Vishy on Vishy gems!

by Sagar Shah
12/11/2019 – Viswanathan Anand, who turns 50 years old today, is a legend who has played many masterpieces throughout his illustrious career spanning decades. At the end of Tata Steel Chess India 2019, IM SAGAR SHAH caught up with the chess virtuoso to discuss nine of his career-best games. In this interview Anand talks about old times, untold behind-the-scenes stories of the pre-computer chess era and much more. Chess fans are in for a nostalgic treat!

Master Class Vol. 12: Viswanathan Anand Master Class Vol. 12: Viswanathan Anand

This DVD allows you to learn from the example of one of the best players in the history of chess and from the explanations of the authors how to successfully organise your games strategically, consequently how to keep your opponent permanently under press


Vintage Vishy 

Book cover

At the Tata Steel Chess India 2019, I handpicked nine positions from Vishy Anand's career-best games and posed them in the form of a quiz to Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Hikaru Nakamura, Vidit Gujrathi, and Erwin l'Ami. A fitting tribute to the legend as he neared his 50th birthday. The challenge was to not only guess the moves Vishy played in those positions but also recognize the opponents they were played against. In case you missed it in "10 things that made the Tata Steel Chess India 2019 special", you'll find all the video clips at the bottom of this article.

After the above interviews were over, I got in touch with Vishy himself. The Indian maestro, who was found in a relaxed mood after the tournament, spoke unreservedly and went down the memory lane relating many untold stories connected to these masterpieces. We have transcribed this entire conversation below for you to read and enjoy. By the way, Anand's new autobiography Mind Master: Winning Lessons From A Champion's Life is out now for Kindle and in hardcover.

Vishy Anand on the nine best games of his career (transcribed below)

SS: We had prepared a test during this event where we had handpicked positions from nine of your best games. We gave it to all the players here and they all fared pretty well. We wanted to give you those positions to you, not to test you because you would surely remember them well, but to just take you back in the time so that you can tell us your thoughts regarding them and may be share some stories that most people won't be aware of.

VA: Well, the first one is very easy of course.


This is my game against Levon Aronian from Wijk Aan Zee 2013. The move here is 16...♞de5 and the previous move is 15...♝c5, in fact, this is one of the chapters in my new book — Mind Master, where I talk about this move a lot. I remember spending half an hour to find ♝c5 because of course I was drawing a blank and didn't remember anything of this variation. There were so many other variations we looked at that I didn't remember this. And so based on the smallest fragments of memory I had to reconstruct everything. So that's the story and then as everyone knows this became the modern version of Rotlewi - Rubinstein. There are other games that I am equally proud of but it's a strong case to say that this is the most beautiful game I have played in my life.


This game was also analysed by Anand (from 5 minutes) in the birthday tribute video from the Grenke Chess YouTube Channel: 

Celebrating the 50th birthday of Vishy Anand | Grenke Chess

Career highlights

1975: Young Vishy learns the rules of chess from his mother
1988: Anand became the youngest chess grandmaster from India
2000: Winner of the Chess Classic in Frankfurt ahead of Kasparov and Kramnik
2007: Vishy became the undisputed world chess champion in Mexico.
2008: He defended his title successfully against grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik in Bonn
2010: Viswanathan won against his challenger Veselin Topalov in Sofia and maintained his title
2012: Successful world champion title defense against Boris Gelfand in Russia
2013: World chess championship in Chennai | Anand vs Magnus Carlsen
2014: World chess championship 2014 in Sotchi | Magnus Carlsen vs Viswanathan Anand
2017: Rapid world chess champion 
2018: GRENKE Chess Classic Participant in Karlsruhe & Baden-Baden

VA: Moving on to the next position, this again was very nice. This is my game with Gata Kamsky from Las Palmas. It is now 24 years and 9 months.


At this point we were deadlocked. I mean it seemed like a pretty convincing win by two points and one round to spare but at this point we were still tied on points. And it was only with this move 26.♘d1 that I was able to break the lock jam.


SS: Did this move come easily to you back then or was it difficult?

VA: You know I don't remember. Perhaps because of the added weight of the candidates match you don't just play any move. For me now it seems very obvious. I don't know if it's because I have already seen it. I mean, I played it and now it is obvious to me. You know just like once you see the solution the puzzle is not difficult anymore! But I can't see too many other plans for White. I think I must have seen ♖a5 and then quickly realized that 26.♘d1 was very good. 


This is a match I don't look back with any pleasure but I played 27.♖d5 here against Kasparov, and I am still baffled that he took the rook. I mean if you play ♛c6 or something. I keep saying I am slightly better which is what the annotation I have put, but these were very forgiving days, nobody checked it with engine. I don't even know what the engine says. I cannot believe that I am still better. Of course, after he played 27...xd5 28.exd5 followed by c5, e2, d6 it was a runaway. So that was very nice for me. It is interesting that he took it, clearly there is some hidden flaw in Kasparov that sometimes he is very impulsive. The person who took maximum advantage of this weakness of Garry was Kramnik. I remember their second game in the Gruenfeld for instance where he did exactly this. It didn't look like a game which Garry should lose necessarily but very quickly White was just better and the opposite-coloured ending also was just winning very fast.


SS: In a way, this was your first win in a World Championship match, right? 

VA: Yes, that's true!

This is one of my favourite games (looking at the next position on his hand). Now that I remember this game I would have to say the Aronian game and this one are or something.


We are talking about a time well before the computer in 1992. This was a little private match we had in Linares. By now I had seen the idea, but this is typical thing ♛a5 ♘d5 ♛xd2 ♘xf6 gxf6 ♖xd2. You know, I don't remember how this happened. The way I remember it now is that, I had seen this idea ♝c4. It is the kind of thinking you hardly get to do these days because the computer is interrupting you always. You want to do something beautiful, you want to make a plan, you want to be an artist and the computer interrupts you in every move. But I remember the thought process: ♝c4, we will exchange the bishops, if it exchanges on c4 even better, but we will exchange bishops and then I will put the rook on h3 so that h2 cannot defend g4. I will play ♚d7-e6 and then I will attack the g-pawn with ♜bg8, ♜h4, the e2-rook will have to come to g2, the only way to defend this pawn. Then I will play d5, exd5 ♚xd5, then I will go back ♚e6 and remove the rook, somehow press him here and there and play f5, making two connected passed pawns! What a wonderful way to get two connected passers and the funny thing is I was able to execute this idea till the very end. It is great to be able to execute an idea this way. I remember Patrick Wolff, who was my second at the time, was completely blown away by this.

SS: In a way with ♝c4 you exchanged your good bishop for a bad one. Magnus stated that this was not anti-positional but really wonderful understanding of chess.

VA: (smilingly) Yes, I would agree. In those days we found these things on intuition and it was happy times. I am sure I take similar decisions nowadays but like I said whenever I try to make a plan the computer always interrupts me. It interrupts everyone!


(Turning to the next position) This was the first round of Wijk Aan Zee 2006 against Karjakin. 


Well, I played the Najdorf. I don't know if I really expected him to challenge me in this but he challenged me in a very sharp line which came all the way up to here. And this line was brand new at that time, now it is an established one, but at that point it was almost brand new. I remember studying this line extensively in San Luis 2005, I mean extensively by the standard of those days when there were Rybka 2.3.2 or Fritz 5 or something! Again I didn't remember my prep and initially hesitated to play 24...♞c7 fearing my opponent must have checked this with the computer but then I just went with ♞c7!

SS: And then you sacrificed two pieces?

VA: Well, that really plays itself and anyway after 24...♞c7 25.♕xc7 if I go ♜e8 then it is really a failure of the imagination. I had to play this because after ♕xc7 ♜xa3 bxa3 ♛xa3 ♕a7 I am just winning!


(Holding the next position in hand) I see another rival to the Aronian game (laughs).


Here I was trying to make 20.♗g6 and ♗a3 work and later found 20.h6. This again is one of those games where there wasn't much preparation involved by today's standards. The event too became one of my fondest memories. I remember the whole tournament you had the feeling of being happy, it was in Biel. I won two good games against Joel [Lautier], I won a game against Boris [Gelfand], I beat [Pelletier] Yannick twice. The only game I lost was against [Vadim] Milov but overall this was a great tournament for me and I remember feeling very well there.


SS: No one could actually guess your opponent in the next position. What are your thoughts about it?

VA: This is actually my game against Beliavsky and I can see the thought process. It is very hard to guess that this was Beliavsky who played Najdorf against me.


I don't think it is a particularly beautiful game. Certainly it is a quality game but not as beautiful as the ones we have seen. But this was important for me for entirely different reasons. I had my nightmare in Biel interzonal 1993 where I lost to Gelfand in round 8 or 9 and every day I was sitting there fighting and trying to beat someone and get back to the required plus four. And it was the most annoying tournament because it was in the summer and I was sitting in the seventh board or something and within the first five to ten minutes the first six boards would disappear (the players would make draw among each other). I would be sitting on the seventh board and thinking what the hell am I doing here struggling in this position and missing. I would sit there till 7 or 7:30 working, playing some miserable game and imagining Kramnik, Khalifman, and others back in their rooms after just five minutes, going for a walk in the summer around the lake in Biel! I, on the other hand, had to fight every game and I didn't succeed at it. Finally, in a much worse position [Viktor] Korchnoi blundered against me but even that was not enough, I still needed five results to go well on the last day. I remember the last of them was [Lajos] Portisch against [Evgeny] Bareev. Portisch had my score but he had the best tie-break in the whole tournament and needed half point but couldn't win. I had better tie-breaks against all the others for some reason.

(Coming back to the position) Anyway, this was from the Groningen (PCA) interzonal 1993 and here all I wanted to do was avoid another Biel. But surprisingly, I don't know why I ended up taking some insane risks by charging in with the mainline of a very sharp thing. This game incidentally took place shortly after the Short-Kasparov match where Beliavsky and Azmaiparashvili were Kasparov's seconds. And I am sure they must have checked this line thoroughly. But I didn't care at all.


(Going to the next position) And this of course is a very special memory.


This is one of those oversights. You know you can ask yourself afterwards how could you miss it but when you miss it, you just miss it. And this is the end of a combination where Kramnik thought after ♞xh2 ♔xh2 ♜xf1 f3 it would be a race with the pawns. He suffered a blindspot and completely missed the square e3, and e3 was all I saw!


SS: You actually made that move and walked away yes?

VA: Well, I was obviously very excited. This again features in my book Mind Master. At the start of the game I had a panic attack because suddenly I couldn't remember my preparation in the Botvinnik and I couldn't reach my seconds either. It is quite detailed in the chapter because it tries to deal with the nightmares you have before a game. First I was terrified as I couldn't remember my line, but it ended well and was a happy day.

SS: The last position is quite recent, just from two years ago. 

VA: Yes, this again is against a very difficult opponent, Fabi of course. And once again a few moves ago he initiated a sequence which ends up here. I think I was a pawn up but it was a half pawn as he had decent compensation but then he initiated a sequence which led to this position and I had already seen it and was very excited.


Find the beautiful move played by Anand


SS: Any other games apart from these that come to your mind as particularly special?

VA: Well, I could add three or four games from Saint Louis except they were all misses. There must be many, but I guess my win against Kasparov in Tilburg was special. In fact all my wins in Tilburg became quite memorable.

SS: Well, Vishy thank you for sharing this with us. Wishing you a safe journey back home and also good days leading up to your birthday! Your 50th birthday is a big moment for Indian chess. Thank you for all that you have done, it really is amazing.

VA: Sure, thank you! To conclude, I will celebrate my birthday. It is just that I celebrate it for others.

SS: Yes, please do celebrate because it is a big day for us.

VA: I appreciate everyone who celebrates with me. It is probably the reason I celebrate it at all. Thanks!

So how did the five top-class Grandmasters, including the current World Champion himself, fare in the test? To know, check out the videos below:

Anish Giri in his usual candid self

It is interesting to see how he could remember the different positions in different ways. Some he had come across in training, while some just on social media! A delightful insight into the mind of one of the world's best chess players!

Erwin l'Ami is Giri's second for a reason

Vidit Gujrathi grew up studying Vishy Anand

Magnus Carlsen became World Champion by defeating Vishy Anand in 2013

He defended his world title in 2014 against Anand. Clearly his knowledge of the legend's life and career is quite extensive.

Hikaru Nakamura is a modern day player and relies heavily on computers and engines

He admitted even before the quiz began that he didn't know Vishy's games very well. But that didn't stop him from being a good sport.


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India website, the biggest chess news outlet in the country.

macauley macauley 12/14/2019 06:29
Gentlemen, it's high time to move on!
sp0623 sp0623 12/14/2019 05:32
@lajosarpad: You don't need to preach to me about the meaning of words, Mr. Wiki. If this was a new word for you, then try to learn about its meaning and its common usage. Defending a known racist who always gets riled up whenever an article on an Indian is published is also racist. Also by conveniently skipping my other points in my previous post and focusing on semantics instead, you are demonstrating Indophobic tendencies yourself. Finally, since you clearly don't understand (or choose not to) the meaning of Indophobia, here's the wiki for it:

Try to educate yourself before you attack someone and defend racists.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/14/2019 02:58
@Magic Knight

Population has a lot to do with articles. With so many people on the Indian subcontinent lots of things are happening there chess-wise and it makes sense to write about Indian chess and if you don't like it, you don't have to read it. Yes, according to population number, having many articles about Chinese chess would be reasonable as well and it's abnormal to not have roughly as many articles about Chinese chess as about Indian chess. On the other hand, having lots of articles about Indian chess is normal. I agree with you that it's exaggerated, but if Indian chess would not be covered by Chessbase, that would be a serious flaw. Rest assured, if they would have some Chinese chess journalists on board, then we would most probably see lots of articles about Chinese chess as well.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/14/2019 02:55

You should at least understand what the words you use to label others mean:

"A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder defined by a persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation.[1] The phobia typically results in a rapid onset of fear and is present for more than six months.[1] The affected person goes to great lengths to avoid the situation or object, to a degree greater than the actual danger posed.[1] If the feared object or situation cannot be avoided, the affected person experiences significant distress.[1] With blood or injury phobia, fainting may occur.[1] Agoraphobia is often associated with panic attacks.[6] Usually a person has phobias to a number of objects or situations"

Indophobia is composed of Indo (denoting India or Indian) and Phobia, so it means irrational fear of India or Indians. This is of course a label one may put on others. Labeling others is a known logical fallacy called argumentum ad hominem. It is irrelevant whether Magic Knight fears India or Indians as you claim by calling him/her Indophobic and his/her racism - according to your claim - is irrelevant as well. He/she says that there are too many fanboy articles about India. I must say that I also have an impression that there are many articles about India, but I would not complain about them. If they are too much for me, I will occasionally skip them.

Yes, Indophobia is anti-Indian sentiment, but if it's called "Indophobia", then the cause of that sentiment is irrational fear from India or Indians. If you mean "anti-Indian", then you might want to use that word instead of Indophobia.
sp0623 sp0623 12/13/2019 07:00
A lot of articles on US chess are also published on this site. I don't see these Indophobic racists complaining then. Why should this site cater to their "taste" only? Who are they to decide what is "necessary" or not? To say that an article or two on a former world champion doesn't belong on this site just because he happens to be an Indian definitely smacks of racism. To deny that would also be "sinking to their level". As for the style and tone of writing, I'm not a fan of Sagar and Tanmay's hyperbolic fanboyish nationalistic style of writing either, but the articles (especially those on Anand) also contain interesting videos and analysis which I like. Finally, Indophobia = anti-Indian sentiment, not "irrationally afraid of Indians".
Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 12/13/2019 04:25
I don't think anything that has been posted so far is racist. It is merely the opinion of mine (and many others on this site) that pro-india articles are posted in far abundance than is necessary. If this were chessbase.india website then I could understand. But all of the fanboy articles posted by Sagar & Tanmray is obviously more often subjective than objective and it really should be kept on chessbase.india.

By the way @lajosarpad population should have nothing to do with this....why would you even mention?? China's population is 1.43B and do you see articles about chinese players on here anywhere near the abundance of india?
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/13/2019 11:23
I've meant "sensitive", not "sensible". Sorry.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/13/2019 11:23
I would agree with some commenters here that there were many articles about India, but would like to remind everyone here that there are 1.339 billion people in India, if this website would NOT write articles about India, then anything happening to 1.339 billion people would be ignored, which would be sad. On the other hand, I also have a feeling that there were more articles about India than there should have been, according to my taste.

However, this is an article about the birthday of one of the greatest chess players of all time, who happens to be an Indian, so, a few paragraphs which would show the tremendous effects Vishy had on India would have even added to the quality. Even though it is perfectly normal and cool to say happy birthday to Anand, some people were already frustrated by the many articles about India. I would advise them to not read the articles they are not interested about.

Some comments are indeed below the level that I may call acceptable, but since I value free speech, I would disagree with banning them. Calling them names, like "Indophobic" is sinking to their level in my opinion. They are not necessarily racist or irrationally afraid of Indians, it's possible that the many articles about India was just too much for them. I agree that from their part it was unwise to read them all if they were not interested, but that's another topic.

Magic Knight caused a Tragic Night to some people who were enthusiasted about this article. As a programmer I can certainly tell that adding a setting of personal black list, so people would not even see the comments of people whose comments they are not interested about would be a very nice feature. I don't need safe spaces, I can bear the opinion of everyone, I'm speaking for the more sensible users.
chessstandards chessstandards 12/13/2019 06:22
There are ChessBase Rules that deal with racist comments and personal attacks (usually by trolls). Editors use their discretion and judgement when it comes to grey areas. If some of us are still not happy with the results, we can always say so. Others may not agree, though. We have to make allowances for that. A consensus is a desirable outcome.
Informed discussion is a principle that all readers have to practise. It becomes an issue when some don’t.
sp0623 sp0623 12/13/2019 05:51
You can't have an informed discussion with trolls and racists. And it helps no one.
chessstandards chessstandards 12/13/2019 03:23
Some times comments are in poor taste. However, a ban is not an answer. An informed discussion is desirable. It helps players.
sp0623 sp0623 12/12/2019 03:07
I think it's about time to ban these Indophobic racists like Magic_Knight, saturn23, and KevinConnor from this site. They spoil the atmosphere of this site with their vitriol every time an article on an Indian is published.
MJFitch MJFitch 12/11/2019 10:14
Happy Birthday VISHY!!!...Have a GREAT day!!!
macauley macauley 12/11/2019 08:48
LOL! It's a birthday article.
Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 12/11/2019 08:16
More India fanboy articles...don’t they have a chessbase.india website to keep these articles on instead of here?
Stupido Stupido 12/11/2019 05:30
The videos and this interveiw were very entertaining and interesting, thanks.
macauley macauley 12/11/2019 02:23
Google Translation of the comment below (from Portuguese): "Congratulations on the excellent story. And congratulations to the birthday boy the great Anand, The Madras Tiger. 5 times world champion. And it could be 6 ... It is hardly mentioned what happened in 1998 in Lausanne when Anand after winning that marathon of games against the vast majority of the best in Groningen and winning the "World Cup" of Chess and almost no time to recover energy, He then faces and draws with a rested Karpov the 6 matches in classic rhythm. Following loses in the fast for the great Karpov. Without taking Karpov's merits, but under normal circumstances the result could have been otherwise."
Gustavo Brandao Gustavo Brandao 12/11/2019 01:56
Parabéns pela excelente matéria. E parabéns ao aniversariante o grande Anand, O Tigre de Madras. 5 vezes campeão Mundial. E poderia ser 6... É pouco mencionado o ocorrido em 1998 em Lausanne quando Anand após vencer aquela maratona de jogos contra a grande maioria dos melhores em Groninga e ganhar a "Copa do Mundo" de Xadrez e quase sem tempo de recuperar energias , logo em seguida enfrenta e empata com um descansado Karpov as 6 partidas em ritmo clássico. Na sequência perde nas rápidas para o grande Karpov. Sem tirar os méritos de Karpov, mas em circunstâncias normais o resultado poderia ter sido outro.