INDIA’S first Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, who won his maiden FIDE World Championship in 2000 and then ruled the sport from 2007 to 2013, is regarded as one of the best players in the game’s history.

Competing in Doha after long 30 years, the 47-year-old is fancying his chances at the World Rapid and Blitz Championships, which began at the Ali bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena last Monday. 

Even before he became a world champion, Anand had been challenging the best during an era where Gary Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov ruled the roost. 

Anand’s achievements helped chess gain popularity in India when it was once considered as a leisure activity among the older generation. After his international success, youngsters embraced it, with India now having 36 Grandmasters. 

In an exclusive interview with Doha Stadium Plus, Anand spoke about India’s surge in the game, the ongoing Worlds in Doha and his goals for the New Year. 

How motivated are you to play in quicker formats? 

Of course, yes. I’m really excited about World Rapid and Blitz Championships. It’s a very tough tournament where you wouldn’t know how well you’ll finish till you get to the final round. I didn’t play well in the last edition. I’m looking forward to some good results this year.

Magnus Carlsen retained the FIDE classical world title this year. Is he the best player in the world?

The gap between me and Carlsen had happened when I lost the world title three years ago in Chennai. I like his adaptability. He’s one of the most flexible players. Like many youngsters, he’s open to suggestions and embraces changes. It’s difficult to pin him down. Whatever position you put him in, he’ll come out of it. That’s the reason he has been so successful. 

How would you assess your contribution to the sport in India?

It has been 30 years since I became a Grandmaster. It’s nice to hear someone talking about that particular year. I’m quite happy to have inspired the juniors. It’s a long journey and I feel proud to have played a role in making chess one of the most popular sports in my country. 

You had played in FIDE World Championships as well as the one organised by Kasparov-led Professional Chess Association in 1993. How was the experience in those tournaments?

Initially, it was fun, but having two federations was a mess. It wasn’t good for players. I was happy the World Championships merged after 13 years of fighting between the parent body and players’ association.

What’re your goals for 2017?

This year’s result was reasonable. I’ve a long break in early 2017. I hope to do some fundamental work and improve. I can do much better.  

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