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  • GM Avetik Grigoryan GM Avetik Grigoryan

Legal cheating and my top secret

This is my biggest secret of productivity, high focus and achievements. I use this when I’m low. When I need creativity. When I need to win. When I need to perform my A-game.

Improvement Hacks | 9 min read
Legal cheating and my top secret

I was afraid to talk about this.
I’m still afraid.

Many will not understand.
Many will laugh.

But I don’t care. I drank lion’s milk today.

This is my biggest secret for productivity, high focus, and achievements. I use this when I’m low. I use this when I need creativity. When I need to win. When I need to perform my A-game.

Whenever I’m stuck, I do this.
I cheat.

The world championship match

When we moved to our office, we had to buy many things.
Even before computers, we bought a table-tennis table.

I love the game.

2 days ago, I asked my teammate for a match.
He sits next to me, and he’s my right hand in the chess department.

IM Norayr Torosyan. We call him master.

He’s a master in everything. Chess, teaching, playing any game, and in life.

This is his desktop photo.

You can guess the type of person he is 😊

And this is him.

IM Torosyan with Yakko and “Right Mood - Right Move” t-shirt
IM Torosyan with Yakko and “Right Mood - Right Move” t-shirt

We finished our work early (7 PM 😁) and went for the match.

Usually, I beat him. But I didn’t play for about 2 months. I was very rusty.

Nothing was working that day.

I was losing 1-3.

Most of the time, I don’t care about the score and the result. I don’t play to win. I want to have fun and burn some fat 😊

But this time, I wanted to strengthen my fighting spirit. I wanted to come back and win.

I wanted to train one of my secret skills - cheating.

After losing one more game, at a score of 1-4, I asked for a 2-minute break.

My excuse was to drink some water.

I did it in 30 seconds.
For the other 1.5 minutes, I went to the bathroom to “wash my face.”

While in reality, I went for my secret weapon.

He said WTH

When I was back, we agreed to play until 7 wins.
Reminder: I was losing 1-4.

We continued.

After a minute, he stopped. Looked at me and said: “WTH you did during the break? Your play has totally changed.”

I laughed and replied, “I was just rusty. Now I’m back.”

I lied. I was cheating.

My confession

I don’t have a ping-pong coach.
I don’t know who the best players in the world are.

I know this guy:

Source: Adam Bobrow's FB page
Source: Adam Bobrow's FB page

I don’t know if he is really strong or if he’s like 1,800 at Ping Pong, but many, including me, think he’s 2,700.

Maybe he’s Agadmator in Ping Pong. I don’t know.

But after the break, he “came” to the match with me.

He cheered me. He gave me advice. All the time. Before serving. After. During.

He would often tell me:
“His position is wrong. Attack on the right.”
“You’re not focused. Fully focus and then serve.”
“He’s tilting, do more spins.”

How the heck did he appear there next to me?


I just imagined he was there. Imagined him guiding me. I imagined it was the world championship match.  I imagined there was a whole stadium cheering me on.

From 1-4, every 5 minutes, the score changed.




And then…




I won.

6 games in a row.

I didn’t confess to him what I did.

He’ll learn the truth after reading the article.

It wasn’t the first time I cheated like this.
It wasn’t the 100th.
And definitely, it’ll not be the last.

I “steal” money too.

Airlines hate me

This is our meeting room.

How many people do you see there?

Only me?

Next to me is sitting Elon Musk. I need crazy guys to brainstorm with me.
On the left is Ryan Holiday. He helps me stay disciplined and helps to awaken my inner stoic.

In front of me is Naval Ravikant.
He helps me to keep the balance.

There are also Alex Banayan and Elliott Bisnow. They help me to think big.

Do you see that curly guy? It’s James Altucher. I talk to him when I need creative ideas.

Ah, you can’t see them?
Yeah, right. They’re not here. I just took this photo to put in this article.

But often we have “meetings” together. And I serve them tea.

I meet with chess players too. When I think about the structures of our courses or a particular course, I often invite GM Ramesh R. B. and GM Noel Studer. I respect them very much.

I invite Jay Shetty here, when there is a hurricane in my soul.
We just talk, and he shares what I should do. And returns to his country.

I’m not rich.
I don’t have enough money to buy their tickets.

I have imagination.

And I cheat with every airline.

Except for Virgin Atlantic. I can’t do that with Richard Branson. He’s too good. He buys his ticket himself.

You should have seen his face

Do you see this big guy? He’s my coach.

Head coach of Reebok Sports Club Amir Asgarian
Head coach of Reebok Sports Club Amir Asgarian

He is a very good guy and has a heart bigger than his body.

Once I was sitting with my eyes closed.

It was at the end of the training. I was very tired.
My muscles rebelled at me. But I had to do the last set․

He came and interrupted: “What are you doing? Are you okay?”

When I looked at him, and he saw my face, which was white, he left me and came back with water and a banana 😁

I said, “Coach, I should do it with 80lb. It’s my 4th set.
The 3rd, I barely completed. Can I do the last one with 120lb instead?”

He said: “No, of course not. You’ll get an injury.”

I said: “Okay, look. Give me 2 minutes. Don’t disrupt me. Don’t talk to me. Just silence. And I’ll do that. Put 120lb.”

After 2 minutes, I did my 4th set with 120lb.

His mouth was open. Eyes became bigger. After not talking for seconds, he finally did:
“How did you do that??? WTH???”

I laughed:
“Coach, I imagined I was you.”

I cheated at chess too

Unfortunately, I learned this technique only after retiring from chess.
But in 2019, I got a chance to use it.

I was invited to play at “Saint Louis Fall B.”

After playing 9 games in the last 6 years, I thought it was going to be fun.
Also, I wanted to go to the USA and meet some of our ChessMood students.

Saint Louis, 2019
Saint Louis, 2019

The tournament didn’t go well.
I was very tired. I didn’t have time to take a rest before going there.
And my brain was with ChessMood, even during the games.
I couldn’t fully focus. And I couldn’t use my technique.

But in one of the games, I did.

In the 2nd round, I was playing with my friend GM Petrosyan Manuel.
I played a brilliant game. And won a nice one.

2 of our students were there. And after the game, they asked why I was walking so often.

I can’t remember what I told them.
But whatever it was, I lied.

Now I’ll confess. I was cheating. I was imagining that I was my favorite chess player. I was GM Richard Rapport.


The Greats who cheat

I can’t remember where I learned this technique.
Once I find it, I’ll give the source.

Maybe it was Tony Robbins' “Unlimited power.” Or “Awaken the Giant within.”

(BTW, I don’t like him. It seems to me he cares only about sales and money. I might be totally wrong. But his first 2 books - the mentioned ones, are just fantastic. Worth reading!)

Maybe it was in some neuroscience book I’ve read.

I can’t remember. I’ve shared earlier how bad my memory is.

But this was the idea and it works!
I’ll put it in my words:

Imagine your role models and talk to them. Or even become them.

Many Greats use this technique.

Kobe Bryant was using it constantly.

When he was having a slump, he imagined he became "The Black Mamba" from a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Kobe said, "The length, the snake, the bite, the strike, the temperament.  'Let me look this s--- up.' I looked it up — yeah, that's me. That's me!' "


After this, a reporter noted:
"When Bryant returned to the court, the wholesome young athlete was gone. In his place was a man who could no longer convincingly portray innocence, and Bryant says he felt free to reveal the darkness that had always lurked inside him.

Creating an alternate persona, he says now, was the only way he could mentally move beyond..."

What would Vaganian play here?

My student was playing with the Black pieces. French Attack. And it was his turn to make a decision.

What would you play here?

Here Black has a very strong move. My student didn’t see it. And he lost the game.

When we were analyzing the game,  I asked him who is his favorite French Attack player? He said GM Rafael Vaganian.


My next question was: “What would Vaganian play here?”

He immediately told the strongest move!

If you’ve watched our “365 Daily Lessons with a Grandmaster” series, you might remember that story and the Knight sacrifice.

Here it is:

Surely you’re joking, Mr. Herman

There are not many people in my life who are so open-minded that I can easily share every one of my strange thoughts and techniques such as this.

One guy that is an exception is James Altucher.

I shared these all with him. Showed him Vaganian’s video.

And he said: “Very interesting! I’ll show it to Todd Herman. He wrote a book called, “The Alter Ego Effect”. He would like this technique!”

I had never heard of him. And his book. And the term “Alter ego.”

But after researching a bit, I immediately bought it.

And then invited him to the ChessMood Podcast, where he shared lots of fascinating stuff.

But here is one important tip.

Find the right alter ego

If you’re going to use this technique in chess, don’t pick the strongest player.

Pick a player with whom you’re familiar. Perhaps you know their games. Watched their courses or read their books. If you’re constantly in touch with them - even better.

The more you’re familiar with them then the better you will imagine their voice in your head.

The student, who found the strong move after I asked, “What would Vaganian play” is actually our investor.

My dear Godfather and big brother Badreddine Ouali.

The founder and the CEO of Vermeg, Badreddine Ouali
The founder and the CEO of Vermeg, Badreddine Ouali

Now he often uses this technique when he plays.

He imagines my voice in his head when he plays the opening part.

When he attacks, he hears GM Gabuzyan’s voice (Gabuzyan recorded 2 brilliant courses about attack. You should watch them if you haven’t yet).

Attack Like a Viking course 

Fearless Warrior - Attack smartly and fearlessly course

And he talks to Vaganian when he plays the French.

I always cheat

There are many people with whom I “talk” and “ask for advice.”

But there is one guy who is there with me every second.

His name is Billy. I call him Billy the Great.
He is my future best self.

He helps me to stay focused and be on my A-game.
He talks to me very often. Whenever I’m stuck. Whenever I’m anxious. Whenever I am feeling lost.

I also ordered a bracelet engraved with, “Billy the Great.”

He is always in my head.
I only remove the bracelet when I sleep. I let him take a rest too.

GM Avetik

P. S. You can throw at me your sarcasm, interesting thoughts and whatever you felt after reading this article here.

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Originally published Jan 23, 2023

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