I don’t think Viswanathan Anand is favourite to become the challenger: Magnus Carlsen

New world chess champion Magnus Carlsen says he is now 'the man to beat'

Arundhati Ramanathan
Updated26 Nov 2013, 12:09 PM IST
Magnus Carlsen says he is already thinking about defending his world chess title and that is the reason why he doesn&#8217;t want to talk about his seconds too much, because they would be part of his team going forward. Photo: Babu/Reuters<br />
Magnus Carlsen says he is already thinking about defending his world chess title and that is the reason why he doesn&#8217;t want to talk about his seconds too much, because they would be part of his team going forward. Photo: Babu/Reuters

Chennai: He became the world chess champion only three days ago, but Magnus Carlsen already has his eyes on defending the title next year.

The 22-year-old Norwegian wouldn’t reveal the identity of the players he trained with for his just-concluded match against Viswanathan Anand because the same team is likely going to assist him next year. Knowing who they are could help his opponent second-guess the way he would prepare.

For Anand, the world champion for six years till he lost the crown on Friday, it’s been a “heavy blow” as he himself put it, and it is not clear immediately whether he will ever play in the world championship again.

“He is very disappointed… He made mistakes (in this match) that he never used to make earlier,” said Eric van Reem, one of Anand’s managers.

Asked if he would play in the so-called candidates tournament, which will determine the challenger to Carlsen’s title, Reem said Anand, 43, hadn’t decided on it. Age is running out on him, and the difficulty will only increase with time. “He has played five (world) championships in the last six years and that drains a lot of energy,” Reem added.

Shortly after he received a 3.5kg gold-plated silver trophy, a gold medal and cash prize of 9.9 crore from Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, Carlsen agreed to be interviewed by a small group of Indian journalists. Without mincing words, he said he is now “the man to beat”, and he didn’t consider Anand as the likely challenger to his title, looking at his recent performance. Edited excerpts:

Coming into the finals, did the close shave you had at the candidates’ tournament at all bother you?

I stopped thinking about it. Obviously the candidates’ tournament was a close call. It was very tiring and very exciting as well. But when I reached the final, I put everything behind and focused on what was happening in the final and not on how I got to it.

What did you have in mind when you were preparing for this match?

My main objective was to get playable positions—not to come under any great pressure from the beginning. I think I managed to equalize games from the opening, especially with black pieces, and outplay Anand, or at least pressure him in the rest of the games.

Did the match turn out to be easier than you had expected?

The match was difficult in the beginning because, for instance, in the first game, Vishy came up with a novelty in a really obscure line of play. When I analysed the game later, I was very impressed with the things that he had considered and how fast he was thinking. I was thinking to myself, if he was going to play this way, how am I going to ever catch him off-guard. But fortunately, it turned out that he, too, was a bit nervous.

Besides your preparation, what helped you clinch the title?

It helped me to stay relaxed during the match and treat it like any other tournament. I did what I usually do. To stay relaxed, I like to take part in other sports, watch movies in between games, and not think about the result all the time.

Does becoming the world champion make you anxious?

Not really. I’ve been the No. 1 (by rating) for some time, but it has always been a bit of burden on me that I did not have the world title. Now that I have it, I can relax a little bit and do what I do best.

Do you plan to go back to university?

For now, I am happy playing chess.

You have named some players as potential challengers to your world title, but not Anand. What are your thoughts about his future as a chess player?

First of all, he’ll have to figure out if he wants to play in the candidates’ tournament. His results lately have not been too good. He’ll need some time to readjust. If he is able to play at his highest level, I think he can come back, but right now I don’t think he is the favourite to become the challenger.

So do you think Anand’s era of chess is over?

I think it all depends on his motivation. He’ll have to figure a lot of things out. If he manages to keep his motivation after this match, he’ll be a force to reckon with.

Why have you refused to name your seconds even after winning the world title?

I am already thinking about defending the title and that is the reason why I don’t want to talk about my seconds too much, because they would be part of my team going forward.

Chess appears to have got a huge fillip in Norway.

What we’ve seen in Norway is (that) an amazing number of people who did not play chess previously are now following chess—playing the game in schools and at work, and discussing it all the time.

Who do you owe this title to?

I think I owe it to everyone: my seconds (players who assisted), my team, my family, and especially my father. My team has attended to every need and every request however unreasonable it might have been.

Is there anything at all that you have learnt from this match or Anand?

To be honest, I think I’ve learnt a great deal from him in the past, both by playing against him and training with him. Previously, he could outplay me in certain positions, and he could do that in ways that no else could. But I think I showed him in a way that although he has taught me many things in the past, now it’s probably my turn to teach him.

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First Published:26 Nov 2013, 12:09 PM IST
HomeindustrymediaI don&#8217;t think Viswanathan Anand is favourite to become the challenger: Magnus Carlsen

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