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Blocked out criticism, focused on match

india Updated: Jun 01, 2012 00:33 IST
B Shrikant
B Shrikant
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

World-chess-champion-Vishwanathan-Anand-R-shakes-hands-with-Israel-s-Boris-Gelfand-after-a-tie-break-of-FIDE-World-chess-championship-match-in-State-Tretyakovsky-Gallery-in-Moscow-AFP-photo-Kirill-Kudryavtsev

His reign as king of the chess world secure for two more years, Viswanathan Anand spent Thursday going through congratulatory messages, giving interviews and meeting dignitaries. He was invited to the Kremlin for a tête-à-tête with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and also met world chess federation (FIDE) officials.

Anand defeated Boris Gelfand in a tie-breaker on Wednesday to retain the title he won in 2007 and the only time spent away from the arc-lights was a celebratory dinner with his team.

In a chat with HT over phone from Moscow, Anand shared his preparation for the match and plans for the year. Excerpts:

How different was it from Bonn and Sofia?
The dynamics were different. In Bonn, I took a stranglehold by winning three games, while in Sofia, (Veselin) Topalov took the lead and I fought back to win. Here, it was an even struggle, except for the seventh and eighth games, in which we exchanged victories. It was a question of holding nerve, and mine held up till the end.

Would it be right to say that this was the toughest of the matches you've played to defend your title?
It was tense as both of us were well prepared. This definitely was the toughest because we went all the way to the tie-break.

Did Gelfand's preparation and response to your moves come as a surprise?
I expected him to be well prepared. I knew he would spend months to see and neutralise the obvious problems (Anand's vast repertoire of openings by switching from queen pawn to king pawn). I expected to face some difficulty with white
pieces and that's how it happened. It was a clash between two players who anticipated each other's moves and responded
precisely.

How much time did you devote to preparation and how was it different from the previous matches?
For Bonn and Sofia, it was not continuous work. We would work for a couple of months, take a break and then get together again. This time, we prepared meticulously for three-and-half months without a break.

Did you prepare with your regular seconds or had the support of other top players?
Most of the time I prepared with my regular seconds like Peter Heine-Nielsen of Denmark, Surya Sekhar Ganguly of India, Poland's Radoslav Wojtasek and former world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan. I had the support of some other players but would not like to reveal their names.

With so many draws, people were talking about there being no fight as pieces were getting exchanged early and there was nothing much to play for.
For a layman, there was no action but it was an extremely close affair. Like in Game 12, for instance, we had some interesting ideas but every time Boris would pull off a move, and this showed his reaction was good.

People, like Kasparov, questioned your motivation.
For me, the match was what mattered. I just ignored everything else.

Unlike Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov, your previous opponents, who were world champions, Gelfand does not have a great record and everyone expected you to win easily.
If you look at his record, you will find that Gelfand is difficult to beat and he showed it at Kazan (the Candidates tournament in which Gelfand defeated Alexander Grischuk to qualify for this match) and at Khanty Mansiysk (where Gelfand won the World Cup to qualify for the Candidates matches). It is difficult to penetrate his defence, and that's why it was a difficult match.

What is your next target? Would it be getting back into the 2800 club and regaining the world No 1 ranking that you lost to Magnus Carlsen of Norway?
I haven't set targets. I just want to rest for a few days and think about the next tournament.