| Viswanathan Anand and wife Aruna at a city hotel on Thursday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Apart from being the first Asian to storm the castle of Russian dominance in world chess, Viswanathan Anand has many firsts to his credit. The first Indian to have won the world junior title lived up to his Ďlightning kidí billing and went on to clinch the senior crown as well.
Anand was in town Thursday with wife Aruna on a promotional campaign for NIIT ó the company for which he is the brand ambassador. The former world champion managed to spare some time from his packed schedule to have an exclusive chat with The Telegraph. He spoke on issues ranging from what keeps him going to his future plans and how he thinks the game is developing in the country.
The following are excerpts
Q Apart from winning the world championship, you have won many of the major titles on offer. You have also beaten most of the top players. What remains to be achieved'
A Iíd like to win the world championship again. One can never get tired of winning the biggest prize possible. I am still thoroughly enjoying the game and the competition these days has become far more intense. Iíd like to keep proving myself. Thatís the motivation.
You have set reaching 2800 Elo rating points as your goal. After reaching 2797 in August 2001, you came down to 2752 in April 2002. What caused the slump and how did you recover'
I had a disastrous outing in Dortmund and lost to a lowly-rated qualifier in the first match of the first round at the world championship (in Moscow, 2001). After that I lost to (Vassily) Ivanchuk in the world championship semi-final. These defeats took away a lot of points. Reaching 2800 had become a distant dream after that. I was aimless for a month and struggling to set things back on track.
I didnít have any target when I went to Prague for the Eurotel meet in May 2002. It featured all top players and I won the tournament easily. I have built on that success, it started my journey back towards the top. I should reach 2775 when the next rating list is released (July). And though setting a deadline to reach 2800 is pointless, I should be close to the mark by next April.
A lot has been said about your reluctance to represent India at the Chess Olympiad. What caused it and what are your future plans'
Starting from the format and the rating system, I had quite a few reservations about the Chess Olympiad. But this issue has been discussed over and over again and I donít want to dwell on that. As things stand now, I will give it one more thought and my participation in the 2004 edition (to be held in Spain) canít be ruled out.
What about your participation in the Asian Games in 2006, where chess will be introduced' And for chess, can this be seen as the first step towards being recognised as an Olympic discipline'
That event is still some time away, but Iíll be delighted to take part. It is indeed very positive for chess. Inclusion in the Asian Games gives it a special status. I donít know how far this will hasten the inclusion of chess in the Olympics. As far as I know, the Olympic movement is cutting back on inclusion of new disciplines. Chess may not get a chance for at least the next two Olympics.
In all likelihood, chess will not be played in the classical format in the Asian Games. Will this diminish the importance of the game'
I donít think it will harm the quality of the game. Playing in rapid format can only increase viewership and interest in the sport. Practically, I donít think it is feasible to have a classical style format. It may take too long to be completed especially when you are competing under the umbrella of the Asian Games.
How do you assess the performance of the national federation (AICF) in the context of the gameís increasing popularity'
It has been a mixed bag of sorts so far. The AICF doesnít have a good marketing strategy because of which it canít get sponsors. Thatís why it hasnít been able to sell the game properly. To its credit, it is conducting quite a few age-group championships, though some of them demand a steep entry fee.
Finally, who are the players you respect most'
Among contemporaries, Garri Kasparov is one I really admire, while there is also a lot to learn from Vladimir Kramnik. In fact, I learn a lot from many more players, not all of whom are famous. But overall, I revere Mikhail Tal and Bobby Fischer. There is almost a Ďmythologicalí air about these two, which enthrals me.