Anand as you never heard him before

by Albert Silver
1/27/2015 – It was an offbeat series of questions and answers in a highly enjoyable interview in The Indian Express, leading to a look at the very human side of top-level chess. While enjoying a rare break, Vishy Anand talks about about topics such as how he was once confused for a movie star, how he has a pretty poor memory, and even the dating scene in chess.

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The following are some excerpts from the interview:

Chess players are perceived to be serious and intense. Do you guys think about rooks and bishops all the time?

Well, I try to disconnect completely at times. But you can’t help it. Sometimes you wake up at 4am and you just know that Bh4 was the move in the position. Sometimes the best moves strike you at the most unlikely places. We were at the Kruger National Park in South Africa watching lions and I found a brilliant attack that I was able to use in Tata Steel Chess Tournament in 2013.

What’s the biggest misconception that people have about chess players?

Most people believe that our memory extends to other spheres of life.

It doesn’t? Like, do you remember normal things like phone numbers, birthdays, and such?

Ha ha ha! Not a chance. It’s normally a reminder from the wife.

It was a highly offbeat series of questions and answers that led to a very enjoyable interview
in The Indian Express.

For around three weeks, you are locked in a cage of sorts with your opponent during a championship tie. What sort of things go through your head when you see the guy opposite you for the first time?

Not much. Most of the time, you are living in your own head. You don’t notice anything else.

In between moves, when there is not much to think about, do you drift into some other thoughts? At the World Championship in 2012, you had once said the nursery rhyme “Patty cake, Patty cake” kept playing in your head during the tie break.

Now we are all in the Humpty Dumpty phase! In between moves you can’t keep the intensity. Your mind does wander. We normally gossip during that time. If you have to know who the hottest date is or who is dating whom, it all happens in between moves!

Really! Even Magnus Carlsen once spoke about the robust dating scene on the chess circuit. Is it that vibrant?

I think the chess dating scene has always been pretty vibrant. In fact, it has been around even before I started playing chess.

What’s the most interesting conversation you’ve had during a tournament or while travelling?

The best would have to be one involving a co-passenger on a train in 1991. He asked me where I was working. I replied I played chess. He said, ‘that is ok, but what do you do?’ I again said I played chess. He got testy and asked, “Do you think you are Viswanathan Anand to play chess?”

Then once at Chennai airport someone ran after me and said, ‘Your last film was really superb, sir! Your hero role was outstanding.’ Aruna was keen to ask which film. But I said it might be embarrassing that as the supposed hero, I don’t know my own films!

Click here for full interview in The Indian Express

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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