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Anand looks ahead with optimism

By Rakesh Rao

NEW DELHI, JAN. 29. Taking off from where he had left in 2003, Viswanathan Anand retained the prestigious Corus title at Wijk Ann Zee over the past weekend.

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu, Anand assessed his recent performance, indicated his best and worst games of the tournament and also chose to touch upon the highs and lows of his career.

Q: How do you assess your overall performance, both in terms of results as well as the quality of matches?

A: I played really well. I played aggressively and took a lot of risks. I missed chances against Viorel Bologan. My play was really weak against Topalov. I played the opening badly, but even missed some chances to save the game when he misplayed it later. Leaving aside these two games, however, I saved difficult positions against Svidler and Kramnik and managed to win five good games including some really beautiful wins over Akopian and Bareev. Overall, I played the best chess (at Wijk Ann Zee).

Q: How is this triumph any different from the previous ones at Wijk?

A: Winning any tournament any number of times doesn't take away the joy of victory. I remember playing in Wijk in 1989 as a young World junior champion. When I won that event, it was like my passport into the world of the chess elite. I won the event again in 1998 along with Kramnik. That win came soon after the Lausanne match. The loss in Lausanne (to Anatoly Karpov in January 1998) really hurt and took a long time getting over. Back in Wijk, I was just happy to play chess. Moreover, we had done so much work on chess for Groningen (an event in December 1997 to identify the qualifier for the World championship final)/Lausanne that I had this huge `Idea Bank' that I could just use. In 2003, I won the event unshared, which was special. Again, I was playing a classical chess event after a long time. In 2002, I played only Linares and, of course, the World Cup. In 2002, I was able to shake off my poor form in Prague. So winning Corus 2003 was fulfilling that I won a very strong classical event that, too, undefeated. My games against Ponomariov and Shirov from that edition were very nice. By winning Corus 2004, I join three other chess greats, Portisch, Kortchnoi and Euwe to win the event four times. The sad part was my streak of staying undefeated in Wijk stopped at 70 games. A nice record, hard to equal.

Q: What does this title mean to you?

A: Corus is the first and one of the strongest events of the year. To win that gives you positive feelings for the rest of the year. It is surely an institution among chess events. A nice mix of old traditions and new changes. Also, the public in Wijk Aan Zee are one of the most chess savvy ones. They vote on the best game every day and that shows their level of knowledge and involvement.

Q: Your best and worst matches. And why?

A: In Corus, this year my game against Bareev, my worst, of course the one against Topalov.

In general, I have good memories of match-play. OK, Lausane (the defeat in the tie-breaker of the World championship final against Anatoly Karpov in January 1998) was quite traumatic. I don't even remember much of the event. My best, I think, came in the (2000) World championship final in Teheran. Of course, the most thrilling was the Judit Polar match in Mainz (in 2003).

Q: You've been quoted as saying that reaching 2,800 is your next goal. What is your target, in terms of rating, in the year 2004?

A: 2,800 is my target. It is very difficult to gain points as only classical games get rated. I will now get my old rating of 2,774 and that takes me to No. 2 spot.

Q: Finally, what were the factors that made you say `yes' to the Olympiad?

A: I have been thinking about it for sometime now. The objections I have had in the past, still hold good. But I thought, let me give it a try. The team is really young and with a very nice blend of talent and personalities. I have worked with all of them in Chennai and with some of them I frequently exchange notes or just chat. So it will be nice. Moreover since the event is in Spain, it is a nice mix of both worlds.

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