Intensity, longevity and stamina, Anand’s mantra to beat Carlsen - Hindustan Times

Intensity, longevity and stamina, Viswanathan Anand’s mantra to beat Magnus Carlsen

By, Kolkata
Sep 06, 2023 08:08 AM IST

You have to play at a higher level and keep it up for seven hours because he will never stop, said Anand about his fellow five-time world champion

At the Julius Baer Generation Cup which ended on Sunday, Magnus Carlsen was asked when he expected the new generation to take over. “It’s kind of up to them, really. They have what it takes but the final boss of chess is usually pretty tough,” the Norwegian ace had said drily.

A file photo of Vishwanathan Anand.(AFP)
A file photo of Vishwanathan Anand.(AFP)

The question was put to Viswanathan Anand here on Tuesday. Anand is a lot of things: a FIDE deputy president, tournament ambassador (including Tata Steel Chess India), commentator and mentor to a generation of young Indian prodigies. Anand is also a player – you need to be one to be a mentor, he said – the second-highest ranked Indian with an Elo rating of 2754, even though he played a handful of classical games last year and will play even fewer in 2023.

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Anand said the crop of young Indian GMs sense they can beat Carlsen. “They have played him a few times. (D) Gukesh got a chance in Norway, Pragg (R Praggnanandhaa) has got a lot of opportunities, more online which was the same with Arjun (Erigaisi). Nihal (Sarin) knows all of them very well online. So, they are not inexperienced.

“Against Carlsen you need to prepare yourself mentally for a much higher battle and (be ready) to do it for longer. You have to play at a higher level and keep it up for seven hours because he will never stop. So, intensity, longevity and stamina. They need them all.”

So rare is an off day for Carlsen that chess portals have suggestions on how to beat him. Believing in a higher spiritual being is one. Getting him to play blindfold is another and trying your luck with Sicilian Defence a third. When he lost two consecutive classical games at Wijk aan Zee last January, to Anish Giri and Nordibek Abdusattorov (one of the 10 men at the Tata Steel Chess here), it was the first time since 2015. When Carlsen withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup – after losing to Hans Niemann on September 4, 2022 – it ended a 53-game unbeaten streak.

At 32, Carlsen has dominated chess for over a decade since wresting the world title from Anand in 2013. Since July 1, 2011, he has been the world’s top ranked player, and if chess now has a new men’s champion in Ding Liren, it is because Carlsen didn’t want to defend his title in 2022.

“He always had a natural ability to make fewer mistakes,” said Anand. “Someone said he doesn’t often find the best move, but he will almost never make the worst move. He might make the third best move and it is good enough, but never a blunder.

“It is hard to remember games he has lost easily and these kind of small things add up. The other thing so impressive is that he keeps his motivation so high. Not only for big events; he plays all sorts of minor events. He seems to have hunger for chess that is special,” he said of his fellow five-time world champion.

So, the golden India generation, in Anand’s words, mostly comprising teenagers has some rungs to climb. It is good that Praggnanandhaa feels he can be world champion, but you’ve to prove it and very few do, said Anand. “But he understands the demands of the game and is willing to work very hard for it.”

That said, Anand did not expect the rise of these GMs this soon. “Even three years ago when I started my academy (WestBridge Anand Chess Academy), I remember saying if one day they can get to 2700 that will be very promising.” That projection was based on what they had done till then.

“So, you thought five, maybe seven years. In one-and-a-half, they had started to break through 2700 and this year all these things happened.”

Anand was referring to D Gukesh beating him to be the top-ranked Indian, three Indians in the top 20, Praggnanandhaa qualifying for the 2024 Candidates and the possibility of Gukesh joining him.

All that has made him positive about India’s chances in the Asian Games in China later this month. “I am a little nervous to just look at the rankings and think we are going to win. There are other very good teams such as Uzbekistan, Vietnam and China. So, we will have rivals but you can’t ask for a better team,” said Anand.

Praggnanandhaa, Vidith Gujarathi, Erigaisi, Gukesh and Pentala Harikrishna are in the men’s team. The women’s team comprises Koneru Humpy, Harika Dronavalli, Vantika Agarwal, Savitha Shri and R Vaishali, Praggnanandhaa’s sister.

The game has become faster, players play a lot more, online and over the board, and Anand said there is such a thing as too much chess. “These young players who have had a very demanding schedule (there are three tournaments including Asian Games in the next two months) will have to learn to stop,” he said. “I hesitate a little bit but if they want it, go for it. It is also different when you are a teenager. When you are 19, nothing matters.”

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    Dhiman Sarkar is based in Kolkata and has been a sport journalist for over three decades. He writes mainly on football.

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