Interview with the World Champion - Anand on becoming a father, Kazan and more (part 1 of 2)
After he won his semi-rapid match against Alexei Shirov in León, we managed to get Vishy Anand before the ChessVibes camera once again. The World Champion was cooperative enough to agree to an interview after his dinner with the organizers and sponsors. And so on Sunday night, about an hour after midnight (!), we had a nice talk about becoming a father, about the Candidates matches in Kazan, about cheating in chess, and much more. Video & transcript.
Interview with the World Champ
Anand on becoming a father, Kazan and more (part 1 of 2)
All right, well... just after you won your match with Alexei Shirov here in León: congratulations...
...but I guess, on behalf of the ChessVibes fans also I guess we should congratulate you with your new-born son!
Thank you very much!
His name is Akhil, I think?
Tell us what is was like... I think it happened not long after you returned home from Monaco.
Yeah, it was basically on the 9th of April and... well, what can I say. To those who had children, they know what I'm talking about and probably for the others it's very difficult to put into words. It's just a wonderful feeling. You have this little bundle and... it's great. And of course for a couple of months he wakes up whenever he wants, he eats whenever he wants, so your patterns are completely disturbed. I must say that Aruna is probably taking the brunt of it, rather than me, but still I was able to spent some quiet time at home. It's very difficult to put into words; I think it's just a spectacular experience.
About the name; Leontxo [Garcia] wrote that it has different meanings in Tamil but that you prefer the meaning of 'ruler' or 'king', is that right?
Yeah, I mean, to be honest we just liked the name, and we went with it. It's not like we really chose it for its meaning. But if you like, it means 'flawless', it can also mean a kind of ruler, sure.
OK, very nice. And how are Aruna and the baby doing now?
They're doing fine. Well, it's a little bit shy of two months, and... it's wonderful. I got several weeks, just before I came here, I was there since his birth. Very special moments. But even now he's at the stage where every week he's growing so fast that I'm sure I missed a lot now in these couple of weeks and when I get back already it will be a little bit strange. He will have grown fast. But I think that the first few months I don't have to play very much; I will only be playing in Sao Paulo and Bilbao. So til that I get to spend a lot of time with him.
So actually after this you'll be returning quickly.
Yeah, I'll go to Prague for a couple of days and then I'm going to India right away and then I'll be there again for a while.
Yes... because although you still have houses in Spain and Germany you moved back to Chennai about a year ago.
Yes, basically. I mean, it was never that cut and dried that I moved completely here or there, because of course most of the time is really on the road. But now it's a principal base; we're still coming to Europe quite often. Aruna much less; she hasn't travelled since we went back after Sofia. So after Sofia we went for a short vacation to Sri Lanka and besides that she's been there and I've been travelling to a couple of tournaments last year. It's nice, but we're also getting used to it and there's so much family there, which is of course a big help. The grandparents are coming over every day... it's a good time to be there also.
You probably want to spend more time with your family like this; could this mean that you have to size down your calendar, that you have to play less tournaments?
No, not really. I mean, India is not that far away in terms of time difference; it's only three and a half hours. Because Chennai is a bit south, the flights are a bit longer. But essentially all this means is I can play as much as I want; I just have to arrive one day earlier for jet-lag, or maybe two days maximum, so it's not a big deal at all. Having said that, already with the World Championship and certain other things you end up playing... well, you have to think about your calendar a lot, because every two years the World Championship comes and the year before that some of it goes in training and so on. But I don't think travel is such a big handicap; it's only three and a half hours time difference, so it's not like you're switching from night to day or something.
Your opponent here in Léon, Alexei Shirov, said that to have a child is beneficial in life and maybe even also for chess. What do you think about this remark?
I think it can really go every which way. I would say that... it really doesn't matter. Some things in life you must do. Of course if it brings you joy it will help all other this as well, something like that. And of course I enjoyed playing with Akhil and all the fun in April and May. So when you have positive feelings I will spill over into your chess.
You travelled to Spain a few days before the match and spent some time with Peter Heine [Nielsen, Anand's second - CV] for preparation. This means you took the match pretty seriously?
Of course. Alexei is a dangerous opponent if things go wrong. In Lublin for instance he played quite well; recently he's been playing... more than well, I would even say: his old creative self. So it's not just that he won that tournament. I thought it was important to do a good job. Also, I came to Spain a few days earlier first of all for jetlag but also to get some work done without this temptation to go out and have a look at him, and so on. So a few day, but not many, many days, I mean, really Peter and me maybe got two days working.
You mentioned Shirov, he's of course a very dangerous and creative opponent. It's interesting that you chose the Caro-Kann as your weapon. How did your reach this decision?
A little bit random. I examined several openings; I thought I should do something that I hadn't done in a while, to catch him a little bit off guard. Also, I didn't know the effect of this time control, because... it's sort of in between rapid and classical. It's of course much closer to rapid, because a classical game is much longer. A classical game is five hours upwards, whereas this is let's say a maximum of two hours. But nonetheless I thought I had to familiarize myself with a couple of openings so that I know what to do. And this time control gives you the sensation of being in a rapid game, but suddenly you get a bit of extra time. You get fifteen minutes and thirty seconds extra. So it's two rapid games in one. I think it's a reasonable control, I don't think we played well or badly as a result of the time, I think it's just a reasonable time control and... yeah, the Caro-Kann worked extremely well, so that helped.
Yes, you were doing pretty well indeed with Black. I guess you are pretty satisfied with you play in the match in general?
Yes, broadly speaking yes. I think Alexei didn't really settle into the match. His opening preparation in game 2 was obviously suspect and then somehow he never really got into the match. Especially this third game was... it's one of these disasters that happen a couple of times in your life and it just happened on that day for him. But still, there were a couple of... today for instance in the fifth game... I think I played well overall, but there were so many moments that I've missed; it also leaves a strange feeling. But perhaps at the end of a couple of hours of play you tend to make mistakes again, so... I'm happy with the result and more or less content with my play, but not completely satisfied.
I want to change the style of the interview a little bit and give you a few quick, brief opposites where you have to choose one. Then you'll realize that we'll discuss a few of the subjects a little bit after that, OK? And of course you can always choose to not make a decision between the two but just try. Let's get it warmed up with the choice between... Federer or Nadal?
Well, I actually was rooting for Nadal today, so...
OK. John Cleese or Terry Gilliam?
Not very easy. Probably I've seen more of Cleese.
Beatles or Stones?
In Sofia we played Stones for ages. [Smiles.]
Giri or Nyzhnyk?
[Smiles more.] I don't know Nyzhnyk as well as Giri, so...
Talent or experience?
Well, experience! [Smiles.]
OK, three: Fritz, Rybka or Houdini?
Rapid chess or semi-rapid chess?
Classical score or football score?
Sofia rule or no Sofia rule?
No. No Sofia rule.
We'll return to many briefly afterwards. Fifteen-minute delay of transmission or ban of electronic devices?
I think we'll just have to trust each other more. [Smiles.]
Candidates: matches or round-robin?
I don't know, once we try one we'll be unhappy with the other... [Smiles.]
And then the last one: Israel or India?
[Smiles.] Well, I'm gonna kind of root for myself.
We'll be posting the second and final part of the interview soon!
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