Chennai: World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand is back in his home town Chennai after defending his fifth world title. In an exclusive interview to NDTV's Sanjay Pinto, Anand reveals that his rapid chess redeemed him in the crucial tie breakers. On the growing support for a Bharat Ratna for him, the unassuming champion says he is touched by the support but made it clear that he would not campaign for himself.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
NDTV: Talking of how close this was... this was like a see saw in a sense... because in '94 against Kamsky and in '98 against Karpov, the tie breaker was a high pressure point and has been dicey in the past. How did you feel this time when the tie breaker came about?
Viswanathan Anand: "Yes I had forgotten about Kamsky. But people mentioned that I will be redeeming myself in a way if I held on to the thing and so on. In a way if I had not won this tie break, then it would be ironical that I'm probably the best rapid chess player but at a critical moment, my rapid chess would have failed me. I didn't think about it a lot and you try not to put extra pressure on yourself. But after I had won, I realised that my rapid chess had actually redeemed me. In the past I've lost some critical tie breaks and this was a good chance for me to redeem myself and I did. That helps a lot. In the previous time I lost my world title in Moscow in 2001. That was more of a coincidence, an awkward coincidence.
NDTV: When you met Russian President Putin who is known for his quick reflexes in judo, he came up with a repartee 'We brought this on ourselves', referring to the influence of the Russian Cultural Centre in Chennai. What did you tell him?
Viswanathan Anand: It was just very funny. We all started laughing. It was a witty remark. I merely wanted to say that a lot of chess players have benefitted from the Russian effort to promote the game and so on. He said 'Oh we brought this problem upon ourselves!' I'm afraid I couldn't come up with a witty retort.
NDTV: Five world titles sit very lightly on your head. But there was a time when your wits seemed a little frayed when Kasparov almost wanted you to retire in 2011. How did you deal with that iota of negativity?
Viswanathan Anand: I'm sure you've seen these comedies where they tell you "calm down" and you say you are calm but when they repeat that for the fifth time, you shoot back "I am already calm!" How many times can you explain to people that you are motivated and that you love the game? Actually I think Kasparov was dead wrong. He had started on the assumption that I should be leading the match and dominating it. Therefore, if I am not doing that it is because I am not motivated or lost interest. But I think the opposite was the case. I had worked very hard. We had done good preparation. It is very difficult if the opponent is very clever and stays one step ahead. It took us a long time to catch up. I would say the same thing happened to Kasparov. In 2000 in London, he lost to Kramnik basically without a fight. He hardly played any good games in that match. His opponent had blocked him beautifully. So it was good match strategy on Gelfand's part. And I think Kasparov was creating an explanation for a theory that was wrong to begin with.
NDTV: Right from the Sports Minister to even Baichung Bhutia, people have said that you deserve the Bharat Ratna even before Sachin Tendulkar. What are your thoughts?
NDTV: What do you feel? There is a lot of spontaneous support from various quarters, from a lot of well-meaning people who do want to see you honoured with the highest civilian award.
Viswanathan Anand: That is touching. I appreciate the support and anyone who takes up a position on my behalf. Especially in matches, this feeling that there are people behind you, gives me a lot of strength.
NDTV: Sachin Tendulkar will take his oath as a Member of Parliament - of the Rajya Sabha - on Monday. What would you like to say to him?
Viswanathan Anand: Just that I hope he enjoys his role and is able to do it well. It's a big step for him. I hope he enjoys it.
NDTV: Will sportspersons make good politicians?
Viswanathan Anand: I don't know. It would depend on the individual; on interest and motivation in public affairs rather than your sports. Sports will help you bring a certain perspective but beyond that it depends on what you want to do.