'Nice to get back the No 1 spot'
World Chess champion Viswanathan Anand talks to Norma Godinho about defending his World crown, and supporting and mentoring young sportsmen through Olympic Gold Quest.
Viswanathan Anand is sitting across the entrance hall of the Bhauji Lad Museum in Mumbai for a TV interview. One can't miss the smile across his lips, the glow on his face and the composure with which he answers a volley of questions served in his direction.
And there is a good reason for the World chess champion to wear that smile. Anand is back in India after regaining the No 1 ranking after finishing second at the 73rd Tata Steel Chess in Wijk Aan Zee, The Netherlands, on Jan 31.
"I am definitely relieved to have got back to the No 1 spot after losing it to Magnus Carlsen in December. But I can't relax, because I know that I am just two points ahead of him. The rankings are determined by the performance in every match. The rankings can change in no time. Therefore, every match is important," said Anand, putting his ranking in perspective.
The champion of the 64-squares board, who has shifted base to India, next plays the Monte Carlo chess tournament before taking a two-month lay-off.
Anand also spoke about his collaboration with Olympic Gold Quest -- the brainchild of billiards champion Geet Sethi and badminton legend Prakash Padukone. He joined the Board of Directors of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) in August last year.
Revealing his association with this non-profit organization promoting Olympic sports, Anand said, "My role at OGQ is to make sure that the athletes we support get the required facilities. Something like we would have liked to have had, when we were young sportsmen. No sportsman wants to be applying for permission, or playing for money or looking where to buy his equipment. If all these things are taken care of, then the sportsperson can concentrate on doing better."
And how is this done?
"We have Viren Raquinha (former captain of the Indian hockey team) who works on this full time. He is constantly interacting with the athletes. He keeps in touch with them every week so that the feedback is instantaneous and we keep tab of their progress," Anand added.
Throwing more light on other facilities the organisation offers the athletes, Anand said, "We make sure they have access to everything they need -- medical, physio, trainers, equipment. So whatever it is they could need we try to match that, wherever they are. If we do all that then we free the athlete to concentrate on the sport and we believe that eventually the gold medals will start coming."
Image: Vishwanathan Anand
'My role at Oympic Gold Quest is to support, mentor young sportsmen'
Apart from monetary support, the OGQ is also into mentoring young sportsmen when they participate at the highest level.
"OGQ is offering many of the things we ourselves wanted to have. Because it's designed by sportsmen; they know what the athletes need," said Anand.
The chat once again veered towards chess and India's bid to host the World Chess Championship in 2012 and Anand relished the opportunity to defend his World crown at home, if India wins the bid.
"It will be very exciting if the World Championship comes here. There will be pressure, but it'll be good to defend the title with the home crowds watching.
"It will be a good bid for India to win. It will take a lot of work from the All India Chess Federation for India to win the bid," Anand said.
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Talking about Carlsen pulling out of the Candidates tournament (the tournament determines who will face the World Chess Champion in 2012) Anand said: "It's a pity that Carlsen has pulled out of the Candidates tournament. But there is still a big line-up of huge names, like Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topolov... and you can't rule out Aronian Levon. That result will be out only in May."
He also cited names of young players capable of winning the World Championship in future.
"Topolov, Carlsen are good contenders, and from the recent performances we have seen, Anish Giri and Hikaru Nakamura; They are all a talented bunch, capable of becoming World champions," Anand trailed off.
Image: Vishwanathan Anand