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Mind Master: Winning Lessons from a Champion's Life

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Few people know better than Viswanathan Anand how to think strategically at lightning speed and work under immense pressure to overcome the toughest odds.

From the time he learnt to move pieces on a chessboard as a six-year-old, Vishy – as Anand is fondly called – has racked up innumerable accolades.

The first World Chess Champion from Asia, he emerged on to the world stage when chess was largely a Soviet preserve, climbed the ranks to become World No. 1, bagged five World Championship titles and won tournaments across all formats of the game. A peerless ambassador of chess, his is one of the most revered names in the sport.

In Mind Master, Vishy looks back on a lifetime of games played, opponents tackled and circumstances overcome, and draws from its depths significant tools that will help every reader navigate life’s challenges:

What role do tactics and strategy play in the preparation for achieving a goal?

How can emotions be harnessed to your advantage in tricky situations?

What precautions should you take before you decide to leave your comfort zone and embrace risk?

What do you need to do to stay relevant in the face of rapidly changing realities?

Is unlearning really the only way to learn?

These are just some of the nuggets Vishy touches upon with characteristic wit, easy wisdom and disarming candour in Mind Master – a delightful and invaluable exploration into the self that will thrill, inspire and motivate readers as few books have done before.

272 pages, Hardcover

Published December 11, 2019

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Viswanathan Anand

13 books30 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 149 reviews
Profile Image for Bharath.
569 reviews434 followers
September 22, 2020
This book is about Vishwanathan Anand’s professional chess career, but it is also a lot more – a tribute to his entire support system, family and passion which goes into the making of a world champion, and has lessons for life itself. For Indians, Anand is a national icon – a champion (the first chess grandmaster from India) who represents the country where the game originated with great grace & passion. Often being a nice guy is not exactly good news, the media would much rather write about “temperamental”, “erratic”, “angry”, “arrogant” achievers. As a result, a lot of what Anand achieved was regarded as either being lucky or not enough (for a 5-time world champion!) and has been less written about.

The book oscillates between multiple timelines but has coverage of Anand’s early years – the support from his mother, his gradual ascent to becoming a grandmaster and his professional career right till his loss to Magnus Carlsen in the World Championship. There is considerable coverage on the preparation for each of the big world championship tournaments and the contributions of his family (his wife and at times earlier his dad doubling up as his manager to negotiate contracts) & the support team, and the politics involved. This is perhaps one of the few books you will read where the ideas & efforts of the support team are acknowledged so graciously. The matches against Kasparov, Kramnik, Topalov, Gelfand & Carlsen all make for very interesting reading. There are also discussions around the growing role of technology. Anand mentions how many years back when Ken Thompson (designer of the original Unix operating system) was asked if computers could learn strategy – he answered without hesitation that it would happen without doubt as strategy was in simple terms “long term tactics”. Apparently, many chess players knew that machines would overtake them at some point, though they preferred not to go public with that. There is this interesting narration on the preparation for his match with Topalov. Anand’s team came to know that Topalov had access to the latest version of the Rybka chess engine running on 128 core hardware. Coincidentally, Anand received help from Kramnik & Kasparov and was able to prevail in a close match over Topalov.

Anand admits that starting with his title defense against Gelfand, he has found it difficult to find new ideas and re-invent his game. He acknowledges how Magnus Carlsen was far better prepared – had new ideas and had thoroughly researched Anand’s style.

This book is an excellent read. It could have been even better if it were better organized. The book in fact gets off to a very average start with the first paragraph being poorly written. But it recovers after that, and the overall content is top class. Anand has been an exceptional ambassador for the game and would be a great mentor and is an inspiration for the next generation of chess players.

Strongly recommended – you only need a working knowledge of the game as there are very few game analyses included.

My rating: 4.5 / 5.
Profile Image for Siddharth Saravanan.
77 reviews3 followers
December 26, 2019
Astounding read! Loved every single moment in my journey through this book. I have a feeling I'll be returning to this book many more times in the future.

A disclaimer,
-For the people looking for a technical book with tactics and strategies pertaining to Chess, this book does not address that.
-For the people looking for a comprehensive autobiography, this book doesn't address that either.

This book is primarily a compendium of lessons and learnings that the author has accumulated in his storied career. However it isn't just any run of the mill self-development book. What makes this book truly remarkable is the author's incredible honesty and candor. I was transported into his shoes, and could understand every thing that the author told, and felt the importance of those nuggets of learnings.

Its been years since I played Chess, but Viswanathan Anand has articulated his thoughts in such a way that it could be relevant to any career/phase of life.
I've always admired Vishy Anand from a distance, and it was such an enriching journey to be able to witness the workings of his mind via this book.
Profile Image for William K. Moses Jr..
344 reviews23 followers
April 23, 2020
Let me clear up a few things up front.
1. I'm very interested in playing chess and learning more about the sport.
2. I want to know what the point of playing chess is when computers can beat us 9 times out of 10.
3. I know how I think when I play chess (I'm not that great). I want to know what goes through the mind of a top player when he thinks over a position.
4. I'm interested in Vishy Anand and want to know his story since he's the first GM from India and rose up despite a lack of a strong Indian chess ecosystem during his time.

Now that you know my motivations to read this book, you also know the metrics I based my rating of this book on.

This book was great, in my opinion. I got to see how Anand thinks through positions (not necessarily specific ones, but general positional evaluation). I got to see how a top class player feels when playing games. I got to see why Anand was able to rise up in the chess system despite India not having a great ecosystem at the time (hint: he didn't live in India for several years of his chess career). I got a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to reign at the top (it's not all glitz and glamor). And I finally got to understand why people keep playing chess even when computers are so good. The reason: you're not playing computers, you're playing people. Even if computers help identify great lines, the game itself is still exciting since people don't have infinite memory, are not emotionless, and are definitely subject to their own biases. In essence, chess is still a game that pits people against each other in a wonderfully brutal but nonviolent way. Computers are merely a tool to help us have more fun.
Profile Image for Gil.
85 reviews1 follower
November 23, 2020
The book grew on me after a while. The first chapter was describing how Anand persevered in the face of adversity but it seemed to me that he was just eloquently complaining about all the times people treated him wrongly.
But with the following chapters, I got used to Anands way of writing and actually quite enjoyed this look into the world of professional chess and Anands interesting life story.

My own interest in chess flares up every then and now. I spend maybe a couple of weeks playing it a lot online before I get bored of it again or something else comes along.
What the book helped me realize was that I am not consumed by one single topic.
Obviously, someone who has gotten to the very top of a sport like this, has spent endless hours playing it for years. I realized I am not like that.
Profile Image for Abhishek ..
16 reviews2 followers
April 7, 2020
I remember the time when I was searching for a book in Calicut's HiLite Mall. Suddenly, I came across a very clean yet impactful cover. The Mind Master it read. Vishy Anand has been a known Indian jewel for long now. Yet, there was very little that I knew about his journey. Also, it reminded me of the time when I used to play chess with my father.

As I read, the book made me realize how often we leave things in between and do not put in much effort to even understand whether we can excel in that field or not. His relentless effort, multidimensional preparation before any match and perseverance points to the fact that there is no quick path to motivation. Everything that we do in our day to day activity is a part of limitless learning and nothing goes waste.

The book truly inspired me to never stop dreaming and learning. It is that 'want' which motivates us to learn. It can be anything- from learning a guitar to being a blogger. There is always something that stops us. Maybe the past experience, maybe the fear of failure. As Anand explains magnificently, unlearning is the hardest but the most important component of learning.

I would recommend this real page-turner if you are up for an immersive experience in the field of chess and ready to unlearn!
Profile Image for Peter Nielsen.
6 reviews7 followers
January 5, 2020
Very honest memoirs, giving great insights into the mind of one the games greatest champions.
Not holding back, not caring about revealing information, its gives the real picture of the emotions going through youm when figthing at the absolute top. Both when everything went well, or when you feel helpless.
Great read!
Profile Image for Abhishek Dafria.
464 reviews20 followers
March 14, 2021
Writing your own story is a tricky business because of the obvious bias. But that bias, if handled well, can make a memoir a joy to read for who else can take the reader through the set of emotions the author felt during his zenith and nadir! Viswanathan Anand is one of the last sportsmen you would expect to have faced emotional upheavals in his life and career for he carries such a calm exterior. But Mind Master is his way of bringing out that he too is human.

This is a terrific book whether you have followed Anand’s career or not, whether you even understand the difference between a d4 or e4 opening. Anand narrates his life’s journey by picking the right moments worth recounting and what he learnt from those moments which we can absorb too. He avoids a chronological narration that one can anyway look up on Wikipedia but juggles back and forth between games and tournaments that mattered, between relationships that he held dear, between competitors that got the best out of him. He does not hold back in sharing his thoughts on other GrandMasters he faced, some his close friends now. The life lessons that are summarised at the end of each chapter are worth jotting down and remembering no matter which field you are in. It is a book of a true champion, one who has seen the pinnacles of success and yet remains rooted, who has loved the game for it gave him pure joy, one who aged like a gentleman as new youngsters have started to dominate, one who still has a lot of offer. A worthy role model for anyone in the world!
Profile Image for Sophia.
99 reviews4 followers
January 13, 2021
Chess floors me. Bullet chess, 10 board blindfolded simuls, and the one game I played with a chess-loving friend which ended with him saying, “Checkmate in 5.”

I’ve always thought of Chess GMs as superhuman. So the great surprises of this book were (1) its accessibility and (2) its sheer humanity.

(1) Anand breaks down the mental process of top level players writing: “Essentially what chess players have isn’t an inexplicably photographic memory, but contextual memory. What most of us do is convert a picture into a story. ‘Oh, these three pawns haven’t been moved, so White was basically moving these other pawns’”

(2) I didn’t except to tear up while reading a book about chess, but I found Anand’s story unexpectedly moving. For all of Carlsen and Naka’s brilliance, modesty is not the first descriptor that comes to mind. Vishy is different.

Anand writes about crying every day during a tournament held weeks after his mother’s death. He speaks with humility of his twilight years as younger players started to overtake him. On why he keeps playing anyway:

“We’re now in the sport for the joy of playing rather than the pursuit of a ranking; for running into greying buddies and players old enough to be our sons; for telling the world we still love a good fight.”

I loved the scattered anecdotes of family, the nuggets of wisdom and psychology, and the recounting of memorable positions from his career.

Profile Image for Anvesh.
182 reviews27 followers
October 16, 2021
Memoir of an iconic chess player that inspired a generation of Indians to pursue Chess as a career and has brought it main stream. I still remember waiting for newspaper to be out when he was playing 2002 World chess championships to know the result in days where information was not so easily available as today. I felt analysis of his games was on lower side as compared to what i expected having watched so many agadmator videos on youtube, but he did cover his iconic games against Aronian, Caruana, Kasporov, Lautier and the moves that made all the difference in this book. This book also mentions of how chess players mental models works by visualizing moves in logical steps rather than merely remembering them and how World chess tournaments place significant burden in terms of preparation required to play against same opponent 10+ times in a matter of few weeks. Incredibly detailed book on how painful the life at top is for chess players and how their life evolved with evolving engines and role of seconds for a top chess player. Wonderful book for anyone interested in chess. Special mention to his wife who managed his all non-game related stuff and made a significant positive impact on his life.
Profile Image for Devika Das.
Author 7 books24 followers
January 3, 2020
If you like sports or have engaged in any sporting activity yourself, you will relate to the grit, determination, discipline, and perseverance that the Grandmaster has practiced all his life. This book is inspirational and many lessons to be learned from this wonderful person's life. Even if you can imbibe a few of them, your life will become better.

Several paragraphs attracted my interest. I shall not mention it here as then the review will be a spoiler :)


I liked the flow of the content however like other non-fiction books, it seems to be dragging a point sometimes.
Profile Image for Rohan Sangodkar.
90 reviews37 followers
October 6, 2020
"Unlearning is perhaps the hardest thing to do, but it is a necessity if growth and success are your goals."

According to me, Vishwanathan "Vishy" Anand is the most underrated and undercelebrated sportsman in India. What this man has achieved is impossible to gauge for a commoner like me. This book is very testament to the fact where we get to glimpse into the life of Vishy Anand.

My knowledge of Chess as a competitive sport increased immensely after this read, at the same time my already present respect for Chess players multi-folded.

What impressed me most about this book was a match note at the end of every chapter and the parallel drawn between Chess and life mentioned to the bottom of it.

Normally I would have rated this 4/5 since 5/5 is a holy grail for me. But we as a country, we have let this man down a lot of times from confiscating his laptop at the airport which was being imported into the country solely for the purpose of playing Chess to not sponsoring a man who is representing India on a world podium.

This 5/5 is a small tribute to this great man from my side.

Last but not least. Due to my profession as a photographer and some well-settled friends, I had the fortune of crossing a path with Vishwanathan Anand and he was kind enough to sign a copy for me.

6 reviews7 followers
September 11, 2020
The autobiography takes you through the journey of Vishwanathan Anand from being a child prodigy to becoming the first Chess Grandmaster from India and later going on to become World Champion not just once but five times. The book provides insight into Anand's thinking, how he dealt with various ups and downs in his life, and how things work in the world of Chess.
Reaching the very apex of any sport is an extremely difficult feat to achieve and doing that coming from India where he had no precedent to follow is just astonishing. He single-handedly made chess popular in the country and inspired so many young chess players who are now following his footsteps.
Profile Image for Kraka Laka.
7 reviews1 follower
June 28, 2020
My first ever autobiography type of book that I loved so much! It's very interesting to read about the preparation which are carried out before big championship games, how pressurising they are for such a champion, all the anxiety, rivalry , focus, nervousness and the joy at the end! Wow...
Anand takes us to the journey of ups and downs of chess voyage! Some of the lessons are very basics but brilliantly highlighted! It's a lovely read for all the Chess lovers.
Dedicate this read to you Jiaan. The joy Anand was feeling with his son at later time of his life, is what I feel with you everyday!
#Love #kids #kidgasm #chess
May 16, 2021
One of the first sports autobiography I have read. Vishy anand is a legend. Fascinating read on life of first Indian grandmaster . Chess is a sport that demands mental toughness and brilliance anand won world championship for five times. No Indian has even come closer to achieving that feat.
61 reviews9 followers
October 27, 2020
An engaging read! I didnt know much about chess, but was always in admiration of Vishy Anand for what he has achieved ... I enjoyed reading this book!
February 28, 2021
One does not need to know how to play chess to derive value from this book. Although it would make the read more interesting. The book gives a good window into the mind of one of the most under-discussed legendary Indian sportspersons. And Anand adds a good amount of humour as well, to keep the reader entertained the whole while.
Profile Image for Sunil Shinde.
Author 4 books6 followers
August 21, 2020
Viswanath Anand writes his biography Mind Master with a heart even larger than his brain. Especially chapter 11, which gives a glimpse of the everyday battles of an aging champion.

With disarming honestly, Vishy Anand brings to his readers and his fans his crumbling state of mind, aghast at his fast deteriorating chess skills, as he defends his World Champion title twice. In 2012 in Moscow against Gelfand - himself an old-fashioned chess champion, Vishy succeeds narrowly only to meet the young and rampaging Carlsen in 2013 in Chennai.

Of course, champions are defined by what they do after major setbacks.
27 reviews
January 12, 2021
The book was an interesting read as someone with chess interest and having grown up in India in Anand's prime years. However, the book tries to talk about his journey as a chess champion, spew life advice and present details of opening and chess moves all in one. Consequently, it fails to do any one of them well. I felt like everything was done at a surface level as a result. This could have been better written.

That said, I did really like reading about the impact that computers have had on the game, how much easier it is to run lines and figure out what the best move in each position is. This kind of preparation that takes a day now used to take weeks or months before. I also liked seeing that strategies for chess - like having a plan and an opening but willing to adapt to change - translated to broader life also.
Profile Image for Anurag Mishra.
150 reviews4 followers
September 2, 2020
This is the best sports or a biopic i have read. Things that make this book unique are
1. The author has not shied away from talking about his flaws and mistakes.
2. The true acceptance of the fact that he was no where close carlsen in 2013 wc.
3 . Has not made any excuses for his mistakes or failures and has always credited his success to all his team members with apt description of there roles and praised there efforts.
4. Has valued learning, knowledge and updating skills from time to time
5. There is not an iota of narcissism in this book
6. The lessons shared by the author could be applied in all walks of life.

The self doubts, emotions , match descriptions explained here makes it a delightful read.
Profile Image for Varun Upadhyay.
51 reviews1 follower
November 13, 2020
Great account of a fabulous chess career. Vishy is someone whom I aspire to be in terms of character and personality. "A storm running inside but a calm and composed portrayal from outside"
5 reviews
June 28, 2021
This book is an awesome read, Vishy Sir discussed his preparation & matches, tactics about chess, and also for life. He has mentioned real-time stories about his world championship matches. Love this Book
1 review
January 19, 2022
A characteristically humble description of his achievements - enriched by philosophical musings and personal insights.
Profile Image for Aryan Sarath.
Author 4 books33 followers
December 30, 2019
When Viswanathan Anand played for the World Championship title in 2013 in Hyatt Regency, Chennai, I badly wanted to see the match not because it featured the then World Champion Magnus Carlsen but to meet my childhood inspiration and idol Vishy(as he is fondly called by his fans). I did not get the ticket/pass but little did I knew by then that I would get to meet this legend on 4 different occasions including the book signing session of his autobiography.

I picked this book out of sheer interest and the reading proved to be worth my time and money. When you get to know up close about the Five Time World Champion, who being the India's first GM and has inspired to produce as many as 64(as the number of squares on the Chess board) till date talks about the volume though he humbly says that he has played a little part in inspiring the youngsters to take up the game.

The chapters of the book were interestingly named as the title namely:

1. Ditching the Ladder : Of Gut, Heart and A Winning Idea

2. Sticky Notes : Madras, Manila, Madrid and Everything In between

3. The Art Of Remembering : Hooks, Hacks and Serendipity

4. Win Some Lose Some : Emotions and The Power Of Objectivity

5. Gathering The Troops : How to make Preparation count and Tactics work

6. New York New York : The Making of a Champion

7. The Gift and The Grit : Making Talent Work Hard

8. Mining The Mind and Machines : Decision Making, Date and A New Giant on the block

9. Bonn Again : Finding Beauty in Risk

10. The Adversity Advantage : A volcanic ash cloud, a Road Trip and a Title

11. Two Cities One State : Battling Learned Helplessness

12. Staying Alive : Of today's wins and tomorrow's horizons

Each and every chapter is a gem in its own accord. I could sense his pride, achievement, hours of hard work that has gone into it coupled with passion, grit and sacrifice. He has also had a tinge of sarcasm imbibed in few places. The book begins slowly like a flight in the runway, gathers gradual momentum and takes off and after hovering in the sky for a while, makes a landing which is common for any person - as it cannot defy Physics/Newton's Law.

His revelation of having photographic memory and not contextual memory would make his fans feel better, even in case, he could not recollect their faces(despite meeting them on several occasion). He openly admits that he even forgot his wedding date and how he keeps forgetting little things mostly the mouse pads and the gemstone rings which his mother got it for him. This shows even the Word Champion had some issues to cope up with.

His neutral stance during the split of the Chess organizing body and how he did not support Gary Kasparov who stood for the FIDE Presidential elections were a classic. His mention about Manuel Aaron, Singer SP Balasubramaniam shows how their contribution had left a mark on him.

Do you know?

Vishy started as a Tennis Player.

He was asked by the organizers of the contest to not to take part in it anymore and he could take home as many books as he wanted.

He talks about the intervention of machines and AI(I had the privilege to listen to his speech regarding this first hand during the launch of ChessKid platform in Chennai) and how even he had to consult a sports psychologist once.

There are many such interesting events that has happened in his life which has been compiled in such a beautiful way that you would even forget of having spent a good 3-4 hours in reading this book. There is no wonder that this book is placed at #1 in the category of Sports on Amazon(Bestseller) as of today - 20th Dec,2019.

Vishy has inspired us for more than 3 decades and he would continue to do so for few more decades through this book, for sure....
Profile Image for Aru.
1 review
December 28, 2019
I don't know where to begin. Maybe with the title itself? Mind Master, titled unimaginatively you may think, illustrates in beautiful and relatable text that it takes mastery over one's own mind to conquer repeatedly. How outcomes affect your mental state and vice versa, how this man took a grip again and again after the blows between wins, the lessons he learnt and the invaluable advice that stems from his own life's learnings are some of the things that make this book a delectable read. It is versatile. It is an amalgam of history, biography, life-lessons, sporting thrills, self-help lessons and more. The tone is not self-aggrandising at all. There is more critique and self-admonishing than self-praise.

The language isn't heavily literary yet the book reads well. Tense matches, historical moments, match backstories, the efforts that go into making a chess champion, the many many supporters, arguable betrayals, loyalties and accounts of so much more.

Aruna, his wife, stands out. As a reader one can tell that without her, much, much less would be possible. Vishy acknowledges this of course, but for a moment one does wonder if he's given the reader more insight than he himself actually has on her role in every bit of his success since she came into his life. For a moment, I also thought it would be lovely to have this play out from Aruna's perspective. Have there been silent sacrifices? Is there anything she has herself missed out on in this all consuming chess-life? Has she enjoyed the journey? (I'm sure she has).

I've watched several interviews of Vishy and vaguely knew some of the key incidents from before. Yet, the book was a delightful read, nearly "unputdownable".

There is a whole world of chess 'seconds' (trainers) that I knew nothing about. There is a team working behind you and how exceedingly arduously and closely it works for you, this book is replete with accounts of. There is a beautifully documented road-trip preceding a crucial tournament and it occurred to me at that point how fitting a movie material this book was, not that I wished for it to be made into one. Because the best account is the one from the horse's mouth.

This book does explicitly offer life/career advice and from time to time, seeks to address professionals in general, outside of chess. I related to and highlighted a good few lines and the takeaway messages did not feel forced as they stemmed naturally from incidents and experiences of his own.

There are juicier parts as well for the curious, nosey souls who've wondered what the state of things, or let's say the people concerned was, in 2013. Someone did a celebratory splash fully clothed into the hotel pool and someone retired to bed early. Poignant.

Vishy is rational, self-critical, honest and evolving. He has already done what has never been done before. He is the live and active link between the new and the old. Small pang of disappointment then, at the hint towards the end that titles aren't the main goal anymore. Somewhere, one dearly hopes that age is a bigger barrier than it is made out to be and Vishy will continue to prove this for a VERY long time to come.

Happy 50 Vishy!
Profile Image for Harish Vaidyanathan.
15 reviews2 followers
December 16, 2019
Firstly, I've always been fascinated with the rise of Vishy, even though am not an ardent chess fan unlike some of my friends. But Vishy pretty much single-handedly authored the rise of Indian chess on the global stage.

While I'd have liked the book to be more technical, it was a fun read. I guess the writer ended up combining biography with a "here's what it means for your business" which was utterly unnecessary IMO.

Just because business books sell more doesnt mean that India's greatest chess player is also going to give business gyan. Might have been best delivered as a PPT than as a book

But the sheer joy of making IM, GM, Winning Candidates, Winning Championships - that is unmistakably expressed in full spirit.

Giving it a 3* for the business angle and 4* for the biographic angle
3 reviews1 follower
April 26, 2021
The best sports autobiography I had read..

The book had everything u wanted to know about the legendary champion and had nth thats worth skipping.. a page turner despite the knowledge of most of the outcomes..

Most of all.. his thought processes through all those nerve cracking moments are extremely invaluable.
Profile Image for Afref Fetter Fetter.
80 reviews1 follower
December 28, 2020
4.5/5. Great book. Nice & short. Contains some useful anecdotes about life (pasted below):

"It always makes sense to keep working at goals without obsessing over how far you're from it or how hopelessly you're missing the mark each time. If you persevere, it will eventually be yours."

"The mind only recovers emotionally when it can replace an old memory with a new, more pleasant one."

"The path to a happy, unplanned discovery starts with learning. It doesn’t matter if what you’re learning now isn’t of immediate relevance to the pool of resources you draw upon. In the end, these bits – the book you wanted to browse through but ended up buying, the language course you took to kill time on weekends or the guitar lessons you signed up for in college – might just come together one day, unexpectedly, beautifully, almost by accident."

"Here’s a lesson in serendipity and limitless learning. Nothing you do, however unconnected it is to your livelihood or your life’s goal, goes waste. You never know when an idea that you’ve read about or heard of, or an activity you’ve dabbled in, will pay off. It’s wise, then, to keep your interests and your learning as varied and broad as you can."

"Being confrontational can hardly be a one-off affair. It’s a ceaseless loop. You have to keep clarifying your position and stick to it. There are people who thrive in an atmosphere of combat, tension and conflict – but that has never been my strongest suit."

"Bottling up emotions, even if done bit by bit, one tiny instance after another, can cumulatively turn into a giant, unwieldy heap of rocks you can no longer tow. You just keep pushing down the angst, pretending nothing has happened, but the truth is it’s going nowhere. If you bury it for too long, the collection of repressed emotions will simmer and eventually boil over in a fiercer form, often at the most ill-timed moments when you can barely afford it."

"Emotions tend to get in the way of clear thinking. Whether it’s impatience, frustration, fury, self-loathing or even premature elation – allowing these to consume the mind results in a loss of focus and distraction from learning, and keeps you from taking the right decisions and achieving your goal. Training your mind to take a step back at the crucial moment and developing cues to organize your thoughts is more advantageous than making a move while your mind is in turmoil."

"I’ve found that training for short bursts can be as effective as trying to work for a long time, especially when it comes to intense work where you absolutely block all distractions and focus on the problem. If you work for a long time, then inevitably, at some point, your mind will wander, and your energy and interest will both flag. You may end up squandering your resources. Short bursts, I’ve found, are the most productive – much like brief meetings, or indeed short working days – because they can be intense, focused periods when you stop thinking of everything else and quit multi-tasking. Naturally, when your work interests you, you’re able to work a lot harder during the short bursts. The best concentration exercise you can give yourself is working on something that really intrigues you. In areas you find unpleasant, setting yourself mini targets might be helpful."
Profile Image for S G Akshaykumar.
55 reviews4 followers
March 2, 2021
I am pretty sure I heard his name when I was preparing for quiz competitions in school. I knew that he was the current World Champion in chess, this was way back in two thousand and seven. I knew that he was the only Indian to have achieved this feat. I also knew that he was the first Indian to be a Grandmaster. Those were the only three facts I knew about Vishy Anand for a long time. At some point, I also got to know that he had defeated Vladimir Kramnik. All these names didn’t mean a thing. I just knew it. It was just one more thing that occupied a corner in Akshay’s house of useless knowledge.

If you had asked me, who my favourite chess player was I didn’t have a clear answer. Sometimes, I enjoyed Kasporov’s aggressive style. Sometimes I enjoyed Magnus’ ability to create problems in deadbeat positions. But I would have never said, Vishy Anand because, I never knew him as a player.

Until I read this book, I did not know the stories behind him. I never knew that he was called ‘Lightning Kid’ because he liked to play fast. That he was primarily a 1. e4 player, who liked sharp and tactical positions. I didn’t know that he was the only world champion to win the title in three different tournament formats. I didn’t know that his first world championship match, way back in 1995, was held on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center in New York.

But at the end of the day, this is all trivia. These never reveal what kind of a person he was or what he did before a world championship match or what did he feel after losing the title to Magnus. The book does a wonderful job of telling these stories and sharing some lessons along the way.

The book begins with his preparations for the World Championship match in 2007, where he would win the title for the first time. It covers his three successful defenses of his titles and eventual loss to Magnus in 2013. It does a very quick recap of his life since, ending with his wins at the World Rapid Championship in 2017 and Tata steel tournament in 2019.

There are some crazy stories that we find along the way. The most wonderful one has to be the fifty hour journey across Europe to reach the venue of the World Championship match. There are stories of triumphs and setbacks. Vishy lays it all out, with all honesty. He shares the mood after the darkest defeats as well as the jubilations after the most exhilarating wins. He confronts his losses, never shying away and manages to stay humble through the wins.

The lessons are, well, they are a bit generic. It’s everything you would expect. There is hardly anything you would find counterintuitive or undiscovered. But may be the key to success is in keeping things simple. I enjoyed the stories, cruised through when the lessons became too spelled out. I would have preferred if the book had just been a book of stories and let me pick my own lessons from those. But overall I enjoyed the stories. I enjoyed getting to know Vishy better. I hope you will too.
30 reviews3 followers
August 26, 2020
I loved this book so much. There are so many life lessons packed in and it makes for such a smooth reading experience.

Narrative Structure The narrative structure of this book is so fresh ! I was expecting a chronological presentation of his life, from his childhood all the way to his world championships. Instead, each chapter has a theme. Some of these themes are concrete events like a World Championship Match, and some of these themes are his thoughts on memory, computer preparation, talent vs hard work. Anecdotes and incidents from his life are often explained in reference to the point being discussed rather than listed in chronological order.

Chess Games As a chess fan, this is probably the most disappointing part of the book for me. The book is intended to target a large audience and so keeps the talks about chess to a minimum. Some of his best games like the ones against Beliavsky, Caruana (Qd4) and Aronian in Wijk Ann Zee are briefly mentioned but they are not analysed. This is not a collection of his best games, and although he does make a passing reference to his most famous games, he does not dive into the positional details. Each chapter does end with a diagram of 1 of his chess games, but there isn't much depth to it.

Writing Style As a memoir of a sportsperson, I was not expecting the writing quality to be stellar, but it was lovely. There were periods when I felt that I was reading fiction because of the writing quality on display. It is not repetitive, dry or academic but actually does a great job of breathing life into the story.

Trivia I did get to know a lot of interesting trivia about Anand through this such as his love for the TV shows Yes, Prime Minister and his interest in subjects like astronomy and Egyptian History.

Life Lessons There are several life lessons scattered throughout the book. My favourite ones were his flexibility to adapt to the times and update both his knowledge and his way of learning constantly. His love for astronomy and other subjects kept him going when chess results were not in his favour. This was such a powerful lesson for me. Sometimes, things don't go your way, but you need other sources to derive joy from to keep you going !

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