Anand upbeat about future of Indian chess

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New Delhi, May 5 (UNI) World champion Vishwanathan Anand said India is moving towards a ''chess renaissance'' and stressed the importance of promoting the game as a mass sport in the country.

''India is moving forward to a chess renaissance,'' Anand told CNN IBN. ''You have to build chess as a mass sport in India.

Potentially we are building a huge chess family.'' ''Definitely, I think it is going forward. I think it is important to keep promoting the game and not keep on focussing on what could be,'' he added. ''But you need to work hard, try and popularise the game with every chance.'' Pointing out that India has produced 17 Grand Masters (GM) Anand stated that Indians have a special affinity for chess.

''If you look at your sporting performance, it's really in very few areas. But chess is one sport where we seem to have taken to it naturally,'' he said. ''At the youth level championships, nowadays we have under 12, under 14, under 16, (at) every level its happenning.

''It is very difficult to pinpoint reasons. But I think when India takes to something, it really goes into it big time.

I mean the numbers went up 10-15 times in lots of school competitions from when I was playing.'' He, however, brushed off any comparisons with India's national craze - cricket.

''I think, in India, cricket is a fact of life, you have to accept it,'' Anand remarked. ''I think you can always promote a sport better, but I do not really feel neglected or badly treated in any way.'' Anand refused to go into comparisons when reminded that during the inaugural Twenty20 cricket World Cup last year, Yuvraj Singh received Rs one crore from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for smashing six sixes in an over, whereas he was awarded with a meagre Rs 35 lakhs after becoming world champion.

''The BCCI, which is a cricketing body, if they do something, it's between them. You have wide diiferential in prize money.

I have my prize money as well. So I do not want to complain too much,'' he said. ''In fact, no compalint at all. For a few days, I felt like a complete star here.'' When asked about the motivation to keep playing at the ripe old age of 38, when the average age of players is coming down to the early twenties, Anand replied he enjoys chess and wants to see how long he can continue.

''It's basically, I would say, I enjoy chess. I enjoy the tournament circuit and the challenge that comes from going to tournament,'' he quipped. ''But also I think I am just curious, I am curious to see how long I can go on. Chess is getting more and more interesting. The last few years, we have lots of young players coming along.'' ''I feel it is a challenge, if you can keep competing at the highest level, to keep the world number one ranking, then I think it is okay, it is an obligation to work hard. But let us see how far I can go along.'' When queried on how much of the game is actually mental toughness and how much of it is psychology, he said players psyche their opponents to build pressure on them.

''At the highest levels psychology starts to become a big differentiator because there both have done all the technical work, they are approximately matched in most areas. And that is when psychology plays a part,'' Anand explained. ''That is when all the mind games happen, the idea of getting into the opponent's skin and bringing out the mistakes. Bringing out his deeper weaknesses like nervousness, the tendency to crack under pressure.

You have to build up the pressure, both at the board and off it.'' He admitted that mental factors like dislike for an opponent plays a crucial role.

''Yes, definitely, it helps you concentrate much more,'' Anand stated. ''when I feel I dislike someone, I really do not want to make a mistake. Then your mind ever hardly wants that.'' UNI AB RKM RK1641

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