After a disappointing 2017, Viswanathan Anand silenced his critics by winning the Rapid Worlds and the Bronze medal in the Blitz category in Riyadh. Anand suggested that changes in his routine between matches is what helped him achieve greater productivity, and ultimately made the difference.
A dismal year had seen Anand exit from the Chess Classic in London in the early stages of the tournament and miss out on a shot at regaining the title of World champion from his nemesis and current World No.1 Magnus Carlsen after losing in the second round at the Chess World Cup. However, like a phoenix rises from its ashes, the 48-year-old bounced back to reclaim the Rapid Worlds title and secure a bronze medal in the Blitz section in Riyadh.
On being asked if the feeling of being a World Champion has sunk in yet, Anand said, “I must admit that the depressing results (in my earlier tournaments) took a toll on my confidence, but I tried to be positive. What makes the win more unexpected was that when I went into the third day — I wasn't leading. (Vladimir) Fedoseev was in the lead and there was nothing that pointed at me winning. However, the day ended with me being a champion and the result was a marvelous surprise,” reported Hindustan Times.
After a rocky start to 2017, critics were of the opinion that it was time for Anand to draw the curtains over what was an illustrious career, but he had other plans. By defeating top-ranked Carlsen, whom Anand lost his World No.1 title to in 2013, en route to his triumph for the Rapids World title, Anand silenced his doubters and managed to exact revenge on his so-called nemesis.
“I didn’t think about that at all. It is a problem when a journalist asks you this question and you can’t ignore it. I can tell you, I spent zero time thinking about this.” said Anand.
Anand was in top-form during the tournament and won 37 out of 38 games he played which meant he just lost the one game throughout the tournament. Over the course of four days, the former World Champion defeated the likes of Russian Alexander Grishuck in the penultimate round of the tournament and Vladimir Fedoseev in the finals with a scoreline of 2-0.
“In all these tournaments with multiple rounds, what happens is — you play one round and then mill around aimlessly while the pairings (of subsequent rounds) are done. I felt that aimlessly walking around and then striking a conversation with someone messed up my focus (in previous events) and I was very angry with that.
"So I decided to have a routine. In Riyadh, I would finish a game and go and get my computer. I would find a place to sit and make use of the majority of the break time by studying my moves or deciding on the next course of action in a game. Just 10 minutes before my game, I would put the computer back in the locker and head to my table. I felt I used my break between the games in a productive manner,” Anand added.
Anand has now set his sights on the Wijk Aan Zee tournament in Holland in April and the Norway Chess in June, where he will look to build on his recent triumph in Riyadh.