by World Rapid Chess & NIIT MindChampion Viswanathan Anand 
Prepare yourself

In life, as in Chess, there's simply no substitute for hard work-for doing one's homework and basically preparing for challenges. No one ever topped an exam, cleared a crucial hurdle or excelled at a particular sport by taking it easy and remaining unprepared.

I realized from the time I was six years old, when my mother handed me a diary to make a record of my performances, that the build up to the actual event, was as important as the game itself. I became aware early in the day that I needed to actually study the moves I made during a match, analyze them, discover my strengths and unearth my weaknesses. Following a game, there would be a significant postmortem, as I labored over my work, dissected my moves and checked it out for glitches and errors. Once I'd get a feel of the pluses and minuses, I'd start obliterating the negatives and refining my game.

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Such regular monitoring and evaluation served as a preparatory exercise for me, one that readied me for the next match-the next big fight on the checkered board. In the early days, I would also read up books to gain an insight into the games played by the champions. Today, thanks to the Internet, the old system of "reference books" has become history. In its place are databases of millions of chess games, which can be accessed at the click of a mouse. Needless to say, I continue to study these gems and draw from the experience and performance of my peers.

Therefore, whether you are preparing for an approaching Maths examination, or gearing up for an Inter-School Table Tennis Tournament, remember the old adage, "practice makes perfect." You can start by actually creating a time-table for yourself and highlighting the areas you will be focusing on. Assign a certain number of hours to the activity and ensure that you adhere to this schedule. A daily discipline will keep your momentum up and prevent your enthusiasm from flagging. Even today, I spent at least four to five hours "working!" Always keep some time to pursue other interests like reading or listening to music.

You too must put in the requisite number of hours at the study or TT table. I may not be too insistent on burning the midnight oil (as I believe eight hours of sleep are a must for every student), but practice is my favorite mantra.

As a next step, go over your work or moves, again and again, until the mistakes get fewer in number and you're feeling comfortable about going for it! Using reference books for Maths (similar to my studying key chess games in existing databases) or watching Table Tennis matches on the popular sports channels on TV, will provide you with new insights on the problems and challenges you are likely to face.

Preparation will fill you with confidence and the winning spirit and help you achieve the goals you have set out for yourself. Whether it's a 95 percent in the Maths paper, or a straight win at Ping Pong, this success mantra will surely spell success for you.

Moreover enjoy what you do and pursue it with passion and not with obsession.