A Board Game That Battles Boredom And Improves IQ

If there is one name in India Chess is synonymous with, it is unequivocally that of Viswanathan Anand. Today India may have 65 Grandmasters but this was not the case 33 years back, when “Vishy” (as he is fondly called) became country’s first Grandmaster in December 1987 and won the World Chess Championship in 2000.He talks about why chess is one of the best mind games ever – in an exclusive with Namrata Kohli

It is believed that playing chess results in better brain function, improved memory and cognitive abilities. Does playing chess make one smarter?I think what it trains you to do is it improves your pattern recognition – so chess is about seeing a lot of patterns and connecting the dots and seeing the bigger picture, so to speak. And then it’s been proven in many studies, that students who play couple of hours of chess a week, their academics get better. They retain information much better.

Second is the ability to concentrate on a problem, push aside the distractions because when you play chess game, there is a huge responsibility– you can’t take your move back. Therefore your decisions become quite critical and you learn to block all other thoughts and during the game, the game is all you can think about. Chess is all about increasing the focus. One byproduct of dealing with so many games and trying to recall what you need at the right time is that it surely improves your memory.

You mentioned somewhere that during a game of chess, with aptitude being equal, it’s the attitude that takes you notches higher. Please explain this a little more.Attitude is everything. First of all, I talk about the Bonn match and how I had this incredible desire to compete against my opponent then, and manage to enjoy the match. I concluded that one of the reasons that match was so good for me, was my attitude as that is what drove everything- from my enthusiasm and how I carried away to my work, my play. Today I can say, that if two people are technically balanced, the outcome will be decided by other factors – they can be psychological, they can be motivational, but they won’t be decided purely on technical matters.

Chess is not a team sport and one has to turn inward to draw in resources and energy. Does chess make one introvert? How has it been with you? It seems sometimes when you are thinking of a certain position or about some aspect of chess, that rest of the world is interrupting. If someone is talking continuously, you feel its noise. But it’s not that one can’t connect with the world outside. I do enjoy life outside of chess.

Is there a stipulated time that a game of chess takes – what has been your longest and your shortest game so far? The longest was 15 hours long while the shortest was 20 minutes.

Chess originated in India where it was called Chaturanga, in 6th century AD. In a sense you are carrying forward legacy. When you were Grandmaster there wasn’t anyone else and now you say there are 65 grand-masters from India. It’s a great point when we are celebrating a piece of legacy. What do you say?When I won the world title there was some feeling of chess coming back home, because we invented the game and then lost track of it even though it continued in certain circles. During the time of many of our kings couple of 100 years ago, it was still popular in courts. Even though this is not the exact version of the game that we exported and there have been modifications, it’s nice we are rediscovering the game and competing.

Full Interview at Business Standard: https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/there-s-proof-that-chess-improves-students-academics-vishwanathan-anand-120022701216_1.html

Q/A – Viswanathan Anand

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