Notes to Myself



150th Anniversary of All England Lawn Tennis Club

As the All England Lawn Tennis Club celebrates its 150th anniversary and the Open Era its 50th year, Wimbledon remains the lone grass court Grand Slam.

Infographics from Forbes India magazine (July 20)


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.

The Tipping Point, Chess and My Prediction



Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller book “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” was published in 2000. Gladwell defined a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point“. The book seeks to explain and describe the “mysterious” sociological changes that mark everyday life. The overarching theme is that there is a moment – a tipping point in life of someone or something at which things suddenly turned around. There is a paradigm shift in pre- and post- scenarios. It is hard to predict when the tipping point occurs; however, once it happens it creates huge thrust. This is somewhat like Flywheel Effect or Snowball Effect. There is a confluence of multiple factors that come together and start working in same manner/direction and the whole thing moves to a new level – new paradigm.

I think I read the book (in parts) in 2005 and it reminded me of a prediction I had made in 2000. I have been playing chess since 1988-89 and have been following growth of chess in India over the years. Between 1988-89 and 2000 I played as many local chess tournaments as I could; followed chess news, subscribed to magazines; saw many Indian chess players (many of them my peers who started with or after me) grow from strength to strength in FIDE rating.

I was seeing lots of activity on ground, and yet it was not reflecting in number of Chess Grand Masters from India. Till year 2000 India had only 3 Chess Grand Masters viz. Vishwanathan Anand (in 1988), Dibyendu Barua (in 1991), and Praveen Thipsay (in 1997).

After several misses, Vishwanathan Anand became FIDE World Chess Champion in year 2000. The same year Abhijit Kunte became the fourth Chess Grand Master from India and that is when I made a prediction. I discussed this at length with my friend who can confirm my prediction then. I predicted that “India has 4 Chess Grand Masters today (in 2002). But I won’t be surprise if India 40 Chess Grand Masters by year 2020 – 10 times as many in next 20 years

Yesterday (13th July 2017) I read news that Anurag Mhamal became India’s 48th Chess Grand Master! So, my prediction not only came true – it, in fact, was surpassed both in terms of timeline and the number of GMs. And we still have 3.5 years to go till end of 2020!

I had not read Tipping Point in 2000 (not sure if it was published then), I didn’t know about the term too. But I knew about “the concept” and saw it building up. Let me share what I thought then.

India won Cricket World Cup in 1983. Sachin Tendulkar was just 10 years old then. But he often mentions that that win was a turning point for him. He dreamt of playing for India and winning World Cup trophy for India again. Such phenomenal Sporting events or icons inspire kids, youngsters and the momentum builds up. For Example, surge in Tennis and Badminton players after Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal’s success.

Chess had always been a very popular game in India. So, it didn’t require the kind of trigger the other sports needed (Tennis, Badminton etc). However, two independent events helped reach the “tipping point” in Chess in 2000.

First event was of course Vishwanathan Anand becoming World Chess Champion in 2000! He had always been a Chess star – but becoming World Champion meant that he was known outside the Chess world – and that attracted media, press, advertisers etc. Chess started getting some column-inch space in newspapers and chess tournaments and players started getting sponsorships.

The second effect I could sense was more technical and subtle. Chess Grandmaster title can be earned by earning 3 Grand Master norms. The norms can be earned by playing in Grand master level chess tournaments worldwide, by playing and scoring certain points against Grand masters.

Current norm requires “a total of at least 27 games in tournaments involving at least three other Grandmasters, including some from countries other than the applicant’s”. Now since India had only 3 grandmasters till 2000, not many Grandmaster level tournaments used to happen in India. So mostly the players would have to travel abroad (multiple times) and participate in tournaments and earn GM norms. India had just opened economy in 1991 and travel abroad was just becoming affordable and ubiquitous. Many strong chess players in 1970s and 80s could not travel abroad. That changes by 2000 and continues to change dramatically since then. The overall GMs in the world was also increasing. In 1972 there were only 88 GMs in the world (33 of them came from Russia!). Today we have more than 1000 Chess GMs in the world!

Another point I though was about the lead time for producing top class chess players. That time was also shrinking. Garry Kasparov and Vishwanathan Anand became Chess GMs in their teens. Since then the age when players become GM has been coming down. Many players become GM by the age of 15-17. So even players who were born in 2000 could become Chess GMs by 2020. Plus, there were huge number of talented players born in late 70s and 80s who could potentially become GMs.

I didn’t do any calculation as such, but I could sense in 2000 that India was at the cusp of Chess revolution and we would have many more chess GMs in coming years! And I am glad that I was proven right…or maybe wrong, given that my prediction was surpassed long back!

So, here’s another prediction – considering that we had 4 GMs 2000 and that we have 48 Chess Grand Masters as of today.

India will NOT have more than 100 Chess GMs (alive) by 2030.

I will explain my prediction in 2030!  But I hope I am proven wrong this time!

Hint: Think about Chess GM Inflation and possibility of changes in norms

Chess, Character and Champions

The World Chess Championship in New York has entered an interesting phase. After seven straight draws, we’ve finally witnessed a decisive result at the World Chess Championship.

Sergey Karjakin of Russia, the challenger, claimed the first full-point on Monday against titleholder Magnus Carlsen of Norway. More interestingly, Magnus Carlsen declined to attend the Round 8 post game press conference. FIDE regulations state that every player must attend the post game press conference, otherwise he will be penalized by a deduction of 10% of his prize money.

Magnus has been the undisputed King of Chess World for last few years and is way ahead of Sergey in terms of FIDE Chess Ratings (Magnus is Ranked # 1 with 2853 rating points vs Sergey who is ranked #9 with 2772 rating points). Magnus’ personality oozes confidence , bordering on arrogance. It could be attributed partially to language barrier. It could also be his complete dominance in the world of chess. One cannot know for sure. However it is true that he is a fierce fighter and doesn’t like losing (trait shown by many world champions including Garry Kasparov).

So, how you deal with loss, defeat or failure shows the true personality. Warren Buffett famously wrote in his annual letters “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked“. He was referring to the investors who get exposed when markets plunge. The same line can be tweaked and applied to sports personalities.

Heywood Broun, the American Journalist once said: “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” This echoes with Warren Buffett’s quote. The true personality of a person is exposed when he is down and dusted.

Garry Kasparov was a sore loser. Check how he reacted after a wrong move against Vishy Anand

And here’s how Kasparov reacted to an organizer:


The latest addition to this list is Magnus Carlsen. So far Magnus had amazing run and this side of his was never revealed. But check how annoyed he looks during an earlier press conference:

And to take it a step further, Magnus declined to join the press conference after losing Game 8 yesterday.

The real match begins now! With just 4 games left, Magnus must fight back hard to win  and level scores. Karjakin, on the other hand needs to defend strongly and avoid a losing posing – and he has done that so well in this match so far!

Let’s see what more is revealed by Magnus’ character in coming days.

I tend to be anti-establishment and bet on the Challenger or an underdog. And I would love to watch Magnus dethroned for one more reason – Magnus defeated Vishy Anand (and defeated very badly) twice in earlier World Chess Championship matches. Being an Indian and more importantly being a Vishy fan, I would love to see someone tearing Magnus apart! Let’s see how it goes…


Indian Philmey League

IPL 3 has been exciting both on and off field. It has been said often that T-20 format would compete with Bollywood films because it is short (3 hrs), captivating and glamorous. And the predictions were more or less correct!

But what was not predicted that time was the IPL itself would become ‘philmey’ (filmy in Bollywood terms). What has unfold in last few days is nothing short of a Manmohan Desai or a Abbas-Mustan or a Ram Gopal Verma films…in fact combination of all of these (and many more)

Let’s start with the main actors and see how and where we end up:

It all started with announcement of 2 new IPL teams, life was much happening and yet smooth-sailing for Modi and Co. till then. So how did all the controversy start (or came to light..)

Nope. It was not because of the above image…

It all began of April 12 when Lalit Modi, commissioner of Indian Premier League (a domestic Cricket League which is into its 3rd season and is already a multi-billion event), tweeted about the details of Kochi team, a new franchise in IPL 4, that was sold on March 21 for Rs. 1530 crores ($310 million).  Sunanda Pushkar, close associate of Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, owned 18% free equity of the franchise. One of the partners in the consortium was Rendezvous Sports which was given 25% free equity at no cost, of which 18% was given to Sunanda!

This set the ball rolling…and lets see events that happened thereafter:

Tharoor replied next day with tweet – I’ve had enough followed by his press-conference link on this issue.

Vivek Venugopal, a co-owner of Kochi team asked Modi to reveal team ownership structure of 8 existing teams

Shashank Manohar, President of BCCI (highest cricketing authority in India that owns IPL), rebuked Lalit Modi over his public disclosure

CEO of Kochi team publicly announced that Lalit Modi had offered them USD 50 million to sell Kochi team (apparantly Modi wanted someone else to get the franchise)

Another spokesperson of Rendezvous Sports alleged that Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujrat, along with Lalit Modi had tried to pressurise Kochi team owners to give up IPL franchise

Meanwhile Tharoor said to a news channel that question of giving up minister ship was out of question and that ‘resigning would mean giving up’

Then Shashi Tharoor met Prime Minister of India on April 18 and briefed him. The same evening he resigned. He said he ‘did not want to embarrass Government.’ The resignation was accepted with immediate effect.

(This closes one sub-plot of Philmey League…if you want  a break take it NOW!)

During all this the Income Tax department of India had taken a note of all the allegations and it began enquiring Modi on Apr 16 (Now one can guess that I-T dept on its own won’t move…unless some higher authorities direct them to!)

I-T Dept searched IPL’s office, Lalit Modi’s office and the hotel where Modi had stayed

The BCCI said it had ‘clipped wings of Lalit Modi’ and that BCCI Chief Manohar was projected to Co-chairman of IPL. And that BCCi was not happy with Modi’s way of functioning and would discuss that on Apr 26

With Tharoor gone, its BCCI vs Modi now. And the strongman Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is still backing up Modi (his last but strongest supporter)

On Apr 20 Sharad Pawar met Finance Minister and Home Minister and Pawar was told not to back Lalit Modi.

Pawar’s next statement was ‘IPL governing council would discuss and take collective decision! Rumours spread that Shashank Manohar, now the Co-chairman of IPL would take over from Lalit Modi after IPL3

As the plot stands now: Modi is in trouble…and threat is from BCCI – which is entirely controlled by Sharad Pawar!!!

Now the Philmey League script would take several twists and turns and see how:

The news was planted in media that –

  • the TV broadcaster Sony MSM that paid multi-million dollars to bag TV rights had on its board (with some stake) some Prashant Sule – who happens to be son-in-law of Sharad Pawar
  • another Sharad Pawar aide Prafull Patel, who also is Civil Aviation Minister, had helped leak the bid documents to Kochi team (helping them win the bid for the franchise)
  • and how did this happen? – Well, Prafull Patel’s secretary received the bid documents and a business plan two days prior to bids were due. Who sent these documents to Prafull Patel’ s secretary? Prafull Patel’s own daughter!!!
  • And how she got hold of these documents??? Oh…here comes the classic twist of the Philmey League script.
  • Poorna Patel, the daughter of Prafull Patel works for IPL as personal secretary of Lalit Modi!!!
Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel and his daughter Poorna Patel

Meanwhile – Kolkata, Bangalore and Jaipur franchise stood back behind Lalit Modi. Consequence??? Income Tax Dept raided offices of all three seeking details about their ownership structure, financial status and possible illegal money transfer outside India and/or tax evasion 🙂

Now it was Modi’s turn –

Modi said he would challenge the possible BCCI action against him and would move court.

At the same time another news just ‘leaked’ in the media – Prafull Patel’s (who is Civil Aviation Minister) daughter, Poorna cancelled one of the flights of domestic airline (owned by Government of India), apparently the same flight was used to charter Poorna and her celebrity friends and guests of IPL to go watch an IPL match!!!

When CEO of the airlines was asked about it, he said “there is nothing unusual in this. Many a times we have to cancel flights and many a times the flights are chartered to Army or Rescue operations or foreign guests/ delegates” 🙂

Another business house Adani, that had submitted bid for IPL franchise said that its bid papers have gone missing!!!

A former cricket captain Pataudi has came out strongly against Modi and criticized him. Pataudi’s other connection with Modi??? Well, Pataudi’s son, film star Saif Ali Khan was one of the initial bidders for franchise but lost the race eventually…I now doubt if there could be a comment/ allegation that did not have any ‘second link’

The latest in this exciting script that is unfolding every minute is –

  • Modi has dared BCCI to remove him though he would not move court
  • Another story has leaked in media about how Modi has made a fortune by making personal arrangements with the franchise and has also bought a personal Jet out of it!!!

Look forward to how this Philmey story ends – if ever it ends!

Meanwhile – a sub-plot has emerged out of this. In all this Government tapped the phone calls of many people involved. Now the opposition (out of its own fear) has questioned this phone-tapping and is trying to corner the Government…

For someone unfamiliar with India, it would be difficult to understand where things start and what they lead to. I do not know of other Sports controversies that reveal so deep-rooted connections with politicians, sports officials/ players, film stars, celebrities and businessmen – all at the same time!

~ Kaustubh

A nice funny article by the ‘Fake IPL Player’

Twenty Two Yards of Bollywood Yarn

A nice funny and witty article by the Fake IPL Player published in the current issue of Forbes India magazine


It’s that time of the year again. As the air gets warmer and power supply gets rarer, top cricketers from that part of the world which is not Pakistan have descended on to India. The third season of the biggest reality show in the world is in everyone’s faces. Welcome to the Indian Premier League: Tritiya. (Out of consideration for this magazine’s reputation, I will not conjecture on what the fourth edition will be called.) You can love IPL or you can hate it, but you can’t ignore it. And that’s just the way Lalit Modi likes it.

Like the past two seasons, this year too advertisers around the country would be comfortably snuggled in with the knowledge that, for once, their entire consumer base can be found in front of the TV, watching the same channel, despite the channel’s best efforts to put them off. It’s a throwback to the Doordarshan era, when everyone watched Ramayan and Mahabharat. As per latest data disclosed by the Bureau of Useless Information, Government of India, Modi was shown on TV a record 78,623 times last season. This year he’s all set to break the 100,000 barrier. It’s advisable not to entertain any thoughts of relief once the league is over . The boss makes his presence felt through the year.
Spare a thought for the cricketers, though. Forty-five days, a possible sixteen games for some players. Add to that the travel, photo shoots, booze binges, dancing, press conferences, post-victory parties. Even if there are ways to minimise on the last one, like KKR did last year, it’s still back-breaking. And we haven’t even started on the effort that goes into counting notes. No wonder players have been complaining of burnout.

But then, if you’re at an age where you’re still counting chest hairs and suddenly find half-a-million dollars in your bank account, burning out is the last thing on your mind. Quite the opposite. You put in the extra hours to hone your soft skills.

Take Wayne Parnell. So IIM-trained were his responses after his IPL jackpot that it made people wonder if Career Launcher had opened a CAT coaching centre in South Africa. “Myyyy idollll is Asheeeeesh Nehraaaaaa,” he screamed from the top of his roof. From the look on his face, Nehra actually believed him. For all you know, Parnell was just happy that he wasn’t picked by Chennai Super Kings. He may have had to start idolising Balaji.

A little short-changed, though, is Mathew Hayden. He spent two years proclaiming his spiritual connection with Chennai only to face the prospect of a transfer next year. If his attempts at staying in Chennai don’t work out, he is, no doubt, hoping for the new franchise to be from Kanpur and praying they take him. Perhaps he sees a possible endorsement deal with Kanpur’s famous sweetshop Thaggu ke laddoo. Probably, something in its name that Hayden, like many of his other Australian colleagues, identifies with.
The guy making all the right noises is Shane Warne. From hanging out with the Indian community in Melbourne, to wearing his India-love on his twitter page, he’s doing it all. And, he hasn’t forgotten the Shiv Sena either. No, he isn’t learning Marathi, but he is talking to dear friend Shilpa about a possible movie that ends with him saying ‘My name is Warne. And I am not a racist.’

In some circles though, Warney’s tweets are increasingly being seen as offensive. One, he openly peddles his brand of underwear on Twitter. And then he tweets @iamsrk asking ‘howz da kkr shaping up.’ A more pun- and innuendo-laden tweet has never been tweeted in the history of tweeting. Warney knew very well that the said team had just lost an underwear brand sponsor. And he also knew it was because Dada walked out of the shoot of the underwear ad when he learnt that he’ll have to take off his pants and swing it above his head screaming ‘Yeh andar ki baat nahin hai!’

Just when people thought KKR can’t have it any worse, they prove the world wrong again. They change their colours from eyesore black to hideous purple. “Dada likes purple; my daughter feels I look good in purple. We’ve changed everything. We want to leave everything behind and start afresh. Also, the girls like it. So, we will make money out of it, and the girls will be all on our side,” said the King, displaying his trademark wit. (Take your time. Read the quote a few more times to make sense out of it.)

Dada’s taken charge of the team in vintage style. Training his boys hard for the tournament ahead, egging them on, pushing them the extra yard. From the sidelines. But you got to give it to the guy. He may not be a runner, he may not be a diver, he may not be a catcher, but he is a true inspirer of young souls. With him as captain, don’t bet on the team finishing last this time round. A seventh or a joint sixth position is more likely.

I predict that the team will soon delete lorbo and jeetbo, and keep their slogan to just korbo. That way, come what may, nobody can accuse them of having failed.

Fallout of the times we live in. The Deccan Chargers have been forced to increase security around the team… for the sake of all the women who will be interacting with them. The incident involving Mandira Bedi last year has prompted the move, coincidentally announced by the team management on International Women’s Day. In the accused player’s defence, he says that he was just following Guru Gary’s mantra.
While Hayden has still not gotten past poda naaye in his Tamil learning efforts, Sanga takes charge of the King’s XI Punjab after having mastered the right pronunciation of ‘penh’ in the popular Punjabi greeting that rhymes with ‘Pant-Coat’. Apparently, knowledge of the word will come handy as captain of the King’s XI Punjab.

IPL means many things to many people. But there are some for whom IPL presents an opportunity to simply remain relevant. Ms. Zinta, for example. No films in the recent past, none in the foreseeable future. The image of her jumping up and down in the Kings XI T-shirt is now so strong that eleven-year olds around the country know her as Cricket Aunty. But, sources reveal, she’s determined not to let a certain Ms. Shetty steal her thunder this time round.

Last season, Beautiful Shilpa, also known as BS for reasons other than the initials, was the toast of the town. Her nervous gasps, exultant jumps, and near-fatal hugs to her beau are now part of popular folklore amongst nomadic tribes near Jaisalmer. But none of it was as memorable as her off-field press interactions. Sample this.

Journalist: So, how does the ball look?

BS: (Looks down sheepishly. And giggles.)
Journalist: What do you think about Asnodkar’s running between the wickets?
BS: (Giggles. And tickles.)
Journalist: Are you concerned that Shane Warne is not able to bowl the flipper?
BS: Have you seen my ring? It’s bigger than my nose…(and giggles).

Finally, with the next round of auctions around the corner, most of the young Indian players are, quietly and not-so-subtly, lobbying for a place with the Chennai Super Kings. Just the way the quickest way to a man’s heart is not through his stomach, it’s now common knowledge that the quickest way to the Indian team is not through the Ranjis. It’s through the Chennai Super Kings team. Vijay, Badri, Balaji, Goni, Tyagi, Ashwin to name the last few. The only guy to buck the trend was Joginder Sharma, but he doesn’t count. But, of course, this rule is for mere mortals, not for a certain Superman who, not being a part of the Super Kings, danced in the chairman of selectors’ son’s baraat, saving the venerable chairman money otherwise meant for hired dancers, and continued dancing his way into the Indian side. May his appams always be soft.

The Fake IPL Player urges you not to believe a word he says. “It’s all fake,” he says. “Didn’t you see my name?”

Source: Forbes India Magazine of 02 April, 2010


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