`Not losing a game is as good as winning'

ONCE again, the `Speed King' stopped only after the mission was accomplished.

RAKESH RAO

RAJEEV BHATT

ONCE again, the `Speed King' stopped only after the mission was accomplished. Whenever tested in the shorter version of the game, whether rapid or blitz, Viswanathan Anand has come out stronger almost every time. In Leon, too, the champion bounced back from a one-game deficit in the four-game final to put an end to the aspirations of World champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

Now a five-time champion in Leon, Anand looked back at the event and shared his thoughts with The Sportstar. From the format to the field, Anand spoke about it all before looking ahead.

Question: How difficult is to keep proving yourself in the rapid events? Have you got used to the pressure of winning or meeting expectations each time?

Answer: It is a format I enjoy playing. I guess from the beginning the lightning kid was something I got associated with. Since 2002, I think I have won every rapid event I played in. Of course each event you start out with trepidation. In Leon, for instance, the final match could have gone either way after the first round. Similarly, if you take the Mainz Classic in 2001 and 2002, I was one game down when the tide turned in my favour. The ultimate was in 2003 Mainz when, with Judit Polgar, we had a see-saw everyday. I think the difference is I made the maximum of the opportunity and, in a match situation, especially in rapid chess, not losing a game is as good as winning. But in many cases when you get a win quite easily or especially in a tense match, holding on is really critical. In all these matches this is what I did. I think I am so used to playing quickly that having only 25 minutes for a game seems like eternity. Sometimes when I am down to eight minutes, I feel it's time trouble.

Your impressions on the field this year, especially Carslen, and the quality of games?

The field was really interesting. Each of us had a specific style. For instance, Kasim had done a lot of work since Linares and started playing the Najdorf. He was able to win both games against Shirov with black. Carlsen employed the Petroff, I think for the first time in this match. He still needs some experience before playing the experienced sharks. He is a very sweet kid and he was extremely nice after the match. Clearly he is on a learning curve and there will be defeats before he becomes adept at playing tournament chess at the highest level. In many ways I was reminded of myself when I played as a junior. You are in such a haste to show your knowledge and finish the game. Also Carlsen is the ICC generation where they use the mouse much better than their own hands.

Did you feel "like a grandfather" while playing against the youngster.

Not really a grandfather, but in a way, I felt very nostalgic as if playing a younger Anand.

Was your aggressive approach against Rustam Kasimdzhanov pre-meditated?

In the first game, I lost my head a little by taking my king for a royal stroll. He had problems with time in all games and I played in his time trouble. Kasim is a very strong player in rapid chess as he showed in Libya. We have never played in rapid chess and Leon was the first. With white, I played really well. He never managed to get a comfortable position with black and he must have felt under pressure (with black).

After the piece sacrifice in the first game backfired, what made you do it again in both games with white pieces?

Nowadays theory is such that one has to play the critical line especially in a variation like the Najdorf. After his loss in the second game, he switched to the Ruy Lopez. However, by saving the lost third game, I was able to avoid a must-win situation in the fourth and this is always a better situation to be in. I found an offbeat line and outplayed him culminating in a nice piece sacrifice.

Did it give you more pleasure to bounce back and win in comparison to, say a 2.5-0.5 result after three games?

It's important to react to adversity and fight back. Still, I would prefer to win easily!

Looking ahead, how do you view the Mainz Classic match (in August) against Alexander Grischuk this year? What sort of a rapid player is he?

Grischuk is impressive with rapid chess. He played extremely well at the 2003 and 2004 Ordix Open. I played him once in Corsica in Rapid chess. In fact, Hans Walter Schmitt, the organiser of the tournament says that the match is between the fastest brain in the game against the Russian Blitz King.

What made you stay away from Dortmund this year?

At the highest level, you have to keep your energy and I generally balance my schedule so as not to play too many events.

And finally, your take on the coming World Championship final in Argentina. Considering that Vladimir Kramnik has opted to give it a miss, you think the winner can be called the undisputed champion of the chess world?

It is the World Championship. Kramnik may have his justifications. I respect that. As far as I am concerned, it is good challenge and motivation to work on my chess.