Anandís Lecture at the Chennai International Centre, 2017

February 14, 2017

Excerpts from the talk Chess: Evolution from Mind to Machine
as reported by IM Venkatachalam Saravanan in FirstPost, Feb. 15, 2017

CIC is a think-tank of intellectuals of Chennai, the patrons and the trustees of the body comprising some of the most eminent personalities of the city. It functions from the campus of the Chennai School of Economics (CSE) at Kotturpuram, Chennai.

Anand is a member of the CIC himself, and the six-time former world champion had a chat show early last week, moderated by international master Venkatachalam Saravanan at the CSE premises. For the evening, Anand chose 'Chess: Evolution from Mind to Machine', as the topic, though he covered various aspects of his life and career, reminiscing about some of the most memorable events and turning points, in his usual witty and engaging manner, revealing aspects of his personality and incidents from major career clashes which he has never talked about before.

Anand started off from the Tal Chess Club in Chennai in the early 1980s. The club functioned from the Soviet Cultural Centre at that time. It was where the teenage Anand's talent was nurtured. He emphasised the format of 'Winner Stays' where about 10 people gather on a board and play blitz chess of five minutes each on the clock, the winner staying on to play on the loop. He opined that the need to play fast and win as much as possible, so as to stay at the board, was probably the main reason how he came to play fast throughout the early phases of his career.

Recalling involving computers in his preparations from the very early days from the late 1980s, Anand gave a detailed, in-depth commentary on how preparing with computers and databases has changed the way players study and play the game. "Earlier, even if you have prepared the same position as your opponent just before the game, there was no certainty that both the preparations would be the same and both the players would have arrived at the same conclusions - that depended on the accuracy of preparation. However, now you just need to give your computer enough time to work the position out completely and give you the same conclusions that your opponent would have, too!" Thus, the uncertainty of mastering a position was reduced, but the charm of surprising an opponent was reduced to a large extent too, which Anand felt was the biggest effect of computers on modern chess.

Anand pointed out that his ability to work with computers has definitely given him an edge over his competitors, as during his world championship match with Kramnik in Bonn in 2008. He revealed that before the match, he found a software, which would enable him to use enormous computers - which cannot be carried around - through the internet, thus giving him a direct boost in preparation for openings. Though he was not certain if that was the main reason for the 'ambush' he sprang on Kramnik in the third and fifth games with black pieces, the technology gave his team a huge belief that they were in possession of a 'secret' weapon which didn't exist in the public domain before the time.

The evening was not bereft of its emotional moments either, as Anand revealed his special relationship with the Spanish couple, Maurice and Nieves Perea, who enabled him to find his footing while living in Europe in the 1990s, as they virtually became his godparents in Europe, and ultimately to establish a base at Collado Mediano in the outskirts of Madrid, Spain where the couple lived.


He also spoke of training with Gurevich, and his championship matches with Gelfand and Topalov. A good read.