Interview: World Champion Vishy Anand

"World Champion Is A New Feeling"

Says World Champion Viswanathan Anand In An Interview

The new FIDE World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand has put three conditions after which he will consider playing the World Prestige Championship against Vladimir Kramnik in July 2001.

Speaking to Arvind Aaron at an exclusive hour long chat, Anand said he was not approached officialy about playing Kramnik and he was reacting to what he heard and drew up a plan which includes defending his FIDE title in 2002 if he has to play this match in July 2001. On Kramnik also being called World Champion he said he would adopt the 'Live and let live' policy and he thinks there was no system in the one-off match which he won at London.

Q: Congratulations. Is your chess ambition over?

A: It is not as if my chess ambition is over. It is true that what could replace such a goal. Besides, I came close several times. You had the feeling that you are knocking on the door but somehow till you have it is not really there.

It has been a clear goal for the last ten years. Also somebody asked me what do I wanted to do next. It is easy to say that's why I was playing chess. It is obivous and all very straight forward. Not to say now it its going to be a problem. There is no clear goal but I probably have to find some new ones. It will be quite easy to find them. For instance, maintaining the title. Trying to retain it the next year. I don't know what system they will use. To keep my rating up, to keep my play up. Also, not just that I won the title. If you look at my results it has gotten good in the last few months. I also have the feeling that I am playing very naturally and happily. In Leon, Frankfurt, Dortmund, Shenyang, Corsica and here, the last six events I have won. I also have the feeling that I am getting pleasure out of chess. That's one important thing. If you are not enjoying yourself it will bo tough. If you are enjoying it goes very easily. I am sure I will find some easy goals. At the moment I don't know what they are going to be. I would guess it will be maintaining my level of play and so on amongst them.

Q: Does world champion Anand give you a different feeling now, also as the winner of the shortest world championship match?

A: Of course it is nice to win here and win it in style. Here I was entirely prepared for all scenarios. I would be perfectly happy to have won it in a 12-game-tie-break. There is some merit in that also of course. To it 3.5-0.5 is just beautiful. I finished two days in advance. So, taht is fantastic.

I still don't know how it feels to have 'world champion' before your name. I have been a grandmaster for so long. Thirteen whole years now. Suddenly to say world champion is a new feeling.

Q: Did the finals in Teheran give you relief that there was no home pressure?

A: Not really. I would have been perfectly happy to play the finals in Delhi. But I was happy to come to Teheran as well. Basically in Delhi I showed that I could deal with the pressure. This time I did a good job. I stayed in a different hotel(Maurya Sheraton) in Delhi. That meant only when I came for the game you can feel the pressure easily. You can see the fans and photographers there. When I was in the other hotel I even stopped reading the newspapers or very little. I was pretty locked up. I quite well. In general if your don't think about it all the time after a while you stop feeling it. It is only when you are thinking about it. This time I told myself I will give my best. It would be good if I deliver the goods to my fans. Somehow I was able to deal with it very well. And I suppose this would have continued in the finals.

Q: In the games a close match was being predicted. How did you expect it to be?

A: If you look at the final score, 3.5-0.5 you get the impression that it was all incredibly one sided. In general I think I dominated, I don't think it was one sided. The games were tough. What happens is when you won the second game you put a certain amount o pressure on him. He tried to get the point back. He tried to react. It goes again against him. In the fourth game he decided I am going to throw caution to the winds if I lose I lose the match today I don't prolong it another day. If I win suddenly I am back in the match. Again it went against him. At the same time I don't want to say taht it was dictated by the score. You have to play well to cash in the points. Especially the third game I played very well. After Bd7 I think I can make a draw easily. In general I thought Rxf6 and Bd7 was too aggressive(from Shirov). Again it shows somthing which I am proud of. I was able to squeeze that extra half point out of it. You can make a draw easily in that position. You can even keep a slight edge but not be able to convert it. To convert it and so quickly I had this feeling, wow, I really played well. I had the feeling that this was really a good game. It is true that I managed to squeeze the maximum out of the position with Qc5, Qe3+, h6 bring the rook over and it was just perfect.

The game would have been very very funny had he continued (and not resigned). He resigned aftert I put my rook on h1. In fact he doesn't have to (resign). He can go back to Rd7, and the funny thing is I have to exchange rooks. White's bishop waits on the a8-e4 diagonal. Black has a very elaborate winning plan. We worked it out eventually. It is to put my rook on h8 and then walk my king over. I put it on h7 so that f7 is defended. Then walk my king all over. It goes well with it when I said I am squeezing the maximum out of the position. If I had done this it would have been the perfect finish. It was the game I thought was very good. That was great.

Same thing with game four. It was a sharp opening. It can go either way. I felt that his sac was premature. The real blunder was Bxh5. If he goes back Qc7 it looks good for black with...e5 coming and so on. But at some point the extra piece will make a difference. You can't simply sac a piece and not face the consequence. That was his problem in the match. He was trying to force maters too much in the match. You can't criticise him for that. This attitude got him into the finals. If you are able to fight against this then it is very good. If you see the fourth game, I have not just been defending. I just trapped his queen and got the whole thing going. I out-calculated him. I think I played very well there.

Q: Shirov crashed out losin the last three games like Dreev did to you in Chennai 1991. Is that match inexperience? Should he not try to stop the defeats with a draw?

A: I think each one deals with it in his own way. Shirov's style is to try and comeback strongly. It is another question if should try to play up to the sixth game. But essentially in the sixth game he will have to try and do what he tried in the fourth game which is to go all out. In fact when he lost the third game he already had to do something desperate in the fifth game. So, there is not much difference in what he did. It looks like he played desperately but what he is saying is instead of playing safely and taking a draw today and postponing the desperation for one day I'd rather try today and if I win I am back in the match and I can play calmly. This is not to say that had he played calmly he is sure of a draw, statistically some players are comfortable playing with small advantages like Karpov for instance or Mickey Adams. Even for Mickey it did not work (in Delhi). He put me under lot of pressure but couldn't win. But Shirov's style it to come at you and break your neck. He did what came naturally to him.

Q: Did you face any difficulty in any of your four games?

A: The games were difficult. In the second game I was never worse. I clearly faced difficulties getting that(extra) half point. I was very happy in the end when I got it. That rook ending was very tricky. I think it is a draw if you put these pawns h2 and g3. These are very very technical endings. You have to make the exact move orders. One move will twist everything. I was very proud that during this game I managed to do this well. I was happy that I was able to create so many difficulties for him.

Q: Many people said that game two looked a composed problem?

A: There was one famous ending by Kasparian. In that ending you have to draw by having your king on the opposite colour of the rook. He (Shirov) never got that far.

Q: Could we say your opening surprises caught him unaware?

A: Yes. At this level opening surprises are not always important. It is putting the winning novelty and destroying the opponent. It may happen rarely, I maen a novelty that wins on its own.

What you normalty do is take your opponent to unfamiliar situations. Make him to choose from some unpleasant choices when he has not worked everything at home. This is where the chances are that he would make mistakes. You have to capitalise on that. The idea is to keep the pressure on.

In fact if you see Shirov's play, it partly reflects the idea that you had all these... He was already spending his energy for one month and he could not cope at big strength. With all my physical training I am happy that I am able to play long without losing concentration of making mistakes. That's good sign.

Q: What's been the reaction to your victory in India so far?

A: It is difficult to guage it entirely from here. It looks amazing. Pratically five television channels went to my parents and interviewed them because they couldn't do it with me. Yesterday (Christmas) I got 30-40 phone calls easily. Some from television, radio and lots from the press. I can't think of a television channel which did not call. You see, it has made a big impact.

Some people told me here that it made it to the front page of The Hindu, the Indian Express and so on. Already in Delhi I could see that people were already enthusiastic about this event. You see, chess is a sport which is really picking up momentum. Okay, this news should be icing on the cake.

Q: Do you think India was lucky to get the sponsorship from Kirsan (FIDE President Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov) to bring 120 grandmasters to Delhi?

A: Lucky is partly the word. Obviously it is because the whole event could not be held in Teheran. We were the next logical venue. On the other hand that way it worked very well. I think FIDE should dia. Tap China as well. There is a lot of interest in Asia. You have to act when the time is hot. There is no use expecting matters to sort for themselves. FIDE has always organised events in Europe. Moving to India I think it was a big media success. They got a lot of publicity. Far more than they got in Las Vegas and Groningen. Also the attraction was for chess fans because you don't have a chess event everyday in your country. So they were very motivated to come out and see it. If it was held in Madras the interest may have been even higher. The reception was great. I think we should not say India was lucky to get it but FIDE showed some foresight giving the event putting this event there and tap the growing market.

Q: Should India get ready to stage super category tournaments? Like, what next after the World Championship?

A: Sure, I think they should try and make it very spectator friendly. Certainly a top category event will be a good event. There is no need to rule out Advanced Chess (Human+Computer versus Human+Computer) events or rapid events. The Rapid Grand Prix events were really spectacular. You can see there is a huge Indian audience ready to come and enjoy a chess event. But it is very important to do it very properly, you get all the commentary. If that is a success on the positive side, you can have a good multiplier effect. I think if they do one event and very nicely...I would recommend the rapid grand prix. One hour games are very exciting. You do it in an auditorium or a theatre with these boards and you can also allow people to bring in there own laptop computers and follow it on their own Fritzy. This will create the right atmosphere. Already when they put the monitors and started to have commentary things improved a lot in Delhi.

Category events with all the top players should also be fine. Anything to promote chess should be good because it is time to tap it.

Q: How was the organisation in Iran?

A: It was quite good. The hall was certainly sufficient. It was nice. It seems to have made a big impact here. I felt quite good. The conditions were good. The spectators were really enthusiastic. What more can you expect from an event?

Q: Which was your toughest match in these seven rounds?

A: Probably the match with Khalifman. It didn't last very long. In the first game he made a draw in very few moves(with white). I am talking about the rapid game. Then we had to wait for an hour and 20 minutes because the other players were taking time to finish their games. Then we went for the second game. This was the nightmare. I must say for a nightmare it finished very quickly. I saw that I could lose. It was happening so fast that suddently you stare death on the face. It is the possibility that you are out of the tournament. Then there is no use that you have been undefeated, scored plus three etc. Obviously that was the one big scare that I had. In ten minutes we went for our third game. It all happened very fast and it was the toughest thing.

I must say that the rest day before the fourth game was also....honestly after winning two games before I did not know what to do with this rest day. It would have better to have played that day.

Q: You were in form. Tell me about you preperation for this event? How long, was it deep or wide or how was it?

A: Basically in August I stopped. Then I went to Shenyang and two weeks before I did nothing in Chennai. Then I went to Sydney and did nothing till mid October. When I went back to Spain and spent two weeks working there. Again stopped went to Corsica Masters, then did for a week and stopped again about ten days before the event. It is good advice not to do any work ten days before the event. In Delhi we (Anand and Ubilava) started to work again little bit.

Q: Khalifman was eliminated by you at Groningen 1997 and at Delhi 2000. You did not play in Las Vegas 1999 and he won it. How tough was that one match?

A: You saw in Groningen and in Delhi he could have eliminated me. We are not talking specifically but had he made one move in both these games it is over. It is already the second time that he misses against me. He seems to be a very tough player. Someone good in knock outs. In Shenyang he got eliminated in the pre-knock out phase. I think the knock out format suits him.

Delhi felt very much like Groningen. You see so many parallels. I had a crucial game on my birthdays. There it was Predrag Nikolic here it was Khalifman. I played Adams in a four game match in both places. After I finished Adams I moved to another city there (Lausanne) and here ( Teheran). Some are not parallels. In Groningen with Adams it went all the way in the blitz and were both exhausted.

Q: NIIT is behind you and was also part sponsor in Delhi. Was there some pressure?

A: It was not pressure. I thought it was positive. Basically you feel pressure. It also has two sides. You also feel very protected. In Delhi I felt this. This is my home country. They knew when I wanted to concentrate so as not to disturb me.When you come to the hall and see NIIT, your company is sponsoring the event I felt there was lot of support behind me. I think I played more confidently.

Q: You played for the world title three times. Do you see chess getting more popular under the old candidates format or the current knock out format?

A: I don't ever visualise if we could ever fo back to the old candidates format. I don't see anybody with the will power to do it now. Once this split happened (in 1993) the candidates cycle is effectively finished. It continued one cycle longer but neither side (FIDE, PCA) was happy doing it. I think the knock out format makes a lot of sense. If you want to do one event every year fine the knock out format or make it part of the tournament series. The candidates cycle was not that great. It was good in its time. Nowadays with all the preparation that is going on I don't think a candidates match is going to produce interesting chess. If you look at some of the matches that were played recently you can see that there are a few short draws, time outs and all this stuff. For many reasons a knock out or a one event where it gets over in one event is the way to go.

Q: What did you have in mind while inviting GM Pablo San Segundo only to the finals?

A: I don't feel comfortable taking two seconds for a two game match. Also in Groningen I had only Ubi doing the first phase. Having more than one second is a serious overkill. Had it continued to be in Delhi I would have thought about bringing Pablo there. In the event it worked out that Aruna decided that I will like to have Pablo to the finals. She reached out to Pablo and made travel arrangements, in case I go to the finals of course. He was sort of on standly in Madrid ready to leave. I did not know this arrangement. During the event I spoke that if I had Pablo it would have been nice. The day I finished with Adam she gave me this news that he is coming directly to Teheran. It was a big surprise for me. He is clearly someone I would have wanted to have in the finals. In a six game match it is not just one white where you hit and run. You have to play three whites and three blacks. Okay the match finished in four games but it was still a very good idea.

Q: What do you think of the new format by FIDE for the next world championship?

A: To be honest I haven't been able to understand all the details yet. It seems too complicated assigning points to these tournaments to make the final eight. Obviously there are problems with the calendar. There are not that many months where you can put an with a tournament in. The players can't cope with a tournament every month. This is not possible. It is important to keep the tournaments which we have and nothing should be done to disturb them. Like Wijk aan Zee, Linares, Monaco, Sarajevo, Leon, Frankfurt, Dortmund, Polanitza. There are some empty months like October and November. If you want to have an elaborate circuit there can be a problem for dates. It should be interesting to see how they manage t do this. Personally I think it will be tough to get a whole new circut off the ground.

Q: Do you feel that they are changing the system when the players are getting used to the knock out?

A: Yes. That certainly seems to be the case. Nowadays fewer and fewer seeds get eliminated in the second round. It is an indicator that they know how they can play these things now. (Laughs) They will go crazy if they have something completely new again.

Q: What is your stand on Kramnik and Kirsan's idea of a world prestige championship in July 2001?

A: First, I have not heard anything directly. I only hear the rumours that are floating around. It is something I don't take very seriously. It seems to me more like a trial balloon, nothini concrete. There is again in a timing problem. Unless: A) they decide there is no world championship next year, B) they will prefer that I didn't defend my title, or C) they push the world championship by a few months into 2002. Without these it is not possible. If you need a top match you need all the old paraphernalia. I think I like the knock out event more and it is more sensible. Otherwise you need an army of seconds, training for a couple of months etc. I assume it will be eight or ten game matches. Unless it was in Dortmund, the organisers will not like this match happening in July. Tournaments which are traditional and building up should not be disturbed. They are asking me to play three tournaments, plus a possible world championship finals upon this match. Where is the time for that? I can't fit such a big schedule into my calendar. I also need rest from time to time. I don't see this all feasible.

Q: Kramnik said that there can be two world champions. How do you recognise him now? Or do ou see it as a private match?

A: Basically yes. I respect his chess accomplishment. It was a great chess achievement. That's pretty much it. Obviously he believe I am world champion. Live and let live is fine by me. Also there is not much point discussing this point because it is now going on for seven years. I already find there are two schools of thought in chess. One which believes it is this and one something else. In my opinion a vast majority think that FIDE is the legitimate system. Logically this is the only system. The other one is like an exhibition match. Someone like Alexander Grischuk will never ever going to make it in that system. If he plays six years if his rating goes up one of them might decide to invite him. In my opinion it is not a system, it is one off match (which Kramnik one).

Q: How tiring was this event and how did you prepare for the physical side?

A: I went to the gym and did 40 minutes of cycling. Another half an hour of weights. I am doing this now routinely for several months. Close to a year and a half. I believe it is an important part of being able to pay well for a month without feeling the strain. You can produce games like the ones I had here after the end of a month long elimination contant. Then it shows you are quite fit and able to handle the strain. Still it takes a lot out of you. Playing a tournament is like discharging a battery. You can't charge during an event. You only have to drain. In the end it is tough and it hits you hard. I need to take some rest to recharge again.

Q: Whom are you dedicating this victory to?

A: I like to dedicate it to all these people who were with me all these years. Starting from my parents, my school (Don Bosco, Egmore, Chennai). It was not common those days to support a sportsman who has taken a sport seriously. Then you can extend this to my college. Loyola College was also very helpful. All the people in the chess community, over the years they helped me a lot. The Tal Chess Club, the Tamil Nadu State and Madras District Associations. Then the fans from whom you get a lot of support. Lot of friends I made over the years like Hans-Walter Schmidt (Frankfurt), Frederic Friedel (Chess Base, Germany),Maurice Perea (Madrid neighbour). Aruna (wife) comes next, we married in 1996. She decided many things more than me since. She pushed me at the back, 'become the world champion'. Lot of fans who send letters who try and say they are behind you. You feel this support. One day when you get it is very very nice. I can't say I can dedicate it toone person. It is for everyone.

Q: You are going to be heard more these days. Do you think the Government at the centre should be something more for chess using this opportunity?

A: Certainly there is a scope for that. I think it is clear that there is lot of interest in India. They have to sell the sport very aggressively. To try and make it more popular. Obviously the Government can help also. But a lot of sports sponsorships these days across the world is done by private companies. This is a good chance to get lots of resources form private sponsorships. The Government is spending a lot of money in a limited way by getting air tickets for the Indian teams. I think it is time to tap the private sources.

Q: You have a major tournament coming up in the next fortnight at Wijkaan Zee. Will you have motivation problems which Kasparov had at Zurich 1995 or karpov had at Wijk aan Zee 1998?

A: I hope it will all go well. What can I say? I have never gone to a tournaments as world champion. It is a first for me. I am certainly aware that after an event like this you can find it difficult to focus suddenly. I hope to try and get into a right frame of mind before that.

Q: Can you rank any of your three best career performances?

A: Clearly this tournaments is the top. I consider the Groningen 1997 event as one of the best even though in the end I spoilt the whole thing a bit. It's difficult to say here. Favourites moments I can remember Baguio (where he won the World Junior 1987). In strength it is not comparable. I would probably say my performance in 1998 was also very good. Certainly the one in Frankfurt this year was also great. One and a half points ahead of the field is nice feeling. I have had a lot of good performances but I don't know how they go strictly by Elo. The last two knock out events were great.

Q: Now you are in a league of world champions. Every world champion brought in something special. What can we say about Anand.... Speed?

A: I think this is for the fans to decide. I should not tell this once. For example I can't compare myself to Tal of Fischer. It is not possible. They are historical figures. If you go through their games, you know that they went through the same emotions like you. You can see a lot of balance. I think I will leave this for chess writers to decide this one.

Q: You said you had south Indian food in Delhi and Indian food supplied by the Indian Embassy people. Did that give you the home advantage in Teheran?

A: Obviously in Delhi it was a big home advantage. Teheran was a very pleasant surprise. This is very very sweet of this lady in the Embassy to supply food everyday. Already both of us, Ubi and me were feeling bad already in the fllight (Delgi- Dubai-Teheran). When we got here we decided not to eat for a day. We had stomach problems and may be the temperature changes affected us. We slept one day practically. Then slowly we recovered the next day. By the time we had the opening ceremony I started to feel better. Under these conditions to have Indian food was unbelievable.

Q: Did you get to see the Indian performance at the Istanbul Olympiad?

A: Yes, I did follow the performance there, I can only say what everybody else said. That Sasikriran and Kunte did a very good job. Of course others played well. A team is more than two players. Based on this performance I thought they would do well in Delhi. But clearly you also need to get used to these events. They lack experience. They are strong players and growing very fast.

Q: You had earlier called the knock out system a lottery. But three of the top seeds made it to the semifinals?

A: I did not mean it is a full lottery. I mean it had something which you can't control. You saw the one I did against Khalifman does turn out. There is a certain amount of unpredicatability, But is comes down to the fact that the top players are getting used to the event. It was difficult to go through the first time. Suddenly one seed would drop out, next seed will drop out. You had this random feeling. You don't know who the wheel will touch next. If you are used, you control it better.

In a tie-break it is difficult to control. I think it is a part of the game. Sport has to be exciting. That is what makes it exciting. If you try to design a system where only the seeds will do well then you simply don't understand the sport. This is exactly how sports should be.