Viswanathan Anand: There is more creativity in chess than ever before

Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand was in Kochi for a promotional event, organised by Chess Association Kerala, for next month’s Chess Olympiad in Chennai.

Stan Rayan
Five-time world champion and Indian chess legend, Viswanathan Anand.

Watching chess players pore over millions of moves on a computer, one would tend to think that the excitement of thinking out new, creative moves has come down in the 64-square game. Everything is already there on the computer!

So, has modern-day chess lost some of its creativity and innovation?

“No. I won’t say creativity and innovation have changed, where you find them has changed,” said five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand in a chat with

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“Once upon a time, creativity and innovation were based entirely on what I came up with. Now, sometimes, it’s not what I come up with, it’s what the computer comes up with and if I notice it and if I can understand the entire explanation.

“The computer is like magic box. You give it a question, it gives you an answer. But I think most chess players do not understand the answers at first. They need to think about the answer. In a sense, creativity has never been higher but it’s not the creativity we had 20 or 30 years ago. So, how it’s coming is changing but there is even more creativity and innovation than ever before.”

So who are currently the world’s most creative players?

“I believe (World champion Magnus) Carlsen is very creative, he’s constantly experimenting with new ideas, trying to push here and there, trying to uncover new things. (American Fabiano) Caruana is very creative in his investigations, then at the other end you have people like (Georgia’s Baadur) Jobava who try to be creative almost in a rebellious way, saying I don’t care about the computer I’m going to do my thing.

RAPPORT’S SIGNATURE STYLE

“So there are quite a lot of players like this....someone like Richard Rapport (World No. 8). We all work with the same tools but if you show me a bunch of games from 10 players, I may not know exactly who played the other eight but Rapport’s games I can tell you. It’s got a signature.”

Will Carlsen, the world’s highest-rated player, or someone like Iran-born Frenchman Alireza Firouzja break into the 2900-rating or 3000?

“No one has done it so far, of course one day it will happen but it will happen by inflation. There might be an upper limit and the upper limit is dependent on others, it’s not only dependent on you. Because, if you’re too far ahead of the others, your expected score is getting too high. And you have to maintain it all the time,” said Anand who was in Kochi for a promotional event, organised by Chess Association Kerala, for next month’s Chess Olympiad in Chennai.

TARGET 2900

“Certainly Magnus has set his targets on 2900, let’s see if he manages it. Alireza....the expectation is he will go very far. He has had quite a bad tournament now, in Madrid, but I think long term, there are very few people who will bet against him. He will have a very impressive career.”

And do we have someone like that in the Indian scene?

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“Right now, there are four or five. Arjun (Erigaisi) and Gukesh, I’m simply going by elo rating, they are very close to 2700, both are top 50 and that’s fantastic. Then, there’s Praggnanandhaa ...a little bit unfair comparison because Praggnanandhaa played a lot of rapid and blitz events so he could not get on the same ranking list but he’s beating Carlsen, he’s beating Ding (World No. 2), he’s beating the world’s best players and quite often. So, I would definitely move him into this top group,” said Anand.

“Nihal (Sareen), I believe he belongs there but right now he’s having a choppy patch. It’s only a matter of time and he will climb again.”