Anand speaks on the Indian youngsters, Olympiad 2022 and the FIDE elections
Vishy Anand is a very busy man right now, with the Olympiad going on and the FIDE Elections coming up. IM Sagar Shah managed to catch the Madras tiger for a quick interview. In the conversation, Anand spoke about the Chennai chess Olympiad, performances of the Indian team, the FIDE Elections, and much more. Read the full article to find out! Photo: Aditya Sur Roy.
Vishy Anand on Team India, FIDE Elections and the Chennai chess Olympiad
Sagar Shah (SS): Hi Vishy, these have been some very busy days for you. You were in Dortmund, then you came back, and then this Olympiad began, how have things been?
Viswanathan Anand (Anand): Well, hectic obviously. On the day of the opening ceremony, I had a big role. I had to do something in the morning, then I rushed to the stadium for the opening ceremony and come back, then the next day there were more meetings. The protocols get very specific when the Prime Minister and Chief ministers are involved. It was fun, but at the same time, it was very nice to see chess receiving this kind of importance. And the opening ceremony was very well done!
SS: Yeah, it was huge. I think you yourself have been involved in this Olympiad in a big way. So all of this unfolding in front of your eyes, how was that feeling like?
Anand: It was nice! I mean, for four months you're hearing Olympiad is coming. And then finally, it actually starts and people start arriving. In fact, I have not seen the convention center before. I didn't realize we had such a big facility here in Chennai. And in fact, the hall is coping without any problem with a huge number of people. I mean, it's still a lot of people, but it feels just very nice.
I have not yet been to Hall 2, but Hall 1, the main area, is very nice. It's quite cool and pleasant also, which in Chennai is quite something in July [smiles]. This is a brilliant organization of the event, they have everything they need.
SS: To do it in four months is just unbelievable. Because it usually takes 18 months or so to put this all together!
Anand: Exactly. I think the Tamil Nadu government was determined to commit whatever resources were needed to make sure that it was done well. They really want to show that Tamil Nadu and India can organize mega events. And obviously, AICF is also working very closely with them. There are lots of details that we will not see, but it's happening smoothly.
SS: Absolutely. I mean, this one picture really tells the tale somehow of the interest that is This was day one, and so many people gathered here.
And also, there was this nice picture of you also making the first move on that day. So that must have been quite overwhelming.
Anand: I would really like to get a lot of these photographers' zoom lenses because they're coming too close [laughs]. It's fantastic that the attention was there. All through the city, we've already mentioned- bridges, roads, everything painted black and white. So many people who don't normally hang around at chess events also felt like visiting this because it's a tourist attraction on its own.
SS: From the chess perspective, have you found the time to follow some of the games and what's happening?
Anand: I'm doing my best. But it's quite hard because you're watching six teams and you think that's a lot and it's actually only one country. And you still have all the other countries as well! At some point yesterday, I had to remind myself that 20 teams had a perfect score in the men's and 19 in the women's. So you know, it gives you some perspective. It's very hard to keep track of all the games and all the moments.
But India is surviving! India 2 is actually doing a fantastic job, and India 1 is as well. It's an excellent result- I mean, Hari is playing very well, holding down the first board. Sasi, SL and Arjun are scoring. Vidit scored in the first round, then Fressinet shut him down a bit yesterday, but hopefully, more chances will be there. But really, it's impossible now not to talk about India 2.
As for the India 3 team in round 4, Abhijeet played very ambitiously as always, but somehow it didn't work out. Then Murali who was worse, suddenly tried to be better because I think he was trying to score. But it's too late to pull something off in an end game like this. But you have to say that the India 2 team is really just fantastic. Everyone is talking about them, it's impossible to ignore. But I hope we can leave them alone to keep playing at this level. So you have this mix. You want to talk about them, but not too much.
SS: I just wanted to get your thoughts on just one game which I thought personally was maybe the game of the Indian players until now, this was Gukesh-Vocaturov. It was so curious for me that he plays this opening, which is well known. And in that, he finds an idea.
He plays the QGD, which is a well-known opening. I don't know if you are aware of this, or if this is good. He just puts the king on d1 and then manages to sort of grind down a strong opponent like Vocaturov!
Anand: The thing with Gukesh is that he's working very hard. He's an incredibly hard worker, he also plays a lot. I mean, he goes to so many tournaments and keeps on playing continuously. He set himself this goal of 2700 and he's been pushing all the way!
I think the game between Duda and Karjakin is almost the same concept, and that came from the course on this line. But taking on d5 and Kd1, or if you have the chance to play Bc4 then you can go Ke2, which he did later in the game. Especially in such a solid line, if you want to play this, this is the only way to do it.
SS: Yeah, In this position, ...Bf6 is the most natural move, but it turns out to be a small inaccuracy because of Rb5 and then White slowly takes over.
Anand: When I was following the game, it seems like ...g6 or ...Qd7 was more accurate. But the point is that Gukesh has done his work better. Daniele was not completely sure of every nuance, but then it's quite important in such a line. You don't know one move, and you're just lost. This is very similar to Carlsen versus Giri, a similar idea with the bishop and Queen battery. Anish simply seemed a bit confused, took on a1, and it seems you can almost resign. That's the problem in modern chess, but full marks to Gukesh for having done his homework.
By the way, great stuff by Nihal- I'm happy is back in shape with 3 very nice wins. These guys are doing well!
SS: I think they will soon face the top guys and I think that will be great to watch. Magnus' team Norway is struggling because they lost a match and they drew yesterday. The USA was held to a draw as well, so it's not an easy tournament at all.
Anand: No, I mean inevitably this will happen to our teams as well. It's kind of great that they have managed to avoid it so far, but you can't rely on this forever. The USA was even incredibly lucky to draw the match against Uzbekistan. After Wesley won, it looked like the US would go through. But then Shankland got into big trouble and was just lost. Abdusattorov finally clinched the win to give them a draw, but in fact, the US should be happy with this one point.
For Norway, the team composition is a bit stretched. On the one hand, you have this super board and then the other boards. But their average rating is quite decent. So far, it hasn't worked out for them. But still, the remaining boards of Norway are very solid. So if things click, they can catch up.
Teams like Spain and England are keeping track. England, in fact, is scoring very well. David Howell is playing very well, and Mickey woke up yesterday. It's good for them that their team is firing.
SS: Vishy, you were in the hotel with the Indian team for the first 3-4 days, but now you are back home. So what is happening with you now? Will you be focusing on the presidential Congress that is happening?
Anand: I'm still in touch with the teams. If they have any small work they want me to do in the morning. I'll try and do something before their games. But yes, today I'm going to the Congress, and then I get busy there. It's a new role for me. I haven't done this before, so that should be an interesting experience.
SS: Yeah, I want to talk a bit about this new role. You know, it brings me back to 2008 When you were playing against Kramnik. After 2007, you said I'll play d4 in my match against Kramnik, you know, and that was a very sudden decision. Then you backed it up with all your preparation. Is this also a decision that is a sudden one, or has this been on your mind that you would like to be in the administration, into FIDE?
Anand: It didn't cross my mind till I got the offer. But when Arkady offered it, I thought about it for a day or two, and talked to Aruna- we thought it's interesting to try. In a sense, you will come to chess from a different side. Sometimes I remind myself, that I'm not only a player, but of course, I'm still playing tournaments. But to look at things from another side, I've done commentary in Dubai, and I've got to work with the Team quite closely.
I like what the team has accomplished- Arkady, Emil, and Dana, and what the whole team is working on. They have made a lot of progress in this new era, they have been quite nimble. And I thought, this is one of the better teams you can join, which is already going smoothly and professionally. And then you think, well, it's easier to contribute to something that you already agree with.
SS: That is true. But for your own chess, that's also going very well. So it must be quite a tough thing because this is also a very important role to take on.
Anand: Yes. In a sense, I will block one thing and do the other and then the other way around. So when I play something, I'll have to focus more on that. And then when I'm not playing, I have more time for this. But the team understands this. So when they offered me, they understood that I still wanted to play a little bit. But I'm playing less now on average than before. So already that gives me some time. The fact that Chennai is hosting the Olympiad was a big factor for them as well. Because if suddenly India is opening up, then clearly I can help a lot on that.
SS: Absolutely. Let's say things go well. What are your aims in general? Have you put thoughts on that if you do become the deputy FIDE president?
Anand: I support the work they're already doing. So you can see from their stance and the Olympiad also, that they are making chess more global- more countries participating, opening up to people with disabilities. More girls and women tournaments, more support for opens. So these directions are positive. I think the biggest area I can make a specific contribution in, is India. I think there's a good chance for us to do some very nice things in India.
SS: And maybe we'll have more events and more stuff happening in our country. As always Vishy, it really amazes me how you are able to take huge decisions when everything else is going on as well. As you have mentioned in one of your interviews before, it's important to keep on evolving and keep moving ahead. Maybe this is one of the parts of that.
Anand: Yes. I enjoy coming to chess from this side. It is a new experience, but it's something you feel happy and positive about. How many times will you get such a chance like this? So you also don't want to miss out.
SS: Yeah, absolutely. Well, it was a pleasure talking to you. We see you on the Olympiad, also on your FIDE presidential elections. I wish you good luck in everything.
Anand: Thanks! And by the way, I forgot to mention, we have to pat Tania on the back. I mean, she's really pulling the team along in many matches.
On this first day, I was really amazed. She won, I couldn't believe that in such a closed position, it was possible to win. But yesterday's win was really necessary. So that was quite helpful.
SS: And also Harika you know, coming to the board playing, it was very brave of her to do this.
Anand: Yes! So also a shout out to our women's A-Team. And yeah, all the best to all of them.
Being the amazing mentor that he is, Vishy Anand sent a separate video clip after the interview, recognizing the play of some of the Indian players he had missed in the interview!
Anand: We have spoken about most of the players in the men's A and B teams, Raunak is also doing quite well. And with the women, we have Taniya and Bhakti scoring nicely. Also, Vantika was very crucial in some matches, and Nandidhaa in Team C is also playing great. So a lot of people are playing well.