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Most In-depth Study ( Must Have )

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Devil's Advocate: Viswanathan Anand on mind games

World chess champion Viswanathan Anand is set for his title-defending match against challenger and Russian Grand Master Vladimir Kramnik in October. Anand says Kramnik’s challenge and taunts don’t bother him because he believes “the main thing” is to win. “My own tendency is to just ignore him,” Anand told Karan Thapar(one of the leading journalist's in India) in an interview on Devil’s Advocate ( a popular program on Indian Television) .Here is the full interview ahead of the title-defending match next month.

Karan Thapar: What does the World Chess Championship mean to you?
Viswanathan Anand: It is the end of a long journey for me; it is the realisation of a dream. When I started out playing chess as a kid I thought I should be world champion. As a kid you have no idea what that means and you only sort of picture it. It is hard to imagine that I waited all those years and it happened in a late stage of my career.

Karan Thapar: You were surprised that it didn’t happen earlier?
Viswanathan Anand: It happened in Delhi in 2000 but under the cloud of two rival associations and all that. This time it has been devoid of all that. When I became World Champion this time and got the rating you knew I was just that: the World Champion.
Karan Thapar: In fact the World Champion title has led to many other recognitions. You will get the Padma Vibhusan from the President in Delhi. How does that compare with the World Championships?
Viswanathan Anand: Of course, it is (the Padma Vibhusan) very prestigious but in a way it is not about choosing. The World Championship led to the Padma Vibhusan in a sense, so it follows from that.
Karan Thapar: So the World Championship is really the special one.
Viswanathan Anand: Definitely.
Karan Thapar: You have got a lot of recognition but the truth is in India other than cricketers most sportspersons tend to get ignored. When people make that point they are usually thinking of the way the Twenty20 team was treated after winning the World Cup. Would you agree that other sports tend to get ignored or overshadowed?
Viswanathan Anand: I think in India cricket is a fact of life. You have to accept that but my reception when I became World Champion was spectacular—both times. In 2000 as well we had a parade in Chennai. In 2007, I was received in Delhi at the airport by what seemed to me a huge mob of people. The same happened in Chennai a few days later. I don’t feel neglected in any way. I think you can always try to promote your sport better. I don’t feel neglected or badly treated in any way.
Karan Thapar: Not neglected, but let me put a comparison to you. You were given Rs 25 lakh by the Tamil Nadu government when you became the World Champion and you got Rs 10 lakh more from the chess federation. In contrast, almost at the same time, Yuvraj Singh hit six sixes and he got Rs 1 crore from the BCCI and another Rs 80 lakh as part of the winning team. So you have a situation of Rs 1.8 crore versus Rs 35 lakh. Is that a fair difference?
Viswanathan Anand: What the state government did was very nice, and so was the Central Government. If the BCCI does something it is between them. You have wide differentials in prize money in various sports. I don’t really want to complain too much or in fact complain at all. The World Championship was very special and for a few days I felt like a complete star here.
Karan Thapar: What about the fact that if you had been a Russian you would have been lauded almost like Sachin Tendulkar is in India. Do you sometimes feel that chess in India doesn’t quite have the status and stature that it does in Russia?
Viswanathan Anand: Let us put it this way. If you compare chess when I started out and what it is today then you can see the sea change that has taken place. I am pretty proud that in some way I have contributed to that, but it is up to me to build that up from where we are. You have to build chess as a mass sport in India. That is why we are very keen to get the Mind Champions Academies into more and more states. We have already some 5,000 schools; last year about 115,000 students took part in this competition. But you have to build these numbers; success just won’t appear. You have got to build these numbers, and potentially we are building a huge chess fan base.
Karan Thapar: India is the No. 1 chess-playing nation in Asia and it has 17 Grandmasters. Do Indians have a special affinity for chess?
Viswanathan Anand: I think so. If you look at our sporting performance it is really in very few areas but chess is one sport which we have taken to naturally.
Karan Thapar: Why have we taken to it naturally? Is it genetic or is it some sort of special affinity, like our affinity for maths and information technology?
Viswanathan Anand: It could be bit of that. It is very difficult to pinpoint reasons. I think when India takes to something it really goes into it big time. The numbers have gone up 10-15 times in school and college competition since the time I started to a decade later.
Karan Thapar: So do you see a chess renaissance happening in India sometime soon?
Viswanathan Anand: Definitely, chess is going forward. I think it is important to keep promoting the game and not keep on focusing on what could be. Work hard and try and popularise the game at every chance. You have to acknowledge, chess has come a long way.
Karan Thapar: The problem actually is popularising the game. For most people chess seems to be a forbidding, cerebral and almost intimidating game. Is chess a prisoner of its own image?
Viswanathan Anand: To some degree, yes. A lot of people are intimidated by chess but once they come into contact with it they realise that it is just a game like any other. You play it; you try to outfox your opponent. That is what you do in every sport. It is a fairly simple game; of course there is lot of complexity behind it but it is basically a simple game. It is something, which people of any age can pick up very easily and in fact kids tend to pick it up very easily.
Karan Thapar: How much of the game is mental toughness of the player and how much of it is psychology?
Viswanathan Anand: Psychology plays a big part but I always say psychology will only be a differentiator when the players are of equal technical strength. If you keep working hard you will generally not encounter the problems of psychology and all that till you meet a rival of equal stature.
It is only at the highest levels that that psychology starts to become a big differentiator, because there both players have done all the technical work. They are approximately matched in most areas. That is when psychology plays a big part.
Karan Thapar: When you say psychology do you mean that is when they psyche each other?
Viswanathan Anand: Basically. That is when all the mind games happen—the idea of getting into the opponent’s skin and bringing out the mistakes. Things like nervousness, cracking under pressure, all that—you have to build up the pressure both off the board and on it.
Karan Thapar: So how do you protect yourself from your opponent?
Viswanathan Anand: One of the things I remember is how Victor Korchnoi in 1978 got obsessed that his opponent had put shrinks in the audience and they were staring at him. It later turned out to be mainly in his imagination but it did affect him. So, no longer matters whether those people were there or not.
I have always thought that somebody in the audience is looking at me. But the trick is just look at the board and forget about the rest. After a while he can’t affect you anymore. That is my preferred method.
There are others who look there, see that person, get angry and feed on it. If that works for you, go for it. But it doesn’t work for me; I like to sort of block out everything I don’t want to deal with and try to just focus on the board. Sometimes if there is someone you really dislike then you play them and get extra motivation by just thinking what it would be like to beat them. But generally I would like to block someone out.
Karan Thapar: But dislike can be a motivation?
Viswanathan Anand: Yes, definitely and it helps you concentrate much more. When I play someone I dislike I really don’t want to make mistakes; then your mind hardly ever wanders.
Karan Thapar: You have got a big match coming up in October, when you have to defend your World Championship title. (Russian Grand Master Vladimir) Kramnik has challenged you. Do you dislike him enough to want to beat him?
Viswanathan Anand: I think as the match goes along these feelings will inevitably surface but at the moment we are both not going down that road yet. But I am sure as the match comes along we will feel it.
Karan Thapar: You are not going down the road, but he has spent a lot of time taunting you. He says publicly that he has only allowed you to borrow, or he has lent you the World Championship.
Viswanathan Anand: He went down this road for a week, I replied and the matter just died. As far as I know neither of us has spoken much about that. I think it will probably surface again in July-August.
Karan Thapar: Something else he said was that there is a difference between winning a championship at a tournament and winning it in a match. In 2007 you won it in a tournament and in 2008 you have to defend it in a match. Will that make it difficult for you?
Viswanathan Anand: My own tendency is to just ignore him and to think well, that is what he would say. I would think what else would he say for he didn’t win the tournament and leave it at that. But once the match starts you have to make sure that these sort of things don’t affect you.
My own response to that is: the winner can say anything he wants after the match and the loser would have lost interest in this topic. So the main thing is to win. If I win it hardly matters what my opinion is or what his opinion is. Let’s just win.
Karan Thapar: The mind games begin long before the actual game. He or you start pressurising the other to get an advantage, so that when you meet face to face on the chessboard you have a point in your favour—at least a mental point.
Viswanathan Anand: Yes, I think it is important that you don’t let your opponent impose his style of play on you. A part of that begins mentally. At the chessboard if you start blinking every time he challenges you then in a certain sense you are withdrawing. That is very important to avoid.
It is very important to put pressure on your opponent (and) some of it is getting your opponent into unfamiliar territory. But some of it is also simply body language, showing confidence; showing that you are not affected by all sorts of interviews and remarks. You just have to ignore these things.
Karan Thapar: How do you compare yourself with the great chess players of the eighties and nineties. I suppose the two names that come to mind are Anatoly Karpov and Gary Kasparov.
Viswanathan Anand: It is very funny for me to compare myself with them because in the nineties they were my contemporaries but in the eighties they were people I looked up to. I could not associate myself with them in any way. I grew up studying Karpov’s games. I think it is very difficult to see yourself objectively. I hardly ever compare myself directly.
Karan Thapar: Just after you won the World Championship in October you said beating Kasparov would be a nice challenge.
Viswanathan Anand: I think I sort of wonder what it would be like. In 1995 I played a match against him but it is amazing that in the next 10 years I was second or third in the rankings—most of the times second and he was first for this entire period—and we just never played each other. I think it would be very interesting.
Karan Thapar: Would you be in awe of him if you played him?
Viswanathan Anand: I think to some degree that is gone because I have played him for so long.
Karan Thapar: PTI published your scorecard. They said you played 78 matches with each other—both classical chess and rapid chess—of which you had won eight and he had won 27.
Viswanathan Anand: It is pretty one-sided. He built up a huge lead from round about the time of 1992 to till about 1999. After that it is not so bad but in general when you have such a score it is better not to try and explain it. But I think I could do a very good job now. From about 2005 I have felt that I could confront him. I think I could face him now.
Karan Thapar: Is it right to say that one of advantages people like Karpov and Kasparov have over you is that they are products of the Soviet system—of rigorous institutional training. Yours is much more intuitively done. Would you accept that you might have been a more rigorous player had you gone through the mill that they have gone through?
Viswanathan Anand: It is possible. I would have been a different person and then it is like one of those science fiction questions. What would I have been in another universe?
I think I was right in working with the Soviets very early. Round about 1991 when I was going to play Karpov I just said ‘okay, somehow you have to learn from these guys.’ I think I learnt a lot of their techniques and over the years interacting with them I no longer feel that they are a mystery.
Karan Thapar: You are 38 today and chess world is getting younger and younger. You have grandmasters at 12 and 13. How do you get the motivation to keep carrying on?
Viswanathan Anand: It is basically I would say I enjoy chess. I enjoy the tournament circuit, the challenges of going to a tournament but also because I am just curious. I am curious to know how long it can go on.
Chess is getting more and more interesting. In the last few years we have had lots of young players coming along and that sort of livens it up.
Karan Thapar: Are you curious to know how long you can keep playing at this rate? Are you testing yourself?
Viswanathan Anand: Yes. Once you have won the World Championship; once you have won many events but I want to see how long I can go on like this. It is a challenge when you can keep competing at the highest level and keep the No. 1 ranking. It is an obligation as well, you have to work hard.
Karan Thapar: You have got a big challenge in October, when you have to defend your World Championship title. If you succeed, will the motivation slightly diminish because even that target would have been achieved?
Viswanathan Anand: It is possible. I think there could be a short-term dip. It is entirely possible that you go off for a month or so and that has happened frequently in my career. The important thing is to recognise it, at some point, stop it and start again.
Karan Thapar: And what happens if you lose in October? Will that fire you with the determination to come back and win it again?
Viswanathan Anand: I think we will deal with it when we get there. Before a match you shouldn’t prepare for those kinds of scenarios. If it happens it happens but I am going to give it my best shot and make sure it doesn’t happen.
Karan Thapar: But one day competitive chess wouldn’t hold the same appeal to you as it does today. Then what?
Viswanathan Anand: I don’t know. There are a lot of interesting things. I could find more time for my hobbies and I could find more time for the academy I mentioned. But I don’t think I will ever disconnect from chess completely.
Karan Thapar: Kasparov went into politics. Might you consider politics yourself?
Viswanathan Anand: No. Politics, I think, you can count me out of right now.
Karan Thapar: Writing books?
Viswanathan Anand: Perhaps. I think it is very difficult to imagine these things. I cannot see my life without chess being a very, very big part of it. What would I do the whole year without being able to prepare for the next tournament? I really don’t know how to deal with that.
Karan Thapar: Viswanathan Anand, good luck for October.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Ruy Lopez for White - Schliemann Variation/Jaenisch Defence Part 2

The last discussion in Schliemann/Jaenisch Defence was regarding Black's reply 4...Nf6, which we saw, can become more or less an easy task for White to convert into an advantage for him/her.
This time we will study Black's fourth move alternative 4...Nd4!?, the Second Main Option for Black in this situation. We will study different move alternatives from both White and Black at different positions of the game and in doing so we will find out how the actual line mentioned has turned out to be the Main Line!
Just sit tight, watch and learn:

Hmm... 
Let me ask you something first. After studying progressively the different lines above and comparing them with the actual Main Line, don't you feel that White can snatch a victory if faced with this Variation? If you don't think so then you better think again, because we actually saw that White can certainly make his/her position better step by step with gradual development. No tactical moves, no brilliant sacrifices like Mikhail Tal, no surprise element for the opponent, no brand new ideas like David Bronstein! Just a calm play, castling early for King safety, and a clear simple idea; the idea of making your "Position" better. Because that's what you must and must do when you face a strong opponent!! Isn't it? 
Now let me tell you something. The above Main Line guides you through the opening to a near endgame where you, as White, have a "lead in development". Now what does this "lead in development" means? It doesn't mean that you have a "material advantage". It means that you have developed your pieces properly, your pieces are mobile enough, which in turn means you can further develop them to a comfortable square on the board, your King is castled to safety, you have a good hold on the centre and you have exchanged pieces correctly. And that gives you a "positional advantage". So how do you learn to satisfy all these parameters? You learn them by studying the different positions that might arise from a different response made either by you or your opponent at a particular instance. And that generates far-sightedness. To see a position or even a move coming shortly. This far-sightedness is really important in chess. After you have done it, then comes tactics, and sacrifices that might benefit you, and waiting moves, and penetrations, and winning or losing an exchange. It's far far away! So, a "lead in development" in the truest sense, is really really necessary. Ruy Lopez is an Opening that helps you understand this. You follow Ruy Lopez, and you will know what "positional advantage" can really offer you.
For those who know how to convert an advantage to a victory, it's an easy task from the position shown above. 
For those who doesn't know or are a little confused, don't worry at all. Just study and try to co-relate. We will study "endgames" shortly!!
Keep visiting and keep reading.
Thank you. Enjoy!
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Monday, September 15, 2008

The Ruy Lopez for White - Schliemann Variation/Jaenisch Defence Part 1

 Now we will study the various defences/counter-attacks offered by Black after 3 Bb5. One of the defences that demands mentioning is the Schliemann Variation (also known as Jaenisch Defence), recognized by 3...f5.
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 f5
The Schliemann Variation is probably the sharpest way of meeting the Ruy Lopez. Black immediately goes on the counterattack in the centre, in King's Gambit fashion . Most positional considerations are overtaken by tactics and hard variations, so there's much more homework for the student here than in many of the other chapters. That said , a well -prepared player on the white side could certainly look forward to facing the Schliemann. After all , this line is fun for White too, but only if you know your stuff!

The Schliemann is quite popular at club level, where many white players refuse to take up the challenge and opt out with the passive 4 d3 . However, this is just the type of move Schliemann players would enjoy playing against, as Black is put under no immediate pressure and has been able to 'get away with' his third move. After, for instance, 4...fxe4 5 dxe4 Nf6, Black already has a comfortable development plan and White no longer has a d-pawn! Instead of this, White must try to punish Black for his sins and thus recommended for White is the critical reply 4 Nc3!.
Let's see what this reply from Black has in store for White! Follow carefully:
In the next post we will discuss another reply from Black. That will be Variation B. Hope you liked this one.

Until then bye.
Keep visiting and keep reading. There is lot more to come.....

Thank you. Enjoy!
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Ruy Lopez for White - an Introduction

 Let's start with the following famous moves:
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5
Three moves, and we reach a position that carries a famous name behind it, the name of Rodrigo (Ruy) López de Segura. The Ruy Lopez (or Spanish Game, as it' s often called) is a simple opening, with a simple idea . White's second and third moves have both increased the pressure on the centre, and in particular the e5-square. Give or take a few developing moves , the next stage of White's plan is to take control of the centre and increase the pressure on e5 with the advance d4, which is often supported by c3. It may be a simple enough plan, but it can be highly effective. Because of this, the Ruy Lopez has stood the test of time . Other openings come and go, drifting in and out of fashion, but the Lopez has always been a popular choice for all levels of player, from novice to World Champion, and it will continue to be.

Mobile and Little Centres
If Black buckles under the pressure and relinquishes the centre with ...exd4, then depending on whether White has played c3 or not, White either obtains a Mobile Centre or a Little Centre, either of which is generally favourable to the one in possession.
This is the Mobile Centre. The pair of central pawns on e4 and d4 control many important squares and give White a space advantage plus more freedom of movement for his pieces. In addition, White has the option of creating a central breakthrough with a timely e5. This thrust could provide a platform for a successful attack on the black king.
The following diagram shows the Little Centre.
This pawn structure is less dangerous for Black than the previous one , but it still favours White. The pawn on e4 is more advanced than Black's central d6-pawn, which once again means that White has more space to move his pieces. Added to this is that White also has control over the important d5- and f5-squares.
How Does Black React?
Of course Black has many different possible defences against the Lopez, but in general there are two different types of strategy. The first is to meet White's d4 advance by bolstering the e5-pawn with pawns and pieces. This plan is seen in all the closed defences, the Classical Variation, the Deferred Steinitz and the trendy Meller and Arkhangelsk Variations.
Black's second strategy revolves around a swift counterattack against White's e4-pawn. This is seen in lines such as the sharp Schliemann Variation, the Berlin Defence and the Open Lopez.
A Real Opening
As a junior player you might be quite content to play openings such as the Vienna Game, the King's Gambit and the Scotch Gambit, obtaining quick victories against the unsuspecting opponents who did not know their theory.
However, as time will progress and your opponents will become more experienced, your repertoire of tricky openings just won't work any more. No one will fall for your traps, and often all you will be left with is a sterile equality, or something even worse.
This was exactly the case with John Emms! In 1989, Emms appeared in the British Championship for the fourth time. Keen to make more of an impression than on his previous undistinguished attempts, he vowed that as White he would give up his 'baby openings', take a deep breath and try the Ruy Lopez. After all, it was time he grew up! His chance came in round 9, when he was paired with Scotland's top player Paul Motwani, who was a seasoned 1...e5 player. The experience for him was quite enlightening!"
So friends, does that stir something inside you? Well, this is just the begining. We will now study one by one, all the defences and counter-attacks Black can offer in reply and we will see how White can benefit from all of them!

Keep visiting and keep reading! From my next post onwards, we will travel the jungles of different variations of Ruy Lopez. Thank you. Enjoy!
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