Get into the mood for Anand vs. Kramnik

9/23/2008 – It is 21 days to go for the start of the long awaited World Championship match. While tension is rising you should not miss getting to know the champion and his challenger in person. While Kramnik recorded his famous DVD 'My Path to the Top' at the end of 2007, Anand just recently made two DVDs, also in the Fritz Trainer format. Buy Vishy's 'My Career vol 1 and 2' now or read this review.

Viswanathan Anand: My Career (Volume 1)

Review by Michael Jeffreys

After featuring past world champions Kasparov and Kramnik on DVDs, Chessbase has come out with a new DVD series starring the popular Indian World Champion, Viswanathan Anand. This review covers the first DVD in the series, Viswanathan Anand: My Career (Volume 1), which highlights Anand’s games from 1984-1999 and has a running time of 3 hours, 48 minutes.

Now 38 years old, “Vishy” was born in Madras, India on December 11, 1969. He was considered a chess prodigy at a very young age and talks about his start in chess in the second video clip on the DVD:

Screen shot of Anand talking about getting started in chess as a young boy

“My sister found a chess club nearby when I was 7. It was called the Tal chess club, in Madras. At first it was pretty intimidating. There was just a bunch of old people playing chess, but eventually I got the hang of it.

“A few years later my father got posted in Manila, in the Philippines, in 1979 right after the Karpov-Korchnoi match in Baguio. There was a 1 hour television show on chess everyday. My mother would record the game with pen and paper and then play it over with me when I got home from school. And we would also solve the puzzles. Eventually I solved so many of the puzzles that they invited me down to the television station. Each time you solved the puzzle they gave you a free book. Eventually they told me to come there and take all the books I want, but please don't enter the puzzle contest anymore!”

Anand comes off as relaxed and seemly enjoying himself as he talks about his early career. One thing I appreciated was that he looks directly into the camera while speaking, unlike another popular Chessbase presenter.

Interestingly, he says that his jump in strength happened very fast. That one week he was a good, but nothing special club player, and the next he was winning everything in sight, including his country’s national junior title. One thing you have to admire about Anand is that he is not afraid to show his losses, even brutal ones:

Screen shot of Anand going over his game against Kaidanov

In the above screen shot, Anand is showing a position from a game between himself and Gregory Kaidanov from Moscow in 1987. Vishy, playing Black, says that he felt everything was under control and didn’t see White’s compensation for the piece he had sacrificed. However, Kaidanov’s next move was a knockout: 1.Qxf7+!! 1-0 And suddenly the game was over as 1…Rxf7 is met by 2.Ng6+ Kg8 3.Rh8#.

Anand’s openness and honesty on this DVD is very refreshing. He talks about the trap of getting complacent once you have achieved your GM title, which he says is what happened to him:

“Okay, so now I am a grandmaster. And then you get completely stuck. This is something that many people had warned me about. They said, the first thing you do after getting the GM title is to have 6 months of lousy results! I think what happens is that you simply stop having a goal in front of you. First of all, a grandmaster title is for life; you don’t lose it. The second problem is you used to have a goal in every tournament; ‘okay, I need 6 1/2 out of 9 to score a GM norm,’ and you could aim for it, and so you were very motivated. But once you become a GM, you get complacent. That’s what happened to me in1998… when basically all I achieved was tossing a hell of a lot of elo points down the drain.”

Wow, great stuff and something I have not heard discussed before by any GM, let alone a world champion. I found watching Vishy go through several technical rook endings in the beginning of the DVD quite instructive. And when he shows his first win over Kasparov at Tilburg in 1991, you can feel Anand’s satisfaction (and rightly so!).

Other interesting games on the DVD include: Anand - Kamsky, Las Palmas 1995, PCA-Candidates Final, 9th Game; Anand - Gelfand, Wijk aan Zee 1996; Anand - Ivanchuk, Las Palmas 1996; Anand - Shirov, Dos Hermanas 1997; and Kramnik - Anand, Belgrad 1997.

While there is much to like on this DVD, I do have a few minor criticisms:

Sometimes Anand rapidly clicks through a game while saying, “This is not interesting.” Well, if it’s not interesting, why show it? Why not just have the positions you wish to talk about already set up?

Also, he doesn’t tell you what color he is playing at the start of the games, so you either have to look at the game score in the window or wait until he says something like, “So now I played…” More “viewer friendly” would have been to just tell us what color he was playing before starting to click on the moves.

Finally, several times the poor guy pulls out a hanky to wipe his forehead (after first apologizing) in several of the videos because he says it’s so hot in the room… wasn’t there a fan somewhere they could have gotten him!?

The Bottom Line

Anand’s presentation on this DVD is both relaxed and enjoyable. His openness in discussing many interesting topics is both entertaining and refreshing. Besides the few criticisms I listed above, another that I want to mention is that he doesn’t explain the openings at all, but rather just clicks through the first dozen moves or so quite rapidly. This is something that lower rated players may have a problem with. Instead, Anand mostly focuses on middle games and endings. That said, there is much the viewer can learn from the likeable world champion. On a scale of 1-10, Viswanathan Anand, My Career (Volume 1) gets an 8.5


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