GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly recently started a very promising interview series on his new YouTube channel. The first guest was none other thanfive-time world champion Viswanathan Anand.
The Covid-19 pandemic has put the world on a stand-still but for a few exceptions, like the chess world. Online chess is booming, and how! Earlier this year, Chess.com's CEO @Erik wrote about Chess.com's incredible growth and how this situation has turned into a blessing in disguise for online chess. Without the pandemic, we would have probably never seen GM Hikaru Nakamura's Twitch channel blow up, witness the amazing PogChamps event, or see top elite players like GM Anish Girishare his thoughts onstreaminstead of Twitter.
Another silver-lining has been Indian GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly's in-depth candid interviews on his new YouTube channel with elite players like five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand, two-time world cup winner Levon Aronian and GM Harikrishna Pentala.
A former Asian continental champion and six-time Indian national champion, Ganguly (@suryaganguly) recently started his own YouTube channelwith the title "Surya Chess Talk." He began with an in-depth, four-part chat with his long-time boss Anand. Every episode has fascinating insights, untold stories, and candid conversations between two top chess players for the world to enjoy. Every episode also featured some unseen chess games, opening preparation, and astounding game analysis.
In episode one, Ganguly has a long list of questions that Anand answers gracefully. When asked about his chess idol while growing up, Anand replies: "My sister found a chess book by Horowitz and read the first few names and then I must have eventually found my way to Fischer and later to Tal, Karpov, and so on." Later, when enquired about the huge amount of opening work done by top players, Anand answered it beautifully: "The only reason you get to play a middlegame is because you study your openings!"
"The only reason you get to play a middle-game is because you study your openings!"Viswanathan Anand
Ganguly's lack of experience as a presenter is compensated with his well-prepared list of questions that tread lightly on serious educative questions as well as funny incidents and fun stories like how Anand had saved one of his opening files as 'Rasam' (a South Indian soup dish), the reason being if someone would have broken into the latter's computer then they wouldn't suspect that! The pun for Anand was that it was literally 'food for thought!'
Anand later also shares a funny story when he got Akhil's (Anand's son) nursery rhyme stuck in his head during his world championship match against GM Boris Gelfand in Moscow, 2012.
Ganguly then shares his first chess interaction with Anand that happened back in 2005 when the latter had visited the famous Alekhine Chess Club in Kolkata to give a 40-board simul. In one of the games, Anand played GM Deep Sengupta, who was then a 17-year-old International Master. The duo then discussed extensive lines from this tactically rich game. Watch the video below:
In the next episode, Ganguly starts off with a story where the duo was sharing a cab ride in Berlin before the World Rapid & Blitz Championship in 2015. The German taxi driver couldn't believe his ears on learning that he had just dropped off the five-time world champion.
Later, when Ganguly hailed Anand as the 'King of Comebacks' for his impressive wins at the Candidates 2014 and the World Rapid Championship in Riyadh, the latter replied that initially, he was not intending to play in Riyadh at all. It took some persuasion from FIDE and his wife to eventually play.
Anand later opined: "Generally when I don't have expectations it goes well. But, unfortunately, this trick doesn't work well if I tell myself I have no expectations. It works well when I really don't have any expectations."
Ganguly then proceeds to share the story of how he was invited to Anand's team of seconds before the Bonn match against Kramnik in 2008. They share the work and fun moments the team enjoyed at Bad Soden, Germany. Though most of these stories have been featured extensively in Anand's autobiography "Mind Master" and another fascinating read, The Anand Files: The World Championship Story 2008-2012by Michiel Abeln, the highlight of the lot was Ganguly getting infected by chickenpox during the Kramnik match in 2008. In fact, Anand and his wife Aruna both got the infection immediately after the match ended.
On this, Ganguly then expressed: "Even today I thank god that it didn't happen during the match because I would have then become a national villain and also I could have never forgiven myself you know for giving chickenpox to Anand during a world championship match."
"Even today I thank god that it didn't happen during the match because I would have then become a national villain and also I could have never forgiven myself you know for giving Chickenpox to Anand during a world championship match."Surya Ganguly
The duo then briefly discuss all three successful world championship matches for Anand where they worked together. Preparations for the Kramnik match were discussed, controversies surrounding the Topalov match in Sofia were brought up and then some vicious, unseen preparation in the Gelfand match was shared.
In the third episode, Anand's wife and manager Aruna Anand joins the show and shares her story on Anand's journey. She speaks eloquently about Anand's habits, behavior, moods, emotions during a world championship match, and their son, Akhil. She says that Akhil has taken up chess alongside various things. "But, he has a chess coach now and also plays online. He immediately sends his games to Vishy for analysis!"
Ganguly smartly planned this episode's live stream on June 27, which is the wedding anniversary of the Anands. A funny but well-known incident about their wedding anniversary is when Aruna had set this date 27/06 (in India, the day is written ahead of the month) as a password to their locker. Anand was perplexed and told Aruna that FIDE has rounded off ratings so, it should be 2705(!) while totally forgetting about his anniversary.
The entire episode is quite intriguing, especially the part about Aruna's work as Anand's manager during the world championship negotiations and contracts but the highlight is definitely the rapid-fire section.
In the last episode of "In conversation with Viswanathan Anand," Ganguly opens up the floor to his viewers for his live stream. He says he was flooded with questions on his phone and social media and dedicated an entire episode to it. Several Indian grandmasters, titled players, amateurs, and chess lovers had their doubts and questions answered by Anand. Check out the entire video:
Interviewer and guest share a great friendship and chemistry. Ganguly often refers to Anand as his boss and compliments him throughout the series much like anyone would do to their childhood hero. He also claims that he is super grateful to get a chance to work alongside Anand, who has educated him in all walks of life and not just chess.
Ganguly was the "ball-boy" for Anand's games back in 1992. He finally got a chance to play his childhood idol in his home town of Kolkata at the Tata Steel Chess India 2018 event and was also able to score a massive upset by beating him as Black.
Ganguly told Chess.com: "The experience so far was unprecedented. I knew that the audience will enjoy every bit fo the time spent with these legends. But what I didn't think was that I will be able to bring out so many unknown sides of these greats and I could create an opportunity for the people to understand them as human beings as they are, how they feel, and think both over and off the board.
"The entire credit goes to Vishy. He responded frankly to all my questions and I myself have never encountered any interview session of such content on any live streaming channel anywhere.Actually, I am more than happy it occurred this way because this is what I wanted to provide through my chess channel: a sincere approach to quality chess content for the people who truly love the game. I felt this sincerity was lacking a bit when it comes to YouTube chess channels. I am not in any kind of race for subscribers and it's definitely not for personal gain. If there's a handful of sincere viewers of my channel, I would keep doing my shows for them."
Ganguly continues: "Apart from the interview series, there is also another solo show of mine named "Fun-learning Unlearning," where I share my chess thoughts and discuss a few positions that I liked while I studied them. I know the show is a bit on the higher side of chess standard and might not be easy for beginners to take part in, especially when a number of IMs and GMs are present in the live chat. But, to be very honest, I did it consciously. There is a number of chess materials available on YouTube but this gives them a life-time opportunity to grasp content like this at their own speed and appreciate it. I know it would definitely help them to grow and appreciate the beauty of this divine game."
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