The victory in the Candidates could set the tone for this year. How did you go about preparations?
I had a short training camp, maybe 10 days. Then I had the idea that I already had a lot of work left-over and I just needed to get into the right frame of mind. I decided to spend a quiet week at home playing with my son Akhil. Didn’t play any chess and just tried to relax. The plan was just go to Khanty-Mansiysk and look forward to playing chess again and not worry about the finish. The first game (victory against Levon Aronian), and third game (victory against Shakriyar Mamedyarov) was a great way to start.
Could you elaborate on the training camp?
Though it was a considerable amount (of work), it had been fine-tuned for somebody else. I had to re-tune it for my game and seven opponents there. I rehearsed everything, went over stuff and added some new material. So basically it was just incremental work.
Comebacks comprise some of sport’s best stories. Did this take time to sink in?
Well, I didn’t think along those lines. I went there simply to get back the feeling of playing good chess. Of course, back home, it feels like a comeback! It’s fine. I mean this angle.
You seem leaner and fitter. How much importance are you giving to your fitness?
Well my fitness routine is going very well but that’s not really something that’s connected with chess. It’s something that I do anyway. Last year before the world championship, I had lost about eight-nine kilos. But I wasn’t doing it keeping in mind the match. I would highlight the fact that I went there very fresh and had not played chess for a week. It made me more hungry to do well. Also GM Sandipan Chanda, my second there, had familiarised himself with all the work, like specific games that I had told him to do and so that meant we could start working right away.
How important was the first game victory against Levon Aronian and did you get the feeling at any point during the course of the 14 games that you had clinched it?
I can’t overstate the importance of that game. Firstly, it gave me a one point lead over Aronian. Secondly, it gave me a 1.5 point lead including tie-breaks. He was the most difficult opponent for me in the field. My score against him is very difficult and it was the first time I beat him with white. There was a lot of firsts and it’s also very nice to start off with a bang. It gives you a lot of confidence and changes your entire demeanour. But the feeling that I could win the tournament came around Game Nine against (Veselin) Topalov. It was around that point that I realised I was the odds-on favourite and that I had to hold on and do it.
How much did the work put in for the World Championship help you in the Candidates?
A lot of the games and the stuff I did at the Candidates was based on the work I had done for the World Championship (last November). What finally turned up at the board was a minor fraction of it.
Are you looking at re-organising your seconds team for the re-match?
I have started thinking about whom I’m going to call and all that. I have some ideas as to how to do things differently and what things I should change.
The kind of consistency that you had exhibited at the Candidates was missing at the world championship. Would you agree?
I would say that sometimes you need a break. For me the break was the game against Aronian. Something that tells you this one’s going to be different and in a positive way. This tournament has boosted my morale. I needed some results like this. I would say that my attitude and optimism were the most important things that I got back.
Are you looking to play more tournaments this year or would your preparations be along similar lines of last year?
Well, I played quite a lot last year. In fact I played six months continuously from January-June. I’m planning to play a few tournaments but so far I’ve scheduled only rapid tournaments. Somehow over the last few years I hadn’t played a lot of rapid chess or there haven’t been that many events… Besides, I’ll of course be training for the match. We’re already in April. By the time we know details regarding the dates and the venues it’ll be the end of April. It’s not like time is short but we haven’t got lots of it either.
You’re a big fan of British comedy. So is it going to be Monty Python or some Rajnikanth given that Kochadaiyaan is just round the corner?
A bit of everything. But mostly, I’ll also be trying to play a lot with Akhil.