Interview with the World Champion - Anand on Kazan, cheating and more (part 2 of 2)

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Interview with the World Champion - Anand on Kazan, cheating and more (part 2 of 2)Here's the second and final part of the (video) interview we did with Vishy Anand, just after he won his semi-rapid match against Alexei Shirov in León last week. In this part the short questions of the first part are discussed, and we talked about big topics like Kazan, cheating and more. Video & transcript.

You can watch and read the first part of the interview here.

Interview with the World Champ

Anand on Kazan, cheating and more (part 2 of 2)

OK... we started with Federer and Nadal. Do you follow tennis and what other sports are you most interested in?

Yeah, I mean, I do watch other sports. The last few days I got to see quite some good ones. The Man U.-Barcelona match was really beautiful. I kind of thought it was hopeless for Federer on clay so... I had the feeling... somehow I just couldn't see him beating Nadal on clay and that's kind of what happened. Then I watched a little bit of Formula 1 as well, but of course it had a very weird end, so...

But is it something you would like to see in rehearse, this tennis match, are you going to watch it afterwards or is it something you only want to see live?

Generally I only see it live; I don't think I'll watch the match with the result and so on, it takes a bit out, but I did catch a little bit before I went into the game, so... [Smiles.]

OK, the next one was about Monty Python; is there any scene you like the most of their work, or maybe a movie? Because you're a fan, aren't you?

Sure, I like Monty Python, and... well OK, I think you know once Carlsen and me had a good time with the Pope and Michelangelo, so... that was a good one. But of course there are many moments that I can pick from let's say The Life of Brian, which is also very funny.

Yeah, there's actually going to be a musical based on that one, are you interested in that?

[Laughs.] Yeah, one of the songs I have on my computer is 'Always look on the bright side of life'.

Interview with the World Champion - Anand on Kazan, cheating and more (part 2 of 2)

Beatles or Stones; is this your taste?

I listen to a bit of both, but right now Stones is very fresh in my head because last year during Sofia the team had it on almost all the time.

Also with Rammstein, wasn't it?

Rammstein and some Stones, but they started getting some Stones songs every remake ever done on YouTube so we really listened to it up to here. [Poinst to forehead, smiles.]

Well, let's skip Giri and Nyzhnyk because you've been asked too many times about the young talents already I guess. Talent or experience; the fact that for example you, and Vassily [Ivanchuk] and Boris [Gelfand] are still at the absolute top, is this a matter of experience or are you just also extremely talented?

I don't know, I actually like Boris's answer, he said that in all this attention people paid to the talents, they almost seem to assume that we've all disappeared, and they seem surprised that we're around. So I think it's because they forgot about this that they're surprised that we're playing, but naturally... I mean I still think people like [Levon] Aronian and [Magnus] Carlsen are just very impressive, but as long as we can fight and we can enjoy the game, then it seems to work.

Boris Gelfand

Gelfand, of course, qualified in Kazan. How do you look forward to this match, because he's known as a very classical player with a huge amount of chess knowledge. What will be different in your preparation, for example, compared to working against [Veselin] Topalov and [Vladimir] Kramnik?

Well, we'll really get down to the details a bit later, once we know the venue and all, but I think we can already see that Boris really can peak when, for the big... and in fact this whole cycle, the way he came through from the World Cup all the way till the Candidates has been just very, very impressive. He's well-known already as one of the best prepared opening players. I mean, even in the nineties we all sort of looked up to Boris's preparation, so... he's very good in that. It will just be a very tough match. But I haven't got into details yet, somehow it's also a bit too early. Once we have a venue and everything... and I have to play tournaments as well, so we'll have to try and balance.

I found a magazine from '95; the New in Chess magazine after you qualified for your match against Kasparov. You just beat Gata Kamsky in Las Palmas. In the interview with Dirk Jan [ten Geuzendam] you say:

"(...) given the amount of knowledge and chess theory there is these days, you can't but help and do some work on certain systems and types of opening work. But these days it's not just opening work, it's how it connects to the middlegame. Just trying to get the position you want."

Interview with the World Champion - Anand on Kazan, cheating and more (part 2 of 2)

You recently also spoke about these things in a Chessbase interview. Back in 2011, it's even more ridiculous so, how do you look at this, do we have to change something, isn't it getting too much these days?

It's a good point. I mean, thanks for bringing up this interview because it helps my answer a little bit. I wouldn't say that right now, when we're all staring at the amount of preparation we have nowadays... it's useful to remember, to read an old interview [smiles] and see that we were concerned before. I mean, right now 1995 feels to me some golden era when we all woke up in the morning and we just went and played whatever we felt like, but of course when you read the interviews, then we were complaining how much theory there was then, so it's a question of perspective. But it's true, there's just a hell of a lot of theory.

We already talked about the format used in León, so let's skip that. Although, there is some relation with Kazan, in fact, because the losing finalist, Alexander Grischuk, actually declared that to him classical chess is dying. What's your opinion on that? Do you think there will always be a good enough audience for classical chess or is it inevitable, to keep interest and sponsors, that we have to cut down the time limit?

I don't know, I think there are still very interesting tournaments. The 'death of classical chess' keeps coming up; I think that's too extreme. What happens is in certain situations, especially where's too much at stake, it seems that people can go into safety mode and then it can... But I don't think we should press any sort of panic buttons just yet. And I would say that this thing of whether it's rapid or classical is also a bit dated. Right now it's just become the norm, even in the World Championship. You play classical. You can't separate yourself? You play rapid as well. You can't separate yourself? You play blitz. So I see them as sort of one continuum rather than totally different and incompatible formats. So essentially my answer is: a lot of trends are happening anyway. People are experimenting with different scoring, with different things, huge variations in prices, whatever, and it copes. I mean there are still very, very exciting and nice tournaments happening. So we shouldn't exaggerate as well, but of course, sometimes you get some really dead events.

Only three decisive games in Kazan

Yeah, and I think you picked 'No Sofia rule' to 'Sofia rule'; can you elaborate on that?

[Smiles.] Well, I understood your yes or no questions as what I would like more, and of course it's slightly easier, but it's not really a preference. I mean, if an organizer wants these rules it's fine by me. So it's not really a thing, but of course left my own devices I would rather be able to stop when I can. But it wasn't a strong preference.

But do you agree with Vladimir [Kramnik] and Silvio Danailov that maybe it should have been there in Kazan, maybe also related to some very quick draws there?

I don't know, I think always right after an event people have ideas based on that event. It's probably better to think it through a little bit. I mean, I feel again there's a tendency to say: everything was wrong in Kazan, let's do something drastic, let's mix it up. Like I said, I have no real problem with Sofia rules, but I think... at least my feeling even before Kazan was, no matter what happens, we're going to feel a little bit bad. Because these are really eight very strong players, and this was a very strong cycle. Whichever way you cut it, at the end there will be only one player left and people will have some misgivings. And I think that's kind of what happened.

And of course you are the most successful player in a wide variety of formats. So does this mean that you probably don't even know yourself what could be the best 'system'? Because people are really talking about 'the system' again, the system of qualifying.

Again I would say that we have... there were systems... many systems are successful. Wijk aan Zee was very successful with this model of three tournaments; before we had sort of an A group, a B group and so on but I would say even now it's almost two incredibly strong groups, and then one pretty good group. And then you have other tournaments with four players, six players, and many are interesting in their own way. So I think we shouldn't focus too much on the format.

Anand in January in Wijk aan Zee

Sometimes the right dynamic starts... It's true that this happens more often in tournaments, but matches also have a special kind of character. Maybe they should have been six games or eight games. But everything will have a consequence. If you make it six games, you'll probably have to add more rest days and spread the event out over a couple of months. You have eight games each match, probably better like in the nineties, where you play one set of Candidates Matches, or not in the nineties but just the last century, you play one set of matches, then you break for a couple of months, then the next set of matches, then you break for a couple of months, like they used to. But every sort of system will have consequences. So if you have these Candidates Matches going on for a very long time, you're going to look at a three-year cycle very fast. I would say there's not going to be a perfect solution. Right now, OK, there were probably too many short draws in Kazan and everybody is a bit upset, but let's see if it's a tendency before we go over. I don't have a real problem with this system of the Candidates but my own attitude is: if somebody tells me this is the system, this is the one I play and I try to be agnostic of this. I find that the best thing is just to get on with my job and not worry about this.

The last subject, the last thing I want to discuss is maybe the most topical one. We brought the news on Saturday that there's yet another cheating case: there was a German chess player caught in the German Championship using a mobile phone. There have been many debates about this, also because of the French case, of course. What do you think is necessary; do you think some real measures are necessary? For example, especially in open tournaments it's very difficult because basically you have to search players for phones and everything. And then there's the debate about whether a 15-minute delay of the broadcast is necessary, but this is more for top events. What are your thoughts on this?

I don't know... Generally the problem seems to flare up every few years. We had some problems several years back... I mean, fifteen minutes solves some issues, that's true, but at the same time I'm wondering if you have online spectators and some of them know if the match is already over and who won, and then they have to watch the last time scramble after that. But at least fifteen minutes seems to have some effect on cheating, especially in critical moments. It's quite a big lag. But I don't know; I think in the end it also comes down to the ethics of players involved. I mean you put in some systems, and if someone is caught then you give them a harsh penalty, but... In fact I was reminded again with this Austrian tennis player, that it's not only our sport that has to deal with this issue. Somehow, also with all this betting money coming in and out... I don't know if that's a big problem in chess yet, but I'm saying in other sports also these things keep on coming up. It's actually quite depressing because... it's nice to think of sport as a... Anyway, to answer you question: again, I don't think when we... most technology races tend to be arms races. I think as soon as you come up with one method, some guy will come up with some clever system. But the problem isn't that bad, at least I have the feeling that most top tournaments are fine and I've gone a couple of years without feeling bad or looking over my shoulder so I think...

Maybe it's more a thing of open tournaments then.

Could be, yeah. Again, like I said anything will be generated to an arms race between the guy who wants to cheat and... So I would go with some combination, I mean, you can try fifteen minutes but I'm sure there'll be workarounds.

OK, thanks a lot for the interview. You have a few summer months off again, but there will be some very interesting top tournaments be played. There's Bazna soon, and there's Dortmund and Biel. Are you following these games live when...

Yes, of course. I mean, except when the time difference is too much, I'm following them quite intensively. So for instance the U.S. Championship I didn't follow because the time difference in India was quite big. Or I catch a bit and then go to sleep. But most tournaments in Europe or the East, of course I follow.

OK. But you'll have enough time besides that, to...

Well, we'll see how much time he gives me. [Smiles.]

OK, thanks a lot!

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