Viswanathan Anand says stability key factor in surge to World Rapid title
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Viswanathan Anand says stability key factor in surge to World Rapid title

Viswanathan Anand, who was crowned the World Rapid Chess Champion in Riyadh, has pointed out some factors that affected his style of play in the last couple of years in an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times.

other sports Updated: Jan 02, 2018 08:34 IST
B Shrikant
B Shrikant
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Viswanathan Anand,Chess,World Rapid Champion
Viswanathan Anand secured the World Rapid title after a gap of 14 years with a magnificent performance in the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Riyadh.(Facebook)

Just like a heavy-bottomed bop toy, Viswanathan Anand keeps bouncing back whenever people think he is down and out. He was brilliant at Sinquefield Cup but could not play to his best in the World Cup and failed to qualify for the world championship qualifier. But just when everyone was ready to write him off again, the 48-year-old rose like a phoenix to win gold in the World Rapid Championship and bronze in World Blitz in Riyadh last week.

In an interview with Hindustan Times, the five-time world classical chess champion analyses his stupendous performance in Riyadh and factors that could have affected him in the last few years. Excerpts:

Did you expect the year would end like this?

Honestly, it was not like I had certain expectations as I did not expect to do so badly in London (Chess Classic) and as a result I went to Riyadh just wanting to play a good game of chess and stabilise my game. That was pretty much what I thought.

Overall, the year was a mixed bag— you had some good results and some bad. What do you think worked for you in Riyadh?

I was in this mood where I wanted to play well but maybe having one or two bad results mean you are more focussed. I can’t explain why something like this happens but sometimes things align and it works out beautifully. I avoided all the mistakes I was making in rapid and blitz. This time I managed to create chances, I managed to be very stable, qualities I was missing earlier. So, for a while it would be nice to do the same in classical chess as well.

You are always known for the speed with which you play, but suddenly your results in rapid and blitz were not as expected. Was it because you were concentrating more on classical chess?

For sure, I would say that. For about two or two-and-a-half years since 2010, I hardly played any rapid chess. I think your skills kind of disappear if you don’t use them frequently. So I guess I just lost practice. And you are right, in a way the focus shifted to classical chess. I was very focussed on the world championship cycle, the candidates, the next match till about (2013)... Having said that, you can’t explain these things so easily; this is only one factor.

As Garry Kasparov tweeted, your win in World Rapid silenced talk about your retirement. Do you think this constant chatter over retirement affected you?

I didn’t think about that at all. It is a problem when a journalist asks you this question and you can’t ignore it. I can tell you, I spent zero time thinking about this. Having said that, if you tell me what goes on in the back of my mind, who knows? Every time there are bad results, you look for explanations, you think maybe I should have had breakfast early; maybe I should not have gone for a walk before the game, could be anything and this could be one as well. So, at the back of my mind, who knows, maybe there is some irritation or something, but at least try not to think about it a lot.

Did you prepare differently for the World Rapid and Blitz because things did not go well for you in London Classic?

I had no time whatsoever. In fact after London, I decided not to prepare anything, I just took some rest and that was that. That’s why I say you can’t reduce success or failure to the specific number of steps because then you can repeat those steps every time.

How would you analyse your overall performance in Riyadh?

I started with three wins in rapid and the next day had two wins and the final day I had one win (against Alexander Grischuk of Russia) and that one was the most crucial. In blitz, I started much more slowly but on the second day when the scoring starts to slow down because all the top players start playing each other, that day I was very stable because I didn’t lose any game and started scoring even as the others started slipping up.

What are your plans for 2018?

For the moment, I will start with Wijk Aan Zee in April and play in Norway Chess in June, but the schedule is yet to be fully worked out.

Will you be playing in the Olympiad?

There’s a very good chance I will.

First Published: Jan 02, 2018 08:33 IST