The Delhi Interview with Viswanathan Anand – Part three

6/13/2010 – In the first part Vishy Anand spoke about his expectations for the World Championship match in Sofia (the interview was conducted in December 2009). In part two he talked about match preparation, psychological tricks and the ominous "killer instinct". In the concluding section Anand discusses movies, "preparation music"and whether he still reads opening books. Part three.

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The Delhi Interview with Viswanathan Anand

Conducted by Jaideep Unudurti

This interview was conducted in December 2009, on the top floor of the Sheraton in the Mezzanine Boardroom. I was on assignment for Mint, a collaboration between the Hindustan Times and the Wall Street Journal. They wanted a curtain-raiser of sorts for the world championship match. I had interviewed him almost exactly a year earlier. That interview, at his residence in Chennai saw a relaxed and introspective Anand going over his triumph in Bonn. This time it was different, there was a spring in his step and he answered all questions carefully, measuring his words.


Anand and Jaideep – partners in this discussion

In the previous part of this interview Anand talked about his match preparation, his assessment of Topalov, whether he uses psychological tricks, and of course the old question about that "killer instinct". As the interview wound down, coffee was served and Mrs Anand also joined in. In the concluding part Anand discusses movies, "preparation music"and whether he still reads opening books.

Jaideep Unudurti: Did you see Terminator: Salvation?

Viswanathan Anand: No I haven't had a look yet. I like the series but already by the third one its dragging on. I really didn't enjoy the third one that much. The first, I really enjoyed because of the plot, in the second one the special effects were really cool, the third just didn't do it for me. So I didn't bother watching the fourth one.

Any particular favourites – music?

This year has been a lot of U2, "No Line on the Horizon".

Oh you liked that?

I thought it was a very good album. My initial reaction was – my favourite U2 album is still "Achtung Baby" – but after listening enough times this is a very close second. There are quite a few songs I really liked. You didn't like "White as Snow"?

Maybe I didn't listen to it enough times. I didn't like that single, what was it called, "Sexy Boots"?

I'll tell you the three or four songs I really liked. Go Crazy. "I'll go crazy if I don't go crazy" (hums), White as Snow I really liked. Magnificent is good. I thought it was a pretty decent album.

Is it easy listening or battle music when preparing? [In an interview after the match, Anand revealed that Kasimdzhanov favoured Rammstein during the match.]

When I'm working with my seconds, we may have a long session with some soft music. And somebody will say "Come on! Some energy – this position is really tough!" If we have been stuck in a position for a long time then we try to blast our brains. Kickstart it, as it were. We'll just run through a lot of albums, and somebody will say, "put something special".

For each event you have a particular album...

Yes and many of your memories of that event are connected with that album or song.

Do you still read chess books?

Sure. A lot of the older books haven't been (digitized). Nowadays, most of the books that come out are opening books.

You don't read those?

You see if there is anything relevant.

You actually read "How to win with the Sicilian"?

No (laughs). Those you may scan for some ideas. For any sort of flash of inspiration. Once in a while you come across some very good tournament books. But nowadays I would say its even more interesting to have very good stories.

When you started off, you used to experiment, with stuff like the Budapest Gambit...

In that sense it's true, there are many things I just don't do anymore. Maybe I should get out a bit more. But somehow, I have this feeling of what is correct in chess. What is the correct approach. At one point I picked that up – (contemplative). I experiment a little bit with black, within fairly straightforward openings.

Is it because you have an excellent record with White? There is less pressure to experiment.

It is also a sense of what is a good line in chess. Some of the bad lines you can justify but most of them – everyone goes through this phase of trying to see if there something you can do with it. After a while, if you look at it, you understand there is a reason why it was parked aside.

There is the anecdote about Tal & the hippopotamus. Is your thought process more hippopotamus or is it Kotov with the decision trees?

I think that's what they said about Kotov. That he broke down the analytical process in his living room very well (Laughs). Then wrote it as if he was still at the board. I would say it is very much like Tal. You are concentrating on something and suddenly your mind wanders and you literally force it back. But you have some insight. Very often instead of wandering off on something else you bounce back and forth between a few good moves. Especially in these positions where candidate moves are very tricky. You look at one, then at another, then look back. Neither one seems to be really working out but you have to make a choice. Then finally go with something on some basis. That happens more often. But sure, every once in a while, the brain goes off. So you have to drag it back

Because of your intuition the first move you think of is usually the correct one. It's when you start thinking, that you fall into a dharam-sankat...

I think partially it's a bit like what they say in debates. Or any sort of discussion. If everyone states their viewpoints and then you have the debate then most people will spend their time being defensive rather than exploring. And though this debate is internal, chessplayers can do that, you fall in love with certain moves and you desperately want to justify it. To the extent that you don't even see some other good possibilities. That can happen, it's something you have to be watchful of. On the flipside, your intuition helps you very often. Very often the move you fall in love with, is really good.

In that game against Karjakin, was Nc7 found on the board?

It was. It was found on the board. The funny thing was, when I was analyzing, you had asked about memory earlier, I couldn't remember a thing about it, my analysis. I remember thinking, "Wow, he is charging down this line which is supposed to be good for black". And we got to this position. And he very confidently made the move that I hadn't expected. And I looked for a while, and I have NO move other than Nc7. He has gone Qc3, he is going to take everything. What possible reason could he have? Because Nc7 is the only move, where Black isn't worse. So does he have something? I checked it as long as I could, and I couldn't see it. So I thought: Either I play Nc7 or I resign. So I went Nc7. It was all a bit confusing. I think I even went Nc7 quite fast, by elimination there is nothing else. And then he was really surprised.

Psychologically, it looks as if it is part of your prep...

That helped. But in fact the position was just winning anyway. After Nc7, White is busted. I don't even think there is a forced draw anywhere.

Did you see it till the end? He had a wild attack, underpromoting...

That basically looks a bit random. You know its under control. I didn't see everything - I saw the position up until Nc4. I didn't process it further, you just assume this is going to end. In the beginning I was actually fairly relaxed. Okay if I lose, I lose. I just don't see what he is going to do about Nc7. Fairly calm about it. Probably that's when you do your best chess. And thats the beauty of Nc4. Instead of Ra3 bxa3, Qa3 and Qa7 wins.

His king was roaming about in the end...

That stage I was very worried. With all these pawns, there are some lines where the King escapes. If you let a mate slip you are really going to kick yourself afterwards. Luckily I nailed the mate.

Do you check Liverating?

Sure.

Recently there was lot of interest around Carlsen breaking 2800

I was fairly detached. My position doesn't get affected anyway (laughs). In the sense I did it in a fairly detached fashion. Sometimes I'll go months before seeing it. This time I was also quite curious, how far is Gelfand going, how far is Gashimov going. Sometimes I check it seven days in a row. Sometimes I go months without looking. It's kind of random.

Is that a motivation, to get back to number one?

No, my motivation to win the world title is much higher. It's not really comparable. I understand at some level that you if are the best you should become World number one. If I start winning tournament after tournament, that will follow. That's okay. For me the world title is much more important.

You have been playing world championship events since 2005. How motivated are you for "ordinary" tournaments like Linares, Corus et al?

I think it still comes fairly naturally. Of course the problem is that in the last year it's hard to give evidence to the contrary (laughs). But at least I've gone there with preparation. I'd like to think it simply hasn't worked out, it's not that my motivation for these events is at fault. Again its enough tournaments already where people are saying – nice explanation but look at your record since you became champion (laughs). I won Linares 2008 quite convincingly but since then I haven't won a classical event. .


On the day after this interview Anand gave a simul for the
winners of the North Zone NIIT MindChampion tournament.

Copyright Jaideep/ChessBase


An historical photo: Anand in Sanginagar in 1994 with Jaideep Unudurti

The above picture was taken during the Anand-Kamsky match in Sanghinagar. I'm the boy in the yellow shirt. Prior to the match the Sanghi group organised a series of tournaments in schools around the state, and the lucky winners received free passes to the tournament venue as well as meeting with the players. I was studying in a boarding school (Rishi Valley School) at that time so it was a terrific opportunity to go to Hyderabad, miss classes for a week and meet Anand!

Vishy later went on record deploring such ceremonies in the middle of a match, though I must say in our defence that we were "lucky" for him in that he won both the days we were at the venue. When I asked him about Sanghinagar he mentioned that it was a learning experience and that is why he ensured that in Bonn he was completely free from distraction.

We also met Kramnik, Gelfand, Timman and Salov by 'ambushing' them before and after games. I even managed to get Rustam Kamsky's autograph! It was a case of "I dare you" between me and a friend (who is next to me in the picture above). I approached him – at that time Kamsky's game was in the death throes and he was glued to the TV monitor muttering to Roman Dzindzichashvili next to him. He distractedly signed the autograph. Not so lucky was my friend who followed me moments later, Kamsky had resigned and a furious Rustam tore my friend's autograph book and hurled it in the air! Gata was a total gentleman and people told me that he played blitz with kids after the match got over.

Another chucker of autograph books, but in a good way, was Boris Gelfand. We caught him just before the game and he was pumping himself up by high-fiving his seconds. When he spotted us, he snatched the autograph book and signed it with a flourish. Gelfand went on to win (it was Game four I think); interestingly all the players who took the lead in the 8-game match went on to lose.


NIIT MindChampions’ Academy

The NIIT MindChampions’ Academy (MCA), a not-for-profit initiative has been set up as a joint initiative with Grand Master Viswanathan Anand and NIIT Ltd, with the objective of promoting Chess in schools to enable development of young minds. Studies have shown that Chess improves concentration and diligence, thus helping students perform better academically.

Established in 2002, the Academy has fostered over 7000 Chess clubs with over 8,50,000 students as its members, in schools across the country. GM Viswanathan Anand has personally traveled to Agartala, Guwahati, Hyderbad, Mumbai, New Delhi, Jaipur, Patna, Raipur, Chennai, Hyderbad, Kolkata, Pune and other cities across India, spreading the message and motivating the school students to start playing Chess. NIIT Mind Champions’ Academy conducts an Annual Event around the month of December and January, known as Chess Master for these school children across India in the NIIT network.


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