop + Knight checking combinations
  • Plenty of openings to try
  • How to analyse my games and continually get better
  • Plus much more

If you’re wanting to level-up your chess and be entertained at the same time, I highly recommend taking Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass!

 

Garry Kasparov MasterClass FAQ

How long is the Garry Kasparov MasterClass?

The Garry Kasparov MasterClass has a complete run time of 7 hours and 14 minutes. In total, there are 29 different lessons that make up that cumulative run time. Each lesson is an average of 15 minutes long.

How much is the Garry Kasparov MasterClass?

An individual MasterClass course like Garry Kasparov’s will cost you $90 and give you complete lifetime access. However, for the price of two courses ($180), you can watch every single MasterClass for a year.

Is the Garry Kasparov MasterClass Good?

Yes, the Garry Kasparov MasterClass is good. You’re learning chess from one of the greatest players of all time, the content is easy to understand and it’s all produced a Hollywood level quality.

Reece Robertson

Reece Robertson

I write interesting and practical ideas designed to encourage and inspire individuals to adapt how they think and engage themselves in the world.

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