Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand is one of India’s finest exponents of sporting success, and as that nation and the player are on the cusp of landmark events, considering that India is set to host the 44th Chess Olympiad and Anand is a candidate running for the post of FIDE’s deputy president.
The grand event will see the participation of more than a hundred and ninety countries and is scheduled to be the first big-ticket Chess event in the nation years after the Anand vs Magnus Carlsen face-off in 2003.
The game of chess has an application pending with the IOC to be added as an Olympic event, and Anand says he will pursue it strongly if elected as the deputy to Arkady Dvorkovic in the upcoming FIDE elections.
With the olympiad just around the corner, the chess whiz from Tamil Nadu told TOI in an exclusive that he feels it is important for the development of a game in a country to host large-scale events, but, it crucial is that it keeps happening frequently to gauge growth.
“A country must have the world’s biggest sporting event happening regularly. It’s one thing to show that you can do it once and we have organised the events before. But, it’s important to keep hosting these events regularly to showcase your growth. The consequences for chess are even far greater. It’s the first huge, mega chess event which is happening in India. And, somehow, think the timing couldn’t have been better,” Anand was quoted as saying by TOI.
Anand, who already has one eye on the grand event scheduled to take place in Chennai, was visibly excited about the olympiad and the chess ace feels that the sport has caught the fancy of many people during the lockdown period and the timing of the competition is perfectly suited to be used as an anchor for garnering further engagement and taking the game to a wider audience.
Anand, one of the most renowned names in the realms of the sport, feels that he can be a representative of the player if he wins the election as he can bring the player’s perspective to the annals of the management of the game.
He also mentioned that his dedicated efforts would go into trying to improve the reach of the game in India.
“Chess has benefitted a lot from the Internet and now the game is growing on live coverage and all. I will try to focus on that part. It (my role) will also be slightly India-centric because I will try to expand its reach here. There will be a little bit of everything. I am a chess player, so don’t have much experience in this area,” Anand said.
The champion player said that one has to take into consideration the developments in the world of technology in recent times and use it to the advantage of the sport.
If elected, Anand sees himself as a part of a well-equipped team of professionals who can further the reach of the game.
The Grand Master also shed some light on the merits of good performance on the big stage as they ensure more people are interested in the sport which will subsequently spread the popularity of the game as a lot of people will pick up the discipline on the back of a statement win for the nation.
The 52-year-old believes that the use of technology and streaming services like youtube and twitch to expand the reach of the game and create an active interest in people would end up paying dividends.
He also noted how the online fans are different from the ones that turn up to tournaments, and how the associations and federations need to cater to all types of fans in order to amass a larger fan following.
Anand also shared his thoughts on the use of artificial intelligence. The first grandmaster from India feels that AI is good in terms that it can help reduce the training cost at the highest level, as instructive methods are available on every computer and mobile device thanks to the leaps and bounds mankind has managed to achieve in terms of technological progress. Thus making high-level chess knowledge easy and more accessible.
“Talking about Al, it’s a good thing. It has changed the dynamics and you can’t fight it. But there’s a specific reason why I find it good. It means that the cost and effort of training are continuously dropping, as the most sophisticated training methods become available to every computer and every mobile device. It becomes easier and easier to train and improve yourself.”
He reflected on how nations without a tradition for the game can benefit from the advancements as they are no longer cut off from the world of chess as modern advancements have amplified the reach of the game.
Anand also spoke about the potential of AI to broaden the spectrum of human understanding of the game by making good use of the analytical prowess available on contemporary devices.
“Al is rewriting the game. I’ll tell you why. We all grew up with legendary champions and some of the games that they had played. And this is the basis of chess learning. You study the legendary champions’ game and try to build on that. Well, Al is showing that there are thousand other approaches to learn, which haven’t been tried but which are also interesting. I am not going to study the new conclusions. I am only going to work on the old ones because you have to adapt to these new methods,” he further said.