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How Anand picked up the pieces

Taking time off from chess helped as the loss to Carlsen had ‘knocked the stuffing out’

Anand’s reflection is seen in the mirror as he speaks at an event in New Delhi on Wednesday.  (Photo: Praveen Khanna) Anand’s reflection is seen in the mirror as he speaks at an event in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Photo: Praveen Khanna)

Viswanathan Anand lost the World Championship to Magnus Carlsen in his home town Chennai last year. And even though he has, subsequently, earned the right to challenge the Norwegian, it is unlikely that the duel will be held in India this time around. While the bidding procedure, scheduled to take place at the end of this month, will determine where and when the World Championship will be held, it is learnt that India is unlikely to bid for the Championships.

Anand, though, said it wouldn’t be too much of a concern if he had to play Carlsen at a foreign venue.

“I’m happy we got to play one World Championship match in India. There was a lot of awareness about chess and a lot of people came to watch the World Championship match. It was a pity it was this one,” said Anand.

Indeed Anand had endured a torrid time at the hands of Carlsen — losing three games out of 10 without getting a win of his own. “Perhaps in some time I will be able to look back on it with some sort of fondness,” he said of his failed title defence.

“It doesn’t really matter where the World Championship will be held. I have played across many venues in my career. My job is simply to get my chess right,” he added.

Anand, however, said he didn’t have any reason to regret playing at home. “If I had won, I would have been asked about the kind of home advantage I had got. Playing at home doesn’t affect your game. If anything it amplifies whatever you are going through. My problems at the World Championships wasn’t because of the location.”

According to Anand there were other reasons for his failure to defend his title. “I think many errors had cropped up in my approach to play chess. I was becoming reliant on computers. I was not oblivious to it but I was not able to address the problem exactly right.  I didn’t have time to fix anything,” said Anand,  at the sidelines of an NIIT event.

The loss of his world title — a result Anand says knocked the “stuffing out of him” — was the culmination of a poor year. “It was a very, very testing period. Even 2013, there were good and bad moments but I felt the bad moments more intensely than the good ones, which is unfortunate,” he said.

The uncertain form continued at the the start of 2014 with average results in the London Rapid Chess Tournament and the Zurich Chess Championships. All of this made Anand’s performance at last month’s Candidates tournament in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia, even more stunning. Anand won three games out of 14 and didn’t suffer a single defeat. “I needed a good result and it felt like oxygen,” he said.

Switch off to switch on
Anand says he didn’t do anything special for the Candidates tournament. Indeed, he says he simply switched off the game for a period.  He says he recalled an instance when he and former World Champion Anatoly Karpov were discussing a fellow player who had had a poor tournament.  Karpov had said that the player would take a long time to recover from the bad result because he was so much in love with the game and he didn’t have something else to take his mind off chess.

“I decided that it was more important to recover emotionally. After all, a result like this (2013 World Chess Championships) knocks the stuffing out of you,” Anand said. “In December and January, I was trying to avoid chess and somehow I felt lighter. I had a short training camp in February. I thought it was enough and it was more important to spend time at home, play with my son and wait for the hunger to come back,” added Anand.

Now that he has earned the right to challenge Carlsen again, Anand says things will be different. “It is inevitable that we will remember some aspects of that match but I will try to take it as a fresh match. I will try to change the course and he is going to anticipate it. I will think about what happened and try to give it a different twist this time,” he said.

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