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Always nice to be at the pinnacle: Anand

Calcutta: World No. 3 and reigning world champion Viswanathan Anand was in town to felicitate the East Zone winners of the NIIT Mindchampions Academy — Chess Master 2009, on Monday. From playing simultaneous chess with youngsters to teaching a trick or two to magician PC Sorcar, or signing around 100 autographs, Anand had a rollicking time at the DPS, Ruby Park. The smiling assassin also took time out to interact with the media.

The following are excerpts

QHow does it feel to be a world champion?

A It gives me a kick to be a world champion. Yeah, it’s always nice to be at the pinnacle and find out how it looks from the top. But being a champion has never made me feel complacent. In fact, it gives me impetus to work harder and strive to be better.

Whether defending the world title brings added pressure

Not really. I am not the defending champion in the sense that I won’t be winning the title if I drew with (Vaselin) Topalov. The match will go to the tie-breakers.

[Anand, who defeated Vladimir Kramnik to win the 2008 crown, will be playing current world No. 1 Vaselin Topalov for the world title in April next year.]

His preparation for the world title

The first part of 2010 will be hectic. In January, I am playing the Corus chess and in April, the World Championship. I am preparing hard for the April meet. Working more than 12 hours a day. Preparing for a World Championship is no mean task. You have to work 10 times more than what you do under normal circumstances. Physically and mentally, I have to be at my peak. I have to be ready to fight till the end.

The difference between Kramnik and Topalov

Kramnik is more from the classical school of chess. While Topalov loves to move around. I will have to look for chinks in Topalov’s armour and try to guess which way to attack.

His form before the World Championship has always been far from satisfactory. Is it a ploy to fool his opponent when the real battle begins?

I don’t think so. You don’t do these things intentionally. It’s just that this year I haven’t performed well enough to win a title.

Is the poor form a cause for concern?

No way. I know how to reach my peak when it comes to the crunch. If you don’t give your best in the World Championship, where else do you give? I will be motivated enough in April to give my best shot.

Whether Surya Sekhar Ganguly will be his one of his seconds this time too

He may be. I am not sure. Seconds are a very secretive thing. Even if I tell you that he will be one of my seconds, the rival camp will not believe me. But one thing is for sure, Magnus Carlsen (the world No. 2) will be one of the seconds.

[Late in the evening, Surya told The Telegraph that he did have a talk with Anand in the afternoon, but nothing has been finalised. “It will take some time,” he said.]

If age is a factor

I don’t think it ever was. It’s all in the mind. It’s all about how fit you keep yourself mentally as well as physically. I may be 40, but I still feel young and fresh. Motivation doesn’t recede with age.

His take on the present state of chess in the world

It’s fluid. There’s a fight for the No. 1 spot. So it’s a good sign. I rate Carlsen very highly. He’s had a memorable second half in 2009 and has improved by leaps and bounds.

On a different note, Barcelona are on a roll but Real Madrid hardly have anything to write home about this season…

Yeah, they are winning everything. But don’t forget we will come back hard. Real Madrid did have a few problems over the last few years but I hope with the new signings things will look up. Ronaldo. Kaka and Benzema will make it count this season. I am confident about it.

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