Last Updated on November 13, 2020 by Tom Shu
What We Think
The Garry Kasparov Masterclass is a great resource for beginner or intermediate chess players who are serious about improving their game. Kasparov is a very charismatic and fun teacher who is able to simplify complex concepts into easy to understand bits. However, the course does assume you have basic knowledge of chess so beginners who are just starting out may be overwhelmed.
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Masterclass Black Friday Deal (Ends November 30): Masterclass is offering a pretty awesome give one annual membership get one annual membership for free Black Friday Deal! So, if you were thinking of getting Masterclass or giving it as a holiday gift, now is a great time.
- Quality Teaching: Kasparov is a good teacher who is extremely passionate about the topic. He is also very articulate and simplifies the concepts so you don’t feel too lost even if you’re a beginner.
- Value: At $180 for both the Garry Kasparov Masterclass and the Masterclass library, it’s a great value considering you get 7+ hours with Kasparov and access to many other masters in their field.
- Production Value: As with the other Masterclasses, it’s a high-quality production and is as if you have a 7 hour + private lesson with Garry.
- Useful Examples: Kasparov uses many examples from his own matches and other famous historical games, which helps to build your understanding of the different complex concepts that he is teaching.
- Practical Knowledge: The course dives deep into different fundamental topics such as double attacks, skewers, discovered attacks, pins, deflection/attraction, interference, overload, winning trades which helps encourage you to build them into your own game.
- Importance of Endgame: You will learn why Kasparov thinks endgames are one of the most important parts of your game that you should focus on improving.
- Learn your weaknesses: You will quickly find out what parts of your game you need to improve.
- Simulation Study: The course includes a simulation study in which Kasparov plays 3 players at different levels. You then dissect and analyze each game afterward which gives additional insight into the mistakes the players made and Kasparov’s mindset in each game. Although it’s not the easiest to follow, you will still learn something.
- Beginners: Beginner chess players will find the information useful, however, if you don’t understand the basic fundamentals before taking the Masterclass, you may get lost quickly.
- Advanced Players: The class does not dive extremely deep into any subject so more advanced players may find other training methods better.
- Other Masterclass Courses: If you don’t have the interest to take other Masterclasses this might not make sense as you can’t buy this course individually.
My Chess Game
As with everything we write about here at Wit and Folly, I want to be as transparent as possible with you.
In reading this review, I think it’s important for you to understand that I’m very much a chess beginner. I didn’t play chess growing up, never took any “real” chess lessons, and have just started getting serious about the game. With that said, I spent hours researching and watched every second of Kasparov’s class, so I think I’m in a good position to give you an inside look into this course.
What to Consider Before Investing in an Online Chess Course
Online chess courses are one of the best ways to improve as a chess player and now there are more courses than ever before. The best part about online chess courses is that you can learn at your own pace and can rewind and review the material whenever you want.
However, before investing in any course, including this one from Garry Kasparov, be honest with yourself to understand your current skill level, where you want to go as a chess player, and how you learn best.
The reason why this is so important is that everyone learns differently and there is a huge variety of free and paid online chess courses available. Each chess course is designed for a specific audience and a specific learning style. So, by doing your research and understanding yourself, you’ll get the best value for your investment.
Overall, here are the different categories of online chess courses that you’ll run into, who they are for and how they compare to the Garry Kasparov Masterclass.
Recorded Course Created and Taught by a Grandmaster
This is the category where the Garry Kasparov Masterclass fits in. These courses are created and taught by a chess grandmaster from beginning to end.
Who’s It For: Players of all skill levels who would like to get an inside look into the mind of a chess grandmaster.
Comparison: Currently, there are no other products like the Garry Kasparov Masterclass. There are many YouTube videos and other courses that analyze specific games by grandmasters or have short clips of grandmasters teaching. However, I did not find another 7+ hour course taught by a grandmaster.
Free YouTube Courses
Who’s It For: These YouTube channels are great if you already have a specific topic that you want to learn more about (such as the Sicilian Defense), if you want a thorough analysis into historic chess matches, or if you want to watch recordings of an entire chess match with commentary.
Comparison: The Garry Kasparov Masterclass has much better production value and is like if you sat down with Garry for 7+ hours over coffee while listening to him explain chess. The YouTube channels contain very valuable information, however, they are not as structured and the production value can be hit or miss. With that said, these YouTube channels usually go into much greater detail than the Kasparov Masterclass.
Gamification Chess Software Training Courses
These are software-based training courses that are much more hands-on and allow you to analyze specific moves or train yourself on how to execute a certain combination of moves. Some examples of these types of courses include Chessable, Decode Chess, and Forward Chess.
Who’s It For: These types of software courses are great if you’re looking to train yourself how to execute certain moves, if you want to memorize a specific move set (such as openings), or if you’re more of a hands-on learner. The downside is that these courses are usually delivered through text, so if you learn better with a teacher these courses might not be a good fit for you.
Comparison: The biggest difference is that the Garry Kasparov Masterclass does not offer any type of interactivity other than the short case studies interspersed throughout the course. On the other hand, the gamification software is hands-on and you’ll be able to move chess pieces on your computer and receive instant feedback.
Online Chess Tutoring
Most online chess tutoring programs combine 1 on 1 sessions with homework to complete before your next lesson. These are a great option if you learn better in a 1 on 1 setting and want to save money when compared to in-person tutoring sessions.
Who’s It For: These types of courses are great if you learn better with a teacher and would like the ability to ask questions as you go. Usually, online chess tutoring courses like chesstutor.org and chesscoachonline.com offer different packages to fit any budget so you should be able to find one that fits you.
Comparison: The biggest difference is that the Garry Kasparov Masterclass is recorded so you will not get the same personalization and attention as you would with online chess tutoring. With that said, online chess tutoring will be more expensive after a certain number of sessions.
Chess is an extremely complicated game that will take a lifetime to learn. Even though there are specific strategies and moves that are set in stone, it’s also a very personal and flexible game that rewards creativity. Because of this, you will learn different techniques and philosophies from different teachers even if they’re talking about the same topic.
What makes this Masterclass so valuable is that it’s created and taught by Garry Kasparov who is arguably one of the best chess players we have ever seen. The Masterclass is structured very thoughtfully and covers many aspects of the game. Although you won’t dive deeply into each topic, this is a great course to generate new ideas and to give you an understanding of the topics and theories that you need to improve on.
One way to think about this course is if you got the chance to have a 1 on 1 lesson with Garry Kasparov for 7+ hours. He is a surprisingly charismatic teacher who is fun to listen to and concisely delivers complex theories, tactics, and explanations of his thinking in an easy to understand manner.
Most importantly, you really will get a much better understanding of how Garry Kasparov thinks in all aspects of the game and what chess player wouldn’t benefit from that?
With that said, the course is definitely tailored more for the middle-level player so beginners who are still learning the fundamentals may find themselves overwhelmed at times.
Who Is This Course For?
- Chess players who have always wanted to get a better understanding of how Garry Kasparov thinks and how he has developed his game over time.
- Players who want to figure out what areas of their game need the most improvement.
- Players who want to build on what they already know and figure out how to develop their own play style.
- Chess players who want to gain a better understanding of the theories behind certain tactics in chess.
- Chess enthusiasts who have always wanted to take a lesson from Garry Kasparov.
- Chess hobbyists who are looking to take other classes from Masterclass and not just this Masterclass by Garry Kasparov.
Who Is This Course Not For?
- If you’re looking for an extremely deep dive into specific tactics and fundamentals in chess. This course does a good job of covering a wide range of examples, however, they are much more abbreviated than other online courses.
- If you’re a beginner and looking for Kasparov to walk you through the basic fundamentals of chess. This course is made more for the middle-level players so many of the concepts that Garry covers might go over your head unless you already have a basic understanding of chess.
- If you learn better with a hands-on interactive approach. This course does not feature any interactivity like what you can find with Chessable, Decode Chess, and Forward Chess.
- If you’re an advanced level chess player, you may find that there are better ways for you to improve your game.
- If you’re not willing to put in the work, this course may not be for you. Much of the course focuses on theory, so you will have to figure out how to apply the theory to your own game.
A Quick Note on Masterclass
In my opinion, this is an incredible value considering the quality of the classes and the level of expertise of each teacher. There is literally no other online course where you can take a 7+ hour chess lesson with Garry Kasparov and then the next day takes a business leadership course taught by Howard Schultz, the former CEO and founder of Starbucks.
Since the focus of this article is on the Garry Kasparov Masterclass, I’m not going to get into the details of the other classes. However, if you want to see what other classes are in the Masterclass library, you can just head over to their website. Once you’re there, you can browse each class offering and you can even see detailed information about each lesson in the class.
Inside the Garry Kasparov Masterclass – A Complete Look
The Garry Kasparov Masterclass is broken down into 29 different lessons for a total of 7 hours and 20 minutes. Like all the other classes, you also get access to a downloadable workbook. The workbook is a nice companion resource as it summarizes each lesson, gives you practice positions you can study, and provides links to other related resources.
Overall, the meat of the course is broken down into these 3 main categories:
- Middle Game – includes deep dives into specific tacts and strategies such as double attacks, skewers, and pins.
- Endgame – broken down into 3 parts + 1 case study where Kasparov covers specific topics and fundamentals that can be practically implemented in your endgame.
- Openings – broken down into 3 parts + 1 case study that is more theoretical than the endgame study
- Simulation Study – split into 4 different parts which include 1 video of Kasparov playing 3 players (ratings of 1266, 1515, and 2103) and subsequently a breakdown of each game.
Here is what you can expect from the lessons in the course that are in these categories. If you want to check out the entire lesson plan just head over to Masterclass and you’ll be able to find details about the chapters I don’t cover here.
The Middle Game
In this first lesson, Garry starts to introduce you to the fundamentals of chess and most importantly, how he views each game psychologically. Important themes that he brings up in this lesson include figuring out your own playstyle, pattern recognition, and sensing the climax of the game.
Why It’s Useful: One important theme that is first introduced is that you need to find a playstyle that best suits your playing style. When you play positions that your opponent is more comfortable with you will be at a disadvantage right away.
In these two lessons, Garry dives deep into the tactical concept of double attacks in which two opponent pieces are under attack at the same time. You learn through multiple examples of how double attacks can be used as both an attacking or defensive mechanism.
Why It’s Useful: Understanding this tactical concept can be very beneficial for a beginner or amateur chess players as it’s harder to recognize.
In this lesson, you will go over the tactical concept of skewers and the different variations you might see during the course of a game. More specifically you will cover the classical skewer when the bishop is attacking two pieces and how to utilize skewers in the popular rooks endgame.
Why It’s Useful: In combination with double attacks, you have a basic set of tactics that can create havoc for your opponent.
In lesson 6, you take a look at the dangerous potential of discovered attacks and find out that even the words top players can miss a discovered attack. Most importantly, you learn about the potential of the Knight in discovered attacks as it can jump and uncover attacks hidden behind them.
Why It’s Useful: If top pros can even miss a discovered attack think how easily it will be missed by you. By understanding this tactic a little further you will be at an advantage as discovered attacks are always a surprise and creates multiple threats.
In this lesson, you go over the structure and power of the Pin and learn that although it’s not as powerful as the Skewer it’s still a very effective way to paralyze your opponent especially in the end game.
Why It’s Useful: Pins occur very frequently throughout the game and all pins are not created equal. By understanding how to use Pins effectively, you will better be able to strategize on how to use them at all points in the game.
In chapter 8 you take a look into deflection and attraction. You learn that even though they are very similar, they also have different uses. As you get deeper into these chess tactics you start to see how different tactical concepts work together during a game. For example in one of the subchapters, you will see how a Skewer attack can be used to attract your opponent into a mate.
Why It’s Useful: There will be many times during the course of the game where you need to move your opponent into specific positions to gain an advantage. Using Deflection / Attraction in combination with the other tactics Kasparov has gone over will allow you to do so.
In this lesson you learn about Interference which is another form of Deflection. Specifically, you will learn how Interference can be used to disrupt your opponent’s positions and prevent their pieces from working together. By combining it with the other tactics, it can be very powerful.
Why It’s Useful: Learning how to strategically use Interference will allow you to decrease mobility and effectiveness of your opponent’s pieces. Once you do this, you will be better able to build an attack.
In chapter 10, Kasparov introduces the concept of Overload and you will learn how to use this tactic to “Overload” your opponent’s piece by giving it multiple defensive assignments. Since it has multiple defensive assignments, it cannot defend both which can be exploited by an opponent.
Why It’s Useful: When your opponent’s piece is overloaded it can’t protect all the pieces so you will have strategic advantage of how to attack next.
In this lesson the most important concept you learn is that when you trade pieces, even if they are of equal value, it usually benefits one side over the other. The key to a winning trade of pieces is to understand how to make the trade in your favor.
Why It’s Useful: If you understand how to make or force a trade which benefits you, then you will gain a strategic advantage in the game which could be the decisive factor.
In the next 3 lessons, Kasparov dives deep into endgame strategies and techniques and elaborates on why he believes studying endgame technique will have the biggest impact on your game. Here is what you can expect from each section of the endgame lessons.
- Part 1: Analysis of Reti 1921 endgame, shouldering strategy, zugzwang, and more.
- Part 2: Tactical elements in pawn endgames, rook endgames, queen versus pawn endgames, role of the king in endgames, and more.
- Part 3: Endgame paradoxes, how to dominate in the endgame, bishop and knight stalemate, and more.
Kasparov continues the study on endgames with a focus on pawn endgames. Most importantly you will learn that although pawn endgames might seem boring they are filled with much drama and there is much to learn from these endgames.
Why It’s Important: Garry elaborates on this throughout the course, but he believes studying endgames and becoming familiar with endgame tactics is the best way to improve your game. This is because more people spend their time on openings. Additionally, in endgames, there is often a clear right or wrong choice versus the variety of different choices you have in openings.
In the next 3 lessons, Garry goes over his thinking, overall philosophy, and how he has played openings throughout his career. Most importantly, Kasparov teaches that the best thing you can do to improve your openings is to play what you’re comfortable with. Here is what you can expect from each section of the lessons of the opening.
- Part 1: Learn about why Garry Kasparov started off his career playing e4 and how he expanded his opening strategy over time.
- Part 2: What do you do when your opponent plays your openings, how do you find an opening that fits your playstyle both psychologically and strategically, and finding out if there is universal advice for openings.
- Part 3: Learn why you can benefit from the study of openings throughout history.
To continue with the study of openings, Kasparov takes you along as he analyses and dissects the opening he used against Vishy Anand in 1995. In the analysis, you will hear about his mistakes, attacks, tactics, and what he was thinking throughout the game. The case study provides a great insight into how a chess professional dissects and criticizes his own game.
Why It’s Important: It’s nice to hear from Kasparov that one of the best things you can do is to play openings you’re comfortable with. The last thing you want to happen is to change your game based on your opponent only to find yourself in an uncomfortable position.
In chapter 18, you will watch Kasparov play three different players of different skill levels (1266, 1515, and 2103) at the same time. The total simulation lasts around 53 minutes and you will get to watch the matches play out live from an over the shoulder view. The only downside to this lesson is that it’s hard to follow along as the camera moves from game to game so you’re not able to focus on what’s happening in a specific game.
Then in lessons 19, 20, and 21, Kasparov breaks down each game with the players. This section is nice as you get to see Kasparov provide input into the positives and negatives of each player’s moves. It would have been nice if they had spent more time breaking down each game, but I understand there was a time constraint.
Why It’s Important: The simulation study allows you to see Kasparov use the tactics he taught throughout the course in a real game situation.
After completing the course and spending over 7 hours with Garry Kasparov, I can honestly say that my understanding of chess has improved drastically. Similar to many of you, chess is just one of my passionate hobbies, so I can’t dedicate every waking hour to the game like a professional. What’s important is that since I have this renewed understanding of my game, I can use my time wisely and dedicate the time I do have to where my game needs it the most.
Yes, this course isn’t the best for beginners and more advanced players might wish the course dove deeper into each topic. However, for the $180 annual Masterclass membership cost, it’s a worthwhile investment especially if you’re serious about chess.