How special is this victory?
This match was the toughest I’ve played. None of my previous matches went to full length. Till the last play, anything was possible.
We hear it was a weary journey to Sofia.
The whole volcano incident was unexpected but we managed to make it a cheerful excursion. The first game was a shock but I knew it was a long game and didn’t quite lose my cool.
Killer instinct dominates the game, yet you seem to maintain a gentlemanly spirit.
I play best when I’m calm. I try to create that atmosphere and avoid controversies.
What does it take to be a world champ?
I don’t know! I just try to play the best game I can. But it has to be fun. You can cope with the stress as long as chess inspires you.
Your victory clashed with India’s T-20 debacle. Was the media was fair to your feat?
What I want is to come away with the feeling that I gave it my best shot and that’s what I focus on. I don’t really do media analysis.
So Russians don’t rule the game now.
But they’re still a very strong chess country. We now have the niit Mind Champions’ Academy. Russia did it some 18-19 years ago.
Is chess in India equipped to carry forward your legacy?
I’m happy to see a lot of kids playing chess and I’m glad I’m playing a small part in it. With the academy, we’re taking chess to parts where it didn’t have a strong foothold.
What’s the daily regimen of a grandmaster?
It varies from intense work—10-11 hours a day—to light work for the in-between days—3-4 hours a day, trying to learn new moves.
Who has been your role model?
My mother taught me to play chess and I also followed Michael Tal and Bobby Fischer.
And the role of your family?
Initially, both my parents were involved. Aruna (wife) didn’t know anything about chess but caught up very fast.