Vishy Anand's museum of memories
Internet is a wonderful place. You get to know about your favourite personalities in a deep and intimate way. On 28th of January 2023 we saw an episode of "The Long Game" released on the chess legend and 5-time chess world champion Viswanathan Anand. "The Long Game" invites sporting legends and asks them to take the viewers down the memory lane through 10 artefacts in their museum of memories in just 10 minutes. Anand's choice of 10 artefacts is amazing and it includes some amazing anecdotes on Kasparov, Kramnik, Carlsen, how he became the lightning kid and much more. One of the advice that Anand gave in the video helped IM Sagar Shah think deeply about his issue of procrastination. Check out the article.
How Vishy Anand helped me solve my problem of procrastination
I stared at my growing number of items on the to-do list. I knew I had to finish them off. Time is of the essence, I said to myself. Don't waste it. But I just wasn't able to get going. And so I did what most individuals do when they are unable to work - I opened YouTube! As I kept browsing one video after another, the YouTube's recommendations algorithm pushed the next video to me. This very interesting, I said to myself. The "Long Game with Vishy Anand". I had already watched the Long Game series interviews with Dhanraj Pillai, Jhulan Goswami and Sunil Chhetri and I had enjoyed them. Being a chess lover, this was going to be a treat. I clicked on the video....
And the next 10 minutes simply zoomed by. I sat there listening to Vishy's amazing insights. Being a Kungfu Panda fan, listening to Vishy talk feels like Master Oogway talking. Filled with so much experience and knowledge, he is able to weave his years of experience in just a few words! And believe it or not, he gave me a tremendous insight on my procrastination issue. 2 minutes into the video Vishy says:
What seems like your quest for perfection is just your insecurity.
Those were just 11 words. But it just woke me up. It shook me and made me think deeper about my issues. Most of the tasks in my to-do list was delayed because I wanted to do them perfectly. And I would always convince myself that the idea was still half-baked and I couldn't execute it just as yet. I thought it was my quest for perfection. But maybe it was just my insecurity. My fear of failure.
Vishy Anand's museum of memories
There are hundreds of interviews and content pieces out there on the internet based on the life of Vishy Anand. For a person who has followed his life very closely for more than a decade now, I feel the content is often repeated. But this Long Game video by Cred was different. It was creative. It took Vishy Anand down the memory lane with 10 artefacts that were present in his museum of memories. These 10 moments have shaped who he has become today - the five time World Champion and a legend. And Anand spoke about them, reflecting on them and in the end giving us all some life lessons beyond the chess board.
1. If you are an expert at something you should be able to explain it to others
Vishy Anand was taught chess by his mother Sushila and she was quite a strong player. In this picture he is showing her some of the latest developments in the world of chess! In fact because of the position of the knights, Anand could already recognize which game he was showing. We tried to do some of our research and found that this is a well known opening line Queen's Gambit Declined that gives a draw to Black!
Anand gives a very nice advice through this picture - you might have a lot of knowledge and information with you, but you should be able to explain it to someone else. It is a good way to gauge your mastery of the subject.
2. Don't double check all the time!
Vishy Anand is known for his speed. When he played classical chess, he would often take just 5-10 minutes for all of his moves while his opponents would have taken close to a couple of hours! Even in blitz he would win his games with nearly half of his time left. This led to his famous nickname of "Lightning Kid".
Vishy explains this concept of time management very well. His speed not only represented his quick thinking, but also his confidence and ability to make decisions without double checking them again and again. Often in life we don't make our decisions because we are stuck to double checking them all too often!
3. Spend more time with the thing you love
Chess players often carry magnetic chess sets with them so that they can think about chess. Good players think about chess a lot. And here's a beautiful point that Anand shares, "A lot of time thinking will seem wasted until it suddenly becomes useful. Good ideas will not happen easily if you don't put in the time. If you want to get good at something, you have to put a lot of time into it and one day when you will get the success, you would have forgotten how much time you put into it. It would seem it popped out of nowhere. But it never does!"
4. The ultimate compliment
This for me is one of the most unbelievable stories of Vishy's career. Once upon a time, Vishy was travelling in a train to somewhere. He had just become a GM - India's 1st. He also had just won the World Junior title, the first ever Asian player to have achieved that feat. So clearly the 18-year-old Vishy was taking chess as his full-time profession. Coming back to the train journey, a old gentleman sitting next to Vishy asked him, "So, young man what do you do?" Vishy replied, "I am a chess player!" Not being convinced the passenger said, "Yes, but what do you do for a living?" Anand replied back, "I am a professional chess player. I make my living from chess!" To which the man said, "I hope you don't mind me giving you some advice. Sports is a very risky career. If you were Viswanathan Anand, you could make a living from chess, but otherwise it would be quite a ride!"
5. The difference between risk and gamble
When Vishy Anand won the Mexico World Championship 2007, he was pitted to play a 1 vs 1 match against Vladimir Kramnik in 2008. Almost on the next day, Anand made a crazy suggestion to his team. Back then it consisted of his second Peter Heine Nielsen and his wife Aruna Anand. He said, he wants to prepare 1.d4 against Vladimir Kramnik. It was a stunning decision. That's because Anand's main repertoire until that point revolved around the move 1.e4, while Kramnik was a 1.d4 expert. But Vishy didn't want to bang his head against Kramnik's Berlin and Petroff after 1.e4. And that's why he risked it with 1.d4.
At this point Vishy gives a wonderful life advice - there is difference between risk and gamble. Taking risks is fine, because you prepare for it, but a gamble is doing something on the spur of the moment without preparation. Not taking risks often can be the riskiest strategy in life! Vishy prepared for 1.d4 for an entire year and that proved to be the game changer.
6. When you control what you can
The World Championship Match 2010 against Veselin Topalov was one of the toughest matches of Vishy Anand's chess career. His flight to Sofia was cancelled because of Volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. The skies were closed for travelling for a few days. Unable to find a way to travel in a flight, Anand and his team travelled in a mini-van from Frankfurt to Sofia! Topalov's team was not making things easier by not giving any leeway to the Indian champion in spite of genuine issues. The news had just come that Topalov was using a super computer for his preparation that was way stronger than any machine out there. It was quite a tough battle that Vishy and team were fighting psychologically. And then in the first game itself Anand blundered right out of the opening and got a lost position.
It was not at all easy for Vishy to come out of this. This is where Anand's important life lesson lies: "Sometimes when you show up and decide I am going to do what I can do, what I can control, somethings will work in your favour as well!" And it did work. Anand won game no.2 and also game no.4, took the lead in the match and won the title once again with a score of 6.5-5.5 with a beautiful last round win.
7. Sometimes not saying something is a statement
From June 2001 to April 2002, Vishy Anand had a tough period as a player. Successes were not coming so easily. But then he went to Prague for the Eurotel Rapid Trophy. Over there Anand beat Timman, Khalifman, Sokolov, Ivanchuk and Karpov to take home the title.
When the event ended, there were discussions related to the re-unification of the world title. And somehow in all of these discussions Vishy Anand was not considered as a participant. "I was angry that I was not taken into consideration and I don't like getting angry," says Anand. "A lot of time in the past when I had to fight for my rights or make a stand, I would rationalize and try to be nice and friendly. This time, without being rude to anyone, Aruna and me looked each other and said, if this is my thing in the negotiations, I am not going to go! Often there will come a time in the negotiations where you will have to stand-up for yourself. There is no need to express your anger directly by harsh words. Sometimes you lose the arguement just by doing that. You can do it just by being firm!"
8. Having a strategy is not enough, you need to execute
In 1995 Vishy Anand played the World Championship Match against Garry Kasparov in the US. After 8 games the score was tied at 4-4 and then Anand played a fine game from the white side of the Najdorf to beat his feared opponent. The score of 5-4 in the favour of Vishy! This was a situation which Kasparov never expected himself to be in. In the 10th game when Garry opened the game with 1.e4 Anand responded back with 1...e5 and played the same Open Spanish that he had done in game 6. It was not a wise decision because Kasparov had come with a very powerful new idea.
What was interesting to note is that Anand and his team had prepared the Center Counter (1.e4 d5) opening for the match. Game no.10 was a perfect time to execute it. Vishy was a point up in the match, the Center Counter would have come as a huge surprise to Kasparov. It was the perfect opening for the perfect occasion. Yet, Vishy did not play and went on to lose games 10 and 11 and eventually the match. Thinking about this match, Anand says, "It was one of my important lessons. Sometimes you can have a perfect strategy, but under pressure you simply don't know how to implement it."
9. Make your life exciting by giving yourself little goals
Vishy Anand was invited for the first time to Wijk Aan Zee in 1989 and it was a very exciting moment in his life as this was one of the most popular tournaments in the world with a tradition that goes back many years! As Anand says, "I even enjoyed breathing the cool air outside the playing hall!" This is the beautiful feeling of newness.
But things always do not remain stagnant in life. You always have new feelings replacing the old ones. In 2013, Anand played his 4th World Championship Match in a row.
Somehow it felt that Anand didn't have that wind anymore in his sails. He looked burnt out. "It was the 4th match in a row - Kramnik, Topalov, Gelfand and then just one year later the match in Chennai. I didn't even know why they were putting me on this kind of schedule. My takeaway from this is that it's so much nicer when you have hunger and excitement. Over my life's experience I have understood that these things are a part of a cycle. They come and go. You cannot always be excited. But you can always make your life exciting by giving yourself little goals. If not big ones, little goals. Something to look forward to. Smething that excites you and makes it smoother!"
10. Mind Master
On the back cover of the book is written: "That was the point at which I knew that the transition form being a strong player to becoming a champion wasn't going to happen on its own. I had to want it ardently enough. Doing everything admirably well matters very little if you can't finish the job"
If you haven't read it already, you must get Vishy Anand's Mind Master. It's his autobiography and some amazing nuggets of information about his life and journey. Vishy Anand's final words, "We are very good at chess, because we spend a lot of time trying to be good at chess. We concentrate better because we are interested in the subject. We remember things because we attach stories to them, we like remembering them and they are useful. That's our focus. Whatever you want to be good at, you can train and become good at it."
Watching interviews of sporting legends is one of the best ways to get inspired. Just like how one statement of Vishy Anand was good enough to get me out of my procrastinating situation and into action, there could be something else that you would have found in these 10 points that could help you.
Cred's YouTube channel (filled with some amazing content)