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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Anand on World Chess Championship 2013: I should have pressed Carlsen a bit more

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

Hello everyone,

Here is an interesting interview given by former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand to SportStar. “I never really adapted to Magnus Carlsen’s style well. Clearly, he has refined his style a lot recently. He has become stronger and more effective with it,” says the former World Chess champion. Excerpts from the interview

Question: Anand, how have the days after the World title match been?
Answer: Actually, it was quite nice. I came back home (after the match), back to Akhil and had some wonderful experiences with him, playing, running around the house, Akhil calling me “Papa… Papa…” Then we went to a school dance of his. It has been wonderful in the sense that though it’s been only a few days, it feels like it’s months since the match passed. Then meeting up with friends, I also had dinner with some school friends. Generally, life goes on, what can you do? Honestly, in the last few days, I didn’t want to think about chess. I wanted to play with Akhil.

Do you ever remember spending time away from chess?Yes. That’s actually something I do reasonably often, especially if you come home for a short break sometime and so on. You don’t really try to combine it with chess. That’s the experience I’ve had.

Have you been able to experience the power of the young one at home, as a lovable stress-buster?The defeat hurts… Viswanathan Anand with his wife after receiving the runner-up trophy at the Hyatt Regency.

Really a lot. I mean, kids have a way of making you feel special. Well, you really can’t explain that; one has to experience it. You feel very, very special playing with them. When he gets up and laughs, then you feel wonderful. It cures you of every worry. It takes away your thoughts so fast because you are forced to focus on them. I think, that probably is the reason why it helps (to have a kid at home).

Coming to the match, even after months of preparations from both players, how much of opening preparations were actually seen in the match? No serious debates over the existing opening theories?
I would agree. I would just say with those early games with black (pieces), they had some theoretical value, but only to specialists and not obvious to every one. Specialists in those openings would notice some enthusiasm here and there. But I agree, for the broader public, they have gone unnoticed. It is a general fact of life these days that the role of the openings is diminishing in chess. And my opponent (Carlsen) simply exemplifies that trend.

Talking of the match, in the first four drawn games, you had plenty of positives to look at. After the third game, you said, your upside was not adequate enough to force a win. After detailed analysis do you still have the same view?I definitely feel it was a mistake that I underestimated my possibilities in that game. It was a mistake. He (Carlsen) mentioned it as well that he thought I had let him off the hook so easily. Well, that I more or less concede. I agree. I should have pressed him a bit more. Thereafter, I atoned by escaping, in Game Four, the way I did. It was a nice defence. The problem was that after Game Four I thought we were really into the match. We were warmed up and it was going to get exciting. But we know what happened next.

Where did you lose the thread in Game Five?Actually, it was throughout the game, I mean, there were small mistakes, here and there. I didn’t lose the game in one move. I lost it over several and it’s exactly what I had hoped not to do but it was exactly what I did. So, Game Five was one of those losses which hurt because you do it bit by bit. Not one blunder, but you do it bit by bit and it slips away from you.

Going by your body language during this game, is it a fair conclusion to draw that you were getting increasingly annoyed with yourself due to the choices you were making? You appeared to make some random moves, as well…Yes. It is quite perceptive. I think it is clear that I could feel that I was making small mistakes and that was getting annoying. But you have to still get a grip on yourself because there is no use crying over split milk and all that. You have to get your thoughts back to the game but there was residue to annoyance. At every moment, I knew that had I been more precise earlier, it could have gone better or have been easier.

During the fifth and sixth games, did you regret not doing something right even as you entered the rook-and-pawn endgames, considered your forte?As I said, in Game Five, there were mistakes leading up to it. But in rook-and-pawn ending, my principal mistake came after the time control (when a player is expected to complete 40 moves in the stipulated two hours of thinking time, followed by 20 moves in the next hour). In Game Six, I would say, again, the game had been slipping away for awhile. But I lost it in the rook-ending. In both games, I could have saved it in the rook-ending… To be honest, the last thing I want to do now is to keep looking back at the games. So I can’t tell you very much.

Would you say your vast experience failed you when it mattered in Games Five and Six?
Yes. I think so. Your strength comes into play when you are able to stop your opponent playing to his strengths. But I never really succeeded in doing that or only did that briefly. In the end, he was just stronger and he was able to impose his style of play.

In the interview with Magnus, he said he had planned to make you play slow, long games and force the errors. Was his energy level in the fifth- and sixth-hour of play crucial because he still managed to find moves of optimum strength?Yes. I mean, clearly, I never really adapted to his style well. Clearly, he has refined his style a lot recently. He has become stronger and more effective with it. So, I also had this feeling that if I had managed to pull it off, it would have been a different story. But I didn’t manage to get a grip on his style.

After two losses, breaking his winning momentum in the seventh game was essential. But were you in a hurry to pull one back?I felt, it was okay to take these two games (five and six) off in seven and eight. If you are going to succeed in your comeback, it doesn’t matter how late you start. If you are not going to succeed in your comeback, it doesn’t matter how early you start. I understood that I was giving up two games. I said, “Two draws and now we’ll make a big effort. Time is running out.” But it did not work out.

Talking about your focus on starting with the king-pawn, did you work a lot on the Berlin Defence employed by Carlsen against Ruy Lopez.Clearly not enough. We had ideas but somehow at the last minute, something or the other would go wrong. And the other problem was that we had to cover other ground in e4 (pushing the king-pawn to the fourth rank) as well so we could not dedicate all our lives to this one.

Having brought Carlsen under pressure from the beginning of Game Nine, mainly due to your decision to start the game with d4 (pushing the queen-pawn to the fourth rank), do you regret not doing so in the earlier games with white pieces?Yes. But I made a big strategic decision to focus on e4. With hindsight, that was the worst move of the match. Again (smiles) with hindsight, many things are clear. For this match, for some reason, I just felt it was simpler to play e4 and there were grounds for it. Based on my tournament results and all, I felt it was better to concentrate on e4. And it turned out to be a bad mistake.

In Game Nine, when you took 45 minutes after move No. 22, the impression all around was that you had calculated it all till a forced mate. When did you realise you had reached a point of no return?I understood the position had become critical — either I give him mate or he queens his pawn. I kept thinking I could not see anything more than a draw. At the end, I had spent so much of energy, with 11 minutes (on the clock), I should have been able to calm down and say that I’ll just take this draw because that’s best there is. At the last minute, I suddenly saw this line (involving a knight-move) and had some hope. But I forgot to check what happens after the knight-move. That’s when I lost. To be honest, I wouldn’t say that leaves me with a lot of regrets. Even if I had drawn this game, the match-situation would not have improved for me. In the big picture, this was not the blunder that decided anything. It finished the match a game early.

Garry Kasparov said the other day that after losing to Vladimir Kramnik in 2000, his unused preparations helped him do well in the events that followed. Similarly, Boris Gelfand has shown improved results after 2012. Do you agree with this observation?I would definitely hope so. It’ll be nice if I could use some of those preparations. But times have changed and they’ve changed quite a lot. I think the percentage of your World Championship preparations you still get to use is much, much lower. And, not to keep rehashing the points, the difference is the development of computers. Other people are able to catch up much faster. But hopefully, I’ll still get some benefits.

You will be playing the strong event in Zurich (in January-February)?Zurich is one of the best events. It is superbly organised. I enjoyed it immensely last year. So that’s a positive. I hope to do well there. I will have time before that to rest and recoup.

When will you take a call on playing the Candidates in March?Hopefully, after London, I’ll have some time to think about it.

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