CHENNAI: With his World Championship match against World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen just two months away, preparation is the watchword for Viswanathan Anand.
Taking time out from a busy schedule, the defending champion discussed a range of issues with the TOI, starting from his current form, the weight of expectation at home, to his worst nightmare. Excerpts:
Do you feel more than ever before, a compelling need to prove that your best form is not behind you as the countdown for the World Championship begins?
In every World Championship, you try to rise above yourself for your own self. This time round, too, that is what I will be aiming to do. When I train I don’t think of form or what I expect from myself. I try to work, both, on the physical aspects and my chess. Before a match, you draw up a basic strategy and try to work as much as possible towards that. This takes up most of your waking hours. So that’s what I am concentrating on. Form will take care of itself if the work is thorough and you can cope through the 12 games.
Your thoughts on Fide’s zero-tolerance policy. Do you think it would be more appropriate to impose fines than make a player forfeit a game for being late?
In World Championship matches, it works differently. But this is a question for the chief arbiter.
Carlsen has said he expects a different Anand in November. In terms of preparation, in what ways is your approach towards November’s match different?
Well, we know it will be different. What exactly that will be, we will know only on November 9.
Playing on home turf will bring with it the added weight of expectation. How do you intend to deal with this pressure?
Normally, during a World Championship match, the team stays as a closely knit family and we maintain a certain discipline. In Chennai too we will do the same. Of course, for me it’s a big moment that India, my hometown at that, will play host to one of chess’ biggest events ever. I feel a sense of personal pride to see how chess has grown and in the role I played in it. I have played big events in India earlier too, in Chennai against Dreev, in 2000 the World Championships in New Delhi and in 2002 the World Cup. These three events hold very positive memories for me.
The illness clause has been agreed upon by both players. Why do you think an exception of such a nature was made for this particular World Championship?
This I think the FIDE should answer as the officiating body. I wouldn’t think that it would be misused though. Magnus Carslen is a person of integrity and will definitely play true to the sporting principles he stands for.
This match has been billed as a clash of generations. How do you see that? Is it between his youth and your experience?
It is. We grew up in different chess eras. We were the cross-over generation to move from chess books and bulletins to databases and analysis engines. He just grew up in the internet generation.
There’s a thought that Carlsen is the toughest you have played in the finals over the last decade. Your comments? What do you make of Carlsen and his tag ‘Mozart of chess’?
I think every match opponent is the ‘toughest yet’. The same was said about Kramnik in 2008, Topalov in 2010 and Gelfand in 2012. A match just makes a person rise to his maximum level. Carslen is a gem of a talent and of course going by the achievements at his age, it is definitely something special.
All this hue and cry over a recce trip. Do you think it’s necessary? You never did that yourself.
I haven’t followed the news in a while. I try not to follow chess news while I train and play. Aruna mentioned he was in Chennai and I hope he enjoyed our city. In my case, Aruna handles all these aspects, my job is to simply turn up and play. She handles everything else.
Kasparov said that Carlsen can rekindle a new interest in chess. Your thoughts.
Carlsen definitely is an interesting personality.
With the Championship two months away, which is a bigger nightmare – failing to defend your world title or the feeling that your best is well past you?
My biggest nightmare is always forgetting to take my computer to the match. Luckily in Chennai that can be remedied in 10 minutes.