Chennai: Terming the Candidates win at Khanty-Mansiysk in Russia as very close to his heart, five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand said that he would rank it equal to Mexico world chess tournament victory in 2007. The Candidates win has rejuvenated the Indian, who lost his world title to Magnus Carlsen without winning a single game in Chennai last November. Noting that losing the world title hurt him a lot, Anand told this newspaper that the mildly surprising Candidates win has helped him regain the confidence to take on Carlsen again.
Q: Do you consider the win at Khanty-Mansiysk as one of the highlight in your career? Which other tournament win do you rate higher than this event?
Yes. When you are really down and out and can pull up a result like this, then it really is a highlight and something to feel proud of. But I don’t know. Obviously Mexico had a similar and identical format. Equal strength comparably. That was a world championship. But this is a result I really needed right now, and so it is very very special.
Q: You are now back to third place in the world ranking. How do you see yourself in world rankings before challenging Carlsen?
I would say that it is only Carlsen and Aronian who have some cushion in rating list. The rest of us can change five or six positions after every tournament. So I am happy that I am there. But, equally one good performance from Kramnik or Nakamura could alter the rankings. In Russia, I wanted a good result and I got a good result and that’s it.
Q: What are your plans for the year before facing Carlsen in November for your sixth world title?
Last year, I had a heavy schedule and played six tournaments between January and June. This time, I am planning to play a lot of rapid chess. Apart from an exhibition in Corsica in May, I will play at Kiev and Geneva. I might also play in the world rapid and blitz championships in Dubai during June.
Q: You have won a tournament after a long time. How did it feel and what do you think went right at Khanty-Mansiysk?
My initial reaction was joy and satisfaction. I would also accept that I was mildly surprised to win. Further, the convincing win has done wonders to my morale. Actually other players were more nervous than me. I won the same number of games as three others, but I remained unbeaten.
Q: How did you overcome your setback in Chennai? What motivated you to play in the Candidates?
The two days break before the closing ceremony in Chennai looked like two weeks. But I overcame the disappointment by playing with my son Akhil. Over dinner, the former world champion Vladimir Kramnik motivated me to play in the Candidates stating that I had nothing to lose. After some more quiet time at home, I decided to play.
Q: Has anything changed for you after the world championship match in Chennai? Did you feel any pressure to perform?
I felt more comfortable at Khanty-Mansiysk, as there was very little expectation from me. I went there hoping to finish among top four. But I played stable chess and won the title. The win changed my outlook. I can’t be giving excuses always, once in a while I should give a good result for my fans to cheer.