Anand targets better year

Interview : With improved rating, the Indian chess ace appears to have regained his confidence

Anand targets better year

“Ratings reflect your playing strength and I am pleased that I have gained back the lost points to go up the rating ladder to 6th position at the end of last year,” said five-time World Champion Viswanthan Anand. After tripping down the rating ladder to Elo 2762, Anand termed the year 2016 as a steady if not a spectacular one after he clawed back to 2786 in the new January list of 2017.

Just for a few hours in March 2016, while playing the Candidates, Anand, who has been the highest rated Indian for about three decades, slid to second place in World Live Ratings with his rating at 2763 and Pentala Harikrihna with 2763.3 surging ahead. The rating difference was only fractional but garnered international attention, especially since it was at the Candidates and the loss was a heart-breaking one as hehad been defeated for the first time in his career by Sergey Karjakin who eventually went on to win the Candidates and emerge Challenger to Magnus Carlsen. Anand once again showed his mental strength and chess skills to gain back the lost points and the pole position in Indian Ratings.

Anand’s best showing in 2016 was his clear cut first position at the Champions showdown in St Louis since it featured higher-rated Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana who were hot favourites while Veselin Topalov was the fourth player in fray. The exhibition event featured four players fighting in two classical round robins, two Rapid Round Robins and four Blitz round Robins with each player playing 24 games. Anand won seven, drew 16 and lost one on the last day of the event. “That was an enjoyable event and gave me immense pleasure,” said Anand.

“This year my focus will be to try and feature in the top three and for that I would be working and preparing in the next couple of months as I have not signed up for tournaments for this period.”

Also, Anand has been experimenting with his seconds, working with a lot of Indian youngsters but admitted: “Grzegorz Gajewski has been working with me since 2014 and we share an excellent working relationship as he sort of intuitively knows what I need.”

This was apparent with Anand uncorking so many novelties at the London Chess classic in December. Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Krishnan Sasikiran and Sandipan Chanda are the other Indians who have earlier worked as Anand’s seconds.

 “I will be trying to play the Grand Prix tour but will be playing the world Cup for sure,” said Anand while referring to his engagements in 2017.

 He however remained non commital when quizzed whether he would consider ever playing for the Chess Olympiad again. “The Indian team is strong and since it is the average rating of the team which is considered, India will always be in contention for a medal.”

The World’s top hundred rating list has steadily witnessed an increasing Indian presence unlike a solo vigil by Anand and the January list boasts of six Indians in top 100 in the World -- Pentala Harikrishna, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, Parimarjan Negi, Krishnan Sasikiran and Ganguly .

“Vidit Gujrathi has won  many international events and is  already in the vicinity of Elo 2700 plus the fact that he has been working with Anish Giri indicates that the way is upwards for him,” summed upAnand.

On Praggananadhaa, who hit international headlines by becoming youngest IM in the world at 10-plus years, Anand wittily remarked: “He has become a household name not just in India but people across the world are trying to pronounce his name correctly. This attention will benefit him as it will open doors to various recognized and prestigious tournaments which otherwise is  difficult. However, there is a long road ahead.”

Anand who has been following a strick physical regime along with a conscious diet plan appeared leaner but brushed off the suggestion quipping,  “You probably see me only on my dip period.”

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