Forgetfulness is a condition that plagues us all. Focus, concentration, attention — these are all areas that many of us would like to improve upon. Well, who better than the mind master, and five times world chess champion, V Anand, to give you a tip or two on that.

On a Sunday, a lovely wintry morning, at the NIIT University in Neemrana, the unassuming chess wizard, who wears his crown lightly, delivered a talk on ‘Shaping a Beautiful Mind’. He was speaking on this topic at the behest of NIIT chairman, Rajendra Pawar, who believes this era — where artificial intelligence is the talk of the town — is going to be the age of the mind. Viswanathan Anand has been NIIT’s brand ambassador for over 24 years .

Vishy, as he is popularly called, straight away disarmed the audience, by declaring that even he occasionally forgets a thing or two. “Everyone believes that chess players are born with great memory, concentration and ability to stay two steps ahead. By the way, none of this is true,” he declared, as he set about establishing that you can cultivate a “beautiful mind” with a few techniques.

Discipline and Downtime

“Your chess memory is great, but you cannot keep up all the time. The brain switches off. You need constant memory reinforcements,” he said. These could be reminders on the phone, notes or attaching a context. “If you attach an emotion to a memory, you won’t forget it,” he said. For example, he said, the pain he experienced after a particularly bad loss kept alive the memory of the moves he made during that particular game.

Challenging assumptions is another way to shape the mind, said the champ. “Meet people regularly who think differently from you. And contradict you. Over time you learn something new,” he advised. And this applies not just to chess but to life.

Revealing how the brain needs constant recharging, Vishy said that one should take up hobbies unrelated to your core area — be it travel, reading or anything else. That’s how your brain gets charged again.

He also underscored the importance of having a healthy social network. “Having friends is like having an intelligence network,” he said. They provide you with information and have your back.

You also need to develop curiosity, said Vishy. But are you born with curiosity and can you develop it? He answered this question by describing an episode from his own life. He revealed how he would go to places like Spain, Russia and elsewhere but would not even notice his surroundings. He would go straight to his hotel, the game arena and return. Until someone asked him how he liked the city. From that time on he began consciously taking time to see the place.

To sum up, he said curiosity, discipline, flexibility, challenging assumptions, ensuring a regular downtime, all are important in shaping the mind. As he concluded his talk, he said with a mischievous smile, “It’s true I can see many moves ahead on the chessboard, but I don’t know whether I am right or not.”