After Vishy beat Veselin Topalov to retain the World Chess Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria on May 11, she not only arranged Rediff.com's interview with the King, but also spoke exclusively with Shobha Warrier about about how she, Anand and his team coped with the undue delay at Frankfurt airport because of the volcanic ash across Europe, forcing them to undertake a 40-hour journey by road to get to Sofia, and the two hectic weeks spent there.
Were you and Anand disturbed when you had to spend days at Frankfurt airport waiting for flights to take off?
We were booked through Frankfurt and we were only to spend a night there. We even had our boarding cards, etc, for the next day's flight. Surya Ganguly and Kasim (Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Anand's second) were supposed to join us on the same flight. That was when we came to know that the volcano eruption in Iceland was causing a lot of flight disruptions and that one of the seconds would not be able to get there on time.
At that time we had no idea what was really happening. We thought we would be able to board the next flight and continue the journey.
Luckily, one of the senior managers of Lufthansa was in our team. This really helped us a lot, because he was able to give us the correct information about when the airports would open. He booked us on every possible flight, but then none of them took off.
On Friday, we realised that the airports would not open for the next 4, 5 days. We understood we were fighting against something that we had no control over.
Our worry was to have all the seconds in one place and then start. If they were stuck in different countries it would be difficult to bring them all together in one place.
Radosalav (Wojtaszek), who is Polish, and Peter (Heine Nielsen), who is Danish, came by train. Radosalav sat in a train for 20 hours to reach Frankfurt, that too in a train where it was impossible to even sit.
Above all, our luggage was checked to Sofia. Thanks to our team member who was with Lufthansa, our luggage was taken off by priority. He was the one who arranged a luxury bus to Holland. Because we needed visas for some countries we had to take a longer route.
How would you describe those 40 hours on road?
The journey was 40 hours, but we spent a night at Budapest. The first day went off easily, as it was pleasant, but the second was very long; we travelled close to 16 hours and reached Sofia at three in the morning. That day was very tough.
How was the mood in the bus?
They kept a kind of high morale. They were watching movies and working on chess. What else can you do? All of us understood that the situation was beyond the control of all of us. It was an extreme situation. I think we coped well under the circumstances. The team enjoyed themselves by watching The Lord of the Rings throughout the journey. So, by the time we reached Sofia, we had watched three movies.
Before we left Frankfurt I was guaranteed a day's postponement of the match. So, we knew the match would start on Friday, the 24th, a day later than the original date.
Was it fair?
It was fair. After the opening, Anand still had two days to prepare. Normally, in such championships, you have 3, 4 days to adjust to the place and get familiar with the environment. Here we didn't have that luxury, but two members of our team had already arrived before us and they had made all the arrangements. Even then, you would want to rest the first day and then start.
It was only after the opening ceremony that we settled into some kind of a routine.
Anand lost the first game very fast. How was it for you watching him lose?
It was terrible. It is never easy to watch Anand lose. But, here, it happened so fast and so suddenly that you had no time to react. Topalov played well and confidently, but it was not like Anand at all.
I think it was a one-move blunder by Anand. You know these things can happen, but it is unfortunate that it happened in a World championship.
Was he very disturbed that night?
You can't put the result out of your head, but the important thing was he didn't sit and think about the game. It was not normal that he lost like that, but what was important was he did well in the match.
He went to the gymnasium and worked out for an hour. Then he told the team, 'Let us start working'. Showing that kind of attitude helped the team a lot, because they also take courage from Anand.
If he had showed a negative attitude it would have affected the team too because they give everything they have.
I think Anand showed a lot of mental toughness throughout the match.
It was a big turnaround in the second game...
It was very important that he won that game. That put him back into the match almost immediately. It is not easy, but Anand was able to do it.
Which was the most difficult game for you to watch?
I would say, yesterday's (the final) game was the most difficult to watch. His previous World championship wins were very smooth; we kind of knew he was going to win. Here you knew anything could happen. If Anand had lost, it would have been over.
As the game went on I was getting calls from people from all over asking for his first reaction even if Anand wins or loses. It was very difficult taking those calls. Then, people were saying Topalov always wins the last game and things like that.
Then you tell yourself that chess is a game and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
I thought whatever be the result, we have to take it.
What was your reaction after he won?
In the last one hour into the game we all knew Anand was winning. Even then you tell yourself something can go wrong. You didn't want to be too optimistic. Finally, when the handshake happened, we did not know how to react.
From last February, when we knew it was Topalov that he would play, we kept thinking of this moment, and finally when it happened one really didn't know how to react.
When the team came into the playing hall I really felt happy. The team did not leave the hotel during the whole match. Only when he won did they come over.
How did you celebrate after the victory?
All of us went to an Indian restaurant.
Like last time...
Exactly, like last time... and we had normal Indian stuff.
Are you going to give Anand any special gift this time?
I think this time we will take a nice holiday. That is what both of us deserve right now. After the eighth game, Anand said if he did well we would be going for a holiday to some wildlife sanctuary.
It's been a very tense month; so many things happened. I think if I write a book about this match, it will be quite a thriller!