World Championship: interview with Anand

by ChessBase
9/26/2013 – The Russian Internet TV channel Chess TV has recorded two interview for the upcoming World Championship match. Last week we showed you the first with Norwegian challenger Magnus Carlsen; today we bring you a 23-minute interview with Viswanathan Anand in which the World Champion expresses his thoughts on the match, his chess career and life in general. Do not miss this one.

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Interview with Anand prior to the World Championship match

Viswanathan Anand became champion of India at just fourteen, and entered the world chess elite at the beginning of the nineties. During his career he won dozens of international tournaments. In 1995 Anand lost to Kasparov in a match for the World Championship. It was his only failure. In 2000 he won the FIDE world championship, and since 2007 he has been the reigning champion.

He has defended his title three times, in matches with Kramnik, Topalov and Gelfand. In November 2013 in his native Chennai Anand will play a World Championship with the first-placer in the world rating list, the young Norwegian Magnus Carlsen.

Uploaded on 18 September 2013. Interview with the reigning World Chess Champion, taken after 8th Tal Memorial in Moscow. Most of the questions regard his upcoming (November 2013) match with Challenger Magnus Carlsen, currently rated number one in the world.

The interview is conducted by Anna Burtasova. Anna is a WGM (2009) from Russia who has a nice list of achievements, including under 14 Russian vice champion and under 16 champiuon, as well as winner of tournaments like Mondariz, Kharkov and Jakarta. But she has devoted most of her 26 years to chess journalism. She graduated as a lawyer from Vladimir State University, moved to Moscow and worked as an editor and reporter for the Russian Chess Federation website. Later she joined the FIDE Cess in Schools Commission as General Coordinator. Her articles have been published in chess magazines like "64 Chess review", "New in Chess", "Schachmagazin 64", "Schach", etc. and of course she did a few articles for ChessBase. In May 2013 Anna joined ChessTV team as an editor and reporter. We hope to see much more of her work in the future.

When was the first time he considered himself World Champion: Well, that was in 2000, when I won the title for the first time. At that time this cloud was still hanging over the world of chess – we had two titles, two people with claims. It was not a very comfortable experience – if you have to keep explaining what is your title and what is your justification it defeats the purpose. It was a very pleasant difference in 2006 when the chess world suddenly unified. There was still some confusion in the minds of people, but from 2009 you could at last stop explaining. I think it was only after 2009 you could say "I am World Champion" and did not have to explain it any further.

For most people World Champion equals the best in a sport. Do you agree with this point of view? – It's a logical view. In my case I have had a couple of shaky years, especially in tournaments. I found it difficult to play both in matches and tournaments equally well. I think we have this tradition of showing who is best in a match, and in that I am the current title holder.

Which of his previous matches was the most difficult and which the most important? – As an achievement probably my victory over Kramnik. It was the best match I played, and I have not managed to equal it subsequently. The most difficult match would obviously be the closest, the one against Boris [Gelfand] which went all the way to the tiebreaks.

How important is match experience? – In theory the idea is that when you are in an unfamiliar situation you can remember a match where you have had a similar situation and perhaps draw some lessons from that. It is very similar to any experience in life: if you have done something once or twice it becomes easier the third time.

How different is preparation for a match from preparation for a tournament? – In a tournament your attention gets divided – you have to prepare for nine different opponents, eighteen possible colours... A match is much more focussed. It's narrower, but you have to go much, much deeper. Your results will not depend on third parties, only on you and your opponent.

How much time per day do you devote to preparation, and what is your family doing during this time? – When I am preparing for a match I generally go somewhere. My son will keep going to play school, and my wife won't be there during the training. This year, since the match is happening at home I guess it will be much easier for my family to follow. During training I generally work out for an hour or two in the morning, then work for eight-nine hours, with breaks for lunch and dinner.

How much did his life change when his son was born? – I remember when we got back from the hospital I thought okay, this is one guest who is not going to go away. It changes your life. The first few years are very demanding, you have to be with them always. I find it scary the kind of trouble they can get themselves into if you take your eyes away for one second. They have an unbelievable urge to explore and no sense of danger at all. It's a full-time thing – when I'm at home I normally don't have time to do anything else. But I really enjoy it, playing with him – these are special moments I think you will treasure later.

Where does he live these days? – I was living in Spain for fifteen years, but about six years ago we got the feeling that perhaps we should get established again in Chennai. I started to have my class reunions – twenty years since we left school and all that. As some stage I was living in Spain 70% of the time and in India 30%, and the idea was to slowly rebalance it. Now the time in Spain is greatly reduced. We spent two weeks in May in Madrid.

In his preparation is he looking only for chess strengths and weaknesses of his opponent, or also psychological? – Of course also psychological. The two are related: you will often find that weaknesses in one are caused by the other. If you are technically bad in one area you may lack confidence in that area, and because you lack confidence you will play it worse... You can't separate these things. In a match it becomes especially important because it is important to understand your particular opponent, because he doesn't change every day.

A lot of chess fans are rooting for Carlsen. How important is the sympathies of chess fans? – It is normal that a lot of people will always be excited by a new player. I have my supporters and he has his. I was very proud that my home city wanted to host the match. It is very nice to play in front of my home crowd, because I want them to see what it is that I am doing. Chess is a sport they have followed, but it has happened somewhere else. Now they get a chance to see what chess is like. – It is a positive feeling when you know people are rooting for you, but at the same time you think that if all these people are rooting for me I have a responsibility to do better. The trick is to get the balance right. You have to feel the right amount of responsibility, the amount that allows you to do well without hurting or hindering you in any way. Then it is very positive.

In previous matches his opponents spent a lot of effort on the openings. It is well known that Carlsen is not so dependent on opening lines. Has he modified his preparation to accommodate this fact? – Gelfand, Kramnik, Topalov and me, we were brought up in a different era with a different approach to chess. Magnus' approach is different. I would not say he neglects openings, he just has a different way of approaching them. Of couse I have to take this into account, otherwise I would be preparing for the wrong person. I will look at his games closely and try to understand what his approach to chess is. Also there is a tendency that has been going on for twenty or thirty years now: the lines are starting to blur. You no longer have opening, middlegame, endgame – very often the three start to merge in funny ways.

Some day he will lose his title. When this happens is he ready to continue his career? – I thought it best not to plan for it, when it happens I'll deal with it. I don't know how I will feel. There are many thing about being World Champion that I didn't know until I became World Champion. The same thing will apply afterwards.

What is your favourite chess city? – Probably Moscow, maybe Russia in general, because the esteem chess is held in is higher than anywhere else.

Apart from chess which is your favourite city? – Once I want to visit Wijk aan Zee in summer, see what it looks like then. I like South America a lot, I like Africa – these are two continents I have enjoyed visiting. Generally when I think of dream vacations it is somewhere in these two. Also beaches: recently we went to the west coast of India – Kerala, Goa, lovely places. I am slowly starting to see more and more of India.

The most interesting book he read during the last year? – One series of books I liked a lot was The Immortals of Meluha and The Oath of the Vayuputras. It takes old Indian mythology and builds on it. It takes a lot of familiar figures from our mythology, like Lord Shiva, and puts them in a new context. That I found very fascinating.

Is astronomy still his hobby? – It goes in waves: when I have more free time I get to do more of it. Astronomy is something I continue to enjoy and follow. Watching all these photos coming from Mars – it actually amazes me how indifferent we have become to it, to the idea that there is a vehicle moving around Mars taking pictures. A couple of days ago I saw this one giga-pixel spread, a lovely view of Mars [don't miss the billion-pixel view from Curiosity at Rocknest that Anand is referring to!]. It's amazing where we get and we assume it happens easily, but it is still a very exciting time to do astronomy.

I was hooked when I was young, by this book The Cosmos by Carl Sagan – it is one of the best books, and many people who are interested in astronomy will say "Ah, Cosmos!". For many years I lost track of it, and then nine or ten years ago something triggered me into astronomy again and I realised that astronomy had become much easier to do. There are so many resources available on the Internet that I caught the bug again. I use a new technology now, remote telescopes – one in Australia, one in Spain and one in the US, so that at any point of time one will be in the night. You can use these remote telescopes to take pictures.

Anand enjoys using the Itelescope facility, with occasional advice from Dr Christian Sasse. Recently Vishy targeted the Lagoon Nebula (M8), which is about 5000 light years from earth with a size of 110 by 50 light years. He used the 20 inch telescope (T31 from ITelescope) in Australia to image this nebula. The result is remarkable and shows the object in unique detail. The total exposure time was 100 min.

Anna, who stores her notes on a tablet, ends the interview by wishing Anand "cosmic results"

Source: ChessTV, Russia – transcription by ChessBase


ChessTV is an online channel that not only has major tournaments broadcasted live but also produces its own content such as interviews, lessons for various levels of play (from "Blitz Secrets with Max Dlugy" to "Lessons of Mikhail Shereshevsky" and kids' programs with Alexandra Kosteniuk), analytical reviews on major tournaments, weekly review of the main events, etc. ChessTV broadcasts 24/7 in Russian.

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