Anand interviewed on Indiaecho/NDTV

6/2/2010 – It was conducted before his successful World Championship defence, and affords some new insights into the life of India's sporting hero Viswanathan Anand, who touches on the important milestones in his chess career. The most enchanting bit: when Anand is joined by wife Aruna, who asks some of the questions. Like whether it was good for his career always being Mr Nice Guy...

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NDTV Interview with Viswanathan Anand

This interview with World Champion Viswanathan Anand was conducted by India Echo and Indian NDTV before the start of the match in Sofia against Veselin Topalov.

In part one Anand talks about important milestones in his chess career, his habits, refreshments during the game, chess boxing, and other things. He answers questions posed by young chess enthusiasts and by fellow grandmaster Parimarjan Negi.

There is a cute story in the interview, one that is true (Vishy told it to us ages ago): when traveling in a train he was asked by a passenger what he did for a living. When he said chess the passenger said "Yes, but you can't live from that! If you were Viswanathan Anand maybe, but I would advise you to keep a fall-back position..."

Anand is clearly most gratified that a lot of kids are picking up chess due to his successes. He talks about the NIIT Mind Champions Academy, where chess is being introduced in schools and reaching regions of the country where it had no foothold so far.

There are also some interesting pieces of advice that Anand gives Parimarjan Negi and the other fans who call in with questions. For instance he tries to work out in the gym after every game. "I have found that when I have time to sit around and do nothing, that time gets occupied with worrying about all the things that can go wrong. If you go to the gym you will sleep better and have less time to worry. I know players who wake up just one hour before the game, just so that they have not had any time to worry before the game." Anand also speaks about chocolate (some players use it to raise their blood sugar after some hours at the board) and replies to a question by a very youthful viewer on how to get out of zugzwang with this little gem:" The best way to get out of zugzwang is not to get into it."

Anand also gets a question from world middle-weight boxing champion Vijender Singh (in Hindi, which Anand does not actually speak) and, at the end of the above clip, speaks about the sport of chess boxing. "It's tricky, because you have to finish the chess game before you go for the boxing, otherwise the boxer usually wins, because you cannot come back to the game." Which reminds us: we have a new chess boxing article up for publication – maybe later today.

In part two Anand is quizzed by... his wife Aruna! In addition Anand's mother and father are interviewed.

The best part is when Anand is joined by his wife Aruna, who was in Chennai at the time. She asks him about his propensity for being "Mr Nice Guy" and whether this has been very expensive for his career, or whether it is a pragmatic decision he wishes to continue. Anand says it is just his way of avoiding conflict ("and I'm sorry if I haven't managed with you very often"), although every once in a while he finds he has to stick out his neck and hit back.

Aruna narrates what it is like to be Anand's shield, which is a very high-pressure job. "Normally when he has a bad game you can never do the correct thing. Once when he lost a game I kept quiet, because I knew if I said something I would get some choice words. After five minutes he tells me 'Don't you have anything to say? Say anything stupid, but tell me something!' So I said something and he got angry, and we both laughed it off. The thing is that when you have a bad result you know there is someone waiting for you, and their life is dependent on your result, so in a way you feel bad for them. Most spouses of sports persons go through this on a daily basis. But the wins more than compensate for the bad moments. Thankfully, married to Anand we have had a lot of happy moments."

In the final section Anand is joined by his parents Viswanathan and Susheela – the lady to whom we have to be eternally grateful since she introduced the young lad to the game. The champ tells us how he got hooked on the game and how school did not interfere too much with his passion. "Very often after a long spell at school I would do very well in my first tournament, mainly because the enthusiasm to get out of school and back at the chess board compensates for any lack of practice."


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