Ten Life Lessons From GM Viswanathan Anand


By Ian King

A month or so ago, friend and fellow chess player James Kabue brought to my attention a social media forward containing highly useful tips from the great former World Champion Viswanathan Anand. For those who might not have had the privilege to view it, here’s a summary of the ten life lessons embedded in it. I believe any person new to this read will find his advice most treasurable.

1. Keep Your Mind Sharp

“…When you keep on playing the same opening lines over and over again, you lose concentration and start making unforced mistakes. Home preparation and certain familiar positions can make you feel too relaxed and unfocused. Spice things up! Study a lot and experiment. I keep it busy by studying foreign languages and astronomy. There are many other ways to keep the grey cells working, as long as you can come up with new tasks and find solutions…”

2. Don’t Be Afraid

“…There’s no system that can 100% prevent failure. When making an important decision, there’s always an element of intuition. Sometimes you gamble and get lucky, and win the game. Sometimes, it can be the complete opposite, and you start playing safe. That’s a real mistake, you’re afraid to lose and start overthinking if a certain move is too risky or not, not performing at your full potential…”

3. Let Your Opponent Blunder

“…If your opponent is obviously in poor shape throughout a tournament, you need to be patient and push him into making a mistake. In other words, you need to create favorable conditions that will maximize his chances of error. However, you should always be in control of the position and especially of your own pieces. It’s best to have a couple of tricks up your sleeve. Unexpected moves can easily lure your opponent into blundering…”

4. Keep Your Emotions Under Control

“…We can always feel when our opponent is comfortable and when he isn’t. Body language is pretty powerful. Use it to your advantage. Try to be unreadable yourself. I have trained myself to remain calm even when I’m boiling inside…”

5. Stay Active

“…I typically spend about 2 hours in the gym daily. I start with cardio, then stretching and finally weight lifting. That clears up my mind which trains alongside my body. Sometimes, especially during crucial moments of a chess tournament, I do breathing exercises. Try the deep breathing technique. The amount of oxygen in the blood is proportional to the brain’s performance…”

6. Plan Ahead

“…When you finally reach a goal you have been striving for a bit of time, many years maybe, it’s pretty difficult focusing on something else. It’s easy for your brain to turn off. However, that is a good time to give it a kick and start working even harder on your next goal. However, planning too much ahead can be discouraging. Just try to look forward to your next goal…then the next…then the next…

7. Move Forward

“…It does not matter how successful you are today. You need to move forward. Otherwise, you risk becoming too confident in yourself. Sometimes, a little stress helps. If you feel the tiniest mistake can ruin everything, you become more concentrated and start playing better. However, if things don’t go as expected, you need to forget about the big  picture goals and focus on small problems. Agood chess player is confident he can win at least one game in the next four.

In chess, one move can separate the biggest winner from the biggest loser. You always remember the game you blundered away the most. But you shouldn’t. It is best to forget about it, and move forward. If you lose today and learn a good lesson, you will be more successful tomorrow. That is the best ideology in situations like that…”

8. Take Risks

“…Sometimes you don’t take an opponent seriously enough and he beats you over the board. However, taking all opponents seriously is also a bad strategy. You risk losing self-confidence and start calculating every move twice. Nowadays, when all chess players use the same software for training, the main difference between players is how much reasonable risk they are willing to take. Nerves of steel and ‘risky’ moves are the only way to becoming World Champion…”

9. Don’t Overestimate Yourself

“…The best strategy is to take each tournament as a blank slate and forget all about your previous
victories and defeats…”

10. Enjoy Whatever You Do

“…The best advice I can give you? Enjoy whatever you do and always learn to do it better…”

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