Anand's fantastic performance in Norway Chess!
The Madras Tiger, Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand played a fantastic event recently. He finished in 3rd Position at Norway Chess! We were able to get Vishy for a quick call and interviewed the man of the hour.
Sagar Shah(SS): First off, congratulations on the great result! Are you happy with your performance?
Anand: I would say I was in good form for most of the tournament. Generally, I had a feeling that it was going well- the moves were coming to me easily and they were good. That's a nice combination to have(smiles). But of course- the games against Magnus and Mamedyarov break that impression a little bit. I mean- Rc6 is such a bad move on so many levels because of ...Qd3. I should've spent 15-20 minutes and found either Qg4 or Qa4, and that'd be it. The pawn on b7 is just sitting there! I would say it's a very big missed opportunity- you don't get these positions against Magnus every day.
Against Mamed, in a very strange series of events, I played Bd2- because as I understood it, I'm not better in any way and it's time to close up the position. But Bd2 started a very unfortunate chain of events- after ...Ng6, even if I don't play Qb5, there's the threat of ...Qxf3! These two moments I would say broke my impression of playing well a bit- but otherwise, I think I was playing very well.
SS: In Magnus's game, before Rc6 you found a lot of good moves like Re2! and Reb2! We had Kramnik on the stream then- he mentioned it was very difficult to manage an Advantage against Magnus in these positions, but you did it. How did it feel?
Anand: Exactly! After Nf1, I saw that he could not take on d5. He had three bad choices after that- first is ...Na5, the knight is bad, second is ...Na7 and the Knight is bad, third is ...Nb8 and he loses a pawn. So when he went Na5 I was very surprised. I was thinking very clearly at that point- but in the end, my technique just let me down. Before my blunder, I played a high-level game(chuckles).
SS: After the game, it seemed that the flow is not on your side- but your win in Armageddon was tremendous! How did you feel about it?
Anand: In general, my play in Armageddon surprised me- I thought the results would be a lot more mixed. In the beginning, White was scoring higher, but by the end, Black was scoring better. It's still dangerous for Black because you can run out of time- but it's nice to play for 2 results. Against Magnus, I was very happy to find Bxd5 with very low time on the Clock- that was high level, I was proud of that.
SS: Fantastic! Another move that caught my eye was h3! against MVL in Round 1. Did it come to you very naturally? It felt like a very hard move to find.
Anand: I spent around 15-20 minutes trying to find the correct move here. h3 was not as difficult to find- because I wanted to play f4 and Qd4. h3 stops any ...Ng5 ideas It also keeps the g5-square open, so that if Black plays ...Rd8 I can play Qg5 winning.
SS: Your Armageddon game with Anish was also a very interesting one- both of you broke out laughing after the game. What was the story there?
Anand: (Laughing) Poor Anish, in the end, he offered me a draw saying "I don't have any more moves". It's a very funny position, White has no plans at all! Sometimes this happens in Blitz, more so with White than Black. You charge in with your pawns and you cannot recover. Be4 followed by Nc5 and a5-Nb4 was helpful I think- to eliminate the knights, so that White has no play at all.
SS: In the Armageddon game against Radjabov, how easy/difficult was it for you to find Nxe5?
Anand: Not very difficult- I had spotted the idea beforehand. It's funny actually- if Radja hadn't played Bd7, he has an extra move on the attack. You want to go for this d6-e5-f6 pawn wall, and then you are completely fine. He did it a move too early without playing ...f6, and now Nxe5 just crushes him.
SS: You already spoke about the Mamedyarov game a bit- what was your reasoning behind the resignation? Mamedyarov mentioned afterward he had not seen the idea until you told him.
Anand: My resignation was most definitely a mistake. I shouldn't have sat there either- I was too tense. The best thing to do was probably just walk off to the player's lounge, make myself a cup of tea and sit there for some time. But I was not thinking straight- my head was spinning at this stupidity. It was tough for me to just sit there- Anish had seen the idea, and Teimour had seen it while walking by. I just thought Shakh would come and look at me surprised, then play Qxf3. But surprisingly enough, he had not seen it beforehand. He was very surprised when I resigned. He was asking "Why'd you resign"? It's a bit irritating when you have to explain to your opponent why you have resigned (breaking out in laughter). It was a 50-50 chance I think. If he sat and thought for 2 minutes he would've found it, but if he blitzed out his move I might've escaped. That resignation was the second blunder I made that day.
SS: The next day in your game against Aryan Tari, in a must-win situation, how was it psychologically to find the drawing sequence with Nxc3 and Nd4?
Anand: I evaluated the position as better for White if I don't do this. There's no point in taking risks in a worse position. If White gets Qe2, Rd1, and Qf3, then Black has to suffer a lot. If I lost this game, I would be completely out of the top 3. I thought to myself, why should I throw that away? I was a bit shaky in both the classical and Armageddon games due to the post-Mamedyarov effect, so I was very happy to win the match with a draw in the Armageddon.
SS: What's next for you, Vishy? Are you playing in any events before the Olympiad?
Anand: I'll be playing in the Leon Masters next month, and then the No-Castling Match in Dortmund against Kramnik. After that, I'll be visiting the Biel Chess festival for a short while. After that, I'll be back in Chennai for the chess olympiad.
SS: Huge Congratulations on this amazing performance Vishy. Everyone is in awe by your amazing play. Thanks a lot for your time. Bye!
Anand: Thanks a lot, Sagar. Bye!