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Tremendous year for Anand

By Vijay Parthasarathy

GOING GREAT GUNS: The last couple of years have been great, says Viswanathan Anand. - Photo: R. Ragu.

CHENNAI, DEC. 27. Even as the Indian cricket team continues to please and perplex fans alternately, another sporting demi-god mesmerised us right through 2004 with his level of consistency.

Chess Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand won every competition he entered this year, and also helped India put up its best ever performance at the Chess Olympiad in Mallorca, where the team finished sixth. These results could well set up a fourth Chess Oscar for the Indian genius.

"I would be surprised if I wasn't clear favourite," said a confident Anand, who is on a private visit to the city, during an exclusive interview with The Hindu.

Anand won the prestigious Corus tournament in January; then went on to register wins at Dortmund and Mainz. He also won the Corsica Masters — for a record fifth consecutive year. The Indian has enjoyed a phenomenal run for more than two years now; displaying remarkable consistency since winning the Eurotel knockout tournament in Prague during April-May 2002, where he beat Anatoly Karpov in the final.

The Indian could soon become only the second player ever, after Garry Kasparov, to cross the 2800 elo rating barrier. "I should manage it hopefully by July next year," Anand said. "My current rating is around 2787, after you take my Olympiad performance into account; add another three or four points for my performance in the German league. I should carry my form through the first half of next year."

Significant influence

The current World No 2 thinks it's wonderful, but also "a little intimidating", when people tell him he has had a significant influence on future generations of Indian chess players.

"I guess it was only a matter of breaking into the GM fold. Several others soon followed me," Anand said. "I keep in touch with Harikrishna, Sasikaran and the rest of the guys via e-mail. We have periods when we are in touch everyday, at other times we might email each other once in a while. It's hard to discuss specific problems like endings. After all, the way you approach a problem depends on your personality — one might play aggressively; another might defend."

The chess champ, who lives in Spain for logistical reasons, lent support to Indian players recently when the AICF sought to enforce a 10 per cent deduction on players' prize money. "Nobody is looking for conflict," Anand shrugged. "But there should be other ways of raising money. It is easy, after all, for organisers in every sport to overlook the players' viewpoint."

Anand believes the internet has a significant role to play in the promotion of chess in the country. "It is possible to market the game creatively on TV; you need interactivity and commentators. The internet has huge potential in that sense," he said.

Anand finds he is a lot more relaxed these days, and that reflects in his performance. "When you are playing at the highest level, it's impossible to derive pleasure from every game. It gets mechanical at some level. Only if you are having an atrocious day you might make a serious blunder," he said. "But certainly, if you can't find the joy, your results taper off. I'm as excited about the game as I have ever been, and there is a clear correlation between that and my results now. "The last couple of years have been great. I'm playing creatively. The non-routine thinking comes when you're not tired of chess," he said.

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