Notes to Myself



Chess, Performance and Fine Line Between Trolling and Sportsmanship

Magnus Carlsen won the prestigious Tata Steel Chess Tournament (formerly Corus Steel Chess Tournament) yesterday after defeating the joint Top position and GM from Netherlands Anish Giri (of Indian origin) in a Tie-break match.

Carlsen won this tournament for the record sixth time and some people have already started calling him “Roger Federer of Chess“!

However what was more interesting was Anish Giri’s continued Twitter banter with Magnus Carlsen – which forms the topic of this blog. Anish Giri is one of very few top chess players who are active on Twitter. Furthermore he is one of very few sports-persons who indulge in sarcastic, witty, sometimes controversial and rude comments on Twitter. Here is what Giri tweeted after his defeat in the Tie-break.


Giri was leading the tournament all along till last round. When Giri was asked after 11th round (with 2 more to go and when he was the sole leader) about a possible tie-break he dismissed the question saying that it was too premature to think about tie-break since he was clearly the leader at that point. But the way he expressed it was very interesting! He said it was “like marrying and skipping your wedding night”.

So when when Carlsen caught up with him for the shared top spot and the tie-break actually happened, Chessbase reported it with the headline: Tata Steel Chess: “Tomorrow is the wedding night

Since there had to be only one winner, they played a tie-break which Giri lost. So one can say that Giri’s tweet was as a sore loser and filled with sarcasm, or it was probably by an outspoken person who likes playful exchanges.

If you have followed Anish Giri on Twitter you would think that it is the latter. Here are more examples.


“One tweet in a row…” 🙂

Or check this sarcastic tweet by Giri when Carlsen recently blundered and lost a piece and the game. A rare blunder by Carlsen. But this backhanded compliment was for the Carlsen’s fans across the world who often say that he is so much ahead of his peers that he can give away a piece against the strong players and still win!


Here is one more after Young Indian GM Vidit Gujarathi won the Challenger section of Tata Steel Chess Tournament and qualified for next year’s Main category. Giri came up with a pun on “we did it”.


Sometime back he took a crack on Carlsen (without naming him) who supposedly left early for preparation and didn’t wait till dessert. Giri brilliant used the chess lingo and asked if it was a “blunder or a sacrifice”?


Then he teased Carlsen who played against Giri and “just managed” a draw.


And going back ever further, he teased Carlsen by an intelligent remark on “Larsen”!


Bent Larsen was a Danish chess grandmaster known for his imaginative and unorthodox style. There is also a Larsen opening named against him. But the positive influence Giri was referring to was Magnus’ girlfriend Synne Cristian Larsen who was also present at the Isle of Man chess tournament!

Giri regularly comments on some of his rivals in a friendly manner but he comments on Carlsen more often!

But he does not shy away from commenting on himself. After he lost a game quickly and badly in a recent chess tournament , just before the rest-day, he tweeted this – posting photo of “an undeserved” mango lassi (undeserved because he lost the game)


Giri is frank enough to crack jokes at himself and post this as his New Year Resolution.


If you look at comments on his tweets, many people criticize him (mildly to harshly, depending on whether they are Carlsen fans) for being too outspoken, punching above the weight (One comment said: “Carlsen is #1 in the world. You are #15. So shut up”) or engaging in cheap tactics to distract opponents or irritate them.

This got me thinking about the bigger question. What is that thin line between trolling and showing sportsmanship and playful teasing? And is it related to your performance and your overall stature (and that of your target too).

If Giri is not performing well consistently then his tweets would be seen in bad light – as if he is a sore loser or incapable of beating opponents on board and hence venting it out on social media. If he is performing well, then it would be seen in more friendly way. Or may be not. It would be perceived as arrogance. But it is not about performance. You cannot change your personality, your attitude towards life completely based on whether you are doing well or having a lean phase.

It is really tricky to be on the right side of that fine line. So I think one should do it if it goes with the personality and it comes out as a part of who you are. If one tries to mimic someone else or create a facade it would not last long.

Closer to home, Virendra Sehwag is one such player who likes to tease, attack, fight on Twitter and he does it naturally. It is part of who he is. And his batting style reflected the same. So unless you stoop too low and hit below the belt I think it is OK to do such things.

Chess definitely needs people like Giri to break perception of being a too serious game with no smiles and no fun.


Good Read: Investment Lessons from Chess

Two of my passions are “investment/valuation” and “chess”.  I immensely enjoy spending time on both and keep reading/learning. So I was twice as delighted when I read about the title of this article “Investment Lessons from Chess”!

Usually such articles only have fancy title and when you start reading you get totally disappointed. But not in this case! I really liked the article and hence thought of reproducing it here with due credit and link.

So read and enjoy this article by Mehrab Irani (Twitter:@RealMehrabIraniif you like investments and chess…


Most people don’t think; some people wrongly think that they are thinking; while very rare people actually think.


I was recently invited as the chief guest at a chess competition. As it is customary for the chief guest to deliver a talk, while preparing my talk for the event and speaking at the event, I found a lot of similarities between chess, life and investments. This article summarises some of those findings. Play to win; but be ready to lose. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking in which we created them.


No One in Chess, Life or Investments  Ever Won by Just Making the Forward Moves: We are disillusioned that we have to always make forward moves, to win in life or investments. But chess teaches us that, sometimes, to move forward in the game, to win in life, or to make the best investment decisions, we need to move a few steps backwards as well. To get a better job, we need to quit the current job; to derive a more profitable business deal, we need to give small incentives; to avoid big investment losses, you need to cut small losses; some situations demand us to spend money to get rich and so on.


Even a Pawn Can Convert Itself to the Mighty Queen: Once a tiny pawn is able to navigate and negotiate all the enemies and dangers to reach the other end of the board, it can convert itself into the mighty queen. Never underestimate the potential of anything in life or investments. All significant things began sometimes when they were insignificant. Most large companies began as small companies and many of the large-cap stocks started their journey on the bourses as small-caps. Small savings, over a period of time, create great wealth which capacitates a person to achieve financial emancipation.


Moves Which a Knight Can Make, Queen Can’t; Way a Pawn Can Kill, a Knight Can’t: Chess has six types of pieces— pawn, knight, bishop, rook, queen and king. While there are some similarities between the moves of various pieces, each piece has its own unique way to move. All pieces, except the knight, move in a straight line—horizontally, vertically or diagonally. A knight is unique as it moves to a square that is two squares away horizontally and one square vertically, or two squares vertically and one square horizontally. The complete move, therefore, looks like the letter L. Unlike all other standard chess pieces, the knight can ‘jump over’ all other pieces of either colour to its destination square. Although the queen, which has the most widely spread power to move up to any extent diagonally, horizontally or vertically, it still can’t jump over other pieces; nor can it move in L shape. The knight’s ability to ‘jump over’ other pieces means it tends to be at its most powerful in closed positions while a queen or bishop is more puissant in open long positions. Also, although a pawn moves straight and forward, it kills one step diagonally which can’t be imitated by the knight.


Whether it is life or investments, everyone has his or her own space; all of us have some gift with which the Almighty has given us for this earthly journey. We have to identify that divine talent, discover our genius, hone our skills, gain experience, improve our suaveness, consolidate our strengths while minimising our weaknesses and play the game in the best way we can.


Plan but Be Flexible with Your Plans: Chess trains you to think outside the box. There are many times in a game where your plans are foiled and you need a creative solution to stay in the game. Thinking outside the box helps you find solutions to problems in ways that others may not think of. Chess teaches us to plan but it also inculcates the essential habit of persisting and winning when the plan fails. This is also a skill you will need, over and over again, in life. Things don’t always go according to plan and people are unpredictable. The less rigid you are, the better you’re able to handle situations that come your way. For example, when your decision to buy a stock has been based on faulty analysis or information, it’s better to be flexible and get out of the wrong investment at minimum loss rather than sticking to it and nursing your ever-increasing losses. Remaining flexible is an invaluable lesson in life.


Sacrifice Is the Ultimate Wisdom for Victory:  Sacrifice is a very important lesson thought by chess: you may sacrifice a pawn to make a better attack later on in the game; a pawn has to be sacrificed, to save the bishop and the rook needs to be sacrificed, to save the queen. The same principle applies, once you walk away from the chessboard. Sacrifice is a necessary part of life as well as investments. Insurance premium is a small monetary sacrifice made to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our assets from unforeseen situations which may randomly arise. Postponing spending on extravagances today to create your investment kitty will help you enjoy luxuries at a later stage without disturbing your financial independence. Sacrificing a safe job for a profitable future business venture, working to learn and grow rather than merely earn are sacrifices one makes in life to do things you really want, at a later stage. Without sacrifice, we will never get what we truly want or be completely happy.


Protect the King or Game Is Over: Things which are important should never be at the mercy of things which are not significant. The game of chess is on till the king survives. Hence, at all times, most resources should be directed towards protecting one’s king and destroying the opponents. While dealing with money and finance, you must know who is the king—what is the importance of asset allocation; how to protect your wealth from financial predators; how to budget for yourself before you pay others; when to cut spending and when to spend your way to riches; the best investment avenues and how to create positive leverage to multiply your wealth; how to insure your present and future wealth; and know the rules of money to avoid the common financial mistakes. Never let your king, whether in life or while dealing with your money, be at the mercy of anything else.


Investment Is a Board Game: Investments (and life), like chess, is a board game—you must know when to make the right move and when not to make the wrong move. You must know when to wait and when not to procrastinate. You must know when to think and when not to think too much. To a mind that is still in life, the universe surrenders. To a mind that is still in markets, during volatile times, the stock market surrenders.


When Someone Makes a Move Which You Don’t Understand; Don’t Try To Understand It: When someone makes a move which you don’t understand, don’t try to understand it as it might be an insensate move. When everyone in the market is greedy, don’t just follow the herd; when some market guru recommends a stock, don’t just buy because the so-called market guru has recommended; just because majority of people are pursuing a particular career or business venture, don’t enter it, if you don’t feel comfortable or understand its intricacies.


Win with Grace; Lose with Dignity: When you know you can’t lose, you are bound to win. But when you lose, you should know how to lose with dignity. The more you worry about being applauded by others and making money, the less you’ll focus on doing the great work that will generate applause and also make money. Two things define you— your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything. When you’re happy, you enjoy the music; but when you’re sad, you understand the lyrics. Chess teaches you to enjoy the music as well as understand the meaning and purpose behind the lyrics. Chess teaches that while dealing with your investments you should not be a victim of mental accounting or decision paralysis or bigness bias or buyer’s remorse or sunk fallacy theory. Nor should you suffer from the endowment effect.


Strategy without Patience Can Be Caustic; Patience without Strategy Can Be Anaemic: Strategy without patience can be caustic; patience without strategy can be anaemic; both, together, are the qualities of an astute winner. Make a proper strategy while dealing with your money; execute your plan but also keep periodically rebalancing, reviewing, changing and refreshing your portfolio allocation with time and your financial goals and circumstances.


At the End of the Game; the Mighty King and the Tiny Pawn Go Back in the Same Box: This is, perhaps, the most profound lesson of chess. At the end, we all go from where we came—dust. But our consciousness floats to the higher world and is directly positioned to the deeds which we have done. Although you may have worked hard throughout your life earning and preserving your wealth, that is not the thing which you will take with you when you, finally, move ahead from this world. Money is certainly not a permanent thing—that’s why it is called currency, i.e., it is just like electric current which moves from one point to another, from one house to another, from one person to another. Yes, it’s very important to achieve financial independence when you are alive but never forget the fact that money is not eternal and the thing which is not permanent can’t give you enduring happiness. So, earn money, reach the pinnacle of success, attain financial independence but always aim for a clean conscience.


To have the rewards that very few have, do the things that very few people are willing to do. Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. Everyone wants to achieve financial freedom but few really want to follow the principles and the path which leads to financial freedom. The most dangerous place is in your safety zone. The more you go to your limits, the more your limits will expand. All the very best in the New Year.


Source: Investment Lessons from Chess by Mehrab Irani, Moneylife Magazine

Date: 10th January 2018



Misha Osipov – the new chess prodigy (age 4)

If you follow Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner and Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, you would know his love for a mental model called “Inversion” or “Thinking Backwards”. Charlie quotes Jacobi (“Invert; Always Invert”) and says that a lot of problems could be solved by inversion – that is, by inverting the problem statement and answering the inverted problem, which leads to the solution of the original problem. For example, he says, if you want to be loved and respected, prepare a checklist of all qualities that put you off. And avoid them!

Munger himself tells this story: “I have a physicist son who has been trained more in the type of thinking I like. And he immediately got the right answer, and here’s the way he reasoned: It can’t be anything requiring a lot of hand-eye coordination. Nobody 85 years of age is going to win a national billiards tournament, much less a national tennis tournament. It just can’t be. Then he figured it couldn’t be chess, which this physicist plays very well, because it’s too hard. The complexity of the system, the stamina required are too great. But that led into checkers. And he thought, “Ah ha! There’s a game where vast experience might guide you to be the best even though you’re 85 years of age.” And sure enough that was the right answer. Anyway, I recommend that sort of mental trickery to all of you, flipping one’s thinking both backward and forward.”

Note: The 85-year old person Charlie was referring to was Asa Long (1904 – 1999), an American checkers player, winner of multiple US Championships, spanning more than sixty years, and a one-time World Champion.

The reason I was reminded of this anecdote about Chess was the recent news about a new child prodigy, barely 4 years old, named Misha Osipov, who played with World’s oldest Chess grandmaster, 95-year-old Yuri Averbakh – and defeated him!

There are many “WOW” aspects about this story, so let’s go slow. World’s oldest Chess grandmaster, 95-year-old Yuri Averbakh still very much active and playing chess is the first extraordinary thing – which links to Charlie’s story. Viktor Korchnoi a Soviet and Swiss chess grandmaster was considered one of the strongest players never to have become World Chess Champion. He was very active and strong chess player till he died in 2016, at age of 85. Korchnoi became the oldest player ever to win a national championship, when he won the 2009 Swiss championship at age 78. He won the national title again a few months after his 80th birthday in July 2011. So Korchnoi and Yuri Averbakh are the exceptions to what Charlie Munger said.

Now the next extraordinary thing! Misha Osipov, the young (actually an infant) child prodigy from Russia, played with former World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov (66 years old) when he was just 3.5 years old. Though Misha lost the blitz game (5 mins game), he played very strong chess (for a 3.5 years’ old). You can watch his game here:

You can also watch a cute interview of Misha here:

But that was not enough. If playing against a Chess Grandmaster at age 3 is an amazing achievement, winning against another Chess Grandmaster at age 4, is a 1000x more amazing achievement! (In fact, a billion times…). And the Grandmaster who lost was also another marvel – 95-year old Yuri Averbakh. You can watch the video and the game here:

Chess is probably the only sport where a 4-year old can compete with a 95-year old and defeat him!

José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera (Havana, Cuba, 19 November 1888 – New York, 8 March 1942) was a Cuban chess player who was World Chess Champion from 1921 to 1927. He was also a child prodigy and started playing at very early age with his father and defeated him when he was just 4. Here is a photo of 4-year old Capablanca playing with his father (year: 1892).


That was an amazing achievement, no doubt! But see the progress the Chess world has made since then. Today Misha not only plays well at 4, he has beaten a Grand Master!

You should read Garry Kasparov’s new best-seller “Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins” (Amazon: ). Kasparov talks about his match with IBM’s Deep Blue and the evolution of chess playing machines and what it means for humanity. Not specific to chess, but in general. When you see examples such as Misha you know that Humans are still way ahead of any programmed machines.

P.S: You should remember the 2003 game between another child prodigy (13-years then) who drew with former World Champion and one of the greatest players of all time – Garry Kasparov. Here is the video:

The 13-year old prodigy was Magnus Carlsen, today’s World Champion and one of the greatest players of all time! He was a child-prodigy too – so watch out for Misha!


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