Vishy on Vishy gems!
Vishy Anand is a legend and has played many masterpieces throughout his illustrious career spanning across several decades. At the end of Tata Steel Chess India 2019, ChessBase India caught up with the chess virtuoso who is nearing his 50th birthday to discuss nine of his career-best games. Read this interview where Vishy talks of the old times, the untold behind the scenes stories of a pre computer chess era, and much more. You are absolutely in for a nostalgic treat, if you are a chess fan!
At the Tata Steel Chess India 2019, IM Sagar Shah handpicked nine positions from Vishy Anand's career-best games and posed them in the form a quiz to Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Hikaru Nakamura, Vidit Gujrathi, and Erwin l'Ami. The challenge was to not only guess the moves Vishy played in those positions but also recognize the opponents they were played against. So how did the five top-class Grandmasters, including the current World Champion himself, fare in the test? To know, check out the videos below.
After the above interviews were over, IM Sagar Shah got in touch with Vishy himself. The Indian maestro, who was found in a relaxed mood after the tournament, spoke unreservedly and went down the memory lane relating many untold stories connected to these masterpieces. We have transcribed this entire conversation below for you to read and enjoy.
Vishy Anand on the nine best games of his chess career
Sagar Shah (SS): We had prepared a test during this event where we had handpicked positions from nine of your best games. We gave it to all the players here and most of them fared pretty well. We wanted to show those positions to you as well, not to test you because you would surely remember them well, but to just take you back in the time so that you can tell us your thoughts regarding them and may be share some stories that most people won't be aware of.
Vishy Anand (VA): (Taking the printouts of the positions) Well, the first one is very easy of course.
Aronian - Anand, Wijk Aan Zee 2013
This is my game against Levon Aronian from Wijk Aan Zee 2013. The move here is ...Nde5 but already the previous move Bc5 is critical and in fact, this is one of the chapters in my book - the new book ! - Mind Master, where I talk about this move a lot. I remember taking half an hour to find it because of course I was drawing a blank and didn't remember anything of this variation. There were so many variations we had looked into that basically I couldn't remember this. And so based on the smallest fragments of memory I had to reconstruct everything... so that's the story... and then as everyone knows this became the modern version of Rotlewi- Rubinstein. There are other games that I am equally proud of but it's a strong case to say that this is the most beautiful game I have ever played in my life.
(Going to the next position) This again was very nice. This is my game with Gata Kamsky from Las Palmas.
Anand - Kamsky, Candidates 1995
At this point we were deadlocked. I mean it seemed like a pretty convincing win by two points and one round to spare but at this point we were still tied on points. And it was with this move Nd1 that I was able to break the lock jam.
SS: Did this move come easily to you back then or was it difficult?
VA: You know I don't remember. Perhaps because of the added weight of the candidates match you don't just play any move. For me now it seems very obvious. I don't know, may be because I have already seen it. I mean, I played it and now it is obvious to me. You know just like once you see the solution the puzzle is not difficult anymore! But I can't see too many other plans for White. I think I must have seen Ra5 and then quickly realized that Nd1 was very good.
(Flipping to the next position)
Anand - Kasparov, World Championships 1995
This is a match I don't look back with any pleasure but anyway I played Rd5 here against Kasparov, and I am still surprised that he took the rook. Of course, after he played Nxd5, exd5 followed by c5 was simply better. It is interesting that he took it, clearly there is some hidden flaw in Kasparov that sometimes he just plays impulsively. The person who took maximum advantage of this weakness of Garry was Kramnik. I remember their second game in Grunfeld where he did exactly this. It didn't look like a game which Garry should lose necessarily but very quickly White was just better and the opposite coloured ending also was just winning very fast...
SS: In a way, this was your first win in a World Championship match, right?
VA: Yes, that's true!
This again is one of my favourite game (looking at the next position on his hand). Now that I see this one I have to say that the Aronian game and this are two of my best games!
Ivanchuk - Anand, Linares 1992
We are talking about a time well before the computer in 1992. This was a private match we had in Linares. The way I remember it, I had already seen this plan with Bc4. You know, it is the kind of thinking you hardly get to do these days because the computer is always interrupting you. You want to do something beautiful, you want to make a plan, you want to be an artist and the computer keeps interrupting you. But I remember the thought process: I will play Bc4 and we will exchange bishops, then I will play Rh3 so that h2 can't defend g4, next I will go Kd7-e6 and attack the g-pawn with Rbg8, Rh4, and eventually break with d5, then come back and push f5, making two connected passed pawns! What a wonderful way to get two connected passers and the funny thing is I was able to execute this idea till the very end. It is great to be able to execute an idea this way. I remember Patrick Wolff, who was my second at the time, was completely blown away by this.
SS: In a way with Bc4 you exchanged your good bishop for a bad one. Magnus stated that this was not anti-positional but really wonderful understanding of chess.
VA: (smilingly) Yes, I would agree. In those days we found these things on intuition and it was happy times. I am sure I take similar decisions nowadays but like I said whenever I try to make a plan the computer always interrupts me. It interrupts everyone!
(Turning to the next position) This was the first round of Wijk Aan Zee 2006 against Karjakin.
Karjakin - Anand, Wijk Aan Zee 2006
Well, I played the Najdorf. I don't know if I really expected him to challenge me in this but he challenged me in a very sharp line which came all the way up to here. And this line was brand new at that time, now it is an established one, but at that point it was almost brand new. I remember studying this line extensively in San Luis 2005, I mean extensively by the standard of those days when there were Rybka 2.3.2 or Fritz 5 or something! Again I didn't remember my prep and initially hesitated to play Nc7 fearing my opponent must have checked this with the computer but then I just went Nc7!
SS: (Laughs) And then you sacrificed two pieces?
VA: Well, that really plays itself and anyway after Nc7 Rxc7 if I go Re8 then it is really a failure of the imagination. I had to play this because after Qxc7 Rxa3 bxa3 Qxa3 Qa7 I am just winning!
(Holding the next position in hand) I see another rival to the Aronian game (laughs).
Anand - Lautier, Biel 1997
Here I was trying to make Bg6 and Ba3 work and later found h6. This again is one of those games where there wasn't much preparation involved by today's standards. The event too became one of my fondest memories. I remember the whole tournament you had the feeling of being happy, it was in Biel. I won two good games against Joel [Lautier], I won a game against Boris [Gelfand], I beat [Pelletier] Yannick twice. The only game I lost was against [Vadim] Milov but overall this was a great tournament for me and I remember feeling very well there.
SS: No one could actually guess your opponent in the next position... What are your thoughts about it?
VA: This is actually my game against Beliavsky and I can see the thought process. It is very hard to guess that this was Beliavsky who played Najdorf against me.
Anand - Beliavsky, Groningen 1993
I don't think it is a particularly beautiful game. Certainly it is a quality game but not as beautiful as the ones we have seen. But this was important for me for entirely different reasons. I had my nightmare in Biel interzonal 1993 where I lost to Gelfand in round 8 or 9 and every day I was sitting there fighting and trying to beat someone and get back to the required plus four. And it was the most annoying tournament because it was in the summer and I was sitting in the seventh board or something and within the first five to ten minutes the first six boards would disappear (the players would make draw among each other). I would be sitting on the seventh board and thinking what the hell am I doing here struggling in this position and missing. I would sit there till 7 or 7:30 working, playing some miserable game and imagining Kramnik, Khalifman, and others back in their rooms after just five minutes, going for a walk in the summer around the lake in Biel! I, on the other hand, had to fight every game and I didn't succeed at it. Finally, in a much worse position [Viktor] Korchnoi blundered against me but even that was not enough, I still needed five results to go well on the last day. I remember the last of them was [Lajos] Portisch against [Evgeny] Bareev. Portisch had my score but he had the best tie-break in the whole tournament and needed half point but couldn't win. I had better tie-breaks against all the others for some reason.
(Coming back to the position) Anyway, this was from the Groningen (PCA) interzonal 1993 and here all I wanted to do was avoid another Biel. But surprisingly, I don't know why I ended up taking some insane risks by charging in with the mainline of a very sharp thing. This game incidentally took place shortly after the Short-Kasparov match where Beliavsky and Azmaiparashvili were Kasparov's seconds. And I am sure they must have checked this line thoroughly. But I didn't care at all.
(Going to the next position) And this of course is a very special memory.
Kramnik - Anand, Bonn 2008
This is one of those oversights. You know you can ask yourself afterwards how could you miss it but when you miss it, you just miss it. And this is the end of a combination where Kramnik thought after Nxh2 Kxh2 Rxf1 f3 it would be a race with the pawns. He suffered a blindspot and completely missed the square e3, and e3 was all I saw!
SS: You actually made that move and walked away yes?
VA: Well, I was obviously very excited. This again features in my book Mind Master. At the start of the game I had a panic attack because suddenly I couldn't remember my preparation in the Botvinnik and I couldn't reach my seconds either. It is quite detailed in the chapter because it tries to deal with the nightmares you have before a game. First I was terrified as I couldn't remember my line but it ended well and was a happy day.
SS: The last position is quite recent, just from two years ago.
VA: Yes, this again is against a very difficult opponent, Fabi of course. And once again a few moves ago he initiated a sequence which ends up here. I think I was a pawn up but it was a half pawn as he had decent compensation but then he initiated a sequence which led to this position and I had already seen it and was very excited.
Anand - Caruana, Sinquefield 2017
SS: Any other games apart from these that come to your mind as particularly special?
VA: Well, I could add three or four games from St.Louis except they were all misses. There must be many, but I guess my win against Kasparov in Tilburg was special. In fact all my wins in Tilburg became quite memorable.
SS: Well, Vishy thank you for sharing this with us. Wishing you a safe journey back home and also good days leading up to your birthday! Your 50th birthday is a big moment for Indian chess...Thank you for all that you have done, it really is amazing.
VA: Sure, thank you! To conclude, I will celebrate my birthday. It is just that I celebrate it for others.
SS: (laughs) Yes, please do celebrate because it is a big day for us.
VA: I appreciate everyone who celebrates with me. It is probably the reason I celebrate it at all. Thanks!