He didn´t like school but has a masters degree in computer science, his nickname is "Captain Mag-Pan" (according to IM Danny Rensch) and he happens to be a fan of Gandhi... Meet Grandmaster Magesh Chandran Panchanathan from Madurai in India, host of "Your games analyzed" on Chess.com/TV.
Name: Magesh Chandran Panchanathan
Date of birth: August, 10th, 1983
Fide rating: 2579
Chess.com Username: thamizhan
How are you?
I am doing good, thank you.
What, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favorite movie?
And your favorite tv-series?
What kind of food and drink do you prefer?
India, Italian, Thai cuisines are my favorite. Caramel Machiato.
What is your favorite book?
My Experiments with Truth – MK Gandhi.
What music are you currently grooving to?
I have a huge variety of music I like. Indian music in itself is a huge ocean, Songs for the last 50 years in Hindi and Tamil are of huge interest to me. I get introduced to new songs almost everyday and add them to my proud collection
Tell me a chess secret?
I suck at openings! This might not be a secret to anyone who knows my chess style :)
What is your best chess memory?
Hard to single out one, but sharing first place in the World Open 2005 where I made my final GM norm would be right up there. My win in the UTD GM tournament also in 2005 was very good as well. Finally, winning the Asian Juniors in 2003 in Srilanka was also a great moment for me.
What chess hero had the most influence on your chess development?
Anand and Fischer. Anand mainly because he made me believe chess players can be normal and good human beings. He can be a genius and yet be very down to earth. Fischer because of his sheer determination. I am very practical person and it always astonishes me to see someone with "out of this world" confidence! To me its unreal, but there are people who are out of this world and they are allowed to have such confidence. Fischer was one of them and that separated him from the rest.
Are you self taught in chess or did you get lessons from a master?
I am the opposite of self taught, left alone I would have been doing anything other than chess. Not that I didn't like to play chess, I just didn't like to work on chess. My parents pushed me to work hard and I am ever grateful for that as I understand the value of what they have given me very much today. I learned the game from my family. Everyone in my family knew how to play and they were descent players. My brother taught me the game and I had a chess coach right after my first chess tournament. I have had the blessing of great guidance through out my chess career. There was always someone helping me find the right path at the right time, I have to admit that this was a huge bonus for me compared to several of my compatriots.
"THE OPPOSITE OF SELF TAUGHT": Without guidance Magesh Chandran Panchanathan would have been doing anything other than chess.
Is chess almost like a drug to you? Could you live without it?
I have to say it is tough to live without chess. Everything I am and everything I have is from Chess. I cannot imagine being anything other than a chess player. Even the problems I face in life, I think like a chess player. Chess has made me a better person, I am afraid I cannot let such a thing go. Having said that, I have changed my career a little within chess. I am a chess teacher more than a player these days. That is because I have found two of my passions in one. I love to work with kids and I love chess and I have a job that lets me do both. If I don't play a chess tournament in 3 months or so, then I start wondering and missing it. I would like to play chess life long, but I might not be as competitive. For the matter of fact, I have never been competitive! Its always fun for me. The challenge and the difficulties to overcome over the board!
Was religion a part of growing up?
Luckily not much. My mom is an atheist and my dad is a believer, but he didn't care that much. As a result, my household would not have anything to do with God or religion. I am thankful for that as I don't believe in any organized religion. To me, religion was a founded on a good cause in the past, but it brings more negative than positive to the table at present. Just my personal opinion. I grew up in a culture that had a million superstitions, luckily I was not part of that.
If you were to live 100 years in the future, what do you think the game of chess would look like?
Chess would be as much fascinating as it is today! I think computers would know everything but humans would not understand it. A sport will remain active as long as it is challenging to humans, it would not matter if a computer can beat a human. I think humans are evolving into more intelligent species, that gives me the feeling that we might have 10 year old's playing in world championships in 100 years!
What do you think is the primary ingredients in a chessplayer?
Analytical thinking, decision making, logical reasoning are some basic functions of a chess player. It could also be nerdy, eccentric and unruly etc in a different angle!
"My mother is an extreme optimist to the extent where she still asks me why I cannot be the world champion"
Do you have an idea of some kind of “ideal chess style”?
An ideal chess style is very difficult as I believe each individual has a different perspective and different 'right' approach. Chess moves reflect your real life characteristics. Some people play to win, some play to enjoy, I could argue that being detached from the results is the best approach (it is in fact the best one for me) but if someone had advised Kasparov or Fischer when they were young, they might not be in chess today!
How old were you when you began to play chess?
7 ½ yrs old.
What do you do nowadays to get better at chess? How do you train?
I work with GM Giorgi Kacheishvili once a month. Unfortunately I don't have much time to study my chess these days as I am swamped with teaching. I still enjoy playing on and off and facing the real challenge.
COACH: GM Giorgi Kacheishvili, Panchanathan´s chess trainer.
What is the best advice your parents gave you?
The best example my parents have given me are by their way of life. My dad is extremely dedicated and hard working, this has always set a good example for me in life, but unfortunately I have not taken up after him in this case, but I am trying :) My mom is an extreme optimist. To the extent where she still asks me why I cannot be the world champion? Her simple principle in life is that if you set your mind to it, you can achieve it. All reasons we give are excuses we make up for ourselves.
Do you have a family?
Yes, I am married. My wife is chess player as well (WFM)
Is the Internet a big part of your life?
Of course! Internet is a part of human evolution, it is like a third hand. If we don't embrace it, we will be left behind and become extinct!
What was your childhood like?
I hated school except for hanging out with friends, went to the movies and never listened to my parents, in short it was extremely normal!
"It is smart to focus our efforts on
our natural area of talent"
What is your all time favorite chess game?
Unfortunately I don't have any one like that. I have enjoyed several fantastic games like Kasparov-Topalov, Byrne-Fischer etc. I have also enjoyed Morphy vs Duke! I have shown this game a thousand times to my beginner students. Every time I show it, it just grows on me. It is so simple and yet so elegant! A player way ahead of his time!
What is chess to you – a game of combat or of art?
I guess it will fall more into the combat zone for me. I have occasionally enjoyed the aesthetics of the game, but to me its the mental challenge. It is the ultimate test of ones mental strength! The logical pathways we take, the moves we anticipate from our opponents, the psychological warfare between two minds – these are things that make chess fun. When you defeat someone and you know that you have outsmarted them, it is just a superior feeling that cannot be matched!
How much time do you devote to chess?
Like I mentioned earlier, not much these days. I spend about 10 hours a month.
What is your inner being?
I wish I knew! The biggest quest in ones life is the search within! I haven't made much of a progress there.
TATTOO YOU: Here´s Magesh in Miami when he was playing Final four collegiate chess - trying out a temp tattoo!
What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the chess world?
Chess world has to be open minded. I find chess players to cling on to some old, but bad traditions. It is important to move forward or else we will be left behind. We tend to be a little selfish, but its completely natural. Chess players hardly make ends meet by just playing, we have to look out for ourselves. But, in the bigger picture I believe we need to start thinking about viewers, sponsors etc and change our outlook towards the game a little bit. It is what we implement today that will stand out for the coming generations of chess players.
Do you think one is born a chess player or can a great player be made by hard practice?
It is nature vs nurture – a million dollar question that many a great scientists cannot find the answer to! I think it is unfair that you expect me to answer that :) Anyways I believe its both for a certain level. Any average human being can become a master or a FIDE master with a proper amount of hard work. It might be impractical, but under perfect working conditions it should be possible. Anything beyond that needs talent. Just work will not do the trick. We have to accept that somethings are natural to us and something are not. It is smart to focus our efforts in our natural area of talent.
How do you deal with the mental stress and nervous strain of playing chess?
I cherish the stress and strain. That is what makes chess fun! I am very easy going person and I pretty much don't take anything seriously in life. This just helps me maintain a nice calm through chess games. I have lost 4 games in a row and won 4 games in a row. My results have been very erratic, but I have lived through it. Bad times are obviously difficult to handle, but I spend time with friends, watch movies or talk about other things to take my mind off of the loss. I have had several of my roommates tell me that I was shouting out moves in my sleep. This is common with most chess players!
Who is your inspiration?
Movies have been my greatest inspiration and in the last couple of years it has been autobiographies. All my friends know how much I draw inspiration from movies. Real life stories in particular have a tendency to connect with me well, that explains why I read biographies. Gandhi, MLK jr, Mandela are some great examples of strong human spirit.
"I think computers would know everything
but humans would not understand it"
What is your greatest fear?
Fear of fear! It sounds silly, but that is my biggest fear. I believe every human will face a very few moments in their life that can be life altering and those few seconds are generally separated by courage and fear. My fear is that when my moment comes, my fears may take over! I also have a fear of death. I have this strange habit of imagining different possible scenarios of death. No matter where I am, I imagine ways I can die. The unfortunate thing about this is that my imagination is crystal clear! I will see up to the last detail of the situation and that doesn't help. One place where being a chess player sucks! However, I am used to that these days. I just go with the flow!
If you could give a beginner in chess only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Never give up!
Do you prefer blitz, otb tournaments or correspondence style chess?
Over the board tournaments are the best. Blitz is fun too, but nothing beats classical chess. It has quality and challenge in it.
Who is your most difficult opponent?
I have had several opponents against whom I have not done well, but I guess the one person I am yet to defeat in the last 22 years of my chess career is GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly. We have played against each other for so many years, but I have not won a single game against him! I have made a few draws and lost the rest.
Is there any chess book that has had a deep and lasting influence on you?
The book Foundations of chess strategy by GM Lars Bo Hansen was a very nice one in my opinion. It challenges the traditional way to evaluate a position. It also connects modern day business practise's with chess skills. Other than that, 60 memorable games by Fischer, my systems and pretty much all books by Dvoretsky had a great influence on me.
If you could choose to live one day of any time in the history of mankind, which time would that be and why?
This is a really tough one! By the way, I should say that I am very happy with today! In any case, I think it would be day of the Indian Independence on August 15th, 1947. A day filled with so much jubilation that there was no religion, language or cultural barrier between people. Yet, only few hours later one of the most harsh and brutal communal riots that India and Pakistan had ever seen was about to break out. That day had so much impact on every Indian and Pakistani soul for a long long time.
Do you have any favorite hobbies?
I have plenty of hobbies. Music and movies have been big. Sports! What can I say? I love to compete and most importantly, to improve! I play all kinds of sports and I am interested to learn anything new. My favorite ones are Tennis, Badminton, Soccer, Football, Squash, Racquet Ball, Table Tennis etc.
Are you a superstitious person?
No, I am generally not superstitious. But there are occasions where I tend to follow some routines to give my mind some peace! During a tournament when you win some games and you want to follow the same routine. This is more psychological more than superstition in my opinion. I believe in the effect my mind has on the situation, not the actual superstition.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in chess?
Facing defeat. Learning to lose gracefully. Learning to anticipate difficulties in life before they actually occur.
"I believe we need to start thinking about viewers, sponsors etc and change our outlook towards the game"
What does your future hold as a chess player?
Chess teacher – hopefully teach valuable life lessons to my students...
How would you describe yourself to an alien from another planet?
Tough one! I don't know.
Do you think the future belongs to rapid chess and blitz?
Partially yes. People tend to watch things that end within a reasonable time limit. However, I feel classical chess has its merit and its enjoyable.
Do you have any thoughts on how Chess.com can get even better?
Chess.com is one of the greatest chess sites. They have taken a simple concept and made it very successful! They should just keep it going!