'It was not a bad result'

ARVIND AARON

"GARRY KASPAROV was more stable and deserved to win," his rival and former world chess champion Viswanathan Anand said in an interview at the end of the 19th City of Linares chess tournament on March 10.

ARVIND AARON

Anand, 32, scored one point below his expected rating level in the tournament but his Georgian trainer, Elizbar Ubilava, maintained that it was a mild recovery after losing the world title. In his first tournament, after losing in the semifinals of the World championship in December 2001, Anand started badly but recovered in the second half to finish with a 50 per cent score. Anand was able to fight back and save many difficult positions after getting unexciting positions from the openings.

Normally a resourceful player whose middlegame flows from a well researched opening, Anand found the moves in the phase between the openings and the middlegame hard choices to make. This performance is a vast improvement over his Dortmund debacle last July. However, his next few tournaments are in rapid chess and Anand should feel at home. He spoke to The Sportstar from his Linares suite in this exclusive interview.

Question: You had a 50 per cent score in Linares 2002. How do you rate your performance?

Answer: I see it basically as a good performance. First of all, the tournament was much more competitive than it was in the previous years. One had this feeling that everybody was in the same form, good or bad. Every player had his high or low points. Nobody was really dominating. At one point Kasparov was leading the tournament because others lost a game rather than anything else. However, he broke away with two wins at the end. Since no one really dominated, I would say 50 per cent was not a bad result. In the first five days I was in really bad shape and it cost me one point. After that it went well.

You had too many draws at the start. Was there something wrong with the openings or did you not get the right positions?

Nothing like that. I had problems in the first five days. After that it was fine and things were much better. In the first five days one could see that I would equalise and suddenly I would have to defend and fight all over again. It happened with Shirov, Kasparov and Ivanchuk. Even with Vallejo I was not very happy. All that played a part. I improved a lot in the second half.

Both the debutants, Vallejo and Ponomariov, did well. What is your impression?

Clearly they both showed that they were not out of place in the tournament. Obviously with Ponomariov, having won (the world championship) in Moscow he didn't have to defend his position here. There were more doubts about Vallejo before the tournament started. Maybe he is not completely a part of the group yet. It is nice to have new faces in a big tournament. It brings something new into the game. Also, if you eventually play a small group of people every year, the same faces, nobody is satisfied. They get locked in positions very quickly. This way, I would even prefer to have a 10-player tournament or even one with 12 players. It is unlikely that we will have this format though.

Did you find something new in Linares 2002 since you are coming here after a break of one year?

Not really. Last year, I took a break and was in India but one year is not a long time.

How do you rate the performance of Adams and Ivanchuk in this tournament?

Basically, Kasparov never had problems in his games. He did not win many but somehow he didn't seem to have problems. He had this stability which probably set him apart from the rest. Myself, Ivanchuk and Adams were not as stable as Kasparov. Though Shirov was doing well initially, he just fell apart in the end. When Shirov lost in the last round to Kasparov, what was seen as a close field suddenly split into two. Ponomariov was easily in the group as myself and Ivanchuk. He started well because Chuky (Ivanchuk) still has problems playing against him. He gave him a free point in round one. No discredit intended on Ponomariov but honestly Chuky played way below against him but he played really well against others. It ended like this: Kasparov because of his great finish, Shirov because of his bad finish and the rest of us somewhere in between. Vallejo is still inexperienced and it was not a bad result for him. He started well with six draws.

Did the players miss Kramnik?

We all played the Petroff defence. We hardly missed him. The problem is everyone is playing the same opening and working on it. We work on it with one colour and the next day switch to the other colour. We never had this situation when everyone played one opening before. In that sense we missed Kramnik. Karpov would also do this (repeat openings played by others).

You added a second trainer in GM Pablo San Segundo during the second half of the tournament. Was the decision made earlier or was it necessitated?

It seemed a little deceptive but it certainly helped me a lot. But it was all informal. He said, I might drop by Linares or I might not. When he came it was nice, we discussed some things together. Pablo is friendly and we exchange all the information. I had only planned to have Ubilava here.

How do you see the next two events coming up at Abu Dhabi (FIDE Rapid Grand Prix) and Prague (KPN Rapid tournament)?

For me this was a very nice tournament. It was very tough but in a way it brings back the tournament tension which you can't recreate at home in preparation. Also this ambience you can't have at home. So, I am looking forward to playing in these two tournaments. I am really very motivated to do well in both.

Four-hour session in Moscow and seven-hour session in Linares. Was it easy to adjust to the change?

For me it was a two-month break. So I really wouldn't say it affected me or something.