Says the decision to play the Candidates was to regain stability
For five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand, the days following his defeat to Magnus Carlsen in November at home were full of gloom.
But four months later, playing in Khanty-Mansiysk, a Russian town known for its booming oil trade as much as chess, Anand has rediscovered the slickness that had deserted him for long.
On his arrival in the city on Wednesday, after winning the Candidates tournament and setting up a re-match with Carlsen, a cheerful Anand addressed the media.
Feeling after losing to Carlsen: I needed a few days to allow my head to settle down. There was also this discussion about whether I would play the Candidates. Between Christmas and New Year I got a week alone and I thought what possible justification I could give if I didn’t. Whatever the consequences, I’ll deal with it, but there was no sense in not playing. I spoke to a few people.
Then over dinner [Vladimir] Kramnik said, ‘It’s a lovely tournament. I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t. Play and see how it goes.’ He was someone who could relate to how I felt and I thought it made sense. The decision to play was to be stable again and enthusiastic about playing chess again.
Performance in Candidates: The important thing was that I had certain lightness again. I would experiment a bit more. After the matches I thought it was more important for me recover emotionally rather than get back to more technical work. You can’t execute stuff unless you are feeling comfortable about yourself.
I decided to take it game by game and see what happens. It seemed like the other participants were much more nervous than me. In fact I won the same number of games as three others. But I was the only undefeated person and that made the difference.
Getting his rhythm back: The situation hasn’t changed entirely. Because of one good result everything doesn’t change completely. Many of the challenges are still there. A good result like this is like oxygen. There is more enthusiasm, more optimism and the emotions are all positive.
Extending this form: I want to play a lot of rapid chess because it’s a format I enjoy and I’ll stick to that. Look, I can’t build a whole year on one result. But this is exactly the result I needed. The biggest problem has now been fixed: my morale.
Aggressive play in Russia: It’s partially true. What actually matters is the percentage you put into the game and I certainly played at a higher percentage this time.
The three wins: I liked all three, but for very different reasons. The [Levon] Aronian win was very elegant and very technical. In classical format I had never beaten him with white pieces.
The one against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was very crisp. It was great to make five of your best moves in succession. Veselin Topolov win in game 9 was great too. Also, it was the most crucial.
When did he feel he could do it? After game three I was convinced that it will at least be a good result. Round by round confidence grew.
Playing away helped? It’s hard to say. Once you play well everything seems wonderful. The only thing you can do is concentrate on doing your best.
Sandipan Chanda, his second: I wanted to go with someone whom I had already worked with. Sandipan is pretty original. He is also very good at solving problems and very creative. I was very happy with him. He wanted to have a good result as much as I did.
Age as a factor: It clearly is. But since it’s not something you can change, I don’t keep thinking about it. It’s more for the observer than the player.
Carlsen World Championship match-up: Thoughts are inevitable. I have some on how to do better and what to work on.
I have ideas on how to go about it, but won’t be discussing them openly. In the end when I tell you what they are, they won’t shock you but may be one or two will surprise you.
But for now, I will wait for the dates and the venue to be decided.
So I have a perfect reason not to work and take a well earned rest.
Carslen’s comments that the approach was more pragmatic and also not much different from November: I don’t know what’s the definition of pragmatic. If it works it works.
That’s it. May be he would have taken different decisions. The second comment was fairly reasonable. I didn’t have much time to try too many things.
Garry Kasparov’s comment [Those who said Anand should retire should be embarrassed]: I thought he was trying to be nice. Let’s leave it at that.
Events coming up: I’ll be playing an exhibition in Corsica in May, then Kiev and a rapid tournament in Geneva. I might then travel to Dubai.