Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Women Behind the Champion

'I’m not the only woman behind Anand’s success' Ankita Pandey and Vijay Tagore Sunday, November 02, 2008 03:34 IST (from How did Viswanathan Anand do it? Ankita Pandey and Vijay Tagore try to find the secret while chatting with wife Aruna, who is also his manager. Excerpts: You should know this best. What it takes to be a world champion? Lots of hard work and patience and the ability to rise above oneself. Anand consciously keeps away from controversy and politics. At times this has been very expensive for his career. But rather than complaining Anand would try to just play his chess. For example, in 2002 there was a plan to have a world championship and in that scheme only player who got a bad deal was Anand. He was unfairly kept out. It was a very difficult moment for us. We went for a holiday and came back and Anand said the only thing I can do is play my chess and enjoy it. He went on to win two chess Oscars in 2003 and 2004. This was some of the happiest moments of our life. When did the Bonn preparation start? Before Mexico we understood that Kramnik would have the privilege to get a match irrespective of what happened in there. It didn’t feel right but Anand said let me win Mexico and only then do I need to worry. He played some of his best chess in Mexico and won. Then within an hour the talk about the Kramnik match started. I really felt bad but Anand said I would like to play a match and not have a career where I haven’t got the chance and moreover I want to do something different. “Not for winning the match but when I look back at my career I want to feel proud that I played d4.” He risked and played something. It was when Anand said this, it really impacted me. It was at that moment we decided that we would give Bonn all that it takes and the whole Team Anand rose to the occasion. In Anand’s case, he never got a privilege and never tried to reason with his critics. He just said I will play and win and the rest takes care of itself. It is a quality that is very special not only in a champion but in a person. Does the privilege of being the world champion come with a baggage? Of course it raises the level. But Anand has been among the Top 3 since 1996. So he has been able to keep the pressure and play well. He is someone who doesn’t get too influenced by ratings and numbers. He likes to enjoy the game. He will try out different formats. He will try new variations take risks. In 2001, he understood that if you tried to hold on to your title you lose it some other way. You have to have the confidence of rising up to the challenge constantly. You are his manager. How do you manage his affairs? It was just a matter of convenience. Anand has a professional manager in Chennai who takes care of his endorsements and appearances. I take care of his tournaments and all the travel. In Bonn we had a close team of hans Walter and Frederic and myself. Our job was first to make a list of what Anand wanted and see that we provided him with that. At no point was Anand to find that he needed something. In fact, the negotiations started within 24 hours after Mexico and from the beginning we tried to get conditions that we thought were necessary. Keeping in mind that the match was organised by some of Kramnik’s closest friends and the organisation had members who were also Kramnik’s managers. We had to work doubly hard so that Anand felt comfortable. How difficult is managing a world champion’s affairs? It is fun. The greetings and wishes. Sometime people say why couldn’t he win before we can’t take the tension. There is a lot of travel a lot of fun. Anand and me have an ability to laugh off most things. So it’s nice at the end of the day when the whole team sat together and told each other how the three weeks had passed. It makes everything worth it. What are your duties and responsibilities?Basically putting Anand in a bubble. His only focus is chess.The logistics of travel, press and other obligations are just taken off his back.How do you handle his moods — post win and post defeat?Victory is always easy to handle. But in Bonn when he went 3 points up we understood that Kramnik would now show his true prowess and we expected at least one game could go badly. Before every game we would ensure Anand was confident at the board. His team put in an extraordinary effort. They would sleep only when Anand played so they gave 100 per cent. Before the game I would just tell him to be calm. How did he handle the 10th game loss? After he lost his 10th game I went back stage and Anand looked very calm. The only thing he said I should nail this in the next game. The team also just decided to forget the game. They had expected one game at least where Kramnik would get in his novelty and the move Re1 was very difficult to solve on the board. In fact we were extremely calm. Normally when Anand loses, the first hour is the most difficult and then you realise that you have to play the next day. But saying that the last three days were difficult. We found it difficult to sleep and understood that the half point meant a lot more. How does he cope with the criticism and the praise? He generally takes both well. He doesn’t really bother too much about what people say. At the end of the day you have to be happy with yourself. The rest doesn’t matter. During the match he hadn’t checked mail or the internet. So after winning he enjoyed a bit of ego surfing! Is there any particular defeat that rankles him? Anand has a terrific memory but he also has this ability to block out memories that are painful. Many times if you ask him about to something that was painful he would say he doesn’t remember much. Is there any particular win that you both remember and enjoy? Every win is special. Ok Bonn is big. Finally, you are the woman behind Anand’s success? There have been many women! First Anand’s mother who introduced him to the game. Then there is Nieves perea. She was Anand’s de facto Spanish mother. She doted on Anand more than her own children. When Anand was alone in Europe she would ensure Anand never missed home. When I married Anand and went to Spain she became my de facto mother in law too. We really miss her and it’s a pity she died in 2004 and could not see Anand climb the highest rungs of his career. Anand and me are a team. We try to be there for each other. All of us family and friends ensure that Anand feels comfortable in the event but the hard work and the chess is Anand’s. If he didn’t do that, the jigsaw puzzle would be incomplete.

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