Vishy Anand: “I grew up in Mikhail Tal’s chess club”
Thursday, 16 November 2006

Tonight the tournament was attended by Vishy Anand – the world’s number two has arrived to observe the last two rounds of the Tal Memorial and take part in the blitz tournament. Mr. Anand visited the technical room and assisted Motylev with the online commentary for about half an hour. Later Vishy answered the questions of our correspondent.

Vishy, how it happened that you are not playing in the main tournament?

This is because of the clash with my match with Kasimdzhanov. Then the match was cancelled, but too late for me to participate here. Mr. Bakh was very kind to invite me for the blitz tournament, and I was happy to come.


Vishy Anand: “I was happy to come”

Have you played in a blitz tournament with such a solid lineup before?

Sure, there was a World Championship in Rishon Le Zion, and I also played in Reykjavik, which was perhaps a bit weaker. But this one is going to be a tough challenge.

Some people say the outcome of any blitz event is completely unpredictable – everything depends on whether one woke up fresh…

That’s a reasonable statement, but I think it’s true for any format. Even in classical chess you have to wake up fresh! There are always days you play well and days you play badly. But I see the point – with 15 games in one day, a lot depends on your state of mind on that day. But that’s okay, I think blitz is an interesting format.

Kasparov said once he can only play 12 blitz games at his maximum, then he gets tired. Have you ever tried finding such number for yourself?

I have to admit I haven’t analyzed this question much.

Are there any favorites for the blitz event, or the result is very random?

A little bit of both. People like Grischuk, Aronian, Carlsen seem strong to me. One can recall the results in Rishon: Grischuk, Svidler, etc. I would also sort of include myself in that. And it also depends on the qualifiers.

Let us return to the classical tournament. Have you followed the games from the start?

Yes. The games are quite interesting. Only Leko and Ponomariov are playing solid and stable. And of course Aronian is on plus two. But the field is balanced, and I feel that everything depends on your approach. You have weak days, like Grischuk at the start and Svidler at the last few days, and it is important to sense it. In modern chess you have tournaments which are very tight, and you must maintain certain level, or else. Like Aronian – he had one weak moment, and Svidler punished him.

Well, there are not so many really balanced tournaments – often there are weaker players whom you must beat.

I disagree. I think the average depth nowadays is very high. And everybody resists very stubbornly and resourcefully.


An interview for the RCF website

Who makes the impression of the best prepared player here?

I was impressed by Ponomariov’s play… He is very stable.

How can you assess Magnus Carlsen’s performance?

I think it’s nice that he takes challenges. Again, I think you shouldn’t extrapolate a particular tournament’s results. In most supertournaments the field is quite balanced with much depending on occasional fluctuations of form, and this remains the case.

Do you expect this tournament will enjoy a sole winner, or a tie is more likely?

I think at the moment I would bet on a tie. Not that I’m betting, but I’d bet on it!

What games were the most interesting for you?

For me it was interesting to follow the Breyer debate. There haven’t been that many theoretical debates apart from that. Maybe the Grunfeld in Gelfand-Svidler was interesting, but best game – I can’t give you one.

Would you think it makes sense to apply the Sofia rules for all supertournaments?

I don’t think it is relevant. Generally in the recent years we had well-fought tournaments without applying any special rules. So the general tendency is to fight. Then maybe Corsican rules or Sofia rules, no matter how you put it, can be a stimulus, but in general I don’t think they are absolutely necessary.

Could you say a few words about Mikhail Tal? When did you discover his games? What was the most impressive about them? When have you met him in person?

I also grew up in Mikhail Tal chess club. Couple of games made a big impression. A King’s Indian against Mikhail Botvinnik. Botvinnik plays Rb1, and Tal just goes Nf4 with the pawn standing on g3. That was one, the idea to drop the knight and continue! I mean okay, at that time I was a weak club player of 10 or 11, but it made an impact on me. Same think with his French defense against Botvinnik, brilliantly won. He moves Kd1 – a move absolutely mysterious for me! Of course, I could name a hundred more games of Tal. For instance, 1986 against Hjartarsson, when he moves Rc5 at one point – again a beautiful game! But okay, Tal has many games, these three just popped up in my head… And I think such play made Tal very special universally. Most players, even if they don’t have Tal as their personal number one, really admire him. And he also was a very nice guy. I met him in the Match of generations in Cannes. He was already quite sick, but nevertheless it was nice to meet him, to play against him… And then in Brussels – I was young grandmaster, and he was a star, but he was very nice and friendly.