Anand: Chess has become more dynamic

12/4/2010 – This morning we opened the biggest Hamburg newspaper to see a full page on Vishy Anand, talking about computers and how they have changed his and the world's approach to the game. Yes, and also about quitting chess at 41 (spoiler: he is not considering it). Yesterday the Telegraph had an interview with Magnus Carlsen. All because of the London Chess Classic that begins next Wednesday.

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Currently, Anand Viswanathan is preparing for the London Chess Classic, where he will take on Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik. Sports reporter Rainer Grünberg [who is himself a former Bundesliga player] visited Anand in In his training camp in Bad Soden, Germany. Rainer was also acting as a courier for the Hamburg software house ChessBase. He brought with him a DVD with 4.5 million games [a pre-production version of Mega Database 2011]. These games can theoretically be downloaded on the Internet, "but to be on the safe side" Anand prefers to use ChessBase data. He belongs to the first generation that grew up with computers.

Excerpts from the interview

On the use of a chessboard: Of course I have a chessboard. Some of the younger players say they don't, but that is pure propaganda. I always consider on a board whether I really like the positions that I want to play, if I really understand everything that I have analyzed with the computer. You see things better in three dimensions. But it is true that I use the board far less than I used to. I work mainly with the computer.

How computers have changed chess: With today's databases everybody has a wealth of information available. Previously this only applied to a minority, players with the appropriate networks, for instance in the Soviet Union. This development has led to a democratic broadening of knowledge and the opportunity to access ideas far more quickly. This applies to most other areas of life as well. If we want to know something, we google it. Today, in order to become a good chess player, it is not so important whether you were born in Russia or Europe, you can do it anywhere in the world if you have the appropriate talent. In addition, chess playing computers have become so strong that you can analyze all phases of the game more extensively, deeper and more accurately. All these factors have changed the game. Chess has become more dynamic, piece play has become more effective. The ability to defend oneself in bad positions or against king attacks has increased dramatically. General principles are moving more and more into the background, calculating move sequences is more important.

How they have changed his thinking: have become more critical in my decisions, and don't allow myself to be guided by a few general strategies. I look for special moves, for exceptions to the generally accepted principles. The exceptions of course have their own logic, but we have not been able to understand it so far. With growing understanding we are often confronted with moves whe would have previously rejected, out of general considerations. This is the merit of the computer – they point to many new and unusual ideas. People are afraid to think out of the ordinary, computer to force you to do so. But: we must be the pilot, the computer must not be allowed into the cockpit.

Whether the 41-year-old thinks about quitting? I will not go on playing tournaments until the age of 60 or 70, but I will not suddenly stop playing, like Garry Kasparov did five years ago. It will be a longer process. Right now I feel physically and mentally fresh enough to compete at the highest level, at least for a couple of more years.

Does he understand the decision of Magnus Carlsen to drop out of the current World Cup cycle? No, because unlike the past ten or fifteen years, this time almost all the key points are firmly in place. It's been a long time since had so much clarity in the fight for the World Championship.


Meanwhile we found a substantial piece about Magnus Carlsen in the London Telegraph, which thankfully summarizes the interview conducted by Max Davidson for us.

In short

Herbal tea or stiff drink? Definitely not a stiff drink when I am playing. And I am not a great one for herbal tea either. I would be more likely to have a fruit juice.

Do you believe in the spirit world? It is not something to which I have given a lot of thought.

Who is your inspiration? Originally, it was my father who gave me my passion for chess. Now that I study classic matches, I learn from all the great players of the past.

What was the last film you saw? The latest Harry Potter.

What was the last piece of music you bought? I usually listen to music on the internet, sites like Spotify, rather than buying CDs. I listen to quite a lot of rap.

How do you feel on a typical Friday evening? And Monday morning? If I am in a big tournament, I will be keyed up for that. By Monday, I will be exhausted and can sleep in for hours.

Beach or snow? Either, according to season.

How would you describe yourself to an alien from another planet? An enthusiast for a game that is civilised and challenging. Definitely not as a genius or freak of nature.


Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen lead the field for London Classic

Last year's London Classic at Olympia attracted large audiences, so its 2010 version on 8-15 December, with the reigning world champion Vishy Anand now in the field, will be of great interest. Its added spice is the rivalry at the top of the world rankings between Anand, Norway's 20-year-old Magnus Carlsen, and Russia's ex-champion and current world No 4, Vlad Kramnik. Spectators (£10 daily, details online) can watch the play live, attend grandmaster commentaries, compete in side events, or relax with friendly games.

The global chess body, FIDE, still hopes to persuade Carlsen to rescind his withdrawal from the May 2011 candidates matches and has announced a new date of 22 December for contract signing. How he performs in London, just a week before the contract deadline, may affect the talks and whether he can take the bold route of a direct title challenge to Anand.

It is odds on that one of the big three will win the eight-GM Classic but England's top quartet will be tough to defeat. The most likely to produce a surprise is Hikaru Nakamura. The US No 1 used to be reckoned a lightweight at this level who played too much speed chess and risky openings. The 23-year-old has matured fast, now ranks in the world top 10, and rarely loses. He is ambitious and London will be his opportunity.

England's youngest GM David Howell, 20, is the lowest ranked entrant at the Classic and could also make a quantum jump. He won the British Rapidplay with 10.5/11 and impressed with a recent Bundesliga win. White's 17 dxc5! is not decisive but the error 19...Be6? (Bb7) enabled White to paralyse the Q-side and end the game with checkmate.

London Chess Classic 2010 with Anand and Carlsen
12.06.2010 – The 2009 tournament was a highlight of the chess year – and returned London to its former status as a great world centre of chess. The sponsors vowed to continue with the Chess Classic, and for this year's edition – from December 8 to 15 – they have secured the participation of the World Champion Vishy Anand plus the world number one Magnus Carlsen. This is an event you should not miss.

London Chess Classic 2010 – a reminder
24.09.2010 – After the success of this newly organised tournament last year, the second edition of the Chess Classic promises to be an even greater event. It will be staged in London from December 8 to 15, 2010 and includes the current World Champion (Anand), his predecessor (Kramnik) and his possible successor (Carlsen), plus a bevy of high-class players. Make your plans now – here are the details.

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