What is my Kasparov Number?

This has been a fun week in sport, what with England slaughtered at the Gabbatoir and Anand sliced up by Carlsen’s endgame magic. The latter games were fascinating if not necessarily exciting per se; consisting more of slow grinds rather than Kasparov style flourishes. Speaking of Kasparov, following Andrew Gelman, one defines the Kasparov number as the length of the shortest (ordered) chain of people (starting at you and ending at Kasparov) such that each person has beaten his or her successor at a game of chess. Let me also define the weaker “Draw Kasparov” number where one now allows either wins or draws. Being a little light on official tournament play myself, I have felt free to suitably relax the requirement of where the games take place.

The best upper bounds I could come up with for my Kasparov number are around 6, which is probably pretty close to the right answer. However, my “draw” number against Kasparov is 2: I drew* with the British GM Tony Miles in 1991, and Miles’ best result against Kasparov was a draw (he was crushed by Kasparov 5.5-0.5 in 1986, but that 0.5 point counts!)

*OK, this game took place as part of a 40 player simultaneous exhibition, but that still counts!

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6 Responses to What is my Kasparov Number?

  1. Olivier says:

    Very interesting. At first I thought my Kasparov number (sticking to the definition using only tournament play) would be extremely high (after all, it is very hard to beat Kasparov) but the more I think about it, the clearer it seems to me that any player who has retained an ELO rating for more than a few years must have a Kasparov number not higher than 10 (look for games when your opponent was at its weakest), which is way less than I imagined (FWIW, I couldn’t make an explicit path from me to Kasparov but I must be just a couple of players away from Spassky or Smyslov, for instance, as they both played numerous tournaments in France).

  2. Olivier says:

    And now after a chat with my go-to mathematician for all things related to sports, I have the definite way to improve one’s Kasparov number: challenge David Harari, who has a Kasparov number of 3 (beat Manuel Apicella who beat Joël Lautier who beat Kasparov).

  3. O-O-O says:

    If you go to http://ibeatgarry.com (or back when this site existed), you find that the most common number for expert/master player is 3, almost everyone in the US factors through someone like Yermolinsky (who beat 12-year Garik in 1975). This site was based on Mega Base 2005 IIRC.

  4. Pingback: Me versus Magnus | Persiflage

  5. Gerry Myerson says:

    I’m not much of a chess player – my USCF rating peaked at just over 1800 – but I have a Bobby Fischer number of 2. I beat Harold Dondis once in a tournament, and Dondis beat Fischer in a simul.

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