30 June 2010

A Pre-Match Interview with Anand

My previous post, Two Post-Match Interviews with Anand, featured two video interviews with the World Champion. At about the same time Chessbase.com ran a three part series on an interview conducted in December 2009 by Jaideep Unudurti. • The Delhi Interview with Viswanathan Anand: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. Here are some excerpts that are particularly relevant to World Championship matches.

On Psychology:

Q: You are going [to Sofia] expecting a state of war?

A: I'm going to go there expecting anything. You have to be prepared for everything. I'm not expecting bad, I'm not expecting good. World championships are traditionally about bad-mouthing your opponent a few months before, press interviews, stuff we have seen for several matches already. That simply comes with the territory. Beyond that I don't want to focus on whether its going to be dirty or its going to be clean. We will be ready for anything but there are good rules and I expect FIDE to uphold them.

Q: Have you ever used psychological tricks?

A: No. This match I have to get ready and get ready for lot of these things. It is clear that the kind of match, where things are quiet, it's not going to be that sort of a thing. I have to get ready for it. Myself, I don't feel like I'm doing it, but always the question is to ask your opponent (smiles). It is my experience that in these areas you can start to see psychological tricks even when there are none. Because the tension in a match is so high that inevitably you feel that everything is being directed against you and vice versa. Matches are very special in that sense, they become very personal. I have no doubt that at the end of the match if you ask, both of us will say 'Yes, the other side did something'.

Q: Have people used psychological tricks against you?

A: Sure. Kasparov and the slamming door. In fact that is the only thing I really think I should have stopped at some point. For a while Karpov was trying to come late every game and try to get his time back on the clock. Couple of things like that. I've experienced it a few times. I would say the peak of these was the Fischer era, the Cold War era and the Kasparov - Karpov matches. I think subsequent generations generally let go of it. With Kramnik, we had a go at each other in the press. Before the match you get ready for it. Basically I didn't expect every day some door slamming or things like that (in Bonn).

On Opening Preparation: (See also my post on World Championship Opening Preparation in 2010.)

Q: For a match of this magnitude it would take 6-8 months of lead-time?

A: I think here again work expands to fill the time. If you have more time you can chortle away. You have to get the right discipline. When the match comes you stop worrying about whether you done enough and get on with what you have done. You can always feel incomplete and work more. I think there it depends on how much time you have for these things. In the 90s and so on match experience counted for more. And maybe having played earlier matches counted for more as you tended to have a lot of background material. A bank of ideas you used then. That you had for the match, didn't get to use and carried over. For instance, Kasparov when he was playing Short or me, he had notebooks full of ideas that he could draw on. Nowadays that cushion is vanishing much faster. Almost all the variations played in matches people soon explore in tournaments and catch up.

Q: For every game you have to remember all the openings, all the variations. Is your memory infallible or do you have black-outs occasionally?

A: You have lapses for sure. It's funny, you may remember every single thing. But if you don't remember that you remember that is also a problem. There are quite a lot of players who remember every single detail of their preparation but they are not sure that they remember. And the effect is the same as not remembering. Or not having analyzed. With the volume of information that is growing, that is clearly a challenge. It is something you have to keep a grip on. It is really the amount of information that is out there. A computer allows you to generate a hell of a lot of work and lots and lots of analysis. Then to remember all your conclusions very efficiently is a good part of what I would call peaking before the match.

Q: You don't have to memorize it, you just have to look at it, like a photographic effect?

A: Well, you try to remember what is important. It should make sense to you. It should fall into a picture. If it's like an exam and you remember this answer, this answer and this answer and the teacher has changed one or two details. It has got to fall into some sort of picture. What you can't remember you should be able to work out very easily. It is a mix between understanding, familiarity and memory. The junction of all three. You can't hope to remember everything either but clearly forcing yourself to do all the work at the board is suicidal in these circumstances.

On Match Length: (See also my post on Intermediate Scores as a Match Predictor.)

Q: You have played a 20 game match. Now it's down to 12 games. What are your thoughts on that?

A: I find it hard to imagine how people once upon a time played even 24 games. Not to speak of the ones which went to 32 and 48. I find them completely absurd. In our modern era that you can spend 4 months on something - it's beyond belief. I think, already, 12 games is the maximum. It shouldn't get any longer. In that era, especially between two Soviet opponents, they didn't really have to worry about spectators. Then again, interest in their country was very high so they managed. Nowadays to get two teams and put them in a city for months on end doesn't make sense to me. [...] Also with the amount of computers involved in preparation, to play 24 games I think is madness. So in our modern era we should be trying to make it shorter. 8 games is pushing it, for already the effect of one defeat becomes much higher. You fall a little bit behind and suddenly there are only so many games you can reverse it. You don't want a situation where one early game sets the course too strongly. So maybe 12 is an ideal compromise. I don't feel it should go any longer.

On Tiebreaks:

Q: The one important difference is that earlier the champion retained the title in the event of a tie. The challenger had to at least win one game more. Now you have rapid tiebreaks. How have the dynamics changed?

A: I think this system is fairer. Essentially the old system kept perpetuating itself on the basis that it was once unfair for the challenger so he should be compensated when he is champion. Almost all the privileges you could justify this way.

On the Schism:

Q: You mentioned the era of chaos [1993 to 2006]. Do you have any regrets that the bulk of your playing years was in this era?

A: No, it doesn't get you anywhere. In the years of chaos, I got onto other things, I had some good years. I got on with enjoying chess. In a non-clich├ęd way I think that's what really it's all about. Maybe that's why my desire in 2007 was so strong. In 2005 also I was motivated but it doesn't always have to happen ia the first instance. But in 2007 I was very motivated and I had a very good year. Maybe there was some pent-up hunger and you just leave it at that. I wouldn't say I never resented it. Maybe in 2002 I resented it a bit. But at some point it stops being an issue, you get used to it and you move on. Maybe a year or so it bothered me. [...] Between 2002 and 2005 there was no real chance to play for the title. Even before, 1995 to 1999 there wasn't a convenient way. Groningen – but you had Karpov with all these ridiculous privileges. So there was some time you lost. It pushed me. The second time I became world champion I was 37, which is late. It's just the way it is. I wouldn't say I am a late bloomer. Clearly I came very close to the world title at a much earlier age. That was simply the way it worked out. I became world champion at 30 which isn't too late.


Also relevant is commentary from Chessninja.com's They Give Interviews: Anand.

09 June 2010

Two Post-Match Interviews with Anand

From EuropeEchecs:-

Anand's Exclusive Interview (6:22) • 'The World Championship after the game'

Live Indian TV Show (7:41) • 'Anand answers by telephone on air!'

02 June 2010

2008-2009 Grand Prix, the Players

I added the 25 players who participated in the 2008-2009 Grand Prix to the Index of Players for all World Championship events. One player, Yannick Pelletier of Switzerland, was initially slated to participate but was dropped for organizational reasons. Although I didn't include him on the 'Index of Players', I'm not sure this is consistent with other events where players were unable to participate, notably the World Championship Knockout tournaments.

FIDE has added the overall results to the official page, FIDE Grand Prix 2008-2009 - Standings (grandprix.fide.com). On that page, many of the players, e.g. Radjabov, are listed with three events played rather than four. I'm not sure why that is. The FIDE announcement, Final FIDE Grand Prix Standings (www.fide.com), shows the same but includes a spreadsheet for download. If I find the time, I'll examine it to determine the reason for the discrepancy.