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Friday, August 12, 2022

Viswanathan Anand at Idea Exchange: ‘We are no longer chess players from mythology; someone bespectacled who is slightly old’

Chess legend Viswanathan Anand on keeping it together as a chess player despite wanting to throw keys and pens around after a bad day’s play, chess shrugging out of its Cold War grab and how he quietly hit back at Anatoly Karpov’s casual snide of the Indian being too nice to win — by winning. A lot. This session was moderated by Senior Editor NIHAL KOSHIE

By: Express News Service |
Updated: June 28, 2022 8:02:45 am
Idea Exchange, Viswanathan Anand, Viswanathan Anand interview, Viswanathan Anand Idea Exchange, World Chess Championship, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsChess legend Viswanathan Anand. Illustration: Shyam Kumar Prasad

‘We are no longer chess players from mythology; someone bespectacled who is slightly old. Now chess is seen as a fairly young sport’: Viswanathan Anand

Chess legend Viswanathan Anand on keeping it together as a chess player despite wanting to throw keys and pens around after a bad day’s play, chess shrugging out of its Cold War grab and how he quietly hit back at Anatoly Karpov’s casual snide of the Indian being too nice to win — by winning. A lot. This session was moderated by Senior Editor NIHAL KOSHIE

Why Viswanathan Anand: The Indian chess great is playing at choice tournaments at 52 and still enjoying it. Anand is also contesting for the post of FIDE deputy president and will also mentor the Indian team at the upcoming chess Olympiad, an extension of what he does at his academy.

Nihal Koshie: I will start off by just telling everyone how much you have on your plate now. You are mentoring the Indian team for the Chess Olympiad, plus you are also contesting for the post of deputy president of FIDE, Anand has the Westbridge Anand Academy where he mentors youngsters, he was in Delhi recently for the Chess Olympiad torch relay, and before that, he has been playing quite a bit in Poland and Norway. Your 24 hours must be packed now with everything happening?

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Yes. It is more staggered than you suggest, but yes, a lot of things. The thing is, I block everything else from my chess, so when I went to Warsaw and Norway, I kind of parked everything else. The Westbridge academy can run, I only have to monitor what’s happening. And of course, I am going to play some more tournaments. Going to play in Spain and Germany. And after that, I will come and join the team. But I had a chance to interact with the team in Delhi, because most of them were there. So, it’s kind of work put out, but yes, at the moment I am particularly juggling a lot.

Nihal Koshie: You played back-to-back events in Poland, where you won the rapid event and in Norway, where in the Classical format you were third. You are also scheduled to play in Lyon and Dortmund. So is Vishy Anand, at 52, planning to play regularly and make a full-fledged comeback? What are the takeaways from these two tournaments?

Well, I will play as often as I can, but select tournaments. I mean I will not play tournaments that require huge commitment – like the World Championship cycle, and so on, so that is finished. But events that I can somehow fit into my schedule and I find interesting… I mean I will continue to play chess. It will be less chess than I used to play, but nonetheless I still enjoy it very much.

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Nihal Koshie: In Norway, you had victories over Magnus Carlsen and also it was a bit of a mixed bag because probably in the ninth round against (Shakhriyar) Mamedyarov, you sort of made an error and we were watching those videos in which there was a lot of emotion from you. When he came back to the board, and you resigned. Can you talk about beating Carlsen, and also the ninth round against Mamedyarov, when you had to resign, because it was quite animated from what we saw?

Yeah, ok. So, against Carlsen I had a winning position in the Classical, which would have been worth much more. I would have got the full three points, it would have been a three-point lead in the tournament, and that was a huge missed opportunity. After such a disappointing miss, the only thing I feel happy about is that I was still able to play Armageddon at a high level and win that. But that day was a spoilt opportunity. In fact, there were two spoilt opportunities – that one and the Mamedyarov game. (Against) Mamedyarov, I simply missed a certain thread, and after I made it, I saw it. And I was so disgusted with myself that I decided not to wait for him to make it but just to resign. And the worst thing is when he came and sat down, at first he seemed very confused, as you saw in the video. By then, I felt really stupid, because I understood I had resigned prematurely, and I could have at least had the sense to go to the other room and wait for him to see. It is quite likely he could have found it anyway if he had thought for a few minutes, but people make mistakes. Maybe, he would have played instantly and I would have gotten away with it. So that was extra annoying, but nothing to be done. I was so shaken by it that I resigned and this was quite emotional.

Nihal Koshie: How did you sleep that evening because in the past, you have spoken about after a bad game, you find it difficult to sleep. So how did that evening go?

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It was unpleasant, and that night was unpleasant, and the next day was unpleasant. But then as I started to play against Aryan (Tari), I forgot about it.

Nihal Koshie: You are someone who has been calm and collected in public while playing the game. But surely, there have been games and moments in life when you have probably been frustrated and wanted to vent. So how does Vishy Anand vent – we haven’t seen too much of that. And do you make a connection with tennis players who throw their racquets and say a Virat Kohli, who is so aggressive on the field.

I feel like doing those things, it’s just I restrain myself. And I was quite angry and I knew I would have a bad night’s sleep, I knew the next day I would be irritable, I was going to change directions here and there. But you know you still have a game, and if you lose that as well, you will feel even worse. I managed to play well enough there and it helped that it was the last round and sometimes finishing a tournament brings some kind of closure. So, there are certainly times when I mentally break a racquet but I haven’t physically done it yet.

Nihal Koshie: Have you thrown things, ever?

In my room, sure. But nothing that really breaks and so on, I mean nothing exciting. I can throw a pen on the bed or fling a key across the room. And nowadays, they don’t even give you those keys, they give you these key cards. What can you do with a key card? It’s like the joke goes: in the old days, you could slam a phone on the receiver, but now what can you do with a mobile phone? Just punch the keypad!

Mihir Vasavda: We see all the players sitting in a calm, composed, quiet manner, but we saw Carlsen’s reaction when Nepo (Ian Nepomniachtchi) blundered in the 2021 World Championship match, and the famous Garry Kasparov blunder against you in 1996. As a player, how do you react to that and do you have a favourite meltdown of a chess player while a match is going on because of a blunder or any other reason?

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There are times in games when I make a blunder and open my eyes. I shake my head and am furious with myself. That’s as much as you permit yourself. I have seen some spectacular expressions from Kasparov, for instance. Famously, the Rapid game that I played against him in 1996, the fact that we still have it on video is very nice. Carlsen will sometimes fall and look up, there are people who look disgusted with themselves, they shake their head, you can see they are cursing themselves. They fidget, they do all these things, but it has never gotten violent so far.

Sandip G: What are the challenges of playing chess at 52. I mean, are there any changes that you evaluate, and what are the learnings you get at this age?

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As in many things in life, when something happens gradually, you adjust gradually as well. It’s not like the second I turned from the age of 49 to the age of 50, something changed. It had been happening over time. So you get used to it, but over the years I noticed that certain kinds of mistakes recur more often, your calculation is not so exact. But you also notice that over time, you have started to make adjustments for it, you cut yourself more slack, you overcompensate in other areas that you can. So we adapt, we evolve. That’s the right word, we evolve. Besides, I notice that if you keep working on chess, you keep on learning new things, so that compensates for a lot of other things. So if you are able to work on new areas, the brain stays fresh and it still works.

Sandip G: Is it kind of you becoming more emotional with experience? How does it work for you?

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I don’t think I have become more emotional as I have aged. The only thing I can say is that I continue to keep it inside. I have always been irritated, even when I was 22-23, ridiculous when I blundered something and so on. Nowadays I just shake my head, do those small gestures that are permitted. You are cursing yourself inside and things like that. You know that night’s sleep is going to go; you will have a fairly sleepless night. I often talk about how you deal with those things, but what I mean is that, by dealing with those things, I might gain 10 or 20 minutes of sleep with some effort. But still, the majority of the nights are going to be sleepless. You know a certain amount of pain you are going to go through. But the thing is, once you play another game, the previous one goes very fast. So you are also experienced. And it’s true that if something has happened many, many times in your life, you stop overreacting.

Sandip G: Vishy, you will mentor the Indian team at the Chess Olympiad and you are also a mentor at the Westbridge Anand Chess Academy, with Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh and Vaishali, all of them started playing post-computer era with powerful engines. But when you started, it was different. So how do you see this? How fast are these kids and what are the major changes?

I would say it’s fairly similar how I work and how they work. The only thing is they haven’t had to unlearn any habits and I had to adapt. Everyone from the previous generation (had to do this). But you can say this too that people who worked with computers five years ago are still forced to change their working methods with modern (methods). Because that always changes. The only thing is the younger generation soaks it up much more easily, because there’s nothing they had to relearn or unlearn. It seems more natural to them. And also, when a new idea contradicts a lot of chess knowledge and theory, it takes a while for me to accept it. I think it’s easier for them to accept these things, because they are not so steeped in old knowledge.

Sandip G: Another computer related question, do you still jot down all the games, as your mother used to tell you? Is that habit a dying one, because of data available online, at your fingertips?

No, I think your own personal insights are very valuable and I still do it. I may not do the whole game, but at least the key moments I write down what I thought, what I failed in and go from there.

Sandip G: And you still keep those notebooks?

I keep it on my computer now but yes, it’s there.

Sandeep Dwivedi: You were talking about sleep. The traumas we normal people have are like we have fear of maths. At night we are going to get nightmares about attending a maths paper and the paper is blank and we don’t know any of these questions… You have so many games in your mind, chess, all the time you have been thinking about it, what are the kinds of nightmares you have or you don’t have these kinds of problems?

You learn to avoid painful memories. You put them away. After a while you find your brain is trying to forget them. The most painful ones, when I look at them again, it hurts just as much, even after many years. But you get on with it. Somehow the best way to cure a bad game is to play a good one. And once you play a good one, then it allows you to emotionally settle down and get on with it. Like you mentioned maths as a subject, if you develop a fear, you feel something ‘I’m not good at this’, then it becomes much more deep rooted and it never goes away.

Sandeep Dwivedi: Vishy, I try to get you back in your early days, very early days, you are around 10, your father was posted in the Philippines, that’s how it started and they say that the quiz programme on television was one major factor in how you learned the game… Your son is around the same age right now, the whole preparation of the young child taking up chess, how different is that and you had a very rudimentary start at 10 and you did pretty well as a chess player; like do you think the whole rigour has changed now?

Well, in the end, in a sport the only thing that matters is your competitiveness vis-à-vis your rivals. I think, on balance, training methods are much more advanced today. Therefore, they produce better output. But what’s the use… With my training method, that was competitive in those days. And those training methods were roughly the same for everyone. They were good enough to help get started at the play. Now, with the modern generation, they have much better training methods, but everyone else does as well. So it doesn’t give them a big advantage. There’s no one left to train in the old way. In fact, that’s quite important, that they learn these new methods. You can use the bits of old methods which still work well, but in general you have to adapt your way of thinking.

Sandip G: Vishy, how do you pick an opponent’s body language? What are the clues you look for?

I think it’s like chess. You don’t do it with your conscious brain. If your opponent fidgets, if he is biting his nails, if he is shifting uncomfortably, or if he is a nervous person but suddenly sitting very calm, all these things… You know you see a break in the pattern and you think, maybe there’s something going on. That’s the only conscious part you have. Something is different about him. But these are not the things you do with your conscious brain. It’s not like you think, now let me watch that nail and see what happens… I mean, your opponent should do something that stands out and then you will notice it. It’s a bit like chess. Actually though at home we do a lot of training about how to think, at the board, it comes automatically and what doesn’t come automatically, only that you can try to force. And also, you cannot do it too often. A lot of the moves have to come naturally. Once in a while in a game, you can stop and tell yourself ‘wait a minute, let me stop and apply a method which goes against my natural flow, but I’m trying to achieve something because I saw in that game where I missed a chance’. But you don’t hang around in that area.

Nihal Koshie: Initially news broke at the Chess Olympiad press conference in Delhi that you were running for an administration role with FIDE. I think there were suggestions that it would be more of an advisory role but deputy president sounds like more of a full-fledged role. What made you change your mind, if you changed your mind? What made you get into administration?

Nothing changed. I described the situation in a certain way and the final reduced interview published varies journalist to journalist. I tried to say that there are areas where there is a learning curve but I saw that I could naturally do things like communication because I had naturally done it already as a player. There might have been things lost in translation or embellished. Nothing had fundamentally changed.

I would say there are areas that will come easy to me and areas that will be difficult to me. But we are a team and we will pass things around. You hope to be part of the decision-making process and convey your ideas and try to put focus on areas you hope to have an impact. The next time I described it, I described it as how to provoke the youth and make the game bigger in India – two key areas of FIDE. I will push for these areas, but in general we will do a bit of everything. I see myself as someone who will contribute to the team. In a team there are people that come with different skill sets and it will be nice to listen to them. I’m sure there are day-to-day running’s of FIDE that I don’t know about or haven’t given much thought to.

Nihal Koshie: So, in a way, you believe a sportsperson can be a good administrator?

Yes, I do. I think a lot of sportspeople have gone into running sport. The assumption that sports people can’t be good at running the sport and or the only people who can run a sport are sportspeople – those two assumptions are flawed. It’s good to have sportspeople and their opinions, but by no means should they be the only people who should be heard. You should listen to other people, even if it seems to violate your dogma or things you deeply believe in because its outsiders’ perspective. If you are talking to a fan or an outsider with a remote perspective to the game you have to understand what it is that attracts them to the game. So, its good to get perspective.

It’ll be a learning curve the first few months. I have some experience from the Olympic Gold Quest. I found that easy because everything gets passed around a team and discussed and hopefully, we can do the same at FIDE. Hopefully I can win in August and then update you in another interview.

Nihal Koshie: The current president Arkady is the former deputy Prime Minister of Russia and has close links with the Kremlin. He has spoken out against the war. Also, Ukraine is a strong chess playing nation and I’m sure you have friends over there in the county. When you decided to join Arkady’s team, considering the geo-political situation – were there any reactions from your friends in Ukraine or other parts of the world? Did you get any negative feedback or did you think twice about your decision?

Not at all, not from the Ukrainians. I see it this way – Arkady and his team have done a very good job over the last four years. They set out to achieve certain things. One of their goals in 2018 was to expand the base because as a sport, we can’t be dependent on one country. We have to expand the sponsors we work with. In these two areas they’ve done considerably well.
The contributions of Russia to the coffers of FIDE have dropped relative to other countries. They also rode the wave of the pandemic and The Queen’s Gambit well. I think they’ve done a pretty good job but could have done more.

The second thing is, yes, we know Arkady’s background but he has shown through his actions since February that he is able to act as a FIDE president and represent players all over the world. He’s able to separate it from his feelings inside. He’s Russian so he has feelings but he has mentioned multiple times that he felt for the Ukrainians and what they were going through. He has come out against the war. I feel that he has shown he is sufficiently independent of Russia. But he lives there with his family which means he’ll keep going back and forth. But I believe he has shown his independence and he is able to act as FIDE President and I have had no negative experiences with Ukrainian players. I have met quite a few of them and they’ve acted normally. They understand that this wasn’t something any one of us was responsible for and they are trying to cope the best they can.

Tushar Bhaduri: What would be the kind of changes you would want to work on in FIDE if you win your election? Could you list some of your top priorities if you get elected? Has there been campaigning going behind the scenes? If so, how hectic has that been?

There are specific rules for when you’re allowed to campaign or how you are allowed to campaign. I have not specifically done anything as part of the campaign team yet. I went to Delhi as an Indian chess player who had been invited by the government to raise the torch. Now FIDE was there as well but we were not campaigning in any way. Same when I played in Warsaw and Norway, I played in my personal capacity. It was already known that I had committed to these tournaments and fulfilled them. I mentioned the areas where the team has already been working. So I would like to expand our geographical footprint and would continue to work to get more youngsters into the game – that’s crucial for the long term growth of the game. We must continue to promote chess in India because it’s an important market and important country. Lots of people here play the game but it can expand much more. These are the areas I’ll focus on but I think FIDE is already in the right direction in this area, which is why it’ll be easy for me to fit in.

Sriram Veera: In 1998, Anatoly Karpov’s game. You had come from Groningen, Netherlands – you didn’t have any flight bookings or hotels but somehow you managed to land up and you played this crazy game and lost in the tie-breaker. You were sitting with your wife and then he made a comment that ‘Vishy is a nice guy but he doesn’t have the character to win’. That hit you hard at the time and then 2000 happened and you win in New Delhi. Hearing that, I can’t even imagine Karpov making a casual remark like that. How did that incident motivate you?

I think as someone who comes out of certain amount of innocence. That was one of the moments I realized that nobody owes being nice to you. Nobody owes you any favours, and especially when a title or something big is on the line, you have to develop a thick skin if you want to be out there. It is why a couple of years later I continued in that vein even when the Prague reunification wasn’t going my way. It was clear I was not going to find a spot. I thought, my attitude was well, I’m gonna walk away. Not that I’m gonna sit here and beg. I’m gonna walk away and with my results I’ll make my point. Which is a very constructive attitude, because a lot of people focus on doing what you doing best, and certainly it helped me in my matches later on with (Vladimir) Kramnik, (Veselin) Topalov. The way you approach negotiations. You don’t approach negotiations as two people trying to be fair. Again, let’s be clear. I may have a feeling I was fair and correct to other people but maybe they disagree. Or maybe they perceive it differently. Also when you are playing someone you start to see ghosts everywhere. So just a caveat.

But the idea that the highest title is something you fight for and not everything can be confined to the chessboard. I saw that. Now to be honest, even when I read this, it doesn’t move the needle anymore inside. Even if I read the same thing, it’s like watching two war veterans when they are 80 years old. They can’t get worked up. Once upon a time they might’ve said I’m gonna kill the other guy but you simply can’t be bothered and it’s the same thing. So many things from the past that I don’t think about things with Karpov. Though those impressions remain. It’s just the fire is gone. I can’t get so excited about it.

That was a period there. And after that match I remember very soon, I was offered a chance to play Kramnik, for the right to play Kasparov but it was happening too soon. I just finished that outing in January. I was gonna play two tournaments in February and March. I’d played wijk aan zee was gonna play Linares then I was gonna play Monaco, then in April at some point I was gonna play a match with Kramnik to qualify to play Kasparov. I thought now is the time for me to say No and put myself first. So you could see suddenly I have this impression that it’s okay being nice to people but sometimes you have to be nice to yourself. You have to prioritise yourself. I think it’s still one of the most important lessons I learnt.

But what it could’ve done to me in that Karpov match I don’t know. Because I couldn’t have said no to the final and still played the knockout. And I think still playing the knockout was a very good idea. So it’s one of those unpleasant choices life gives you and you take it. And you don’t think much more about that. But very soon I forgot about that. You can’t dwell on the past, and I had so many good results after that. I played my own career. Karpov hardly played for anything after that. That’s how it works out.

Sriram Veera: Is the pendulum still loaded so much that – there was the 1998 game where Karpov had all the privileges, and you had to do everything and come. FIDE didn’t book your flights and all that. And then 1994-5 New York you are sitting on the 100th floor of the WTC playing Kasparov. Incidentally, that started on September 11. Again you had no say about where you are going to play, the arrangements, the champion says. How’s it now? Is it more egalitarian?

There have been changes. First of all, the concept has pretty much disappeared. Now a champion can still nudge his way into a few choices first. But the challenger will be offered a pretty fair deal. There is no more a privilege of making a draw. If you make a draw, you play tiebreaks. Many of these changes happened because of previous results. There was then a movement to change those rules and it happened. So I can say the era when Karpov could do what he did has disappeared. In fact if I have to explain to someone what privileges Karpov got I’ll have to explain that those privileges existed first of all to these youngsters. And then ‘can you believe that Karpov could get all these privileges’ and they’ll still give me a baffled look. It’s like telling people once upon a time you would book your telephone, wait 6 months and they’d give it to you. Can you believe it? They’ll just look at you baffled. So it’s like that. It’s no longer something you can convey. So that era passed. But a lot of things of that era passed – the Soviet domination passed, the Soviet Union disappeared. So many things that I thought were permanent features in my childhood just disappeared. So even now when someone mentions it I think why are they bringing it up. I’ve learnt not to go there. But even if they bring it up, it doesn’t pain anymore.

Sriram Veera: So a lot of publicity around the Olympiad as should be the case. But how much does hosting, you know, change the chess culture of a country. Because we still have 74 Grandmasters and high percentages from Tamil Nadu, or West Bengal or Maharashtra. You have 30 GMs in the past 3 years. And a lot of U18 guys are here. But hosting an Olympiad. Can it change the chess culture? Where do you see it going?

It’ll definitely have a big impact. I mean the Olympiad happening here in Chennai. I mean for 2-3 weeks chess will be in the news continuously in a way that even people who are far removed from the game will at least hear about something. It will be in their consciousness, so to speak. Of course the fans will have a chance to come and experience it live and see a lot of top players they can only read about or watch. And suddenly they’ll be standing there and a lot of memorable experiences can be created. I can imagine some parents bring their chess playing kids to the venue, and 10 years later one of them is a GM and he says ‘I remember standing there and it made a big impression on me.’ It’s the kind of ripple effect where you know where the stone fell. It’s something that’ll leave its trace and it’ll have an impact many years later. And definitely we already got fantastic publicity thanks to the torch relay. Very innovative idea by the way, to transfer something from the Olympics to chess Olympiad, like that. You know it’s very visual, it conveys a certain gravity. And many many people have read about it, those who normally don’t follow chess news. So it’s great for sport. Can we stop doing things? No. But This moment is what is shared. It’ll be difficult to host another such big event for a long time. So I will remember this.

Sriram Veera: Is it because of you that boys and girls from Tamil Nadu are still doing well?

Tamil Nadu had a big lead even before me. So we are the first state to have 4 International Masters. And I benefitted from the legacy of that, of being the foremost chess state in india. Which then I amplified myself. So yes, I played my part, part of being the Tamil chess heritage and culture that youngsters benefit from. But I’m not the only cause.

Shamik Chakrabarty:Your emergence coincided with the tailend of the Cold war. How was chess back then? And also this lack of political punch post 1990s. Do you agree that it has somewhat taken the sheen out of high profile chess rivalries?

You mean absence of the Cold War? Yes, Fischer-Spassky was the pinnacle of the Cold War rivalry in chess. And there was some echo of that when even a match between a Soviet defector and a Soviet champion or someone who doesn’t fit in, like Kasparov you still were able to take sides. And every journalist who was sent to cover chess, even if he couldn’t follow the chess he could write a few lines about the KGB, mention that some spies are standing here, some spies are standing there. He can mention bugs, and bugging and a few conspiracy theories. And he’d finish his article and could send it to the paper. And everyone loved it. Once that was removed, it left a certain vacuum that took a certain while to fill. But now new storylines have emerged. Now there are interesting chess players. They are no longer chess players of mythology, which is someone with spectacles sitting in front of a chess board, being slightly old. Now chess is seen as a fairly young sport with all sorts of talented youngsters. Each one an interesting, charismatic character. It’s no longer a sport played in just a few countries. It’s also managed to expand its footprint. Just to mention, the last two world champions have been Indian and Norwegian. Neither was possible even 30 years ago. Sport has moved on. We don’t need the Cold War thing anymore. But it took a while because some new storyline had to emerge.

Shamik Chakrabarty: Can modern day chess produce someone as eccentric as Bobby Fischer?

It is going to be harder. Bobby Fisher lived in a time when there was much more mystery to players. Now everything feels instantaneous and you can hardly say anything without it being news a few seconds later. In the modern era, there will be eccentric players but they will be out there much faster because of social media and the speed of communication.

Shivani Naik: Does the writing of the sport need a fresh vocabulary?

The vocabulary we have is good enough but new forms of describing the game have already emerged. The streaming revolution has thrown in a new way of looking at chess. Streamers sound very different to what I am used to hearing about chess. And clearly every new fan base we are able to connect with will bring its own way of describing the game. I would say evolution is already happening. Now we are often compared to gamers, we are often seen on Twitch and YouTube. All these areas didn’t even exist five years ago for us. The formats, time controls and all those things are changing very fast. One big difference now is that journalists have the best information about the game because as long as they are sitting with the computer they know at least what the best moves were and the mistakes the players made. So inevitably it will change the way they describe the game as well.

Shivani Naik: Have you ever played sentimentally, like thinking, today I don’t feel like sacrificing a pawn or being attached to particular pieces?

There are moves that make me uncomfortable and there are moves that are comfortable. The uncomfortable ones I have to force myself to make. Unfortunately, if the computer says something is good, it is probably right and it is your job to understand why. One of the things of modern chess is that you are forced to understand what the computer is saying. Still, your personal preferences play a huge role.

Mihir Vasavda: Magnus Carlsen has already said that he may opt out of defending his world championship title. If that happens what kind of impact will it have on the Classical format?

We have not had a situation like this since Bobby Fischer. Fischer quit the game and ran away. Carlsen, as I understand it, still wants to play other events but he won’t play this one. My tendency is to believe him that he is serious but also when the moment comes to actually do it, he will hesitate because it is a big step. It will hurt the game for a while because after all you are losing a champion and it is a very strange transition. But eventually people will move on and the game will go on.

Mihir Vasavda: A lot of sports are tweaking their traditional formats or either completely moving away from them. Is that concern for chess?

I don’t think it is a concern. I feel that you have to go with the audience. If the audience has new expectations then you have to go there. The second is the role of computers. Computers have changed the way chess is perceived and the way chess is studied and the formats have to respond to that. The faster formats seem more natural in a computer-led world which means we will see more formats like Armageddon and tie-breaks because as we get new fans, these fans want different things. A certain generation will find it hard to accept but the next generation won’t even notice that it has changed. In the same way, maybe there are cricket fans who really like their Test matches but the majority of the youngsters are completely used to the new world. In fact, when was the last time you even wondered if tennis existed before tie-breaks and so on. With enough passage of time, people will get used to it and newer fans won’t even notice.

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First published on: 27-06-2022 at 04:01:17 am

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