A dose of Anand: What Vishy can teach you

7/21/2010 – The World Champion Vishy Anand is currently in India, in his home town of Chennai. Relaxing with his iPod and iPad – but also talking to journalists and TV reporters. The finance magazine Forbes is carrying one article after another, tech sites are asking him about mathematics and remote astronomy, and the broadsheets are churning out reports and portraits. Samples and excerpts.

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What Vishy Anand Can Teach You

Viswanathan Anand came back from virtual annihilation and conquered the world. His life has quite a few lessons on the art of winning. Article by Ashish K Mishra and S. Srinivasan.

One night in July 2001, world chess champion Viswanathan Anand woke up with a start at his hotel room in Dortmund, Germany. He had been unable to sleep off the pain of going through the worst losing streak of his career. He was hovering at the bottom in the tournament in progress there but more importantly, his worst fears were just coming true. He was staring at a long phase of poor form.

The Forbes article describes how Anand's wife Aruna, unable to bear his suffering, suggest the gym at 4 a.m., then a walk and movies, but nothing worked for Anand, who had hit rock bottom. He finished last in the tournament with four losses, six draws and no wins.

Almost a decade later, in April 2010, a group of chess strategists in Bulgaria was trying to make Anand feel like a loser again. By now, he had gone on to become the world champion in every format of the game and was playing at top form even at the age of 40. And that was bad news for the handlers of Veselin Topalov, who was challenging Anand for the world crown.

The article goes on to describe how Anand survived and triumphed in the 12-game match played in Topalov’s home territory. And how it all started with Anand as a shy child prodigy who matured into a methodical player, able to hold his own against any opponent.

As he ages, his game has only sharpened. In the last three years, he has been virtually unbeatable. And despite all this, Anand remains fundamentally a simple guy, opening the door to visitors and helping his wife in laundry.

The article has a nice story about from 22 years ago:

In 1988, Soviet grandmaster Efim Geller went to the southern Indian city of Coimbatore to play in a tournament. Geller was a legend and in the twilight of his career of four decades during which he had beaten other greats such as Bobby Fischer. But in Coimbatore, he lost to a little-known 18-year-old boy.

When he went back to Moscow Chess Club, his peers teased him asking, “So we hear that you lost to a boy in India?” Geller replied, “Boy? I think I lost to a world champion.” That boy was Viswanathan Anand.

Anand never left anyone in doubt about where he was headed in the game of chess. Manuel Aaron, India’s first international master and a nine-time national champion, recalls that even when he saw him for the first time in the 1970s, Anand exuded a kind of energy and focus that could be described only as world-class. At the Mikhail Tal Chess Club in Chennai where Aaron guided young players, Anand was a unique talent. At Aaron’s lectures on the great games of Soviet chess masters, it was only Anand who asked questions and even suggested alternative moves. The almost unbearably cute picture above shows Anand at the age of eleven, winning the Tamil Nadu Championship for the first time.


Anand relaxing – picture by Dinesh Krishnan


Viswanathan Anand: Listen to yourself and everything else will follow

In a second Forbes article Anand himself gives chess fans advice on how to outfox their opponents. Here are some of the bullet points:

  • I think it is normal because you always have worries and when you are paranoid you start to sense the problems that could arise.

  • I had the worst result of my career in the second half of 2001. My confidence was undermined so much that it took me months to get it back. And at this stage, I think I tried out almost everything. I tried switching openings, making a couple of things better, but nothing really seemed to work.

  • It is only when the tide goes out that you see who is swimming naked. The one thing I learned is to be objective and make changes before they are absolutely necessary. If things are going your way for a long time then there are a lot of things that you have not spotted.

  • Failure is often a good wake up call. It is like cold water in your face. The first thing is to see what you have done wrong.

  • Every once in a while you have to outfox your opponent. I think the risks that you take and which are enjoyable are those where you are learning new things about the game and then you want to try it out.

  • Blind spots may never go away. They remain with you since childhood. You just get better at covering or masking them over time. But if you are put under enough pressure, you will make the same mistakes.

  • It is funny that you are sitting with this other guy and after a while you can hear him breathing. So when the breathing suddenly stops you know that he has made a mistake.

  • The first thing I looked for in my team was that everyone gets along. This is the biggest part because you are going to be together a lot. And principally with me! We share everything. We are very open so everything that we work on belongs to all of us.


    Anand with his team during a World Championship match

  • There are people who say chess is an art, it is artistic and you must do this and that. But it is primarily a competition where you try to beat your opponent and if you do it with some dodgy moves, fine.

  • Read the full Forbes article here...

Techtree: After hours tech with Vishy!

Here's a nice interview by Techtree with World Champion Vishy Anand, who talks about his connection to technology – communication, games, remote astronomy, 3D, the iPad...


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