The Literary City

A Journey To The Top Of The World With Chess Legend Viswanathan Anand

August 17, 2022 Explocity Podcasts Season 2 Episode 33
The Literary City
A Journey To The Top Of The World With Chess Legend Viswanathan Anand
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Chess is a finite game with finite variables. Yet, phrases like “infinite possibilities” and “unpredictable outcome” seem completely appropriate when discussing it.

It begs the question, how finite is finite? Finite can be a large number. So large that it may as well be infinite. For example, they have calculated that the number of possibilities in moves and resulting positions in the first 10 moves is a 14-digit number- 69,352,859,712,417. It's called the Shannon number. Yes, that’s finite. But not for some. I can’t count that high myself.

And then they say chess is the only game in the world without an element of chance. There’s no wind factor, no pitch whose inconsistencies make a ball wobble, no noisy and chanting spectators, no rain or being dealt a poor hand—there are two players and only they are responsible for the outcome.

But far from chess being robotic, the most important variable in chess is the human variable. But with humans all variables don’t have to be outside variables. And when outside variables don’t count, we turn inwards. And thus chess becomes a game where strategies go beyond the books.

My guest today is Viswanathan Anand, Grandmaster, World Champion title holder several times over. He is the author of Mind Master, Winning Lessons From A Champion’s Life. He’s a super grandmaster of the game and was reigning world champion for years, until he recently handed the crown to Magnus Carlsen.

At that level of the game, when you have, as opponents, equally matched grandmasters, who have narrowed it down predictable lines of play, all sorts of other factors come into it.

In his book, Anand said that in cases he looks for little tells, like poker players do. The difference in the way an opponent breathes in places, a tightening of the shoulder muscles, a change in demeanour.

Articulate and well spoken and possessed of a great, and often wacky, sense of humour—how bad a can a guy be when his inspiration is Monty Python—Anand’s book is a delight to read.

At so many levels. As motivational lessons for winning. For chess buffs like me who worship the game. Or as the autobiography of a world champion who has the gift of humility on his side. You don’t need to know a whit about chess for this book to make sense.

I spend the last couple of days reading his book and it is my privilege to be able to invite him as a guest today.

Vishy Anand is a five-time world chess champion. India's first grandmaster (1988), he is one of the few to have surpassed an Elo rating of 2800. He is deputy president of FIDE. He inspired a generation of chess players in India. Vishy is an astronomy buff and an avid reader on math, economics and current affairs. He supports many charitable causes, chief among them being that of children with neurological disabilities.

Buy Mind Master: Winning Lessons from a Champion’s Life:
Buy Vishy Anand: My Best Games of Chess:

Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in "What's That Word?!", where they discuss the phrase "tilting at windmills".

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Ramjee vs Vishy