Viswanathan Anand believes India has an abundance of young chess talent and 'one of the most competitive' youth chess team in the world.

Speaking to media on the sidelines of the EKA IIFL Investment Managers Mumbai International chess tournament, the 49-year-old spoke about his new role as Asian continental assistant to FIDE, hopes of qualifying for Candidates this year, the strong youth system in India and more. 


You have recently been appointed the Asian Continental Assistant to FIDE chief. What is your exact role?  

During the recent tournament in St. Petersburg, we met the current FIDE president and he said that he wanted me and Vladimir Kramnik to join as advisors. He wanted our inputs on various matters. I don’t know what it will lead to but I hope he not only consults about rules, regulations, but also about (the game).

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How do you see this move of involving players in decision making roles?

A lot of sports bodies sometimes adapt to the sports people’s point of view. It’s very healthy that FIDE is now going quite a long way, consulting the chess players, trying to get their feedback and opinion on matters that affect them and also on matters on which they could have useful suggestions. It is a very healthy development. It’s not just me. Many councils were there and many chess players (are being involved).

You haven’t had a great season, so when it comes to qualifying for the Candidates, what will your route be?

For me, the route is fairly narrow in the sense that I have to play the World Cup. Obviously, the easiest thing would be to qualify from the Chess World Cup. I hope I can learn from the previous experience and can do a better job this time.

The second route is very narrower, which is the rating route. I would have to gain at least another 30 points and pretty fast because it’s a monthly average thing so I can’t leave it for too late either. So, my path to the next Candidates will be through the World Cup. I hope to do well there.

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Your thoughts on young players from India?

Indian chess players have amazing depth especially in, let’s say, the 8-20 group. In this age group, we have an amazing bunch of talent and in fact our youth chess team is one of the most competitive in the world. It is incredibly hard to become national champion in many age-group categories. I think some international tournaments are slightly off the pedal. It is harder here than there.

It’s very good that we have so many platforms like the IIFL international tournament, which not only has the main event, but also has the important U-13 event. We have the players, the depth and now we need platforms for them to perform.

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India has not been able to crack the Chess Olympiad yet. Where are we lacking?

I feel we are not that far off the mark. There is an element of luck and element of unpredictability that you can’t completely stamp out. This year the Chinese won and the Americans were second but a game in the sixth or seventh round could have easily changed that. I feel our team is very competitive.

This year, I will take the blame because I blew a reasonably good position against (Fabiano) Caruana which cost us a lot in the end. It’s very hard to go through a whole event without a single accident. I don’t think we are far off. We had a very good Olympiad.

With young players coming in, are the old guards of the game facing a stiff challenge?

Caruana and Carlsen are already late 20s and we are hardly discovering them now. We have been facing them for a while. What’s interesting is that there is a continuous flow in talent of youngsters - 18-22 year olds. A lot of it has to do with computerisation. You have to keep learning and evolving and radically changing the understanding of your game and that’s how you stay relevant.

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You had disappointing run in Tata Steel Rapid Chess in Kolkata and also in the World Rapid Blitz. What went wrong?

Somehow I just did not play very well. Simply put, the number of elementary blunders I made suggested that I was just not fully concentrated. The problem got alarming in the Blitz but even in the Rapid, my play was simply bit flat. It wasn’t a bad year. My classical results were better after Bahrain. I won the Tahl Memorial.