Viswanathan Anand has competed in 10 World Chess Championships since 1995 and has won five of them.
This is the first time that the 51-year-old will be traveling for the World Championship in a different role. Anand will be one of the official commentators for the 2021 World championship match scheduled in Dubai between champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia from November 24 to December 16.
“It will be very nice. Exactly--I will see it [the match] from a different side! I will be in a world championship without the tension and pressure. In the end, I am a chess fan and so will be happy in a chess competition,” said Anand to Sportstar here on Wednesday.
Though Anand has done online commentary for quite a few tournaments in the recent past, this will be something new for him.
“I haven’t really done any mock training. I will go there, watch some people who have done commentary and try to get some vibes. It will be a learning curve, hope it will be fun,” he said.
Carlsen’s form, observed Anand, has been very impressive in the last year (2020-21).
“If you see the two tournaments in Norway (Norway Chess in 2020 & 2021) and the one in Wijk Aan Zee (Tata Steel tournament), and the other tour events, he is playing continuously and playing well despite a hectic schedule. He is very consciously trying to get himself in good shape for the World,” said Anand.
ALSO READ | Mitrabha Guha becomes India's 72nd Grand Master
Going by his current form, Anand said Carlsen would be the clear favourite.
“Even though there were moments when he [Carlsen] has looked wobbly, and again this is perception rather than reality. Because people have unrealistic things from him. But if you see the consistency in the tournaments he has won, we still have to call him the favourite,” he said.
This is the first time since 2008, the Championships will have 14 games [plus tiebreaks] rather than the usual 12 games with tiebreaks. This, Anand said, will provide a different dimension to the contest.
“It could be. On the other hand, I think every chess player knows by now you have to do a crash course in fitness before the World Championships. Especially given that it is 14 games and Nepo knows he has to be very fit. And if you see his recent interviews, one could learn that he has lost a lot of weight recently. He is fully aware of it,” said the legend.
Nepomniachtchi, according to Anand, has a bit of catching up to do when it comes to fitness.
“Because he probably had to do this match practice for the first time. And I think he took much more time off. But he has managed some reasonable performances. He is strong enough to be a good rival,” he said.
Elaborating that 14 games will be taxing on both players, Anand said “Two extra games will make it slightly more tiring. They now play three games before a rest day and not two games like before. Longer games give both players more chances for a comeback from setbacks,” he opined.