Nigel Short was recently in Kolkata to participate in the 19th International Open GM Chess Tournament. The British Grand Master is a huge cricket fan and supports Bolton Wanderers. The British GM spoke about what has gone wrong with Anand in the recent past, what changed for the four-time champion at the Candidates tournament and Carlsen’s ‘arrogance’.
On what worked for Anand at the Candidates tournament
Frankly speaking, I didn’t expect him to be this good at the Candidates…Losing the world title has done him good. The burden is off and he’s playing more freely. I know Vishy from a very early age and like Anatoly Karpov, pace has always been his hallmark. But he was playing like an old man for the last few years. He became circumspect and compromised on his natural style. He was playing for draws rather than going for wins. He suffered for his defensive approach and surrendered advantages when victories were there for the taking.
On what is impressive about Anand
It’s his pace. He was crazily fast and his style put so much pressure on the opposition. It’s not easy to decide on a counter move when someone is always coming at you at that pace. But I’m excited with way he’s playing at the Candidates. Now he appears to be completely unfettered and if he continues to play like this, he will defy his age and will have a second wind.
On whether the underdog tag helped Anand
Yes. He has nothing to lose and that’s why is not putting himself under any unnecessary pressure. He gave me a feeling that he had stopped enjoying the game. Now he has started to enjoy it once again.
On whether other favourites faltered
I like Aronian. He’s a super talent but he has a tendency to wilt under pressure. It very much like the South Africa cricket team — exceptionally good, but their handling of big occasions has given them the chokers tag. Aronian has to improve on that side of his game. As for Kramnik, he’s not young and with his age has become inconsistent.
On where Carlsen belongs in the chess pantheon
He’s just a kid. But we all know he’s a special player. There’s a touch of arrogance to the way he plays but that comes from his self-belief. There’s no harm in that. A champion player is expected be very confident about his abilities.
On what went wrong for Anand in WC 2013
Ahead of the world championship I wrote in your paper that Carlsen would win it easily. I tried to make an honest assessment and didn’t write my piece to please people. And it turned out to be correct. It was lop-sided but Vishy had his moments. He was seriously crippled by the fear of failure.
On how competitive Carlsen-Anand 2014 will be
I don’t think no one outside India thought that Anand could make a comeback at the Candidates. Don’t think here in India also people were optimistic. But Vishy is showing there’s still life in his chess and if he meets Carlsen again he won’t be carrying the world champion tag as excess baggage. Yes, I expect the next match to be closer.