‘Return to Rapid is like meeting an old friend’

Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand is delighted about moving to World No 5 in rapid chess rankings and is looking forward to the Chess Olympiad.

Viswanathan Anand plays chess at the Mumbai International Chess Tournament, organized at BKC in Mumbai on Sunday.   -  PRASHANT WAYDAND

Viswanathan Anand described the experience of competing and winning the World Rapid Chess Championship in Riyadh as similar to “meeting an old friend”. He expressed positive vibes about India’s chances of winning the Chess Olympiad 2018, a team event in which he is returning first time since 2006.

The formidable Indian, delighted about moving to world number five in rapid chess rankings, spoke on the sidelines of the IIFL Wealth 3rd International Chess Championships, later engaging in a simultaneous chess display at Mount Literal International School. “I don’t know what I did right (at Riyadh), I did not get time to work on the problem. It’s a mystery for me,” admitted Anand about pieces falling into place.

“Sub-consciously when you are determined to do something and when you face the pain of defeat, there is a sub-conscious focus. Rapid was too smooth, I went and defeated others. I keep saying it is like meeting an old friend again,: he added.

Looking ahead at the Chess Olympiad this year, he pointed out: “There are some things I didn’t like, things like zero-tolerance and some of the rules in the Olympiad.”

Ready for the world

Anand is ready to make his presence felt. “This time the camaraderie, positive vibes in the team will more than make up for it. I know all these colleagues well and to be fair, they have done extremely well without me, they finished well in 2014 and 2016.”

He felt the Indian team will do its best. “It will be silly to rule out the gold, due to the the Swiss format. We have a good chance but so do many other teams.”

The depth and quality of bench strength of the Indian team were the reasons for the optimism. Reflecting the confidence of a world champion, he touched upon the chess boom across the nation and charted out the road for those aspiring to reach the top. “I was the first Grandmaster in 1987 and now we have 50 and many women talents have emerged. In terms of bench strength, we are one of the strongest teams in the world.  It is important to give them a good opportunity.”

Ranking game

Anand is ranked 11th in the world on FIDE list (2767 ratings), followed by P Harikrishna at number 20 (2745) as per January 2018 rankings. Vidit Gujarathi (2718) is the third highest ranked Indian at 34th place. Asked about the reasons for holding back other Grandmasters from getting higher, the world champion felt they can get better. “One of the ways of becoming a 2,700 player is to compete against a stronger player, they gain a lot of rating points.”

The formidable Indian, delighted about moving to world number five in rapid chess rankings, spoke on the sidelines of the IIFL Wealth 3rd International Chess Championships.   -  PRASHANT WAYDAND


He added: “Their ranking stay in the same band, because of all of them are competing against each other. One of the things that many guys do is that when they get a chance to play a much higher rated player, they show that they are not intimidated at all, so the problem is this rating gap. They need to travel around and look for places where they can play against such players. I don’t think their ratings are really 2,650, they have potential to improve it.”

The world-beater got his chance at the Riyadh competition, pitted against an elite group of GMs and showed that others need to do some catching up. Anand quipped: “I was a little upset regarding my resent Rapid results. I was not playing too many events, was so focused on classic events that probably my style also changed. I intended to try and work out what was going wrong. I thought of trying to comeback.”

At this point, the humour came through. “The word comeback implies that I expected it to happen over three or four tournaments. One of the things I intended to do was play a lot more rapid events. I was presently surprised to win the first event I played (Riyadh 2017).  It kind of spoiled my comeback plan but in a nice kind of way.” The Indian also returned with a bronze in the Blitz competition and is now ready to take on the world.

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