The 44th Chess Olympiad is going to be different for the Indian team for many reasons. Even as Chennai gears up to host the country’s first-ever Olympiad and is one of the favourites for a podium-finish, the Indian team will not be having the services of legend — Viswanathan Anand — as a player.
The 52-year-old five-time World champion spoke to TOI on Wednesday about the significance of the event, India’s chances and more.
How do you see the Olympiad making a difference to Indian chess?
It’s a big event and I think it shows that Chennai can organize an event of this scale. Secondly, with players from across the world flying in — it’s a good way to project your city and it will be talked about a lot in the coming weeks. I give credit to the organisers for having done a commendable job.
Ahead of the tournament, is there less pressure on you now that you are a mentor and not a player?
Yeah, probably. I hope to be able to enjoy it in the capacity of a mentor and see how it goes.
Many feel the Indian team without you as a player is weak. How would you react to that?
I think we have a fine set of players. On every board, we have strong players who can deliver and we hope to come up with a good show.
Do you reckon there is a lot of distraction for the Indian team with all the talk of podium-finish and expectations of a gold medal?
I think it’s inevitable. You can’t pretend that it’s an unwanted thing and its part of the modern world. We appreciate that there is a lot of attention ahead of the Olympiad and I am sure the players know how to block it out.
You have been mentoring the likes of Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi among other youngsters. How do you assess their progress?
I have been mentoring them as part of the WACA (Westbridge Anand Chess Academy). If you take their performances in the last year or year-and-half — clearly they have done exceedingly well across different formats. I am delighted with their showing and hope they keep up the good work.
Do you feel the inexperience in India B team’s ranks is a cause of worry?
Yes, but I feel we are overanalyzing it. These are players who have played very strong opponents before even if they haven’t done it in the Olympiad. I feel every player is aware of what is expected of him or her.
How has your preparation been for the administrative role in FIDE?
I am keen to make a positive impact with (current FIDE president) Arkady Dvorkovich’s team. We are hopeful of winning the upcoming FIDE elections and look to build on the good work the team has done so far.
Would the FIDE role mean you stop playing altogether?
I hope to continue playing a few events a year like I have done in the last few years. We will see how it goes from there.
Do you see Magnus Carlsen giving another shot at the World Championship clash in future?
I don’t know. Look, we are in an uncharted territory and we don’t know in what shape the World Championship will be and I hope he will play it in the future.
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