“I love to play when a lot of people are watching”
Interview by Ingemar Falk
You have had an excellent boost in your chess career. You won Tata Steel Challengers 2018, and earlier you also crossed the 2700 barrier as the 4th Indian player in history. How do you explain this successes?
“I managed to cross 2700 elo rating in August 2017 and then increase it all the way to 2723. I think the main reason for my success in Tata Steel was my consistent play. I got a bad position in one game only, where I managed to make a draw, and in most of the other games, I was pressing for a win. Whereas my competitors lost more than one game.”
What is your strength as a chess player?
“I feel that I am an intuitive chess player with a good feel for placement of the pieces. That is why I play quite well in blitz.”
You have had several coaches, like GM Alon Greenfeld and GM Abhijit Kunte during the last years. What does your coaching team look like today?
“To be honest, I never had a full-time coach. I have worked with these GM’s occasionally, like 3-4 weeks in a year. I am slowly looking to build a permanent team as other top professionals do.”
Following the Indian chess scene, you notice the pressure from media and fans in your country. How do you handle that pressure?
“I love to play when there is an audience and when a lot of people are watching. That is why I enjoyed very much playing in Tata Steel, where every day the playing arena used to be crowded with chess fans. I find that it motivates me and encourages me to give my best.”
Viswanathan Anand is, of course, the big hero in India. When do you think we will see a world champion from India again?
“Anand is, of course, a legend. As I say this, he has won another tournament, The Tal memorial in Russia. It’s a very safe bet to say that there will be another World Champion from India. I feel that, recently, the Indian chess scene regarding players is on the rise and already this year we have a powerful team for the Olympiad. There is Anand, Harikrishna, me and another two very strong 2660+ GMs. With such a force India won’t be considered an underdog anymore.”
And can it be you? What is your goal in your chess career?
“I wish to become a World Champion. It’s every player’s dream. On a realistic note, I must say that my play needs to evolve a lot more to say with certainty, that I can even come close to becoming a World Champion. But yes, it’s always at the back of my mind. I know that if I do the right things, I can have a shot at it.”
Hasselbacken Chess Open in 2016 was your first visit to Stockholm. Since then, you and many other Indian players choose to play chess in Sweden. What is so special with Sweden?
“It was wonderful last time. The place is lovely. It’s gorgeous and the people were amiable and warm. Overall it left a very positive vibe. I didn’t see a lot of Stockholm, and I would love to explore and see more of it! I am glad that I have the opportunity to be back here again.”
What are your expectations for TePe Sigeman Chess Tournament 2018?
“As the top seed of the tournament, I am definitely aiming for first place!”
What was your favourite chess opening when you were twelve years old?
I loved to play the Classical Sicilian and attack wholeheartedly on the queenside!”
And your preferred chess opening nowadays?
“Something more Solid and respectable than Classical Sicilian!”
What’s your best tip to more easily fall asleep at nights during a chess tournament?
“Some drink red wine, I prefer to read something light-hearted.”
Do you have any superstitions when you sit down at the chess board before a tournament game?
“Every chess player has. Some of them are crazy. I used to think if I see an Audi before the game I will win!“
Who was your first chess trainer?
“Mr. Sunil Sharma from my hometown, Nasik.”
How much chess do you study on an average day?
“On an average somewhere around 6-8 hours.”
Who is your best chess fan?
“My family! Even when I played horrible, they think I played well!”
When you think of Sweden, which three things pop up first in your mind?
“Beautiful Stockholm. Warm people. Great public transport.”