After the Bonn identity and the smashing Sofia success, it was Mission Moscow for Team Anand as they assembled once again to recreate their winning magic and pulled off a sensation hat-trick of sorts. This one was a hat trick of Classical Chess World titles, the series that began in 2008 in Bonn, 2010 in Bulgaria and now in Moscow in 2012 — where Viswanathan Anand defeated Challenger Boris Gelfand to retain the title. No one likes to change a winning formula and reigning World Champion Viswanathan Anand has a perfect comfort zone in his team which has remained unchanged for the last five years.
Anand’s wife Aruna is the manager, Hans Walter Schmitt, the chief of the delegation, Eric Van Reem — a support member and the four seconds. Peter Heine Nielsen of Denmark is Anand’s permanent second, former World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan, Radoslav Wojtaszik of Poland and fellow countryman Surya Shekhar Ganguly. In a candid chat Surya Shekhar Ganguly shared the ups and downs that the team faced in the 12 game match against Gelfand in Moscow.
The team got together almost six months ago and the intensive training started about four months back.
The strategy was completely different all the three times as they were different players with diverse styles. For Valdimir Kramnik in Bonn, the strategy was to keep the game sharp and the biggest shock was Anand switching from the King pawn to the Queen pawn opening which completely caught Kramnik off guard.
The Meran variation of the Slav defense was thoroughly prepared and gave two great results for Anand. Against Topalov, the approach was solid positional chess with Catalan and Slav as the major Openings. Against Gelfand, we were caught on the wrong foot in the first few games with Gelfand surprising us by opting for the Svenhikov and Grunfeld which he has not used and was not totally un-anticipated.
We came to Moscow to win games and I believe so did Gelfand and his team. In the first half where Anand had three whites, Gelfand surprised us and Anand worked out his problems on board so in that respect it was okay to draw. Generally it is frustrating or depressing to lose with the black pieces so in that respect the draws were fine
No one likes losing. Each of us understands that it is a bad thing but we tried to be unaffected. If Anand was troubled he did not show it and maintained his calm while preparing with the team. In fact, it was business as usual. Anand has so much experience in World Championship matches that he knows that a one-point advantage with five games to go is no big deal. It’s not the end of the match and with three whites remaining there was time to strike back.
By this time we had plugged in our weakness and altered our game plan. Anand got the perfect position on board which we had worked on and the defeat had not been depressing for Anand. He was in terrific shape and played marvellously on board. In fact he was in full flow even after he returned to the hotel after the game and showed various continuations.
Gelfand did blunder to end the game abruptly in Anand’s favour but Anand was distinctly better and should have eventually won. Generally when Anand goes to play the game we see the opening and depending upon our schedule go to bed or hit the gym. After the opening, I went to the gym, came back, showered and had just settled in front of the computer but the game was over by then. It was so short!
Here too we changed our game plan and decided to go in for complex variations and positions. The first and foremost thing was to decide whether to stick to the king pawn or the queen pawn opening. Finally we decided to go with just one system for white and one for black in all the games as Anand had to absorb all ideas and remember everything, but Rapid tie-breakers do not allow the luxury of time. The opening therefore had to be perfect and according to plan. Anand has a terrific reputation in the faster version of the game but one can never be sure.
How he won
Anand uncorked novelties and did have winning chances in the first game. The second game was the most scintillating one and it was nice to see Anand in full flow. The ‘Speed King’ was back and it was almost theraupatic to see him so charged up and playing sharply on board. After this victory, it was a matter of holding the nerves and game together. In the third game, Anand got into a disadvantageous position and Gelfand appeared to be treading on the path to victory. It was here that Anand kept his cool and increased his speed, setting small tactical traps. Gelfand kept lagging behind on the clock and I think that he collapsed at this point. The fourth game too had some moments for Gelfand but Anand held on and it was the fifth world title.
It has been a real privilege to be part of Team Anand, as I have learned a lot as a player and more importantly as a human being. After a month’s rest I will be back in action.