Anand: Russia is still one of the strongest chess nations in the world

11/21/2009 – "For the greatest part of my life I have been fighting the three K’s – Karpov, Kasparov and Kramnik," says Vishy Anand on Moscow radio. "I have played no fewer than a hundred games with each of them." The World Champion talks about the Russian school, chess as an Olympic sport, computer cheating and the world championship format. Interview with WGM Elmira Mirzoeva.

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World Blitz Championship

This event was held on November 16, 17 and 18 in the showroom of the Red Square mall GUM. Time controls were three minutes for the whole game + two seconds increment per move. The event was a 22-player double round-robin, i.e. it had a total of 42 rounds, which were played on three consecutive days. The participants include the players from the Tal Memorial, plus twelve invitees. The average rating was 2718 – quite remarkable for an event with so many players.

Interview with World Champion Viswanathan Anand

The 15th world chess champion world chess champion Viswanathan Anand was the guest of the Sports Channel of the radio station Mayak on Thursday 5 November. Mayak is the oldest nationwide radio station in Russia. The name can roughly be translated as "Radio Lighthouse". The station broadcasts news, talk shows and popular music. The interview was conducted by WGM Elmira Mirzoeva.

How often have you been to Russia?

Anand: I came first in 1986, and have been here about 15 times in all, maybe more. To be honest, I cannot claim to have travelled around your country. I have always come only to Moscow, although I have done so fairly often.

Did you get fed up with always being second after Karpov, Kasparov and Kramnik?

I have certainly played in a lot of world championship cycles, which is hard work. I remember the first time, I lost in the quarter finals against Karpov. I was surprised then at how close I was to winning, yet lost. Later I had both ups and downs.

I first won the world title in 2000. But then the chess world was divided. When I lost the title it was perhaps a bit strange, for a long time afterwards I did not have any matches, in which to fight to recover it. But then there was San Luis. In reality it is a strange feeling, that time passes, and you seem to go on and on. But the generations change, new, younger players come along, and it is ever more difficult to fight against them. There was a difficult period, but then came Mexico, where the world championship tournament was held, and I managed to win. Winning in Mexico gave me a second wind, one might say. After this triumph, it was already very nice to win the match in Bonn.

But I can definitely say that I have seen several generations of Russian players. I played with the likes of Polugayevsky and Geller, and of course, with all the younger ones – Kramnik, Svidler, etc. But the greatest part of my life, I have been fighting the three K’s – Karpov, Kasparov and Kramnik. Indeed, I have played no fewer than a hundred games with each of them.

What about computer cheating?

It is a great threat when it happens. And another problem is that, even when it is not happening, people sometimes think it is. These are two different situations. So nowadays, the second scenario occurs – someone says his opponent is cheating, and then the whole atmosphere changes, people’s relations change. In the majority of big tournaments, we all more or less trust each other. But even so, I think some form of control is necessary. Consequently, I think it was the right decision to ban mobile phones. Now if they ring, you lose at once. And not only that – even if the sound is turned off, one can receive a text with advice. So one should simply not bring mobiles to the game.

Do FIDE need to pass special rules?

Yes, they already have, insisting phones be switched off. This is directed against cheating. But I think it is harder to catch a player red-handed, accepting advice, than it is to dream up penalties. So that means that somebody might cheat, and hope FIDE would not catch him. But this dishonest player will immediately feel the change in people’s attitudes to him, the majority of his colleagues will break off relations with him, and he might stop getting invitations to tournaments. So any player needs to think seriously, before taking such an irresponsible step, as to cheat.

But I do not think computer cheating is the biggest problem of world chess, and one should not go over the top about it. Yes, sure, there have been a few such cases, and it is understandable that people are nervous. But it seems to me that the significance of this problem is rather overstated.

How have technological developments affected your preparation?

I use computer a lot, I must admit. I check analyses, variations, and I have to do this, because everybody else does so, and one has to check and re-check everything. But I use computers a little strangely, because while I am looking at a position with one eye, I can be watching a film or doing something else as well.

What about the Russian school. What is the explanation for its setbacks in chess?

No, I think Russia is still one of the strongest chess nations in the world, of that I am sure. It is just that it has become a lot easier to study chess, and so others have been able more easily to catch up with the Russians. But I think that, at the last European team championships, the Russians were just unlucky – they narrowly missed gold and had to settle for silver. But I still think your country is one of the strongest, only they just don’t dominate like they used to.

What about the world championship cycle?

Well, I have played different systems, with matches and tournaments, and it is hard to say which is best. Probably matches are better, although there is also probably not a huge difference. I think it is more important that the chess finally reunites, and that there is one world champion, recognized by everybody. This is really important, because when someone asks who is the world chess champion, many people do not agree on a single answer. This badly affects attempts to popularize the game, and the general search for sponsors, and even affects the running of tournaments in various places. So the most important thing is to unify the chess world.

What about the idea of chess joining the Olympic Games?

Yes, it would be nice, of course, if it is possible. Because in many countries, if you are an Olympic sport, there is much more finance available. However, in many countries, chess is not considered a sport, whereas if we were lucky, we would be not just a sport, but an Olympic sport. But, to be honest, I do not know what stage the negotiations with the International Olympic Committee have reached. I think it would be good, though, if chess joined the Olympic family.

What about time controls?

I don’t think this is a big problem. If we can get into the Olympic family, then I guess we would have to make a few concessions. But then we face the unknown questions of what time control would be used for Olympic chess, if such a thing ever comes about. Maybe it would be solely rapidplay, but I don’t see that as any great loss.

And your plans for the near future?

After the Tal Memorial I will travel to India. And there I don’t know, maybe I will have a holiday. But in any case, I will go home, to see my family – this is always nice, and is like a holiday in itself for me.


Interview by WGM Elmira Mirzoeva for Mayak (Russian)
Translated with permission of the author by Steve Giddins – Copyright ChessBase


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