NIIT’s brand ambassador was in the City to interact with participants and winners of their corporate chess championship, hand over prizes, take questions from the media and play simultaneous chess.
Mobbed by an admiring bunch of fans, Anand kept his poise admirably. Neither screaming toddlers nor regularly ringing cell phones made a dent.
An irreverential few who were happily chatting away, unmindful of the answers flowing from the maestro who fielded questions from everyone except the media -- languishing at the back of the hall in what was officially supposed to be a press conference! -- also made no impression on Anand’s thought process or his concentration as he answered every query with sincerity and utmost seriousness.
Quickly getting into his stride after signing on the giant bat wishing the Indian team good luck at the cricket World Cup -- a Deccan Herald-Prajavani initiative -- Anand said he would be delighted if his World Championship match next year too could be hosted in India. “I would love to play in India, I hope something like that happens sooner rather than later,” he remarked.
“The decision on where to host the next Championship match hasn’t been made yet, let’s just wait and watch. The last time I played in India was the 2002 World Cup at Hyderabad and I really enjoyed the experience.”
There would be the pressure of playing at home, Anand acknowledged, adding that it would be enjoyable pressure. Talk inevitably veered to the cricket World Cup, and the pressures on the Indian team of an expectant billion.
“The cricketers know what to do,” he remarked, modestly. “I just can wish them all good luck. I hope they make us proud, winning the World Cup at home.
“I always root for my home team, but this time, I have a strong feeling India have a great chance to win the World Cup. I don't know who will upset them. England look good after their dominant show over Australia, but India are my pick.”
This could be Sachin Tendulkar’s last World Cup, and Anand had a word of advice for the little master. “In my experience, it's better for him not to think too much on this being his last World Cup,” Anand observed.
“Maybe Sachin knows how to deal with it and how to battle the pressure of playing in front his home fans. If I was in this position, I would just block the thought away but I don’t know how easy it will be for Sachin to do that in India.”
Anand has regained the number one spot after nearly one year after finishing second in the Tata Steel International at Wijk Aan Ze. “The official ratings will be released only in March,” he revealed. “I have been trying to regain the top slot for a while.
“This is a nice thing to happen, I was the world number last more than one year ago. There is a World Championship next year, and this ranking should serve as a motivation for bigger tournaments that lie ahead.”
Contrary to popular perception, Anand said he didn’t necessarily train every day. “Sometimes, I may not train at all, sometimes an hour or two a day but when I get down to intensive training mode, it’s often eight or nine hours a day,” he said, offering an insight into his work ethics.