CHENNAI: Viswanathan Anand fought back after a disappointing first half of 2017 to win the Rapid Worlds in Riyadh. He won the bronze in the blitz section and now the 48-year-old legend is back home for a small break before he leaves for Holland. On Monday, during a chat with TOI, Anand spoke about the changes he made during the Riyadh event, missing out on Candidates, his targets for 2018 and more. Excerpts:
Has it sunk in that you are a World champion again?
(Laughs) I must admit that the depressing results (in my earlier tournaments) took a toll on my confidence, but I tried to be positive. What makes the win (in rapid Chess title) more unexpected was that when I went into the third day — I wasn’t leading. (Vladimir) Fedoseev was in the lead and there was nothing that pointed at me winning. However, the day ended with me being a champion and the result was a marvelous surprise.
Was there anything different you did during the course of the event in Riyadh?
In all these tournaments with multiple rounds, what happens is — you play one round and then mill around aimlessly while the pairings (of subsequent rounds) are done. I felt that aimlessly walking around and then striking a conversation with someone messed up my focus (in previous events) and I was very angry with that. So I decided to have a routine. In Riyadh, I would finish a game and go and get my computer. I would find a place to sit and make use of the majority of the break time by studying my moves or deciding on the next course of action in a game. Just 10 minutes before my game, I would put the computer back in the locker and head to my table. I felt I used my break between the games in a productive manner.
Why do you feel that carrying a laptop to the venue made the difference?
Normally I am someone who doesn’t like to carry things. I don’t usually like to have bag with me and prefer to be hands free. But this time, I decided to take one and it seemed to have worked for me.
Do you have any specific targets for 2018?
My ratings have fallen and the aim this year would be to push that up. I am looking forward to try and do well in whichever tournaments I am part of.
2017 saw sporting legends such as Roger Federer script stunning comebacks. Was it insipring watching senior players like him do what he did?
When someone like a Federer does well on court, you feel you can do it too (in your sporting discipline). Secondly, players like Federer or Rafael Nadal try to learn new things and they experiment with their style. They are willing to drop weapons that served them well for 10 years and try something else. I have said this many times — to keep your own body interested and to keep your brain motivated you should experiment with yourself. That’s what players like Federer have been successful in doing.
Does it bother you that you aren’t part of Candidates this year and miss out on a chance to face Magnus Carlsen for the World title?
Being part of a tournament like Candidates is tough and there are many who don’t qualify for it — if you look at it that way. For me, I am looking at doing well in the tournaments which I will be part of and that’s the attitude I have.
This edition of Candidates has former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik being part of it as a wild card. What’s your take on his chances?
Candidates has always been an open tournament. After three rounds of the tournament, we know who is in form and who is not. I feel not just Kramnik but everyone else — who is part of the event — is capable of going the distance.
Carlsen has been on a roll for the last few years. What makes him such a difficult customer to handle?
Firstly, Carlsen’s chess skills are huge and he is psychologically quite strong as well. Secondly, he fights till the last minute and doesn’t get depressed easily. He has a good feel for very small advantages which make him a very tough opponent.
We witnessed Artificial Intelligence’s (AI) AlphaZero defeating the much-revered chess engine Stockfish recently. What’s your take on that?
AlphaZero could go on to revolutionize the way we see chess, much the same way computers did sometime back. I would say that if someone gets to work with AlphaZero then this could happen over the next 3 or 5 or 7 years and we could get a new perspective on chess. Source : timesofindia