After spending an extra free day in Khanty-Mansiysk and attending the closing ceremony, Vishy Anand travelled back to India. At a meeting organized by his sponsor he spoke to many Indian media, and in this article a selection of his comments and a full transcript of a TV interview is given.
The last round of the Candidates’ Tournament was on Sunday, but the closing ceremony was scheduled a day later. On his extra free day, tournament winner Viswanathan Anand decided to join a trip to the famous biathlon venue in Khanty-Mansiysk. In the chess world the city is known for hosting several World Cups and an Olympiad, but the Siberian city is also a skiing and alpine skiing center of global importance. For example, it was the venue of the 2003 and 2011 Biathlon World Championships, and in 2005 and 2010 the Mixed Biathlon Relay Championships took place.
Update: a video of Anand's biathlon experience has been posted on YouTube:
Here are photos of how Anand spent his last day in Khanty-Mansiysk, courtesy of FIDE. It's well worth taking a look at the photo gallery of the tournament website!
Anand in traditional clothing...
...and using a traditional means of transport...
...clearly enjoying the ride!
Getting instructions for rifle shooting...
...an important part of the biathlon
For biathlon shooting, the target range distance is 50 metres
Anand receiving the first prize
On Tuesday Anand travelled back home, and on Wednesday he gave a press conference organized by his sponsor NIIT (see pictures at the Chess Tigers). The Times of India decribed the press meeting as follows: “His sponsors had arranged for an interactive session with the media and the five-time world champion was clearly in the mood to oblige. The TV interviews seemed to go on for eternity, but he didn't mind.”
Below are a few interesting quotes from different Indian media:
“It wasn't easy getting used to the fact that I was not the world champion any more. The withdrawal symptom was hard.” (NDTV Sports)
“Age is a factor but there many tendencies going in the game of chess - the influence of the computer, the way you approach the game, whether you have grown up playing lots of blitz and rapid chess or whether you came in with a serious study. These things matter, so age is not the only factor and it's not the only thing that is decisive in chess. Older participants have done well, so I am surprised why it has become such a big topic.” (CNN-IBN)
“Firstly, I went into the tournament with no expectations, so there was a certain lightness and I could experiment a bit more. During a strong event like this, there's no sense in making long-term plans. Every game is unpredictable and there could be three possible results. The other participants were a lot more nervous. It's not that they did not have good moments, but they had a lot more worse moments than me. In fact, I won three games, the same number as four others (Sergey Karjakin, Levon Aronian, Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler), but I stayed undefeated, calm and focused, which eventually made the difference. Aronian was suffering from nerves and was clearly the tragic figure of the tournament. (...) When you are winning, everything feels good. The food tastes better and the weather feels incredible even though the temperature is sub zero.” (Times of India)
“When you are really down and out and can pull up a result like this, then it really is a highlight and something to feel proud of. But I don’t know. Obviously Mexico had a similar and identical format. Equal strength comparably. That was a world championship. But this is a result I really needed right now, and so it is very very special.” (Deccan Chronicle)
On Sandipan Chanda, his second: “I wanted to go with someone whom I had already worked with. Sandipan is pretty original. He is also very good at solving problems and very creative. I was very happy with him. He wanted to have a good result as much as I did.” (The Hindu)
On building his team for November: “I have some ideas. There would be a couple of surprises. Ideas are being thought about. Everything cannot be discussed in open.” (New Indian Express) “I am planning to re-jig my core team and there would be a couple of surprises. Ideas are being thought about and everything can't be discussed at a media meet.” (NDTV Sports)
“The important thing was that I had certain lightness again. I would experiment a bit more. After the matches I thought it was more important for me recover emotionally rather than get back to more technical work. You can’t execute stuff unless you are feeling comfortable about yourself.” (The Hindu)
There was also an excellent interview conducted by Shivani Gupta of Headlines Today. Below it is embedded, followed by a full transcript:
First of all, congratulations at the big win. A tournament you won after 19 years. Last time you won, this was in 1995, and you were quite candid enough to accept that you wanted it to get over very quickly.
“Well, it's just that when you're in the lead, you want to hold on till the end. You hope there won't be too many difficult moments. But of course, at a tournament at this level you cannot escape some tests, so I had a few difficult rounds towards the end. Game 13 dragged on for 91 moves, so at least I can say my plan didn't work fully, but in the end I could get the desired result.”
Anand, not a lot of people gave you a lot of chance before this tournament. You lost that world title in November last year, and the performance up till then also had nog been up to your standards. That is why people are calling it a 'great comeback'. How would you look at coming out of this tournament unbeaten, winning quite comfortably, after being quite low in performance and in morale just a few weeks ago?
“Well, you can imagine that this result for me is a bit like oxygen. I mean, I have the same sensation of someone who can breathe after a while. I really needed this result, for my morale, for my motivation… Just to feel positive about life and about chess again, because some of my results were really beginning to weigh down on me. I have to admit, it caught me by surprise as well. I mean, I went to Khanty-Mansiysk hoping for a good result, a positive performance, but this is… this is just perfect.
Many were saying that you were past your prime, that you can no longer challenge your younger competitors. You certainly proved them wrong, isn't it, with this win?
“Yes. I would say that the most important thing is not to pay a lot of attention to this. Before the tournament I did not go to any website, anywhere where this stuff was being discussed, because I simply didn't see the point. It can only upset you. So I cut myself off from that, and in that sense I was not affected by it much. I only found out towards the end, when some friends told me what the odds were against me winning, and what the predictions were. Well, I guess when you win you can kind of laugh at it.”
But how did you turn it around Anand? Can you share with us how, mentally, and with your game, you turned it around? Because as you accepted, this win was extremely crucial for your own morale; you were not feeling so good about your game just a few weeks back with the results not coming. How did you turn it around for this tournament?
“What can I say, I don't know exactly what I did myself. I would say that I went there in the right frame of mind, so very low expectations… Actually I did not have expectations, that's a better way of putting it. I preferred not to think of where I would finish, but I preferred to think 'what am I going to do in this game, what am I going to do in this game,' so very step by step. I went there ready to play chess, and simply have a good performance. It seems is the right attitude sometimes. I must admit also that when you get a good result, you see that sometimes you need a win to be in the right direction; you need a few breaks coming your way. I grabbed every chance and I am happy about that.”
Is that why you were a little more aggressive as well? A criticism of yours during that world title match against Carlsen was that perhaps you were not playing to your strengths of rapid chess and moving quickly, and you had become defensive. In this tournament it seemed you were being quite aggressive. As you had said, you had no expectations and nothing to lose.
“I would put it another way: I would say in this tournament I got the positions I wanted to get, I got what I was aiming for at least much more often than in the match and I think this causes the second, which is that you can play the way you want to. But in order to play the way you want to, you must get the right positions and I think here I managed more effectively.”
Alright, let's address the issue that everyone wants to talk about Anand. How are you looking at that title rematch with Magnus Carlsen, someone you lost to quite badly last year.
“Let's put it this way: whatever challenges I face, they're probably still there in great degree but the most important thing has been done already. I have a result which lifts my morale, which makes me look positively and with enthusiasm at chess again, and that was maybe the most important thing. I've done that first, and now… I understand it will be a very difficult challenge but I am looking forward to it and maybe that's the most important thing.”
Five-time world champion, Anand, and then being dethroned by a challenger, a very young challenger; have you been itching for this chance, for this title rematch?
“Obviously it's the best thing that could have happened. But when I went for the Candidates’ I understood that it's such a strong tournament, you have to take the results as they come. In fact I must say I was very calm at the Candidates’ in Khanty-Mansiysk. The other participants had all weak moments, whereas I hardly had any. In fact that made the difference, because many people matched my number of wins, but nobody matched me in being undefeated. Maybe that was the crucial thing, that I somehow managed to stay very calm and focused in this event.”
The first feeling, Anand, when you knew your were going to win this Candidates’ Tournament, and you're going to set up this rematch… what was the first sense, was it relief, was it pressure, was it a bit of nerves given how the last match went?
“Well, I would say that in game it hit me that I could actually win this thing, because my lead suddenly expanded to one and a half points. At that point it was clear to me that I was the odds-on favorite by any yardstick. And then you understand that something that is so close can still slip out of your grasp. I think then I had this kind of shock. When you realize that things can still go wrong and you've got to pull yourself together and be careful in the last few games. The next big moment was game thirteen. When I saved that, it was actually mathematically over. I was beyond reach. Then I could go and celebrate. I think the best results like these are surprises. When they are surprises they are very, very beautiful.”
Anand, very quickly, my final question to you. As you look forward to that rematch, strategy was one thing that many criticized against Carlsen and some are suggesting maybe you should add a strategist, or a new strategist, to your back room team. Can you take us through that? Will you make some changes? Was strategy indeed weak last time and will you work on that this time?
“I think it's fair to say that… I said myself that my strategy last time didn't work. But I think it's painful to keep reliving that. The most important thing is to look forward. I had a lot of impressions from the previous match, I have my conclusions, you know I have several months to think about it. So I have some idea what I think will work this time; I am looking forward to doing it but I am not going to start discussing the details obviously. I want to keep them close to my chest. I know what I think I have to do, and I am going to try and work on it.”
As mentioned before here on Chess.com, Anand is not on the participants list of the next two super tournaments: the Vugar Gashimov Memorial (19-30 April) and the Norway Chess tournament (2-13 June). The Indian told The Hindu about his plans: “I’ll be playing an exhibition in Corsica in May, then Kiev and a rapid tournament in Geneva. I might then travel to Dubai.”
Anand is not a heavy tweeter, but on Thursday morning he sent out these two. With the second one he makes a few sponsors happy - in case you hadn't seen it yet, see the Crocin commercial embedded below. :-)