'Carlsen will be ridiculously difficult to play against'
By Raakesh Natraj
World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand spoke to The Indian Express about the drama at London, the challenge of facing the World No. 1 in a Championship match and having to re-shape his chess to compete with the younger generation. Here are excerpts:
It has been maybe the best ever Candidates tournament in history. By any yardstick the unpredictability, the fact that anything could have happened till the last day, till the last hour in fact, makes this simply an unbelievable tournament. I didn't need to stay up late because most had ended by midnight and I was able to go to sleep. I didn't catch Vlady (Kramnik) resigning, but I knew he was going to. The position was that hopeless and I knew (Vassily) Ivanchuk was not going to spoil that.
For the first three or four days I began to think, 'wow am I going to play (Levon) Aronian?' — not in the sense of making plans but in your mind wandering kind of way. Then very firmly, Magnus (Carlsen) got a grip on the tournament, and it looked settled until the amazing 12th round — when Kramnik won and Magnus lost. When I went to sleep I thought Magnus has saved it. That was one day I had missed this twist. When I woke up I read the headline: 'Kramnik takes the lead' and I thought it was impossible. Then I realised Magnus had actually lost the game. So many twists and turns and it kept everybody on the edge of their seats.
Kramnik losing out on the tie-break rule was quite tragic.
At the moment I feel unbelievably sympathetic towards Vlady. It was not like I was rooting for him as my opponent, but by round 13 I felt he was the one who deserved to win and his chess had impressed me the most. He had really changed his chess and style for the event. Magnus was doing what he always does and being very good at it. He is simply an unbelievable player. But Vlady was doing unbelievable stuff on the board, coming up every day with new ideas, playing brilliantly. I felt some sympathy, almost like a brother from my generation kind of a thing. The fact that with the tiebreak rules, he had to play outside of his comfort zone. He was so much in control in the first 13 games and in the 14th you can only understand the context, that he had to take unreasonable risks. The tragedy of the tournament is not that Magnus didn't deserve to win, but if Vlady had pulled it off, he would have proven something.
Would it have been better to decide the tournament with match play between the tied players, or maybe rapid games instead of a tie-break rule?
I do feel it's crazy that two people tied on the same score and it is decided by something which is essentially a lottery. Before a tournament starts you don't split hairs on a minor detail while getting ready for it. My point is not that it is unfair – it was perfectly fair once everyone knew it in advance. My point is that it is not ideal. That's the distinction I want to make. It felt a bit silly, in the end getting decided by the number of wins.
You said Kramnik has succeeded in changing his game to compete against the younger generation. Could the same be said of you as well?
It is no secret that I have struggled a bit in the last two years, and I've not been as successful doing it as Vlady. I am trying very hard, and this year the results have been a bit more positive and I feel at least that I'm back on the right track and though I haven't equalled those guys, but we are all trying to change and keep up with Magnus and Levon, who are huge talents.
Is there a favourite going into the match?
I have to say that most people who look at the two of us will conclude that Magnus is the outright favourite. I'm cool with that. It doesn't really worry me. I'm fully aware of the magnitude of the task facing me, and Magnus' rank and rating speak for themselves. Having said that I don't feel any obligation to follow the predictions. That's what we are playing the match for. To have a chance to write our own script.
How different will this be from your previous WCC matches?
Firstly, he is not from my generation. There is a difference in age and outlook. When I played Kramnik, Topalov and Gelfand, I read them in a certain way. And even then, I thought that if I end up playing Vlady this time, it would be a different Vlady from the one I played before. Carlsen is from a different generation and he is also one of the most talented players from any generation. He will be ridiculously difficult to play against, yeah.
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