Chennai: Relieved after claiming his first rapid world title since 2003, Indian chess ace Viswanathan Anand said he entered the tournament in a “pessimistic” frame of mind but managed to surprise himself and the world with an unbeaten campaign.
The 48-year-old, who had been drawing flak from critics for a string of sub-par performances in the recent past, hit back in style, by winning the World Rapid title in Riyadh yesterday.
“The last two rapid events were nothing short of disastrous. I came here in a pessimistic frame of mind. But it has just been the most wonderful surprise. But I played well,” Anand said after his triumph.
The former world champion remained unbeaten through the tournament and came back strongly to bag the top position on a tie-break after a three-way tie with Russians Vladimir Fedoseev and Ian Nepomniachtchi at 10.5 points from a possible 15.
The Chennai ace then defeated Fedoseev 2-0 in a two-game tie-break to win the trophy.
Anand said he had had a particularly tough year coming into the event in Riyadh.
“…especially the London (Chess Classic) tournament was a big disappointment. It is not that I had high expectations of London, but still I expected to do well. But to finish in last place was a heavy blow.
Anand said he felt good on the first day of the tournament as he played well and it reminded him of his glory days.
“It was on the first day I felt I was playing well. It was as if time had stood still. I was back in time a few years when I was dominating rapid chess tournaments. That gave me a lot of confidence. On top of that, I beat Peter Leko in a very nice game. I was in a good frame of mind,” he added.
He described the win against Norway’s world champion Magnus Carlsen as the crucial moment in the tournament.
Anand also said that towards the end he got worried that he might not even secure a podium finish but a series of unexpected twists and turns on the final day helped him land the top prize.
“It is so unexpected because I wasn’t even planning to come to this tournament, which was announced late. The most amazing feeling of all is to have the title of world champion again. I am so happy that I can’t describe it in words,” he added.
His wife Aruna was delighted after the victory and said, “I was just very happy… almost wanted to be there when he did the fist pump.”
Meanwhile, his erstwhile rival, Russian great Garry Kasparov, hailed his triumph on Twitter.
“Congratulations to the man from the sixties, @vishy64theking, on his World Rapid title! I hope you dedicated this latest victory to everyone who has asked you when you were going to retire,” he tweeted.