Anand in the News - Interview

| 3 | Chess Players

Viswanathan Anand on Thursday, May 31,2007, advised the world chess federation (FIDE) to find a balance between "broadening the player base" and maintaining the standard of competition while deciding the criteria for title norms.

FIDE has in recent years lowered the ELO rating required for players to gain their respective titles, as a result of which there has been a spurt in the number of International Masters and Grandmasters.

"There are two forces working here. One is the inflation of the GMs and the other is broadening the base. It has to be managed carefully," Anand said during an on-line interaction from Kolkata, India.

"Right now, a lot of people are taking part. So, the depth has really grown up. I would say that at the moment, it is 10 percent inflation and 90 percent more players competing."

Anand is currently the world number one player in the world (rated 2786 on the FIDE rating list - April 2, 2007). Topalov and Kramnik are both rated at 2772.

Anand said he was now fully focussed on the World Championships scheduled for September 13 to 29, 2007 in Mexico.

"There will be lot of dynamics involved in a eight-player double round-robin tournament," he said.

"We top players have the distance (ahead of others), but in a single tournament there is always a danger."

The 37-year-old from Chennai, India sympathised with Veselin Topalov who decimated the opposition to win the title in 2005 but won't be playing this year after losing to Vladimir Kramnik in the champions challenge match in 2006.

"I won't call it unfair but unfortunate. What happens if the number one seed loses in the first round in candidates match?" he said.

"Topalov put everything in line in that match (against Kramnik). It is a pity but there is no alternative. I guess an ideal tournament doesn't always happen," Anand said.

On his superior record in rapid chess as against the classical version, Anand said that probably he consistently made better decisions in an intense match of shorter duration.

"In rapid chess I think my percentage of a good move is better. When you are playing seven hours you have switch on and off many times. And when there is only one good move, you have to find it," he said, before adding in all humility, "this is not to say that I am a bad classical chess player."

He was aware that although he is the highest ranked player in the world, he still made a conscious effort to learn and keep pace with competition.

"You have to keep updating all the time. You have to constantly learn new variations because if you neglect for two months then there could be a huge backlog."

He also stressed on the importance of physical fitness to excel in chess.

"I look at it (fitness) as a battery. Before a tournament I build it up because during an event there is no scope for recharge, you only drain out," he said.

"I do a lot of walking during tournaments because if I do fitness then I will get tired and fall asleep on the board."

Anand described chess as a natural talent that could be developed by practice.

"Chess is like a language, the top players are very fluent at it," Anand said. "Talent can be developed scientifically but you have to find first what you are good at."

Anand said players at his level relied more on intuition strengthened by playing over a period of time.

"Intuition will encourage or warn you of certain moves. It will become better with practice. You don't need to see everything in detail," he said.

"It is not just a matter of studying but also liking and feeling comfortable about the moves you make."

He advised children to "to mix tournament chess and computer chess."

"Computer training is good but you miss the feeling of having an opponent on the other side of the board. You have to get used to the pressure," he said.

Anand said enjoying the game was the only way to improve.

"As a child, I just played. I played 12 hours a week. I kept playing and playing. As I said, intuition develops as you play," he said.

"Reading and learning comes afterwards. When I have a doubt, I refer to books, or ask people. But first you have to just play and enjoy playing."

Anand is also a deeply religious person.

"Religion is a deeply personal issue for me, which is why I disdain
its showy side. I believe that in matters of religion and
spirituality, every individual has to discover his or her level of
comfort and intimacy. I avoid the rituals and ceremonies associated with religion. That does not mean I stay completely remote; when I am in India I make it a
point to visit a temple. I revel in the tranquillity it offers and the
beauty it symbolises. I see prayer as an article of faith. When I pray I try to concentrate
on the prayer itself, its cadences, its ebb and flow. I try to channel
my energies towards it. Conviction and belief - that's the essence of

There are times, however, when I find myself in a completely lost
position in a game and I think, "Oh God, how did I get here?" Is that
a prayer?

Just before a game, I try to keep a clear mind so that I can focus
better. I'm the kind of person who plays fast and relies a lot on
intuition, so being at peace with myself is vital. Saying my daily
prayers helps me achieve this heightened state of mind."

"At times, when I look at the way life unfolds, I can't help but think
that God is the best chess player there ever has been, the greatest of
grandmasters. We human beings are merely pawns, and we yearn to be
kings! Hope and humility - that's what we need in abundance, that's
what makes the difference, not an unbridled love of all things
material and transitory.

Chess is a complex sport, forever evolving, forever morphing, and
always humbling. I should know; bishops and knights, kings, queens and
pawns have always been a part of my world. I started playing the game
when I was six, and my passion has not dimmed a bit; as a matter of
fact, it continues to grow.

Chess stimulates my curiosity and my need to keep learning. We deal
with three million games and megabytes of information; that's the
currency of an elite chess player. Each game is an experience in
relearning and reinventing. It is maths, art and science all rolled
into one blockbuster experience."

"In chess, as in life, knowledge, hard work and a bit of luck are the
critical for success. When I started learning the ropes, the
intricacies of the game, my chief source of knowledge came from books.
This could take weeks, sometimes even months to filter through.

Knowledge, and access to it, was once the key to doing well in the
game. Today, though, knowledge is downloadable in real time, so
everyone has access to the same bits - and bytes - of information.

Hard work also counts, at least in my book. Chess can be a gruelling
and challenging game; it's easy to get crushed under the pressure it
exerts. The trick is to play it so that it does not weigh too heavily
on you. Luck plays a part, for sure, but I'd like to think it favours
those who give it their best shot."

"I see myself as a part of an older, and rather different, generation
of chess players. I may look calm and sober when I'm playing, but
that's a façade. On the inside I can hear my heart pounding. Everyone
brings a particular characteristic to the way they play. I bring my
calmness to the table.

You can't throw a tantrum or backslap a teammate during a game of
chess, which really is warfare waged in solitude. In many ways, the
game prepares you for the challenges that life hurls in your


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