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Don’t know when chess will return to where it was, says Viswanathan Anand

Home sweet home: Viswanathan Anand is glad that he could play chess from his comfortable, familiar workstation at home.

Home sweet home: Viswanathan Anand is glad that he could play chess from his comfortable, familiar workstation at home.  

When Viswanathan Anand left Chennai for Frankfurt in February, the city was waiting to see M.S. Dhoni back at Chepauk. The Southern metropolis was also talking about the latest Rajinikanth film, ‘Darbar’. All those classical music and dance stages were still alive, though the season had ended.

It was an entirely different Chennai that he returned to, some three months later. The IPL had been postponed indefinitely, cinemas had been closed, dancers and musicians didn’t know when they would be able to get back on stage.

The novel coronavirus has changed the world, almost unrecognisably.

Anand is relieved and happy that he can finally be home again; that he can spend time with his wife Aruna and son Akhil, after being quarantined in Bengaluru on his arrival from Germany. He is also glad that he can play chess from his comfortable, familiar workstation at his home in Kotturpuram.

Yes, the five-time World champion wants to play in a tournament again, but he doesn’t know when he can do it. “I don’t know when chess will return to where it was before,” he tells The Hindu over the phone. “It seems some countries are coming out [of the lockdown], but they are not completely out of danger, while others are still in an earlier stage.”

He adds: “Only when the vaccine comes, can we breathe easy. A part of me hopes that by August or September we will at least be used to this and no doubt there will be a lot of precautions still. It could well be next year; I am getting used to that reality.”

He is also getting used to playing competitive chess online. He had done quite a bit of that while he was stranded in Frankfurt.

In good nick

And he played some splendid chess, belying his 50 years — consider his 17-move demolition of World No. 4 Ian Nepomniachtchi at the Nations Cup.

“I was very happy with the win against Nepo,” he says. “The funny thing is when I was preparing this line in the morning, this particular variation came up and I thought I should familiarise myself with it. I also liked the way I played against Teimour Radjabov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ding Liren.”

He is not surprised that online chess really took off during the lockdown. “It has been around for many, many years, like video calls or working from home,” he says. “We didn’t imagine we would be doing those things so often. I hope those people who are introduced to chess online will stay with it.”

‘Tackling virus is like playing against computer’

Anand thinks the Novak Djokovic episode is a warning for everyone. “I heard that Serbia was doing well and that enough people had felt the risk had receded,” he says. “But then you see that what happened with the Adria Tour.”

The World No. 1 organised the tennis tour, but before long tested positive for the coronavirus, along with three other players.

“We should never take the virus lightly.” says Anand. “It is like playing chess against the computer. You can’t completely understand the thing. All you could is to do, sit and focus on what you are supposed to do right, make your moves and hang in there.

“Even if you are doing things right, you don’t get points for that, all you get is that you are not infected today, but you have to take all the precautions tomorrow. So this new world of distancing and these new habits we picked up might last longer than we think.”

Lockdown

Looking back at the three months he spent in Frankfurt, he says he was concerned that flights might not be available to anywhere for a while. “I was staying at my home in fact at Frankfurt, so under the circumstances, I was quite lucky that I was in my place near Frankfurt,” he says. “I was about to go for my club match (in the Bundesliga) when the cycle of cancellations started. I was in the place where I trained for many matches. My friends live next door. So I was quite comfortable.”

He says the only thing he missed was his family while being in Germany. “It was an odd feeling knowing that there were no flights available to anywhere, but other than that I was doing alright. Now, it’s great to be back at home and nice to work from home. The main thing is to be together as a family.”

He is waiting for the lockdown in Chennai to finish. “Then, hopefully things will look normal again,” he says. “Since I have gotten home, I have been quarantined at Bengaluru and then at home, I haven’t had a chance to go out and meet anyone. India is struggling to cope with the virus. You see so many people working so hard, but it is a very, very tough challenge. Looks it will keep us busy for a while. There are so many things that we don’t know about the virus. There could be second or third wave. We don't know when we could get immunity or when the vaccine arrives.”

During the lockdown, he spent his time by working out – while he was in Frankfurt, especially – reading and watching movies and web series. “I watched 'Money Heist,” he says. “I also watched quite a few historical documentaries, of long durations, as I had time.”

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 11:34:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/dont-know-when-chess-will-return-to-where-it-was-says-viswanathan-anand/article31917729.ece

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