“So, what do you think of the Palestine issue?”
That is one question Viswanathan Anand would not have to answer during his World championship match against Magnus Carlsen at Sochi, Russia, over the next three weeks. And he would appreciate that.
At the mandatory post-game press meets during last year’s World championship in Chennai, Anand often had to answer questions that had little to do with the match, or even chess.
That too when he was facing the prospect of losing his grip on the crown that had been with him for the past six years.Perturbed
At least on a couple of occasions, Anand looked perturbed by the questions. He will be relieved that there would be no such media scrutiny in Sochi.
“Anand was clearly upset by some of the questions and that can impact you, especially when you are playing someone like Carlsen who puts you under relentless pressure,” says R.B. Ramesh, a former Commonwealth champion and a television commentator during the Chennai contest. “I think he would be better off without the pressure of playing at home.”
Anand had been undone by the home conditions earlier too, in the World candidates’ semifinal match against Gata Kamsky at Sanghi Nagar, near Hyderabad, in 1995.
He had taken a two-point lead and was close to a win that would have taken him a match away from his first World title game.
“Anand was distracted by the fans in Sanghi Nagar. Being such a nice man, he would not refuse to entertain his fans even on the eve of the games against Kamsky,” recalls veteran Grandmaster Pravin Thipsay. “Chennai was worse, of course.
“Well, one could point out that the home conditions did not bother Anand when he played at the 2000 World championship in New Delhi, but he was one of the 100 participants there and, therefore, was not constantly under the media microscope.”
Anand has received a lot of attention from the Russian media ever since he broke through as the ‘Lightning Kid’. The Russians have loved him, for his brilliant chess as well as his winsome personality.
One recalls the reaction of former women’s World champion Maya Chiburdanidze when Anand’s name was mentioned in an interview during the Delhi World championship 14 winters ago.A diamond
Her face lit up and she said: “Oh, my goodness, Vishy! What can I say? I just love him. He is my favourite chess player. I have known him as a 17-year-old.
“He is so wonderfully nice. He has everything: talent, ambition and all other attributes of a champion. He is like a diamond.”
Anand has several friends in Russia like Vladimir Kramnik, Boris Gelfand and Maya. He has also had some great results in the country in his career.
He was only too pleased to sign the contract to play the World championship match in Russia, though Carlsen wasn’t. The Norwegian wanted the match to be held somewhere else, and it was only through an extended deadline did he agree to play in Sochi.
Anand will be playing at a place where he has felt at home, while Carslen will be playing — FIDE gave him no choice — much against his will. Is that an advantage for Anand? It may not, but one would rather be in his shoes than that of Carlsen’s at this point. It was in Russia that Anand last won the World championship, when he beat Gelfand in Moscow in 2012.
Could Sochi witness the greatest comeback in chess since Garry Kasparov dethroned Anatoly Karpov in 1985?
We will soon find out.