Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand feels chess has adapted quite well to the coronavirus-forced lockdowns across the globe by simply going online just as he has been doing to stay in touch with family while being stuck in Germany for a couple of months now. Also Read - Lockdown in Delhi: Containment Zones in Capital Rises to 102 as COVID-19 Tally Crosses 17,000-mark - Full List Here
Anand had gone to Germany in February to compete for SC Baden OOO in the Bundesliga Chess. However, travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have ensured that he has been unable to return home. Also Read - Theatres to Reopen by June 30, Not Sooryavanshi But Hollywood Biggies to Release First to Check Footfalls?
“I would say Germany is pretty comfortable. I am in a small town. I have had a chance to go out a couple of times for a walk…of course, keeping a safe distance,” he told PTI from his current base near Frankfurt. Also Read - 'Rs 20 Lakh Crore Package a 'Major Step' in Making India 'Atamnirbhar': Read Full Text of PM Modi's Letter to Nation
“Also, (I) do some shopping and essential stuff like that. I have friends living nearby and that’s a big comfort,” he said.
The 50-year-old reflected on sports in time of worldwide lockdowns and said chess seems to have coped well so far. “Nobody really knows what the impact (of COVID-19) on the economy will be. First of all, let’s take chess. Chess was already something that happened a lot on the internet. So, it has been relatively smooth to adapt to going completely online,” he pointed out.
“Even so, it is a bit of shock that so many tournaments got cancelled and everyone is sitting at home. playing chess on the internet is lot of fun
“(But) organising a chess tournament (online) requires some skill. Where do you place the arbiter? How do you monitor things? and so on…yet chess has adapted relatively easily,” he added.
As for how he has been doing while being away from his family for such a long duration, Anand said he has tried to stay positive by devoting time to some aspects of his game, which he ignored earlier.
“I have a chance to do some chess work that I never had time for. I have a lot of time to wander around the internet just looking for information on this or that.
“One nice thing is that not only do I have a fair amount of free time, I have a lot of old friends who also have a lot of free time and we are able to connect and talk a lot,” Anand said.
The Chennai-based legend said he is pretty comfortable overall.
“Germany is having a mild case of coronavirus in the sense that their mortality rate is very low. People here seem fairly relaxed. All in all the only problem is that I am cut off from home but otherwise I am doing okay here,” he said.
While in Germany, Anand enjoyed his maiden commentary assignment during the Candidates event in Yekatrinburg in Russia, which was called off mid-way due to the pandemic.
“When it first emerged that flights home would not be available I had a chance to do some chess commentary. I commentated on the Candidates event that was happening in Russia. It was an enjoyable, new experience for me.
“I got a chance to follow a chess tournament through the eyes of a fan in a sense. That was enjoyable for the 10 days or so that it happened, then the event was postponed half-way through,” he added.
Anand said he stays in touch with his family over video calls.
“I am in constant touch with my family thanks to technology. We stay in touch over phone and video calls. I chat with my son (Akhil) over phone and video calls.” he added.
The Grandmaster also participated in an online exhibition event, along with five other top Indian players, to raise funds for the CARES Fund to fight the deadly outbreak in India.
The country has recorded over 500 deaths and more than 18,000 positive cases so far.