The secrets of B. Adhiban's positive approach towards chess and life

by Sagar Shah
1/7/2019 – He will always greet you with a smile, he is always high on energy and, in almost any conversation, you will see him adding some of the famous quotes of great personalities! The natural question to ask is: how does Adhiban Baskaran remain so positive all the time? What is the secret of his positivity, huge ambitions and a pleasant personality? Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal visited Adhiban's home in Chennai, immediately after Adhiban had won the tournament of Peace in Croatia in November 2018. Apart from discussing highlights from the tournament, you'll learn about Adhiban's workspace, his parents and his support system — all the secretes to what motivates him to do well!

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Adhiban Baskaran: Life as a grandmaster

The final classical game of the Carlsen-Caruana match was to be played that day. I was on my way to GM B. Adhiban's house. I wanted to make sure that Amruta and I arrived a couple of hours before the game began. Adhiban had just won the tournament of Peace in Zagreb, Croatia and, I thought, it would be nice to discuss his victory before going on to commentate on the World Championship game. I got down from the taxi and saw the Indian Oil Enclave in front of me. It was a residential complex comprising of several buildings. I went up to the watchman and asked him if he knew where Adhiban lived. "The chess grandmaster?" he exclaimed. My heart filled with pride. Usually, the watchman knows the name of the people living in the society, but Adhiban's exploits had made him synonymous with chess in his area. "Please go straight, last building, turn left and his house is on the first floor", he directed me. I followed his instructions and reached the first floor.

The main door of Adhiban Baskaran's apartment

"Adhiban Baskaran, International Grand Master - Chess!"

In a few minutes, I was going to get a tour of Adhiban's house, but just by looking at the door, one thing is clear — Adhiban likes to speak his mind. Yes, he is an International Grandmaster in chess and he would like people to know about it. Many people take it as immodesty. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Adhiban is straight, direct and truthful; never immodest or arrogant.

We were given a warm welcome in the house by Adhiban and his family. In the next couple of hours, we got to know the complete picture of this colourful personality. We already knew a lot about Adhiban as a chess player, but now we got to know more about Adhiban, the person.

Leela — Adhiban’s mother

"The positivity that you see in me today is because of my mother!", says Adhiban. "She is the one who made me dream big and always remain upbeat." Adhiban's mother Leela is a split personality — but in a good way! When we entered the house, we saw the first side of her. She welcomed us, and made her way to the kitchen!

Adhiban's mother, Leela, in the kitchen

Leela had cooked a huge variety of south Indian meals

A complete south Indian meal cooked by Adhiban's mother

Dosa, idli, upma, chutney, sambhar — a complete south Indian meal cooked by Leela. The red chutney on the top left is Adhiban's favourite!

Lunch at Adhiban's

She ensured that Adhiban, Amruta and me — all of us — ate well, forcing us to take more every time our dish was empty!

Once, when Adhiban was going to arrive from a long European tour, she stayed up all night and cooked Adhiban's favourite dishes, one of them being the red tomato chutney. Adhiban's mother was loving, caring and a wonderful cook. But don't many mothers have these qualities? Well, earlier in the article we spoke about Leela's split personality, here's what we mean: Once the dinner was done and Adhiban and I went inside the room for the live commentary, Leela switched on her chess player mode! She immediately challenged Amruta to a game!

Leela playing chess with Amruta Mokal

There you go — Leela, all engrossed in finding the best move!

"What's your rating?", I asked Leela. "It's 1125", but before she had even finished the sentence she added, "But I am gaining 48 Elo points in my last two events! So that makes it 1173!" I could really sense the fire in her eyes. She truly loves chess. And not just playing it; she wants to study the game, improve at it and also play a lot of tournaments. Leela is 50 years old, but age does not bog her down. I slowly began to realize that Adhiban's confidence and ambition have not come out of the blue. It's something that has been passed onto him by his mother.

Baskaran — Adhiban’s father

Baskaran is one of the most soft-spoken and mild-mannered persons you will find in the chess world. He had a printing business but shut it down recently. Since then, he has been Adhiban's manager, taking care of the finer points of his son's career. A thoroughly dedicated father, Baskaran is always worried about Adhiban's flights, schedule and hotel bookings. But guess how he unwinds?

Baskaran playing chess on his phone

While we were having our food, Baskaran went to the balcony, took out his phone and started playing online blitz!

"I am not a very strong chess player but I enjoy playing chess!" That's the reason why he quietly moved away from the dinner table and satisfied his craving for making a few moves over the chessboard with an online blitz game! Baskaran keeps Adhiban's chess career under control. He travels with him to tournaments and you would hardly see him worried, tensed or anxious. Deep within he is, but he puts up a poker face. You never see him flustered or angry. That's also one of the reasons why Adhiban has been able to perform well with his father travelling by his side.

Baskaran with Adhiban's second Vishnu Prasanna at the Tata Steel Chess 2017

Baskaran and Adhiban's second GM Vishnu Prasanna at the Tata Steel Masters 2017 where Adhiban gave the performance of his life finishing third | Photo: Alina l'Ami / Tata Steel Chess 2017

The perfect ambience: Adhiban’s house

It wouldn't be wrong to say that whenever you meet Adhiban, he is high on energy. Be it after a win, after a loss, at an event where he is the chief guest, or just meeting him for some personal work, Adhiban is never down. He is always charged up! How does he manage this? A lot of it has to do with his environment. Adhiban has carefully created the ambience in his house to keep himself charged up all the time. Be it the quote of Vivekananda, or his stylish photo on the chair in New in Chess Magazine, or the showpieces that he has bought from different places all over the world, all point to one thing — Be Positive! One of Adhiban's favourite quotes of Swami Vivekananda is "All power is within you. You can do anything and everything. Believe in that, do not believe that you are weak. Stand up and express the divinity within you!"

Adhiban showing an antique in his room

Adhiban is proud of his possession — the Lion attacking the snake!
He makes it a point to tell us the story of how he convinced the shopkeeper to sell this to him in spite of the fact that it was "not for sale"!

Adhiban telling the story behind the lion antique in his room

A lot of Adhiban's decisions on the chess board are governed by inspiration. Be it his Scandinavian against Magnus Carlsen, or the King's Gambit against Wesley So, all of this stems from the fact that he is not at all afraid of his opponents. If you don't fear the guy sitting in front of you, why would you fear to experiment? I hope that our visit to Adhiban's house gave you an insight as to how Adhiban's support system and surroundings help him to remain in the best frame of mind. If you still are hungry for more, then have a look at the entire 20-minute tour of his house.

A visit to the beast's den | ChessBase India YouTube

Adhiban's victory at the Tournament of Peace in Croatia

Adhiban with his trophyAdhiban started the year 2018 with an Elo of 2655. After a pretty bad Tata Steel Masters, he was down to 2643. But since then it has all been upwards for the Chennai GM. He scored 8.0/9 at the National Team Championship 2018 and followed it up with a victory at the prestigious Reykjavik Open 2018. This was followed a joint second place performance at the Sharjah Masters. The Asian Nations Cup and Spanish League were not so great, but the Olympiad and Isle of Man International (remember his final round win against Michael Adams!) helped Adhiban reach 2682.

The final event for the year for Adhiban was the Tournament of Peace in Croatia. It was a strong event where you had players like Ivanchuk, Saric, Cheparinov, Amin, Bacrot and more. After the third round loss against Bacrot, Adhiban was unstoppable. He scored 7½/11 and won the tournament in style, half a point ahead of his nearest rivals Bacrot and Ivanchuk. He performed at an Elo of 2765, gaining 13 Elo points and pumping up his rating to 2695.


IM Lawrence Trent looks at highlights in his Weekly Show


Final Standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Adhiban B. 7,5 3,5
2 Bacrot Etienne 7,0 3,5
3 Ivanchuk Vassily 7,0 2,5
4 Šarić Ivan 6,5 3,5
5 Cheparinov Ivan 6,5 2,5
6 Malakhov Vladimir 6,0 3,0
7 Amin Bassem 6,0 2,5
8 Zelčić Robert 5,0 2,5
9 Stević Hrvoje 4,5 2,5
10 Kožul Zdenko 4,0 2,0
11 Palac Mladen 4,0 1,5
12 Jovanović Zoran 2,0 1,0

"When I got to know about this tournament, my trainer told me, you are not the most ideal person to be invited to the tournament of peace. You are the opposite of peace! (laughs) But at the opening ceremony, I got to know that this was the fifth edition of the tournament and one of the previous winners was none other than Bobby Fischer! When the name Fischer is involved, it motivates me always. You know Fischer had big connections to Reykjavik in Iceland, and I won the Reykjavik Open 2018. So I was greatly motivated to know that Fischer was one of the previous winners of the tournament of peace!"

Indeed, with this victory, Adhiban joined a club of legends who have won this event in the past — Sax, Ivkov, Fischer and Timman. Says Adhiban, "Every time I win a tournament, I dedicate it to someone. This time I would like to dedicate it to my friend Vidit Gujrathi. It was he who was invited to this tournament, but he couldn't play at this event and so he recommended my name instead. I am grateful to Vidit for that gesture!"

Adhiban on his way to the gym

One of the reasons for Adhiban's success has been his physical fitness. Adhiban has started playing badminton regularly because of which he has lost a lot of unwanted weight and feels physically fit.

Adhiban during his game against Amin Bassem at the Tournament of Peace

Adhiban's favourite game from the tournament was his win over Bassem Amin of Egypt 

 

A typical coffee house move with just one aim in mind: Kill the white king!

 

Adhiban shows his win over Bassem Amin in great depth | ChessBase India YouTube

Adhiban Baskaran and Amin Bassem exploring the city of Zagreb

It was nice to see that the on the board rivalry was not dragged off the board as well! Adhiban and Bassem exploring the city of Zagreb

Adhiban playing against Ivan Cheparinov during the penultimate round of the Tournament of Peace

Adhiban's victory against Cheparinov in the penultimate round sealed the deal 

 

With the year 2019 beginning, it seems highly likely that Adhiban will be the fifth Indian to break into 2700 zone (after Anand, Sasikiran, Harikrishna and Vidit). We wish him the best for the same!

To sign off I would like to recount one of Adhiban's most famous quotes: "After every loss, I ask myself — ‘is this defeat going to stop me? And the answer is always NO!’ So, I get back on my feet and get back to work!"

Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal with Adhiban Baskaran and Family

A final selfie with the super family!

Adhiban analyzing the 12th game of Carlsen vs Caruana match | ChessBase India YouTube

Links




Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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maddyrjf maddyrjf 1/10/2019 04:30
It's a good start! I hope there's more coming in the form of advice for budding players on the lines:

1. Which books had the most impact on Adhiban's development as a strong player?
2. What's the plan to follow to obtain mastery in the game?
3. How much do computers aid in the journey towards mastery?

Thanks!
Wunderopa Wunderopa 1/7/2019 11:28
Excellent report! Congratulations to reporters Shah & Mokal!
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 1/7/2019 07:05
best wishes adiban
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