Viswanathan Anand on Wednesday said that the most striking highlight for him from the recently-concluded Olympiad was the presence of numerous Under-20 medal-winners in two of the top-three teams in the open category.
“For me, the most striking fact is that among the three medal-winning teams, out of ten of them (Uzbekistan & India), nine were juniors. Adhiban was the lone person above the age of 20. And of course, Armenia (three 30+, two 20+).
“In general, I think India has a very good bench strength in men because our India-1 team was in contention (for a medal) until the end,” Anand said at the official announcement of the Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz Chess tournament 2022 in Chennai.
He hailed the Indian women’s performance and added that the women’s game should build on this momentum. “In the women’s section, I would say it shows the tenacity of Ukraine; the persistence of Ukraine, Georgia – the traditional powers. And of course, India’s new ascent. India’s performance in the women’s section is a dramatic improvement.
“I think we need to build on this for the women. We have a certain momentum. There are some great players; we were able to field three women’s teams and all of them did well.”
The 52-year-old was also effusive in his observations of D Gukesh’s performance in the Olympiad.
“We couldn’t keep up with him (Gukesh), especially when he was 8/8. And despite the really tragic loss (in round 10), he still finished with the top-board gold medal. And it’s quite dramatic, because while I’m evaluating him, it feels like I’m evaluating a different chess player from the one I was talking about in, say, May.
“I don’t even know when he entered the top-100, I think it was April, and now he’s top-20! So, probably I will need to sit down and actually do the evaluation again, because it was just a breathtaking performance,” remarked Anand.
Referring to that “tragic loss”, Anand added: “He (Gukesh) was not only winning, but his position was also crushing. Many of us thought that his opponent would have resigned if he moved accordingly. Then, somehow the breakthrough didn’t happen. And he forgot to stop. He was on autopilot. He could not stop playing for the win, even when the team had already won.”
He said that Raunak Sadhwani’s last two wins were crucial for India-2 to win the bronze, and claimed his win against the USA’s Dominguez Perez Leinier as “one of the best games in the tournament.”
Anand also charted a basic roadmap of his role as the new FIDE Deputy President. “There’s a specific calendar of council meetings in general. And besides that, I would continue and work with the team. A lot of the ideas that the team has are pretty much things I support. So, things like improving women’s (and increasing women in) chess, increasing youth in chess. And probably, I will try to bring an India focus to it,” he said.