25 June 2022

Saturday, 12:20


Viswanathan ANAND: "You have to prepare all day long to become a champion."



The last international competition organised in Azerbaijan in 2021 was a super tournament in memory of a prominent chess player, European champion Vugar Hashimov. The seventh Vugar Hashimov Memorial was held in a new format, including rapid and blitz competitions.

American chess player Fabiano Caruana became the winner of the tournament. Azerbaijani Shahriyar Mammadyarov became the third best player. Our guest was the most titled participant of the competition, ex-world champion Viswanathan Anand.

Unfortunately, the performance of the Indian chess player at the Vugar Hashimov Memorial was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, Mr. Anand is regarded as one of the strongest chess players in the world, who generously agreed to answer a few questions of R+.


“We are very glad to see you in Baku again. What are your impressions from the Vugar Hashimov tournament?”

“It is a great honour to join in this tournament. I met with Vugar many times at international tournaments. He was a very friendly person, a friendly colleague. It is a pity that he is not among us. Vugar did not want to give up even in the most difficult games; he was looking for a way out. I have wonderful memories of him. By participating in the tournament in his memory, we seem to remember Vugar again. While in Baku, I visited the Chess Academy named after him. I am sure it will be able to train new champions for Azerbaijan.”

“Surely, you’re not happy with your own performance. Why was it unsuccessful this time?”

“I’m looking for a reasonable answer to this question myself. The main reason may be both my inability to concentrate on the tournament at the end of the year, and fatigue. Either way, it was unfortunate for me. I have made several mistakes. I could not find a way out of the situation, which was becoming increasingly tense. And in the end I showed the weakest result...”

“It is the first time that the tournament organized competitions in rapid and blitz. The first six rounds revealed the winner in classical chess. Is it a little harder to play rapid chess?”

“I do not think so. As you know, I was a world champion in classical chess, rapid, and blitz. Of course, our favourite is classical chess. I assume the organisers thought it was the best option to hold the rapid and blitz competitions due to time constraints. In classical chess, you need to think for hours, prepare for the next round at night. I admit that my performance was a poor one.”

“A new qualification cycle begins this year. Will we see you again in the Candidates Tournament?”

“In the coming season, I will not participate in the competition for the world championship. Presently, it is clear that I will join the Bundesliga (German Open) tournament. In parallel, I continue the talks with the organisers of other tournaments. Perhaps I will take part in the Olympiad as part of the Indian national team.”

“At the Ian Nepomniachtchi-Magnus Carlsen match for the world title in Dubai you acted as a commentator. Are you ready for invitations in this capacity?”

“Commenting the games was an interesting experience for me. In general, I like to be a guest at tournaments. As a rule, I am invited as a participant. There is almost no free time in this case. Chess players always have a problem with time. I have trouble sleeping during tournaments. At nights we preparing to compete with our rivals. Therefore, I felt comfortable as a commentator. There was no need to wake up early in the morning. I think other commentators were happy too. I am open to suggestions to be a commentator at major competitions in the future.”

“World champion Magnus Carlsen defended his title again. Do you think it will be possible to stop him?”

“He forced his opponent to make a mistake and won the victory with consistent and correct moves. Magnus is one of the strongest chess players in the world. He is also a world champion defending his own title. Opponents face difficulties preparing against Carlsen. I think in some cases they cannot deeply analyse his performance. Carlsen deserves a championship.”

“In his last interview, Carlsen said that he would think about participating in the future matches for the championship. He said his rivals did not excite him as before and he intended to compete if Alireza Firouzja won the Candidates Tournament.”

“I think this interview is a manifestation of wrong attitude towards other chess players. To play against a champion, chess players win several tournaments. Finally, the world champion participates in lengthy games to keep his crown. In other words, Magnus’s statements can cause confusion among other chess players. To defend the crown, a world champion is obliged to participate in a championship match every two years.”

“What is the impact of the pandemic on chess? Does classical chess become part of history?”

“Classical chess is played for hours and has its own fans. Some people don't like rapid and blitz. The pandemic forced FIDE to change the plans. Major competitions have been postponed or cancelled. At the same time, it was possible to organise online tournaments. But they will not replace conventional competitions for sure.”

“It seems you are also against online competitions?”

“They are good to reduce costs. No need to take a flight, to leave home. But this is not real chess. Real chess is a face-to-face game. Playing online may be subject to technical problems, or simply fraud. I support the organisation of online tournaments during the pandemic so as not to leave chess players jobless. But I support holding, whenever possible, regular competitions.”

“We know that Teymur Rajabov will take part in the Candidates Tournament next year. Shahriyar Mammadyarov will compete to get qualified for this tournament too. What are their chances?”

“They both have already gone down in the history of world chess as strong grandmasters. But winning the Candidates Tournament isn't easy. The pandemic has affected some chess players badly. At the same time, there are other players who train hard to improve their skills. For example, Firouzja is one of the favourites. To become the first in the Candidates Tournament, you must definitely prepare against all opponents. The loss of even a single point can ruin all your plans. Rajabov showed a good result and won the World Cup. Mammadyarov has proved many times that he was a strong chess player. Everything will depend on the preparation of players.”

“How should one prepare to win the competition for the chess crown? You were the world champion and you defended your title. What would be your advice to your colleagues?”

“Not everyone likes receiving advice in chess. Professional chess players know everything. To win a championship, one has to forget about life for a while. He must prepare to play with the champion 24 hours a day and analyse his opponent day and night. But even this does not guarantee victory. If the opponent is better prepared than you, it reduces your chances.”

“Thank you for the interview. Glad to see you in Azerbaijan again.”

“Thank you.”