World Champion Viswanathan Anand on Monday described his triumph against Bulgarian challenger Veselin Topalov as “exceptionally tense and nerve-wracking”, saying it had taken all his powers of concentration to effect a turnaround in the 12-game series after losing the first encounter.
“This is possibly the first time a defending champion has retained the title after losing the opening game. Actually, the entire experience was a series of firsts for me: I missed a flight and had to take a bus. I was issued a speeding ticket on the way, and then participated in the first championship match since 1921 (when Cuban Capablanca thrashed Emanuel Lasker of Germany 9-5) in which a Soviet player did not figure,” he said.
Anand, however, took just one game to overcome the ill effects of the 40-hour bus drive to Sofia that was necessitated by air-travel havoc wreaked by Iceland's now infamous volcano.
“I got back after the initial loss and got the better of Topalov between games two and five. Topalov dominated between games six and 11. Chess is a game decided by mistakes and you are supposed to provoke your opponent into committing mistakes. I was lucky that something in Topalov gave way faster than it gave way in me. And that proved decisive in the 12th game,” he said.
Interacting with the media at an NIIT-organised event, the four-time world champion spoke about the kind of psychological warfare that preceded a clash of this magnitude.
“Mind games are a part and parcel of chess, but I decided not to be affected by them. Every move seemed like it had a big responsibility attached to it. Topalov, in fact, wanted to up the tension. He did not talk during the entire duration of the match, only allowing himself to speak to me after the last game.”
Known for his equanimity and poise, Anand gave an insider's view of the focus he tried to summon in the days leading up to the match and how he benefited from the inputs of past masters Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik.
“I stayed in a bubble in the months before the event. While I lived in a time-warp of sorts, I knew my seconds would bring to my notice any technical nuance worthy of consideration. Aruna made sure that there was nothing bothersome that my mind was burdened with. Of course, Kasparov and Kramnik shared highly perceptive insights with me… that was a huge boost,” he said.
Rating to improve
The current win is expected to push Anand's Elo rating to 2800, a peak that only five players, including the Indian, have scaled in the history of the game. Within a stone's throw of the number one spot — currently occupied by 19-year-old Magnus Carlsen — Anand said he wasn't particularly keen on “chasing targets”, although he intended to be thoroughly prepared for upcoming tournaments.
“I hope I win many more events. But if I don't, it will be very unwillingly.”
The 40-year-old will defend his world title in two years time. Asked who he wanted to face in that match, he replied, “I don't think my preferences will hold any weightage, but I will prepare for all possible opponents.”
Anand also said that he would be happy if he could leave behind the legacy of inspiring a million children in the country to play chess.
“Our association with Anand goes all the way back to 1999. I hope he plays an active role in grooming future world champions through our MindChampions Academy,” said Rajendra S. Pawar, Chairman, NIIT.