Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Routine without risk will stagnate: Viswanathan Anand

Five-time world champion and India's first grandmaster Viswanathan Anand shares his strategies and tactics to stay ahead of the curve

Kathakali Chanda
Published: Apr 12, 2022 12:22:23 PM IST
Updated: Apr 12, 2022 06:00:55 PM IST

Routine without risk will stagnate: Viswanathan AnandFive-time world champion and India’s first Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand Image: Madhu Kapparath

Five-time world champion and India’s first Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand shares his strategies and tactics to stay ahead of the curve

Your next business meeting could mirror the 64 squares on a chess board. How do you achieve a checkmate? “With a plan,” said five-time world champion and India’s first Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand. “When you play against someone, you always go with a base plan, which is a sequence of events you expect to happen.”

Among the processes that you do to get ready is to assess the things that can go wrong. “Most of these will be unknown, so you’ll have to imagine them. But, from your past experiences, you’ll know what has gone wrong, and you eliminate them by planning ahead,” said Anand during his keynote address at the 2022 Forbes India Leadership Awards.  

To plan is to visualise scenarios and examine each in detail. There could, of course, be a dream scenario, where all the pieces of a puzzle fall right into their place. “But you have to have a balance of optimistic and realistic scenarios,” said Anand.

“Realistic, unfortunately, is that you’ll probably miss the target and you won’t get the position you want,” he added. “I try to think that, in every situation that I find myself in, do I have enough to cope? Is there anything unexpected that can happen to me? Not too many scenarios turn up in those situations, but I see to it that I would bail out in each one so that I can get back to the base line, which is no plan at all and where I haven’t been ambushed.”

For Anand, routine is good—it puts you in the game mode, and helps you stay alert. That journey from the airport to the hotel forewarns you of the upcoming match, meeting the opponents in the lobby makes the contest that bit more real. “Then the draw of lots, and the first game starts—you know these sequences will happen in every tournament,” said Anand. “Each one of those steps will help you concentrate that bit more, and your brain will start working in overdrive, and all sorts of scenarios that you hadn’t mapped out before will emerge because you are fully alert.”

But as you prepare with a predictable routine, so do your opponents. How does one stay ahead of the curve? By bringing something new to the table, one that hasn’t been fully mapped out anywhere. You learn to take a few risks to get ahead, but in a controlled fashion that doesn’t upend your base plans.

“You need to balance the amount of routine and predictability with the risk you need to get that extra reward,” said Anand. “A routine without risk will eventually stagnate, but too much risk is too much to handle. Bring in some new stuff bit by bit in every game or tournament. This consistent work will keep pushing you forward.”

(This story appears in the 22 April, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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