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Kasparov vs Colbert

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Two presidential candidates, two best-selling authors, two guys who like to think with their guts, two fast talkers who aren't used to listening. That was the scene of the interview segment at today's taping of The Colbert Report. Garry Kasparov appeared on the famous Comedy Central show today and we just got back from the taping an hour ago. It airs tonight at 11:30 across the US. Garry was pretty exhausted since we flew in from DC this morning and he had to take a long detour to the financial district for a quickie interview with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC's Closing Bell. (For every five minutes of television you're on the air, there's at least an hour of time at the studio, plus transportation to and from.)

I'm a big Colbert fan and was really looking forward to this appearance. Not just because we met him before and after the show and got tickets for my wife and our friend Anna, who is a true Colbert fanatic. The interview segment flew by, feeling even shorter than the brief 4-5 minutes it is on the air. Garry was probably a little over-prepared. He has taken that chess diligence into everything else and we had worked out a few Colbert-specific soundbites that we thought would entertain the Colbert faithful. That was true enough but it didn't feel natural and Garry's always best when he's ad libbing or riffing on prepared themes. (The DC book signing talk last night was a great example of this. Just a few notes and he was in great form.) It was still funny, although I guess you never know how it's going to look on TV.

Colbert introduced him with "My guest tonight is Grandmaster Garry Kasparov. Finally, someone else who sees things in black and white!" It started out, as I suspected it might, with a chessboard on the table between them. Garry got a good crowd "ooooh" for saying, "You haven't read my book! You have broken the first rule by picking a battle you cannot win!" Colbert made one move and offered a draw, which was eventually accepted -- after Garry asked him if he had Deep Blue under the table and Colbert responded that he had Deep Red White and Blue under the table.

It was interesting to see how Colbert reacted to someone who was as used to being in charge as the character Colbert plays on his show. It almost seemed tense for a few moments because Colbert, who is trying to make his guests look good, tried to figure Garry out. Of course Garry knew the whole thing is an act; we'd looked at some shows and talked about it. But he still wasn't going to give an inch, which gave it a different feel from most Colbert interviews. Garry made a joke about the book being about "self-awareness and not wrist awareness," based on Colbert's jokey campaign to give out red "wrist strong" bracelets after he broke his wrist before a show a few months ago. Colbert took his off to offer it to Garry and he turned it down, saying he already had a watch. Garry didn't know it was an indication that "you're more famous than I am," as the tradition off the bracelets demands. [Hmm, they cut that! Wow, they cut a lot. Edited well together, but missing one good joke. When Stephen holds up the "Colbert - Putin 08" bumper sticker Garry said, "But if you win and Putin is your vice-president, make sure you buy lots of life insurance!"]

They ended the segment with a quick game of Rock'em, Sock'em Robots. Silly, but typical of the Colbert insanity. The show isn't the sort of thing Garry would usually do but it was a concession for the book tour and I think he had fun with it at the time. Afterwards he felt it was a little too much of a stunt for someone with such serious goals, but that's the strange thing about mixing his chess past with his politics and now a book tour. Going from an impassioned plea at a House Committee for Human Rights discussion to swapping jokes on a talk show is bound to mess with your head.

We'll it's on in 20 minutes so I'll probably update this item after having a chance to see it without being terribly nervous. Garry's staying up to watch it too and I hope he feels good about it.

The DC (Bethesda, actually) signing went great last night. The talk was very good and sold out of books and there was a humorous sequence with people sprinting over a nearby Barnes & Noble in search of copies and coming back winded. B&N had a few but soon sold out, so around a dozen people were left bookless. (One guy offered me $50 for one but unfortunately I didn't have one with me.) I suppose being out of books is the best problem to have. Again great to meet some Dirt folks, and I have some pics and names to dig out and put up after I get some sleep. WaPo chess columnist GM Lubosh Kavalek and his wife came by.

Garry will be signing here in NY at Barnes & Noble tomorrow at 12:30pm. 555 5th Ave (46th St.) It's a bit of a squeeze for time and space they say, so unless attendance is lower than expected they probably won't allow for signing anything other than HLIC. That's the first thing to go in a time crunch. Next to go is dedications, so if there are a lot of people it will be signature and date only. So if you really want it with your name, being early isn't a bad idea. We'll see how it goes. See you there! There's also a long talk with Leonard Lopate tomorrow evening at the famous 92nd St. Y. Details on that and all remaining appearances here.


yo folks,

i am watching as i am typing. yes, the two are shooting arrows in the dark. maybe, no preparation was better. still, fun ! difficult to be fun, talks about Russian politics, and be in front of Colbert at the same type. more chess playing could have helped. too much Putin talk, who cares ? Colbert is surprisingly not very talkative. brrr ... the ending not too cool ... weird. buy hey, not bad for a first try ...



Garry held his own, I'm happy to report. Colbert did seem a little more subdued than normal, but I guess Russian politics is pretty serious stuff. Garry saying, "I smell easy prey" was a money quote. I was amused also by Kasparov's shredder comment, although the studio audience didn't seem to know if they should laugh or not. Overall, good work by Garry as that sort of interview is probably not what he's used to, but he could definetly do more if he wanted to.

Also, its too bad they missed the life insurance quote.

Weird that Colbert described Kasparov as a "chess grandmaster", as opposed to the "former world chess champion".

Garry was over-prepared, but unfortunately that is the only way to get anything out of being Colbert's interview guest (anything aside from a picture of your book cover on the screen).
Richard Branson of Virgin recently complained directly to Colbert during his interview, and Colbert backed off and let Branson have a long say.

I agree with Mig that both Kasparov and Colbert seemed unusually tense for that segment of the show.
I enjoy Colbert and Jon Stewart; but both need to pipe down for the first 60 seconds of the interview, and let the guest have his say and establish some content that the host can then play off of for the remaining 3 minutes.

And I thought I sensed a harsh cut/edit at one moment, and I thought they rarely or never cut/edit that segment. Now I wonder how often they cut/edit it (probably not often).

There were also some jump-cuts in other segments of this show, maybe it was too long.


Here's a link to the video, at least while it's the most recent. I thought the chessboard pattern tie was a little bit too much. The interview seemed awkward at first because Colbert kept stepping on Kasparov's lines. I know it's supposed to be a comedy show but it's still a bad interviewing technique. Personally, I've never found Colbert to be funny and I think that's reflected in the segment.

At the risk of being shouted down, I think Kasparov overplays the "this is a dangerous game/Putin is going to kill me" routine. What I mean is, it doesn't play well, but maybe it's just me. The fact that he's appearing on Comedy Central instead of from the bottom of the Ural Sea kind of speaks subconsciously to the the fact there's something wrong with his statement. In general, don't proclaim yourself to be heroic, let others proclaim it for you. Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

J.A. Topfke

still interested in Kasparovs opionion, is Anand #15?

To Ellrond - uhmm, I thought Anand became UNDISPUTED champion by winning a tourney in Mexico?;-) well story of my life, "day late, dollar short" was up late last night and had forgotten Garry would be on. Does seem strange that Garry was NOT introduced as the former World Chess Champion. Maybe Mig and Garry wanted this omission so the interview would not bring up questions of what happened? Mig can you share?

I got a kick out of seeing Kasparov's competitive side surface over Sock 'Em Rock 'Em Robots. lol. After Colbert announced his win Garry just stared him down and said, 'And?' Awesome.

I was also at the Bethesda signing- it was a pleasure to be there and meet both Garry and Mig. Thanks for stopping by guys.

Mig wrote several times about some higher perspective, in which it is impossible to lose the WC title in a turney, even if the WC want so. Since Mig is close to Kasparov, he may act as an speaker of Kasparov. So it is still interesting what the meastro himself says to this topic.

You guys are such freaks. We have nothing to do with the graphics and introductions and just about anything else. They make their own choices and those things are usually full of mistakes, misspellings and omissions. They call him world champion, grand master, chess grandmaster, former grandmaster (many times seen that one), former world champion, world's number one, former world number one, etc. You name it, we've heard it. If we had any influence they would at least pronounce his name correctly!

You say "freaks" as if it was a bad thing ;-)

Great fun to watch! Pity that it wasn't longer.

I love the image of Kasparov preparing himself for the show by diligently watching videos and preparing some jokes. Well, if you can handle the Najdorf, "the Colbert" shouldn't be a problem...

"still interested in Kasparov's opinion, is Anand #15?

Funny you should ask, Ellrond. In the course of bugging Kasparov's hotel room, last week, FSB agents incidentally picked up the following:

"In 1993, FIDE bolted from the titleholder, a decision it regrets to this day. There have been many "world champions" since then. I can't even remember all their names. For that reason many people think the true line stopped at #13. In fact, many people think I'm STILL the world champion."

Colbert is about as funny as poison ivy on the groin.

"The Colbert Defense" attempts to put his opponent to sleep with pointless jokes and unfunny innuendo about nothing relevant. He's like Hillary Clinton without a sense of humor.

Total Bore.

"Afterwards he felt it was a little too much of a stunt for someone with such serious goals..."

Sorry Mig,

I agree with Garry 100%. He didn't come off well (through no fault of his own) using this type of platform to say that he is a serious opponent to the Putin regime. Even knowing what Colbert is all about, if I hadn't known who Garry is, my thoughts would probably have run along the lines of this guy wants to be the president of Russia? No way. While Putin is off chumming with Ahmadinejad, and getting hawkish with the USA about Iran and Iraq by announcing a new nuclear weapon program in addition to a military build-up,
Garry is playing Rock'em-Sock'em Robots with a comedian and losing.

In the US we've pretty much understood what impressions on the "boob tube" have meant since the Nixon-Kennedy debate, and although this was done in fun, the bigger picture here is Russian politcs and Garry did not look good doing this and he knows it. Garry you have superb instincts, stick to serious issues with a serious moderator.

Off-topic on Kasparov, but relevant to the blindfold tournament happening elsewhere in the world: can someone recommend a good BlackBerry (or other handheld) chess program with a blindfold interface, i.e. one that does input and output in algebraic notation, without any display?


wrong show. for garry: stewart yes, colbert no.

Unfortunately I missed the Colbert show. Is anyone going to put it up on youtube or a similar place?

I think they do a rerun on Comedy Central 2 hours before the new show.

brave appearance by garry on colbert, i enojyed it. garry got in some good jabs.

Not sure what is that all about, to me it wasn't funny at all. But then again, I never saw Calbert before so I don't know the usual standard.

"wrong show. for garry: stewart yes, colbert no."
-Posted by: kiitos at October 18, 2007 17:32

I totally agree. Stewart usually lets his guests have more talk time, and the show even becomes serious occasionally. After watching the interview on the Comedy Central site, it seemed like Colbert was interrupting Garry far too often (even for Colbert), and overall it seemed somewhat awkward. BTW, I do think Colbert is pretty funny most nights. Of course, you can't really blame Garry for accepting the invitation.

stewart yes, colbert no? What about O'Reilly?

guys, stop over analysing this, the show was great. Just a little bit of light-hearted fun. If you haven't seen Colbert before, check out the Chessbase link to his Whitehouse speech before you look at the clip; puts everything in context. For Garry to go up against this guy, a practiced and self assured master of the art of chit-chat, and hold his own more or less, was just great. Colbert is great too btw, need to watch him.

Kasparov definitely looked overprepared..he was too quick with his responses! The conversation didn't have an easygoing feel to it. That said, Kasparov got all the best lines...Mig, you wrote them?

Oh come on man, how high are you standards?? This was a first attempt at doing the rounds, give the guy a break! Wasnt too bad!

I saw the rerun of of the interview and I thought it was pretty good. I didn't sense any tenseness (aside from Garry's normal high-strung behavior) until the very end when Colbert beat him at the boxing game, declared he won, Kasparov retorted, "So?" (or something like that), and Colbert extended his hand and immediately ended the interview. I love Stephen Colbert and think his run for the president will be hilarious. I think in the end while my opinion on Garry the chess player is not diminished, he didn't come off as quite the sober, level-headed, objective person who can succeed in politics. (Which isn't to say he's not fighting the good fight.)

When Garry Kasparov came to 92St Y yesterday, I managed to ask him the two questions everyone is eager to know:

1). Is Vishy the "15th" World Champion?
Answer: "Definitely, he deserves it."

2). About Vishy's match offer..
Answer: "Yes, I've heard about it but I do not play anymore."

If Anand beats Kramnik then there is a chance of an Anand-kasparov match. how? because if (predictably) Kasparov crashes and burns at the elections next year, he would want to come back - no point in hanging around for for 4 more years.

Just watched the Kasparov segment on chessbase. That is exactly the kind of interview I expect when the host has no real knowledge of who he is interviewing (other than some producer notes) and the interviewee has no real knowledge of who the host is (save for some Mig notes). Awkward and disjointed.

Kasparov came off as someone trying too hard to be clever and funny, perhaps as a defense mechanism to avoid looking foolish at Colbert's hands. I'm pretty sure the audience did not get the 'wrist awareness', 'a deep blue under the desk', and other out-of-nowhere comments (Deep Blue was a lifetime ago, does he expect people to still remember that?). The weird Putin half-jokes betrayed both the seriousness of Kasparov's platform and accusations of Putin and also left Colbert hanging in the wind with no base to form any comedy. Kasparov takes things too seriously ("AND..." after losing at rockem sockem robots), but then tries to form it as a comedic response, and the whole thing falls flat as his sense of humor is quite different than most. This was a disastrous appearance for Kasparov as a politician (this guy is going to stand up to Putin?!?) AND as an author trying to connect to an American audience (humorless and unawareness are not great selling points). A totally forgettable segment, and makes it seem absurd that Kasparov is a serious candidate.

Sorry, it's what I honestly feel after watching that clip.

The feeling I got from watching Kasparov is exactly what I get from many chess players (or engineers, here in Silicon Valley) - seeing human interaction as nothing more than an opportunity to outsmart the other person, to win an "argument," to intellectually humble the "opponent."

An alternative, IMHO more likeable, less stressful, and more effective in life, is to relax and just "be." Be in the moment, be with the other person.

It's a transition that took me a decade to make, and I'm still working on it. I expect that some of you will understand what I'm saying, and many will not.

Garry was funnier than Colbert.

The feeling I got from watching Kasparov is exactly what I get from many chess players (or engineers, here in Silicon Valley) - seeing human interaction as nothing more than an opportunity to outsmart the other person, to win an "argument," to intellectually humble the "opponent."

That's fine for someone like Garry Kasparov, but what on earth gives a software engineer the idea that he can intellectually humble *anyone*?

Did anyone see Anand (and Aruna) on ndtv's "Ask Questions" hosted by Prannoy Roy? he was fantastic and the dry humour went down very well.

It was "India Questions" and the link is here:

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 17, 2007 10:21 PM.

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