What went wrong in Turin?
I think if there was a perfect storm, it was this. All five of us (Anand, K Sasikiran, P Harikrishna, SS Ganguly and Sandipan Chanda. Diwakar Prasad Singh was the second reserve) failed to find our true form. We started out against Morocco (India were shocked 1-3) on a wrong foot and never recovered.
After a third place finish in the Mtel Masters, you had a disappointing tournament. Was fatigue a reason for your indifferent performance?
The main drawback of our team was we had poor player rotation. We had five very strong GMs but were not able to shuffle our team efficiently. So four players had to take more than the necessary share of the burden. Also, after the first round loss, we had a tough time playing against strong teams just to come back to a respectable place. But this was like the perfect recipe for disaster. We were not able to support each other on the board. If Board 2 had problems then we were not sure if Boards 3 & 4 could win.
For the first time in your career you played seven draws in a row in Turin, that too against players rated lower than you. Would you agree that this was the poorest sequence of results in your career?
Without doubt, I fell into a drawing rut. In Calvia I was clearly making a lot of points and was in raging form, here it wasn't to be. Sadly enough my teammates also had a lot of misfortune.
India found it difficult to score even against lowly teams like Morocco, and this sort of things have happened in the pas too. Is it some kind of a mental block?
We played teams with a very high average rating, although they didn’t figure as favourites. Cuba for instance are a very strong team, made up of four strong players. France for instance, no one rated them as a favourite (no football comparison here) but they put up a good performance. It was the same with Holland. Spain had a bad run and in the last round made it to the top-10. So it is a bit of a lottery. We should have kept rotating players and not obsessed over calculating our chances after every round. In Calvia we seemed to have fun, here that spark was missing.
The other members of the team too failed to force wins when it mattered. What is your suggestion to them to solve this problem?
The team takes responsibility collectively. Usually in a team event, someone in the team is in good form. Here we all had just had tiny moments of brilliance, albeit badly coordinated. Hari played well in the last two rounds and Sasi won some nice games. Surya played some beautiful games and Sandipan (Chanda) also showed his talent in his victories. Collectively we lacked consistency.
On their return, some members of the team and officials blamed poor facilities and lack of team spirit for the performance. Was team spirit affected as players stayed at different places and couldn't interact?
Three months before the Olympiad, I mentioned to the AICF that reports from the Winter Olympics were pretty grim. The conditions were quite difficult. Many top chess players refused to play under these conditions. I decided to make my own arrangements, as I didn’t want to let the team down. I think all of us were aware of the Olympic Village being quite difficult. If we were in the third place after the second round, we would have all had a different story to tell.
Clearly under the conditions, team morale was difficult to keep, the organisation was not the best. Many times we had people coming to me during a game and asking me to pose for a photo or try to talk to me. When you are used to playing chess at the top most level, it is difficult to suddenly play under these conditions.
You played out draws with lower-rated players and lost to a player rated only 2510. The loss of rating points justifies your reluctance a few years ago to take part in the Olympiad. Will you continue to play in the Olympiad?
At present I have erased the Olympiad from my head. When I reached Leon to play the rapid chess event my aim was to clear my head and play chess like I normally do. I was happy I played well and showed my true level.
In the same light, are you still planning to participate in the Asian Games in Doha to be held in December?
We have four strong GMs and our task will be to use our strength in unison. I think in the Olympiad we learnt our lesson well and hopefully in Doha we can correct it.
A drop of 24 points after the Olympiad means there is now a big gap between you and Veselin Topalov (34 points). Do you plan to play more classical tournaments now to close the gap?
I think I will just concentrate on my chess. I have always tried to work and enjoy playing. That has worked in the past and will in future.