Anand number one in the news

4/10/2007 – After winning Linares and being elevated to Number One in the FIDE rankings Vishy Anand has dominated the chess news, especially in his home country of India. In recent interviews he has spoken about his success, milestones in his life and career, his faith, his colleagues, and about how he thought, during a league game on April 1st, that some prankster was pulling a fast one on him.

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Indian chess champ is no. 1

The Reuters news agency visited Anand, immediately after he had won the Morelia-Linares Super Grandmasters tournament for the second time and was assured the world no.1 spot in the FIDE ratings – for the first time, after spending 15 years in the top three bracket. Reuters caught up with him at his home in Spain and asked him about his plans for the future. Click to view the interview.


An unforgettable moment

A day after winning the Category 20 tournament, Viswanathan Anand told Vijay Tagore that he has learnt a few things in Linares which could be helpful to him during the World Championship later this year.

On what it feels like to be the World No. 1
It is of course a great feeling. When I started playing chess, I would tell myself I wanted to become India's first GM. When I became the first GM I realised that I needed to be World Champion and World No.1. It is nice to know that dreams come true. I think, for a sportsperson there are moments they cherish. This is one of those unforgettable moments. Being at the top is what everyone sets out to do I am glad I got there.

On how he managed to win Morelia/Linares
I put in a lacklustre performance in Wijk, but somehow the hunger to perform came back. I was not playing my best chess in Linares, but I hung in there the longest. I just kept trying hard in each game. Sometimes that meant salvaging a half point or hauling in a full point. For example against Leko and Carlsen I turned down draw offers. In both these games I was able to win. I think I managed to work 100% in every game. Maybe that is what I will need to take to Mexico [for the World Championship in September].

On his colleagues Topalov and Carlsen
Players go through cycles. You have good performance, below par and tournaments you would like to forget. Surely Veselin is a very talented player and will be able to get over this. Magnus is clearly a player with a lot of potential. He showed that he belongs to the elite set. In Wijk he had a bad start but here he showed what his true capabilities are.


God is the grandmaster, says Anand

On Religion
Religion is a deeply personal issue for me, which is why I disdain its showy side. I believe that in matters of religion and spirituality, every individual has to discover his or her level of comfort and intimacy. I avoid the rituals and ceremonies associated with religion. That does not mean I stay completely remote; when I am in India I make it a point to visit a temple. I revel in the tranquillity it offers and the beauty it symbolises.

On Prayer
I see prayer as an article of faith. When I pray I try to concentrate on the prayer itself, its cadences, its ebb and flow. I try to channel my energies towards it. Conviction and belief – that’s the essence of prayer. Just before a game, I try to keep a clear mind so that I can focus better. I’m the kind of person who plays fast and relies a lot on intuition, so being at peace with myself is vital. Saying my daily prayers helps me achieve this heightened state of mind.

On humility
Chess is a complex sport, forever evolving, forever morphing, and always humbling. I should know; bishops and knights, kings, queens and pawns have always been a part of my world. I started playing the game when I was six, and my passion has not dimmed a bit; as a matter of fact, it continues to grow.

On success
In chess, as in life, knowledge, hard work and a bit of luck are the critical for success. When I started learning the ropes, the intricacies of the game, my chief source of knowledge came from books. This could take weeks, sometimes even months to filter through. Today, though, knowledge is downloadable in real time, so everyone has access to the same bits – and bytes – of information.

On his calmness
I may look calm and sober when I’m playing, but that’s a façade. On the inside I can hear my heart pounding. Everyone brings a particular characteristic to the way they play. I bring my calmness to the table. Chess is warfare waged in solitude. In many ways, the game prepares you for the challenges that life hurls in your direction.


No.1 at last

By Hari Hara Nandanan

It was quite sensational for me to meet this special chess player of just 16. That was 21 years ago, when Viswanathan Anand was crowned the youngest national champion. The kamikaze kid could beat any player into submission within minutes. In two years he became India’s first world junior champion, first Grandmaster and then India’s first Candidate (the first serious stage in the long-drawn out World Championship cycle of the past). Since then, Anand has been India’s brand ambassador abroad. Anand reminisces:

First National
Winning the title [in Mumbai 1986] made me the strongest player in India for the first time. There I was, the National Champion. Winning this title cleared the decks for me in the race to become India's first GM.

World junior title in Baguio
I was not even thinking about first place, just hoping for a half-decent score in Baguio. In the last round that I managed to make it “exciting”. With white I just needed a draw against Gad Rechlis, and I managed to play so badly I was quite lost. But I simplified to some kind of rook ending where I escaped with a draw.

First qualification for the Candidates
I remember it was a long and gruelling event. I was hanging in there and looked set for a good result, but qualification looked unlikely. A sudden spurt of 3.5/4 in the final rounds including wins over Miles and Gurevich suddenly vaulted me into the Candidates. It was a ticket to a new world (matches, seconds intrigue etc) and I was thrilled.

First victory over Kasparov, Karpov
I played Kasparov in 1991 in Tilburg. He was leading the event and we played a Sicilian. It was a wild game and I managed to materialise the advantage and win. It was a great feeling. Once the race for becoming India's first Grandmaster had finished, it was difficult to find the next achievable goal. I played Karpov in my first Linares tournament in 1991. I had just played Kamsky and I had taken 15 minutes and 50 seconds on the clock. My friend Maurice Perea came to me and said Vishy tomorrow you play Karpov remember you have to think and play. I thought for a second and said okay Maurice, how about 16 minutes? [Anand beat Karpov]

Ambition left in chess: to win the Mexico World championship; favourite piece: the queen, but no cliches, please; favourite world champion: Tal and Fischer, Tal for his style of chess and Fischer for what he was in 1972; favourite place: changes every year – at present South Africa, for chess, Mexico.


I thought it was an April fool prank on me: Anand

Anand described the International Chess Federation's (FIDE) initial refusal to elevate him to number one ranking in its latest charts as inexplicable and strange: "Linares has always made it to the April lists. It is by far one of the most important events in the chess calendar. Not to rate it is very strange. If we have ratings every three months, this is to make the ratings more relevant."

When Linares wasn't rated Anand thought that a kind of April fool prank being played with him. "I was the last one to know. But I was getting a lot of calls on April 1st. Now it being April fool, I was not sure what to believe. Then I saw the hundreds of emails and messages in the forums. It was very special that everyone stood up for me. I can't thank the fans enough. It was truly special."

Anand was playing in Bundesliga in Germany when the news came. "I thought I was not going to let this get in the way. I had to play. I will deal with this later. Only when I finished the game and spoke to my wife Aruna, she mentioned all the intrigue and drama. I would like to thank the AICF, various chess journals and websites like 'ChessBase' who stood up for me. I was the last person to get involved. It unfolded like a drama and finished well."


Racism was not a factor in FIDE decision: Anand

World number one Viswanathan Anand said he did not think racism was a factor in the international chess federation's (FIDE) initial decision not to give him the top ranking. The chess wizard said there must have been some 'genuine technical problem' behind FIDE's initial decision. After the list had been corrected and he was officially number one Anand said: "Technically speaking, points difference between Topalov and me is small. I know I have to play well to remain at the top and do not want to worry too much. I will concentrate on playing good and solid chess. I am really motivated to play well year after year. It is an excellent opportunity to go to Mexico City as world number one and I hope to do well. The future is bright. I am happy to note that my becoming world number one will motivate others to shine in the world arena."


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