A colleague writes:
Personally my Kasparov number is two: I beat ** in a regular tournament game, and ** beat Kasparov!
That’s pretty impressive, especially given that I didn’t know this guy played chess at all! Anyway, this got me thinking, what’s my Kasparov number? OK, that’s easy. I beat Magnus Carlsen the other day when he was passing through town on vacation, Carlsen beat Anand, . . .
OK, just kidding. What is my Kasparov number, though? Note that the definition, unlike that of the Erdos or Bacon numbers, is asymmetric: it has to be that I had a victory over person 1, and person 1 had a victory over person 2, etc., and ultimately person N-1 had a victory over Kasparov. The games don’t have to be in time order, they just all have to be victories. And we’ll further require that the games all be played after childhood and before senility (i.e., it doesn’t count if I happened to play someone who happens to be a cousin of some grandmaster whom he beat when they were both 7 years old). I’d also require the these be official tournament games, but I’ve never played in a tournament so we’ll relax that rule.
So what is N? How can I do this? I beat my dad, who on occasion beat his dad, who was really good. Grandpa Moses probably beat some serious tournament players from time to time (he played at coffeehouses etc., not tournaments, but I think some competitive players would show up), and one of the people he beat must have had a win against one of the top U.S. players in that era (1920s-1930s I guess is when Grandpa was strongest). To get from one of those guys to Kasparov . . . how many steps would it take? I don’t know, but that one must not be too hard to answer. Just take the oldest guy who Kasparov ever lost to, then the oldest American player that guy lost to, . . . then maybe 2 more steps after that? So then my Kasparov number would be 9 (dad, grandpa, the (hypothetical) tournament player my grandpa beat, the top guy he beat, then the next 2 guys in the chain, then the American player who beat the old guy who beat Kasparov). So that’s my guess.
What else could it be? Phil is better than me but I’ve beaten him on occasion. I think Phil played in a tournament once or twice, and he might have won a game against someone who played in tournaments more frequently, . . .
In any case, I have a feeling that my Kasparov number is much much lower than my Muhammed Ali number. The last time I got into a fight was in 8th grade, but I wouldn’t call it a win, it was more of a draw. If I were to count it though, then I’m pretty sure this guy got into a lot of fights after that, but it would take a long long chain of slugging to get to Michael Spinks or whatever. If my Ali number (or even my Chuck Wepner number) is less than infinity, it must be in the hundreds.
P.S. Phil reports that the best opponent he ever beat in a tournament had a rating of something like
1562 1800, so maybe we could get to Kasparov that way. Someone who was 1800 when he played Phil might ultimately have reached 1900 and beat someone who at some point reached 2100, etc etc etc. I don’t really have a good sense of whether the Phil path or the Grandpa path would get me faster to that elusive Kasparov victory. But I’m pretty sure these are the only options I have.