The euphoria has subsided and the feeling of elation has sunk in. Viswanathan Anand was busy attending phone calls, giving interviews and receiving congratulatory messages from friends and fans.
He was up very early on Wednesday morning, after barely a few hours of rest following his victory over Veselin Topalov in the 12th and final game of the match that helped him retain the World Chess Championship title. It was the toughest match of his career, considering the controversies at the start of the match and the manner in which he fought back. Excerpts:
What was your reaction after Topalov played a move in the 12th game, which exposed his king? Did it strike you that you had retained the title?
After the initial excitement, I realised I had to play correctly to win the game. I realised that Topalov would try to fight back. I had to avoid making mistakes. So, I pushed away the excitement and concentrated on the game. I was relieved after the game was over, as it was a very tough match in which each game was fought hard and there were a lot of ups and downs.
Were you planning to draw and take the game into tiebreak, as you are considered stronger in rapid chess while Topalov does not have good results in faster time controls?
No, I never thought that way. Okay, if there is a tiebreak, I always fancy my chances, but my focus was only on the 12th game and I wanted to play according to the position. Topalov has played aggressively and fought well. Maybe, he was under more pressure to win and tried a little too much.
How would you compare this match to your victory against Vladimir Kramnik in Bonn in 2008?
The match against Kramnik went like a dream. By the sixth game, I was ahead by three points and it was a totally one-sided match. The entire planning and strategy worked and it was like he was hit by a perfect storm. In the end, he had to win 3-4 games in the second half and it was difficult.
And, how would you analyse your performance in this match?
This match was tougher, probably the toughest till now. All the games were hard-fought and went down to the wire and the result was decided in the final game.
This match will also be known for the mind games — the attitude of the organisers and Team Topalov’s attempts to rattle you by sticking to ‘Sofia Rule’. The organising committee chief even made vitriolic comments, clearly siding with your rival. Would you agree that all this made the match tougher?
Normally, before and during the matches, I usually don’t read local newspapers and my team also avoids that. For the most part, I understood that they would try something to put pressure on me. I was ready for that, but this time off-the-board things became very crucial.
The main issue was their opposition to postponing the match to give me time to get ready for the match. No one expected that the (Iceland) volcanic ash would cause the delay. I did not invent the volcanic eruption. But, I was happy that FIDE took a stand and postponed the first game.