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Banter, mind games all part and parcel of the game

Pin-drop silence. That's what one feels at a chess tournament. Players furiously chalking out moves in their minds, their hands moving across the board after working out all possibilities, the audience nodding in agreement or disagreement. It's all about mental conditioning.

other Updated: Apr 04, 2012 00:24 IST
Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Pin-drop silence. That's what one feels at a chess tournament. Players furiously chalking out moves in their minds, their hands moving across the board after working out all possibilities, the audience nodding in agreement or disagreement. It's all about mental conditioning.

How does one do it? "We never really stop thinking about chess," GM Krishnan Sasikiran (elo rating 2703) told HT at the end of the first day of the India-Israel chess match 2012. "We practice and analyse for more than six hours a day," India's second-highest rated GM added.

"I prefer the gym," joked young GM B Adhiban (2561). After the laughter died down, the 18-year-old said seriously, "I keep thinking about it (the game) even more when I've played a bad match."

"You never really know when an idea will strike, even when you take a walk in the park," added GM GN Gopal (2572) in all seriousness.

Amidst all the banter, it seemed chess was the last thing on the players' minds. But, that's never the case. "If you can 'zone out', it means you are playing a good level. Most of us have songs playing in our heads," said GM Abhijeet Gupta. It's mostly rock for the current national champion.

In all sports, psyching out opponents is common. "I don't think it happens intentionally in chess but sometimes when players wear informal outfits, I feel they are disrespecting the game," Sasikiran stated. "What irritates me is when players go out to smoke and you can smell it," said Adhiban.

"Also, when someone makes a noise with the chair when getting up," added Abhijeet.

What's the one thing that had these players awestruck? "Meeting (Garry) Kasparov. His personality and aura is unbelievable," said Adhiban.