CHENNAI: Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand is gearing up for the world championship match with Magnus Carlsen to be held in Sochi in November. After losing his crown to the Norwegian in Chennai last year, Anand wanted to take a break. But the Candidates win has rekindled his zest and at the moment, he is raring to go. Unlike last year, Anand has spread out his tournaments leading up to Sochi. At the moment, he is playing in Corsica. The Lightening Kid believes he is well prepared this time, game-wise and mentally. He has gained 21.8 rating points in the last eight months and is sixth in rankings.
Your build-up so far has been great. What do you need to turn the tables on Carlsen?
Till now, I’m happy with the way my chess has been since the Candidates. This match will be a different test and I hope to play optimum chess in Sochi.
Fabiano Caruana is one who does well against Carlsen. Do you think you can take a leaf out of the Italian’s book?
His performance in St Loius is an all-time great moment. He does have a good style against Magnus. All of us are looking at Fabiano and learning a lot.
The chess world believes it will be a much closer match because of your stupendous comeback and the pressure being on the Norwegian....
I don’t really reflect on what the chess world thinks or says. The only opinion that matters is the one that you have. Because only your opinion helps your confidence. But I definitely will go to Sochi with a lot of positive feelings.
Carlsen suffered three defeats in the space of a month, losing to Naiditsch, Saric and Caruana. How do you assess his form?
A world championship match brings out a different player. Carlsen will be a different player at Sochi.
Are you satisfied with your preparations?
I am satisfied with the work we have done and now, we are just waiting to get started.
Unlike last year, you have chosen to play many tournaments before the world championship. Was it a conscious effort?
In 2013 also I played many events in the first half of the year with mixed results. This year, I planned it a bit differently.
Have you changed your team of seconds? How have they responded to this new challenge?
Yes there have been changes on all fronts and in my mind.
Are you contemplating any change in your style of play to surprise Carlsen?
If it’s a novelty, can’t give it away in an interview. I can say that like in my five championship victories, I am quite confident.
Starting with Candidates, you have won many tournaments. Which win was most satisfying?
The Candidates win was most satisfying. I played a group of best and highly motivated players and was able to keep a steady lead throughout. My play was smooth and I was in my style.
Last time, many attributed the age difference to your defeat. Do you think this time age will be a factor?
It’s about playing good chess or otherwise. When you play well, all factors play to your advantage. When you play badly, the same reasons become disadvantages. I wake up each morning and I think today what am I going to work on. As long as I wake up each morning, waiting to work on chess, nothing else is an issue. I am where I am because of chess, it fascinates me. I still want to learn more.
Do you think playing in Russia would mean less pressure?
Playing in India was never an issue. Like I said, when you have a bad result, you can’t suddenly shift the reason to the location or place.
Having played in Russia a lot, would you have an advantage as far as conditions go, compared to Carlsen?
I enjoy playing in any country. Russia is a sense of pride as the audience are by far the most knowledgeable. In 2001, I played against Tkachiev and the audience broke out in applause during the game. That’s the depth of knowledge. Many prominent people in Russia are good chess players. I always feel very special to play in front of such an exalted audience. I only have to worry about my play, my wife is the manager, she takes care of everything else. My seconds take care of my preparation. So with my team, we don’t mind playing in any country.
Carlsen said last year it was time for him to teach you chess. In Russia, will you have a point to prove?
I don’t read what my opponents say about me. I’ve always believed and maybe my Indian upbringing comes in here, if you believe in yourself, you don’t need to chide your opponent or talk about your greatness. People understand it without you having to say it.
The prize money is lesser this time round. Is that a concern?
We are going to play in a few weeks. The concern is just the chess .
You will miss Diwali with your family. Your thoughts on that?
We did celebrate Diwali before I left. Akhil (son) and me lit a few lamps and drew some Diwali sparklers. Aruna made a few sweets. As a sportsperson, you miss a lot on family functions. We celebrate all functions we can, like on Akhil’s first birthday, I was on Skype to blow the candle and sing.
Will your family be there in Russia?
Aruna will be there. Akhil has school!
Any message for your fans?
Thanks for all your wishes. Happy Diwali to all of you. I look forward to all your support in Sochi.