“I was philosophically resigned… I decided I was not going to kill myself over it. I wasn’t going back, analyse my games and break my head and all that. If I had lost, I thought I’ll come back to my room and pour some cold water on my face. Come home, play with (son) Akhil and just try to get on with life. If I had lost, it was still a good run — Mexico, Bonn and Sofia. Okay fine. Cool. I assume (Boris) Gelfand is going through the same procedure now.
“But it is tougher when it actually happens than when you are imagining it. So, I don’t know how it would have been. Your life has to be bigger than chess, get on with it and try to see some perspective. So, being philosophical helped me stay calm, and I thought I managed to control that part pretty well.”
This was Viswanathan Anand reflecting on the agonising moments he spent considering the probability of losing his World crown to Gelfand, after the Russian broke a six-draw sequence to lead their 12-game title clash in Moscow.
This was obviously the toughest moment of the match for Anand. “I thought of this coincidence that I had lost my previous (world) title in Moscow (in 2001). But I did not see what I could do with this thought. After a while, I just pushed it out of my head.”
Anand needed an immediate comeback. He made one in style. In what turned out to be the shortest decisive game in the history of the World championship, Anand won in just 17 moves after trapping Gelfand’s queen.
“After I won, I could sleep better. Our team could relax a bit. It was again important not to say the obvious. It’s great we equalised, but we still have a match to play. So, in these moments, it is important not to make a big deal about what everyone knows; just keep on working and keep your focus there.”
The next four games ended in draws to leave the score tied at 6-6. In the best-of-four rapid games to break the tie, Anand won the second and the rest were drawn. Anand kept the title he was expected to keep.
Many commentators felt Gelfand created more chances in the rapid games. But Anand did not agree.
“One should take it game by game. In Game one, he was not better. In Game two, I don’t think he was ever better. So, that breaks it down to 50 per cent! In Game three, of course, he was winning at several moments.
“In Game four, of course, he was better. I did not go for a plan that he should be better, but I had an attack of nerves, and played for a draw with white. Even during the game, I was regretting this decision, but once you take it, you do it. So, there is no achievement for him in getting better. I gave it to him on a platter. Had he won the third game, could he have been better in the fourth game? That’s unanswerable.”
However, Garry Kasparov openly criticised Anand for lacking motivation and not playing like the favourite. The job done, the champion gave it right back to his predecessor.
“Of course, some people like Kasparov, really wanted me to lose. He was even clearly trying to cause it.
“I found Kasparov’s timing extremely surprising, during the sixth round. He was so clearly trying to stir something up about my play.
“I felt his sympathies were obvious. He was trying to come there, see if he could get under my skin and somehow negatively impact my play. For me, it was especially important not to give him that satisfaction.”