In a rare display of irritation, Viswanathan Anand, who has just won his fifth world title, today hit out at chess great Gary Kasparov and other critics for suggesting that he lacked motivation.
"I think that this is the first time I have played a match where so many people seemed to have negative opinion about my play. And the thing is I do not think I lacked motivation," Anand said about his clash with Israel's Boris Gelfand, whom he beat in Moscow on Wednesday to win his fifth world title.
42-year-old Anand told a news channel in an interview from Moscow that Kasparov "keeps talking about my age" but Gelfand was slightly older at 44.
The champion, who is known for his cool temperament, said that he had proved Russian Kasparov, who is one of the greatest ever chess players, wrong. Some years ago, he had described Kasparov as his nemesis after losing matches to him.
Not only Kasparov, "there were many people also parroting what he was saying," Anand said.
"He (Kasparov) keeps talking about my age but I could just as well say Boris (Gelfand) is even slightly older. I think the problem is all the people who started out assuming that I was the heavy favourite in this match were reluctant to admit that their prognosis was wrong," Anand said.
Anand said he never considered himself as the favourite and knew that Gelfand would be a tough opponent.
"I never saw myself as a favourite, the thing I knew Gelfand would be a very very difficult opponent. And looking at his recent plays I understood that this is how the match would go. And so I never felt I had to answer after every game 'what was going wrong?' because nothing was going wrong.
"This was Gelfand playing well and me trying to play equally well, hang in there and wait for my chance. But all those people who said I was a favourite were reluctant to admit that they were wrong and were simply saying that I lacked motivation and was playing badly and so on and on. And I definitely feel like i proved something here," said Anand.
The Indian Grandmaster gave credit to Gelfand who never allowed him to play his natural game.
"I think you have to give full credit to my opponent Gelfand. He never let me get the kind of play that I like and that is very frustrating as you like to play in a way certain but Gelfand neutralised almost everything I did and so I had to cope with that.
"But it was very satisfying, especially when the ambiance around you is so negative. In the press conference they more or less keep repeating what people like Kasparov said. It is not secret that I have had difficulty in a couple of tournaments and my confidence therefore suffers a bit. But I think under those circumstances if you can hang in there and win like this then it is all the more satisfying," Anand said.
Giving his account of the final day's tie-breaker, Anand said, "I actually managed to feel like the tide turning in the first game itself. Because for the first time with black I managed to get a very exciting position and I managed to almost beat him."
"So then I felt the tide was turning, but still the match was very intense. It went back and forth in game three and four of the tie break as well he had very good chances. So I think it much harder like this and definitely that is that much more satisfaction," Anand said.
Anand said losing the seventh game was a difficult blow and he really suffered that evening.
"Well I think the first shock was in game seven because a loss is always a bad thing but it is much worse in match where you are struggling to find any openings, you are struggling to find a weakness of his you can target, your struggling to find something you can aim for.
"And this match was just like that, there were very little chances being created. And in those circumstances to lose the seventh game was an incredibly difficult blow, I really suffered that evening The eighth game was the first game I have played without getting any sleep," said Anand.
"But the turning was really the eighth game when I managed to come back. I had prepared myself for a big struggle and went there. I would say game eight was a major turning point, when I managed to equalise that then I knew in the last four games, again, I would have to be patient. But at least I could start on even terms.
"But again in every conference they keep asking you 'are you motivated?' 'are you motivated?' and it is frustrating because you feel you are giving it your all, and people can't see it. I simply try to understand that the most important thing is not to let any others affect you and to stay focused on the match," he said.
Asked whether chess gets enough adulation in the country, Anand said he has been received well everywhere in the country and he has no complaints.
"Generally after each of my matches I have been received tumultuously in Chennai, I simply don't want to complain. I think the reception has been wonderful. I don't compare these receptions to other things and I'm quite happy. Also this time I'll have a pretty warm welcome from my son, so that will be very nice. So I'm not complaining at all. The Indian chess fans have been very good to me and I'm not gonna complain."