Comparing two successful years is not easy - even for someone who has won one of the most coveted titles in an emphatic manner and in a format acknowledged as the best to establish a player's superiority in the world.
Viswanathan Anand did that when he defeated Vladimir Kramnik 6.5-4.5 in the World Championship final match at Bonn to retain his title. In the process, he created a unique record of winning the title in three different formats - knockout, tournament and match-play.
For most of his fans, 2008 was one of the greatest years of his career for the manner in which he prepared and demolished a strong player like Kramnik. However, the 39-year-old from Chennai says it would be difficult to rate it above 2007 when he became world number one and won the World Championship title in an eight-player tournament in Mexico.
"It is difficult to say that 2008 was better than the previous year. I retained three things in 2008 -my title in Linares and Mainz and also what was important of all - the world title. I didn't do well in Bilbao but I had gone there only to play an event before Bonn, Overall it was very satisfying," Anand told HT in an interview as the curtain fell on another successful year.
On what he did well in 2008, Anand said though his performance in Bonn seemed perfect, there were areas he would like to work on in the coming year. "The way Bonn went, it is very close to being perfect. I was able to prepare well and execute my plans. But there are some areas I would like to work on. Whatever I did in Bonn was part of the old theory, I would like to work on some new areas in 2009," said Anand.
However, a disappointment this year was that he could not wrest back the world No. 1 ranking from Bulgaria's Veselin Topalov. The Indian had slipped to fifth just before the Bonn match and in the new rating list issued by FIDE on Wednesday, Topalov is on top with 2796 ELO with Anand second at 2791. The Bulgarian is expected to gain more points in the next quarterly list and cross 2800 rating as he recently won a tournament while Anand will not be playing till Linares in April.
So, what are the challenges in 2009?
"Crossing the 2800 ELO rating will be one of them. Also I want to get back the world No. 1 ranking. Towards the end of the year, I will again defend my World Championship title, so that would be a big challenge," he said.
Anand will be leaving for Spain in mid-January to start preparing for Linares and the World Championship final in which he is expected to play the winner between Topalov and Gata Kamsky.
"Both are strong players and it would be a tough match," he signed off.