Coronavirus: Viswanathan Anand curious about how sports and global economy will recover

The five-time World champion’s travel plans went haywire following the outbreak of the coronavirus. He had travelled to Germany to play in the Bundesliga chess.

Viswanathan Anand: We are so used to operating all the time that this year is going to be drastically different.

Viswanathan Anand: We are so used to operating all the time that this year is going to be drastically different.   -  Getty Images

Viswanathan Anand should have been at home in Chennai now. Instead, he is in an apartment in Frankfurt.

The five-time World champion’s travel plans went haywire following the outbreak of the coronavirus. He had travelled to Germany to play in the Bundesliga chess.

Though he wasn’t playing, Anand had been kept busy by chess. He made his debut as a commentator during the Candidates chess tournament, the only high-profile sporting event taking place anywhere in the world till it was stopped on Thursday at the half-way mark at Yekaterinburg, as Russia decided to ground international flights.

In this exclusive interview, Anand tells Sportstar whether FIDE was right in going ahead with the Candidates tournament (the event that will determine Magnus Carlsen’s challenger for the next World championship). He also spoke about life in Europe in the time of coronavirus, India’s response to the pandemic and the quality of chess on display at Yekaterinburg.

READ| Coronavirus: FIDE stops Candidates tournament after Russia bans flights

Excerpts:

How is life in Germany, and the rest of Europe, in these hard times?

Here, everyone more or less maintains a certain social distance. You know, when you walk on the street, if somebody comes across, you step aside so that you are at least a metre away. I feel they are dealing with the worst of infections now, at least statistics suggest that. They are holding up well. I have not seen anyone complain.

It is tough, but statistics are quite promising for Germany, with the caveat, of course, that nobody really knows how the disease evolves. This is a situation, unlike anything we have faced before.

How do you spend your time in Frankfurt?

I block some time during the day for exercise. Before it gets too late in India, I check up on my wife Aruna and son Akhil through phone or video calls.

Do you think they did the right thing by going ahead with the Candidates as per schedule?

Yes. With hindsight, it looks questionable. But when they decided to go ahead with it, everything wasn't as clear as it is now. I feel globally the consensus on stopping everything and focusing on virus became evident only a week before the Candidates started. By the time many of the participants were in Yekaterinburg.

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How did you find the experience of being a commentator?

I enjoyed it. I tried to approach like a chess fan and not as a former participant myself. I wanted to try and enjoy watching the experience of the strong players competing for the right to play in the World championship.

What do you think about the quality of chess at Yekaterinburg?

I feel it has been consistently high. There have been very few games that were decided by crass blunders. There have been lots of interesting, original ideas. And it was gripping stuff to watch. I think, in a way, it is curious that the participant who came late, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, is actually leading the tournament (along with Ian Nepomniachtchi).

Your thoughts on the impact of the virus on chess and other sports...

It looks like chess and the rest of the sports world would have to deal with a lot of cancellations. I am really curious not only about sports but how the global economy is going to recover. We are so used to operating all the time that this year is going to be drastically different.

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