Anand on the World Championship in Moscow (Part two)

7/18/2012 – Immediately after his successful match defence against challenger Boris Gelfand, World Champion Viswanathan Anand spoke to his old friend Jaideep Unudurti. The Indian journalist conducted an interview that was too long and detailed for the newspaper Indian Express, which published only parts of it. Jaideep has given it to us in its entirety. Today we bring you part two.

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Interview with World Champion Viswanathan Anand

By Jaideep Unudurti

Jaideep Unudurti: I was talking to the deputy arbiter Hal Bond, and he was saying that he has been around since the 2008 match and the trend has been towards increased security. And this match bucked the trend, as there were fewer security measures. Was this mutually agreed with Gelfand?

Viswanathan Anand: With Gelfand I would say, in general, there was an air of trust combined with the suspicion that is attached to any world championship match. So it was the usual thing. But generally with Boris there were no problems or difficult areas to resolve. I don’t think the players should be – and we weren’t – heavily involved in security discussions. Ever since these suspicions were first alleged in 2006, it has been for the FIDE to have a set of rules and procedures in place to induce trust during the match, because what you don’t want is distrust to start appearing, because once it appears it gets out of control. And a lot of these security procedures were already in place in Bonn, they were in place in Sofia, and they continued here. Maybe, one or two were changed. The local organizers tweak a bit and so on.

The audience was allowed to carry wireless devices for the audio commentary.

I simply don’t know the details. We weren’t involved that heavily in micro-managing these things. I assume that Boris is not interested in any of this stuff and neither am I.

I mean, there was a lot of speculation, did [your wife] Aruna ask for the glass screen, or did someone else?


Anand with his wife (and manager) Aruna

It’s not like that. It’s not like the players are sitting with a checklist. The main thing is to have enough procedures so that everything looks under control. So this atmosphere of distrust doesn’t begin in the first place.

What did you do just before the games?

My routine was to get in 20 minutes early, get into the waiting room and sit there for 20 minutes. His routine was to come ten minutes before, go straight to the board, write down the names on the score sheet and then come to the player’s room. He would always greet me warmly, then sit down. And then a few minutes later he would go to the game and a few minutes later I would go to the game. So this was kind of the routine. I think in that sense the atmosphere was very positive, at least between the players.

After each game you would have a quick post-mortem. Is this the first time you did that during your matches.

No, with Vlady also there were quite long discussions. Or on the way to the press conference we would exchange views. I remember very clearly with Vlady having an animated conversation after game two. I said, I think I am better. He said, it was not clear. He offered me a draw in time pressure and I took it. In many games we had quite interesting conversations. The only guy with whom that didn’t happen was Topalov (smiles).

For this match you decided to go with two swords, as it were…

That was the only decision I think that really worked for us. Because a lot of the other decisions he managed to anticipate, surprise, whatever. I mean you cannot cover everything in chess. You tend to prepare some things for the start so that you don’t make a fool of yourself in the very first game. But then you prepare other stuff in much more detail and so on.


In game five Anand played 1.e4 and faced the Sicilian Sveshnikov

We didn’t spend a lot of time on the Grünfeld, just one or two days. We had some first game stuff. But then we came back and tried to make emergency preparation. The one decision that worked for us was to play both e4 and d4. That implies a lot of work, but at the same time it gives you more options. And we made use of these options. I was able to switch back and forth, play d4 in game eight and then switch to e4 for the rest of the match effectively. And we could take a call. At any moment in the tie-break I could switch back to d4, so it gave us options and meant he had some work. So I think that was one decision of ours that actually worked in our favour. Well, it didn’t depend on him. He had to prepare something against both and he did, but it gave us some flexibility and that was very good.

The first time you used it in game five, that was a very quick draw.

The thing is, he played …Bxd5, and that is actually an improvement on theory. After that the position fizzles out very fast. The problem is if I win this pawn on b4 he plays …Rb8, Qb6 and takes on b2. But the irony is, even if I found a way to keep this pawn he could still play Bd8, Qb7, Bb6 and have full compensation because of opposite coloured bishops. So that game, well, it fizzled out fast. It was good preparation on his part.

[Event "WCh 2012"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2012.05.17"] [Round "5"] [White "Anand, V."] [Black "Gelfand, B."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B33"] [WhiteElo "2791"] [BlackElo "2727"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2012.05.11"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c4 b4 12. Nc2 O-O 13. g3 a5 14. Bg2 Bg5 15. O-O Be6 16. Qd3 Bxd5 17. cxd5 Nb8 18. a3 Na6 19. axb4 Nxb4 20. Nxb4 axb4 21. h4 Bh6 22. Bh3 Qb6 23. Bd7 b3 24. Bc6 Ra2 25. Rxa2 bxa2 26. Qa3 Rb8 27. Qxa2 1/2-1/2

Full analysis of the game is available here.

But so far I was also having success with black. I was neutralizing him very effectively in game two, four and six. The only game where somehow something happened was game three. But there when we got to a very critical position I had some chances. But I would have needed more time. I had four minutes in this complicated rook position. I simply wasn’t able to get to the bottom of it.


World Champion Viswanathan Anand at the start of game three


Challenger Boris Gelfand confronted with Anand's deviation in the Grunfeld

Otherwise you would have been mated?

I assumed I was never going to be mated, because it was always going to end up in a perpetual. We had seen a surprising amount, but that final bit I filled in only after I made my move, so I thought, okay, I don’t see a win. I am going to take the draw and suddenly it hit me, oh, this beautiful idea with the kamikaze rooks. So something like Rf6 check, Kg7, Rg8 check, and then whichever rook you take, the pawn queens with check.

[Event "WCh 2012"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2012.05.14"] [Round "3"] [White "Anand, V."] [Black "Gelfand, B."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D70"] [WhiteElo "2791"] [BlackElo "2727"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2012.05.11"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. f3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nb6 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Be3 O-O 8. Qd2 e5 9. d5 c6 10. h4 cxd5 11. exd5 N8d7 12. h5 Nf6 13. hxg6 fxg6 14. O-O-O Bd7 15. Kb1 Rc8 16. Ka1 e4 17. Bd4 Na4 18. Nge2 Qa5 19. Nxe4 Qxd2 20. Nxf6+ Rxf6 21. Rxd2 Rf5 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. d6 Rfc5 24. Rd1 a5 25. Rh4 Rc2 26. b3 Nb2 27. Rb1 Nd3 28. Nd4 Rd2 29. Bxd3 Rxd3 30. Re1 Rd2 31. Kb1 Bf5+ 32. Nxf5+ gxf5 33. Re7+ Kg6 34. Rc7 ({White had} 34. d7 Rcc2 35. Rc4 Rb2+ 36. Kc1 Rxa2 37. Rc8 Rf2 38. Re6+ Kf7 (38... Kh5 39. g4+ fxg4 40. fxg4+ Kxg4 41. Re4+ Kh5 42. Rh4+ Kg6 43. Rg8+ Kf7 44. Rf8+) 39. Rf6+ Kg7 40. Rg8+ {and mate in five.}) 34... Re8 35. Rh1 Ree2 36. d7 Rb2+ 37. Kc1 Rxa2 1/2-1/2

Full analysis of the game is available here.

When you went for the Rossolimo, again there was a surprise. You play an offbeat move but he has that response.

Yeah, it was impressive preparation that he even anticipated b3. But it’s the calibre of work you would expect from Gelfand. Even before that game we were cautiously optimistic in some areas, but I knew that whatever I did he would have some sensible response which would turn out to be not trivial.

You didn’t feel discouraged that he was ready for whatever you came up with?

It’s tough. I mean you just have to keep waiting. But we were coming back, working, checking his stuff, trying to anticipate a few moves of his and so on. But we finally got him in the second game of the Rossolimo in the tie-break. There, we had made progress because clearly the ending is better for me. Finally, our work broke through in a sense, but it took till the tie-break to happen.

In game eight, it was some kind of a Benoni, you had this manoeuvre of moving the g1 knight to c3 and so on. How familiar were you with such nuances?

If he had played some other setup, I would have known how well I had absorbed that concept. As for Benoni, I’ve seen it a lot in my life.

So you weren’t unfamiliar…

I don’t know. These things look easy at home, but when you go there and sit, that’s where you realize, familiarity is something you develop over many years. I think I was reasonably familiar. But the main thrust of our preparation was the Grünfeld, so the Benoni was a slightly off-beat thing. But I was simply ready for a game that day. And I understood from now on I had to catch up a bit, so there was that pressure. Maybe, it added a bit of fire to the whole thing. Rather than saying I was playing for a win, I would say, it just added some urgency to the efforts.

Where would you place this match in the toughness scale?

I think, this was simply the toughest. Sofia also was very tough, but there at least, I was not so discouraged after the loss. Because we were creating chances in every game there, and we knew, a few would swing our way. But here after I lost game seven, the next morning I already felt like I had lost the title. After the seventh game I didn’t sleep – it was one of the worst days I can remember.

How were you unwinding during the match, music?

A bit of everything. This time…

Cold play?

No, we didn’t have a theme band. There was this song by Sean Paul, She doesn’t Mind, that was very popular for a while. And some songs by Adele were coming up. Otherwise my guys were playing their own favourites. Some of them have headphones and they go in their own world, so we didn’t have a theme song playing. As you see with Surya, he has got some major noise-cancelling headphones. And I would play U2, Queen, just my old favourites. When I was watching stuff to unwind in the evening I would watch a mix of Yes Minister and Only Fools and Horses. The day I lost I watched Fawlty Towers because you need to watch something to laugh your head off.

You are now approaching Botvinnik territory. Well without the rematches. Any thoughts on your legacy?

Well, first of all times have changed. I mean, I think the tie-break is much fairer than giving draw odds and revenge matches and all that nonsense. And we are in a much fairer time. And as for tie-breaks they mirror the development in other sports, football has its penalties, tennis has its tie-breaks. It’s in every sport, a little bit of heartbreak in the end. It did occur to me on the day of the tie-breaks that in one way it was cruel that all these months of work were going to be decided by one or two moments here and there. And that’s all it came down to. On the other hand I find it fundamentally fair.

As for legacy, I think, this time in a chess sense I was fighting for survival. This world championship was very important to me, because a lot of my other titles and records have started to fall and my play at the end of the year, you know this lack of confidence, so in many ways I was fighting here to be back. But even so the match could simply have gone either way, I could still be here explaining why.

Did you even contemplate losing the title?

Had I lost the match, it would have been a big blow because the world championship was the one thing that really stood out. But what can you do? Life goes on. I was thinking, what would it be like if I lost the match. By June 5th I would be over it. You understand, it’s gone and that’s it. For a couple of months it wouldn’t bother me, but it would irritate me if people kept on bringing it up, “Oh, you lost the match...” that kind of stuff. Then you finally hit a phase, when I don’t know, it could be October, it could be November, you have moved on. Even when people remind you, it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t impact you any more, there is no emotional connection left. I thought, more or less it would be like that.

So it’s difficult to think of survival and legacy at the same time (laughs). Right now I can’t think beyond, I am just happy to have defended the title. I can’t be bothered about my place in history. There is some degree of empathy for Boris. Because I think, he is a very, very worthy opponent. I think, he did a brilliant job. I understand, to lose after such effort, it’s a huge blow. Well, one of us had to take the blow and I’m just grateful, it wasn’t me. I can’t think of my legacy at this point. Honestly I don’t give a toss. For me, defending this title was a goal in itself, not as part of a legacy. It’s wonderful now that I’ve defended my title from 2007 till now. It’s five years and will be at least another couple of years.

And the future?

The matches are only going to be more difficult. Clearly it takes a huge amount of mental, nervous and physical energy out of you. I can’t even hide from anyone anymore that I’m in my 40s. Fine, it is what it is. Now I want to try and do better in tournaments, I want to go to Bazna, play well there, get back some joy and really draw a line under the winter season last year. And then take it from there. I think there have also been fundamental changes in chess, the way people prepare, the way people work, I don’t think it’s only me, I don’t think I am suddenly unmotivated, lost form, lost everything. It’s just that the chess world is developing, there is lot of new strength out there and I have not yet figured out how to cope with it. It’s not like I am failing in a vacuum. I still love chess and I’ll try and do my best in these tournaments.

You played very well in the Botvinnik...

Yes, but it seems that I get this ease of play in rapid chess. I won Corsica and so on. Rapid chess is still good for me. There is something about rapid chess that I’m happy about. And many of these things are just very deep. But that Botvinnik success unfortunately did not carry over into the other tournaments.

You talked about preparation, is this match a tipping point as far as the role of computers is concerned? Some games just had nowhere to go after a novelty.

Yes, I think, from now on if people are expecting unbelievable excitement in every game of the world championship they are going to be disappointed. There are so many areas of chess where it is so easy to neutralize your opponent that you also need some patience as a chess fan. You have to watch the games, there is a struggle going on. Both sides try to move into favourable territory, that is where the conflict is happening. But there are other areas where the computer just shuts down that opening or some line. That is just inevitable. Mind you, it’s not like the 70s, when players were fighting every game like maniacs, and it’s only now that we have discovered this aspect. I think the draw quotient has always been high in world championship matches because the amount of effort people put into neutralizing each other’s openings. It’s just now with computers that it has reached a new level.

– Part three to follow –


Previous interview with Jaydeep Unudurti

Anand on the World Championship in Moscow (Part 1)
14.07.2012 – Just six weeks ago Viswanathan Anand successfully defended his World Championship title in Moscow, against Israeli GM Boris Gelfand. Immediately after the final Anand spoke to an old friend, journalist Jaideep Unudurti. The interview was too long (and profound) for his newspaper, which carried only parts of it. Jaideep has given us the rest, which we bring you in three parts. Don't miss this!

The Delhi Interview with Viswanathan Anand – Part two
11.06.2010 – In December 2009 Jaideep Unudurti conducted an indepth interview with Viswanathan Anand. Some of it was published in Mint – a collaboration between the Hindustan Times and the Wall Street Journal – but a lot fell on the cutting room floor. Thankfully Jaideep saved the entire interview, which provides deep insights into the personality of the current World Champion. Here's part two.
The Delhi Interview with Viswanathan Anand – Part one
08.06.2010 – Back in December 2009 Mint – a collaboration between the Hindustan Times and the Wall Street Journal – commissioned their journalist Jaideep Unudurti to do an indepth interview with World Champion Vishy Anand. The discussion lasted for an hour, and only a small section landed in the journal. Jaideep has thankfully transcribed the entire contents, which we will publish in three sections.

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