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Friday, November 1, 2013

Absolutely Ready for Psychological Battle, Viswanathan Anand says: I'm either going to win or I'm not. We'll see. (World Chess Championship 2013 vs Magnus Carlsen)

Chess Blog for Daily Chess News and Trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2013 

Hello everyone,

World Chess Championship 2013 Carlsen vs Anand media update: These are the quotes from a cool profile of World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand in Euro2day.

- Sitting in his modest home in the southern Indian city of Chennai, Viswanathan Anand - five times world chess champion - is describing the psychological pressure that bears down on top-level chess players. "What happens to you at the board begins to feel like it's happening to you in person," he says quietly, before pausing and frowning, as if reliving an especially gruelling game. "When you lose, you really feel a sense of self ... You actually feel that you are being taken apart, rather than just your pieces."

- "A [world title] match has that feeling much more strongly because it's the same guy doing it over and over and over ... When you play a single person, it becomes narrower because you are so focused on each other. It is a lot more personal."
- "But personally I just like to get on with the job of playing chess. I understand that if I win, I'm probably crushing my opponent's ego but it's not like I do that with great satisfaction. So I don't really look for conflict around the game ... It's true that someone like Kasparov has this sense of history, and I'm talking world history rather than chess history. He has a sense of himself being in it, which, for me, is very hard to understand or even relate to in any way."

- "I started at the age of six. My elder brother and sister were dabbling a bit, and then I went to my mother and pestered her to teach me as well," he says. 

- "From a situation where I had been struggling to qualify for various state level events, I just cut a swath through everything and ended up in the men's [national] team. That happened within the space of two months. I can't explain it but it was very, very sudden ... It caught me completely off-guard."- "Sometimes when people are talking to me I will suddenly remember some chess position, and then it's very hard for me to concentrate on what they are saying. They can see in my eyes that I am drifting away." 

- Yet contrary to his good-natured image, he admits to a steelier side. "What you can concede outside the chessboard will eventually haunt you in the chessboard as well. A match is really a contest of space between two people, and you can't give the other one any quarter." 

"If, at a certain moment, you're hesitant or you begin to have doubts when people are attacking you, then some of these things can have psychological implications," he says. "So you try to confront it like that. And also, you want to catch your opponent when he's uncomfortable.

"Age is part of it. For instance, I recognise that [Carlsen] is going to do certain things because he's 22 and there are certain things I can do because I'm 43." 

- "But there are areas that you will know better than your opponent. The way people play chess nowadays, which is to keep on switching their openings, being much more opportunistic - I think that is a direct result of computers. Even the way people play tournaments - everything has changed."

- "Anything unusual that you can produce has quadruple, quintuple the value, precisely because your opponent is likely to do the predictable stuff, which is on a computer," Anand says.

"I'm either going to win or I'm not. We'll see. But I have to acknowledge that Carlsen's results and his performance ratings are just incredibly impressive," he says. "Maybe there's a resistance on my part to take that thought any further until after the match. I will deal with that battle alone."

- "A lot of spectators no longer have any clue of what a player is going through at the board, because they're all sitting with, essentially, supercomputers," he says. "You would have to sit at the board and sweat and feel the fear of defeat or the nearness of victory to understand what goes through a player's head ... If you think it's that easy, switch off the computer and try and figure out a few moves on your own."

These quotes are excerpted from the World Champion's lovely and lengthy profile by James Crabtree (FT's bureau chief in Mumbai). You can read it in full at Euro2Day

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