CHENNAI: Five-time former world champion Viswanathan Anand turns 51 on Friday.
On the eve of his birthday, the legend spoke to TOI on how he has been spending time during the covid-19, his new role as a mentor at the Westbridge Anand Chess Academy (WACA) and more.
How have you been spending time in the last few months?
I have been doing some speaking, some online courses and more time with family and some hobbies — a bit of everything.
Talk to us about the new initiative that you are engaging in…
For a couple of years now, I have been interacting a bit with the youngsters. It’s also an excuse to know them better and it was nothing more elaborate than that. I used to invite them and we used to analyse games and stuff and I was keeping in touch. Just under two years ago, I went to Bengaluru for a talk. That’s when Sandeep Singhal (co-founder and Managing Director of WestBridge Capital) mentioned this idea and we spoke about it briefly. I really liked this idea. I was stuck by this one thing that we are incredibly well represented in the junior category but not necessarily at the very top. If you look at Russia or the US, they have 2-3 players in the top-10 or top-12. The question was how do we push things there and luckily Westbridge and Sandeep said they will support the endeavour. We were thinking of starting this a bit earlier but then the covid19 came in but I am happy that we can finally announce it.
How does the whole process work?
I wanted to narrow it down a bit at least in the beginning and we have picked the four young GMs — Nihal, Pragg, Gukesh and Raunak Sadhwani. And I selected Vaishali among the girls. For Nihal and Pragg — in the absence of qualification for the world title — the obvious goal is to touch an ELO rating of 2700. For Gukesh and Raunak, the aim is to reach 2600 first and then 2650. For Vaishali, it will be to improve her junior rankings. I will keep track and interact with a lot more youngsters than the ones we picked.
With this initiative, are we seeing coach Anand emerging?
Not the coach, I am a mentor. First of all, it’s very hard to coach for 4-5 and even harder to coach 10. I don’t see myself as a coach. I see myself as a mentor and organise things a little bit. I will work with Ramesh, Srinath, Vishnu and I try to build the relationships they already have. It’s for a fairly long time and it’s flexible.
With so many Grandmasters taking to online streaming, are you tempted to join the bandwagon?
It’s a significant commitment of time and if you have to compete for viewers you have to sit there all the time. It sounds easy but you have to sit at home, block the hours and stream. I have no plans at the moment. But if something interesting comes up, I might do it.