Viswanathan Anand was on top of the chess world for five years. From 2007 to 2012, he was the undisputed king, be it his demolition of Russian Vladimir Kramnik in 2008, win over Bulgaria’s Vaselin Topalov in 2010 or the clash with Boris Gelfand in Moscow two years later.
That is, until he ran into Magnus Carlsen.
Prior to their 2013 World Championship clash, Anand held a 6-3 win-loss record in 29 matches against the Norwegian whiz kid. All that changed in Chennai, with Carlsen stealing the thunder with a 6.5-3.5 win, dethroning Anand as the world champion.
Since then, Carlsen has turned the tables on Anand, winning seven games and defeating him again in the 2014 World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.
MAN AND MACHINE
“Magnus is a product of the computer era,” Anand told HT. “The way he plays is like a mixture of (ex-world champions) Anatoly Karpov and Boris Spassky. He is able to play very good positional chess but his tactical accuracy is also very high. The influence of the computer is visible in his tactics. I think he borrows aspects well from what the computer suggests.”
Anand is on a brief visit to India after the Corsica Masters, where the world No 7 lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France in the final. “I was happy with my stable play in Corsica. My plan in the final did not go very well. These things happen when you have short matches,” he said.
The big question that has followed the Indian ace after the two defeats to Carlsen is whether at 46, it is time for Anand to retire.
Although the last couple of seasons have been up and down, Anand is still motivated to perform well. “I still like playing chess. I can’t think of anything else that will give me satisfaction. I am very motivated to keep playing and performing well,” he said.
‘Premier League’ era
It is the era of the Premier Leagues. The IPL, the Pro-Kabaddi League, the Indian Super League and the Premier Badminton League are all on. And there is the Grand Chess Tour, which was announced in 2015 with the aim to create a large prize pool that would attract top players and media attention.
“When tournaments unite in this circuit and when new tournaments chose to join, it could be very attractive. There are two new rapid tournaments that have joined the tour and hopefully when they expand to six or seven tournaments, we can have a stable calendar,” Anand said.
No drop in popularity
Anand’s rise helped popularise chess in India and his slide in the last two years has led to fears of a dip. Anand did not think so.
“Chess is doing well. If I was world champion, there would have been an extra boost. In the 2014 Olympiad, we got a medal. In 2016, we missed narrowly. We have a lot of depth at this level. Chess has to compete with other sports. I don’t think the effect has been negative.”