Anand: 'I see a bright future for India'

5/24/2007 – And chess in general. The world's highest ranked player is currently in India, in his native Chennai. Vishy Anand is slowly starting his preparations for the World Championship in Mexico, and enjoying some of the best food in the world (South Indian vegetarian). He also took time to talk to Sportstar, a publication of one of India's largest newspapers, The Hindu. We bring you excerpts.

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Anand: 'I see a bright future for India'

On April 2 2007 Anand topped the FIDE rating list for the first time in his long and illustrious chess career. In spite of this achievement he radiates equanimity and seems to send the message that no matter how heavy a crown may be it could still be worn lightly.

The picture is an interesting contrast to that of his fans, who were exhilarated and relieved at the same time, while Anand himself looked more like the man who was only keeping up a belated appointment with the number one spot. Here are some of the subjects he discussed with Sportstar's A. Rangarajan:

  • On his feelings at becoming the world's number one: I was close to the number one spot on many occasions, and either Topalov would come up with a burst and that would take it beyond my reach, or something else would happen preventing me from getting there. This time I just went to play Linares, not with any explicit aim of winning the title or getting to be the world number one. Somehow to have achieved both in the same tournament has been a pleasant surprise and some of the best things happen when they are totally unexpected. I think you first realise that getting to number one is very very difficult. My rise up to number 5 or 4 has been very smooth, and from that point on to number one has been very arduous.

  • On the psychological toughness required to play in chess at the highest levels: It is something you realise again and again. You forget and then you realise and you keep correcting yourself. There is also this element that some mistakes stick to you. Some lessons I have learnt over and over again. How in critical tournaments you can't get carried away, regardless of results you have to stay concentrated etc. Victory could be very close and it could be snatched away. Euphoria should not sweep me off my feet, nor should pessimism get the better of me.

  • On recovering from defeat: It is important how you are able to take the pain of defeat. You learn from other people too. Some one like Topalov has learnt to deal with it well, and one can learn from him. He recovers so effortlessly from so many defeats. I too now take my defeats less hard, and then over dinner talk about something else. I don't torture myself over the lost game any more. In this context I can relate to Topalov. It has been impressive to see what he has accomplished over the last two years.

  • On tensions and rivalry in top level chess: I would say that most of my colleagues and particularly the younger generation are able to separate chess from the person. Occasionally bad relationships happen – it is not that everybody gets happily along all the time. By and large it is a good and healthy atmosphere at the top. When I talk to some one like Svidler or Carlsen the rivalry is there and we know we have to play each other tomorrow but then it never gets out of hand. On most occasions we are able to park the game and enjoy the rest of the day.

  • On Botvinnik's axiom that you must hate your opponent: That was typical of the Soviet era where the battle never ended at the board and the intrigue went way beyond. You could lose a game and yet win at the sports committee. With the right moves and connections you could have your opponent debarred from travelling abroad. Those days the intrigues were complex. There were cliques and at times they ganged against someone like Korchnoi, who was a typical victim. It was very Darwinian and the whole structure was different. Fortunately things are more normal now and I guess the world has changed and the younger generation of players have changed with the times.

  • On the computer revolution in chess: It is very difficult for the bridging generations – the ones who have been used to one kind of technology having now to deal with another. Computers have made life tougher. But to be fair, computers have opened as many doors as they have slammed shut. Variations and lines of play previously thought impossible have now become mainstream, thanks to computers. Our understanding of end games and openings has been taken to great lengths with the help of computer-aided analysis. It is only the human mind that can lend the beauty of comprehension to the findings of computers, by understanding the principles behind and the reasons that unite them!

  • On what sets super-grandmasters apart from the rest: The stronger you are you get to see more connections. The pieces and positions come alive with patterns. You start seeing possibilities in these patterns. First you think the white has the advantage and then you look carefully and realise that the black has the edge. As you refine your analysis the more sharp your understanding of the position gets. The pieces are there standing and suddenly when you see the connections they become beautiful.

  • On the future of the game: The split in the chess world has ended. With the coming World Championship in Mexico we will have one world champion and not two. We now have a new beginning. I see an explosion of chess activities on the internet, where people can find a partner and play or watch tournaments and listen to analysis any time. I believe the full potential of the internet is yet to be realised and we are only making the initial moves in that direction. I see better days ahead.

  • On the future of Indian chess: I see a bright future as the number of youngsters playing the game has increased phenomenally. You already see that in the top 100 in the world there are three of us – Sasikiran, Harikrishna and I. Some of the programmes I am associated with take chess to schools and I hold that by merely increasing the base the top of the pyramid can be heightened considerably and we should be able to produce more top class players. Besides there are also the other benefits young minds can have by playing chess and these include improved analytical abilities etc. These are proven. I see quality of chess improving and vast numbers benefiting from skills that could stand by them in the course of their daily lives.

    Full interview in Sportstar


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