Viswanathan Anand claimed his first World Rapid Chess Championship since 2003 when he won the title in Riyadh on the back of a nervous finish which saw him, Russians Vladimir Fedoseev and Ian Nepomniachtchi close on 10.5 points from a possible 15. The Chennai ace then defeated Fedoseev 2-0 in a two-game tie-break to win the trophy. Along the way, he beat World No 1 Magnus Carlsen – which he claimed was the difference maker.
“The crucial moment was the win against Magnus Carlsen. Because he had come back after a defeat against Bu Xiangzhi. He seemed to be in great form, as always. He has this amazing ability to win games on demand where he is just able to pull together these long streak (of wins). So at that moment I must admit I felt he was favourite for the final few rounds,” Anand told PTI. “But, we had a very intense game, an intense Nimzo Indian. It is nice beating a player, who is so dominant in the blitz and rapid rating lists. To beat him was a real accomplishment. Of course, given our history, given the intense matches, there was that extra bit of feeling,” the Indian Grand Master added.
Anand revealed that he came into the tournament with a pessimistic frame of mind but managed to surprise himself with the win and remain unbeaten in the tournament. The 48-year-old had a sub-par season with many calling for him to retire – but the win shut his naysayers.
“The last two rapid events were nothing short of disastrous. I came here in a pessimistic frame of mind. But it has just been the most wonderful surprise. But I played well,” Anand said. “…especially the London (Chess Classic) tournament was”a big disappointment. It is not that I had high expectations of London, but still I expected to do well. But to finish in last place was a heavy blow.”
Anand’s showing on the first day itself turned his fate upside down as the Grand Master felt the confidence once again especially in the format where he had been a dominant force.
“It was on the first day I felt I was playing well. It was as if time had stood still. I was back in time a few years when I was dominating rapid chess tournaments. That gave me a lot of confidence. On top of that, I beat Peter Leko in a very nice game. I was in a good frame of mind,” he added.
Anand, at one stage, thought he wouldn’t even finish on the podium. But a series of unexpected results and changes helped him win a tournament where he hadn’t planned to play. “…the first three rounds ended in draws. I felt that I had lost the plot a little bit and in fact I was worried that I might not even be on the podium anymore. I mean there were so many unexpected twists and turns. Magnus lost. Nepo (Ian Nepomniachtchi) had won his. A lot happened. But once the tie-break started and I got a big advantage in the tie-break game then I started to feel the wind was behind me,” he said. “It is so unexpected because I wasn’t even planning to come to this tournament, which was announced late. The most amazing feeling of all is to have the title of world champion again. I am so happy that I can’t describe it in words,” he added.