I've already posted several times on the criticism leveled at Anand and Gelfand for their lackluster play in the latest World Championship match and their pointed responses: see here, here, and here. Both Anand and Gelfand have put Kasparov as public enemy number one for his comments. But you can't make a convincing case that Anand and Gelfand are playing world championship level chess and the problem is just Kasparov is out for revenge when so many players (mentioned in link 3 above, for example) have similar criticisms. It's even more apparent if you look at the live rating of the best players: Anand at number 5 (down 1 place) and Gelfand at number 16 (up 4). Anand struggled against someone not even close to the top 10.
So it's not too surprising to see Anand dial back his sharp criticism of Kasparov and to admit to some of the numerous complaints in a 2 part interview on the Chessvibes website. The defense is basically an admission of some problems (yes my play has declined) but the problems aren't as bad as you're hearing (because Gelfand prepared so well). Part 1 of the interview addresses lots of issues. His play in the Bundesliga: "I don't know, I just went nuts in that game, it's not even serious, my play. I just got annoyed and started making very angry moves... But the point is that I was trying to build some confidence with these games in the Bundesliga, but it didn't help very much." and "To pretend that these Bundesliga games actually were positive for me in some ways would be a bit much, but let's say they maybe had a silver lining.". On the rumors of Kasparov offering help to Gelfand: "But I did think Garry would offer his help. Not to get into details, but I think it's not a big secret that Garry and me are not the best friends anymore.".
How does Anand respond to criticism by Short on Anand's poor form?: "It's no secret that a lot of people thought the same thing. But in Wijk  I played extremely well, I was pleased with plus four, it was a good result. But after that, Bilbao, Tal, London, I played so badly, and then I don't give the impression of someone who is recovering in the Bundesliga. I think a lot of people continued with this impression, perhaps even some people in the local audience in Moscow, they were still remembering this horrible player from the Tal Memorial and they were not able to adjust." and then Anand responds to the criticism by making it seem that the poor world championship showing was more a symptom of good preparation by Gelfand not allowing him [Anand] to look good: "Everything let's say Nigel and Garry said, could be used: he's old, he's fed up, he's moved on, whatever. Any of this could have been said about Kasparov in London in 2000 as well. There he lost game 2, he was lost in game 4, I think he was worse in game 6, in game 8 he was not worse out of the opening and in game 10 he lost. I think it's only around game 12 and 14 that he even stabilized with Black. I'm not even mentioning the white games because there was nothing happening. So my point is, when your opponent has neutralized you, it's very difficult to do wonderful things." and "...It may be that I was playing badly in Moscow but it's also obvious to me that that's not the only explanation; it could also be that Boris was just playing very well.": When questioned on the lack of motivation theory (perhaps the interviewer doesn't agree with the preparation defense?) Anand says, "I found that sometimes inexplicable things happen in my games. You can maybe attribute this to motivation. I'm not talking about this match, I'm talking about many years of play. I found that certain days I'll play very strangely, certain days I'll play very well." but it all comes back to defense number 1: "From the outside it's often easy to lead to conclusions, but that's the point I would make again: that it's not clear to me that my play was the only problem, it was also Boris's play.".
So we're getting some indication that Anand thinks his play wasn't the best. Part 2 of the interview has Anand taking blame for his quick draw in Game 12. I mentioned Kramnik being shocked at Anand offering the draw just when Gelfand had weakened his position so that things weren't equal anymore and, in addition, Gelfand was starting to run low on time: " Of course it was a mistake not to play on for a few moves, not because there's anything in the position, I think Black still has full compensation. I strongly disagree that I had some hope in the position. OK, he has to find a way to at least liquidate the queenside or exchange a pair of pawns and double somewhere there. At least he would have had to show something." followed by "So I have some mild regret and I can understand some of the criticism. Here you can really say there's no harm in us playing out a few moves." and "But, yes, it was a mistake. It was a wrong reflex as a result of just not adjusting in time. If fans complain that we stopped early, I respect that. I think it was a mistake.".
Anand also admits to his confusion during the rapid portion of the match, "I had the feeling I had nailed the draw, and then I got myself confused. First of all, it's just a trivial draw if I play a Kh5 somewhere, it's just a trivial draw. There were just a lot of things wrong. Both of us were hallucinating a lot. But still at the end of it, if you ask me, I would have to say that I was lucky. You can't pretend that there's some logic to all this." which he emphasizes again, "Yes, I was lucky, I can't argue with that.". For Game 4: "But my play in game 4 was ridiculous, there's no getting around that.". In addressing the frustration of chess players for the quality of play, "...in the press conferences you started to get this sensation, this frustration, and I could very easily imagine what the public was saying. I could even almost partly understand where it was coming from. But we were trying, we were just not getting very interesting positions because our preparation with Black was quite good. Neither of us was getting very interesting openings to do something with.
I could understand the criticism, but somehow I felt the main thing was to actually focus on the match. I mean, if you start playing for the gallery, it can get quite tricky." His response to Kamsky's criticism of too much preparation and not enough playing chess was odd: "There are arguments for 960; I don't think this is the only one. I'll put it this way: I think also Boris and me, our styles are particularly badly matched. We both tend to play in a certain way and prepare in a certain way which, if we're both well prepared, might not lead to very much. We showed this a little bit here. I tend to prepare my black opening well, he tends to do the same, we tend to defend well, and so on. I mean, with different players... I don't think chess is dead.". It sounds like he's rejecting the criticism of chess being dead because good preparation made the match dull...but the criticism is about too much preparation, which Anand seems to be acknowledging. The criticism also contends that the players took quick draws rather than play things out. That, too, he's also admitted earlier.
By the end of the interview, it sounds like Anand is finally admitting his problems. In his upcoming plans Vishy says, "The first thing is that I would like to do well in my upcoming tournaments. It's not only other people who have been disappointed about my tournament results last year. I'll play some tournaments this year and I understand that autopilot will not be good enough. I have to do something and in a way that's kind of my goal right now." followed by, " I understand that after three failed tournaments people are a bit fed up with my play but at least in this match I think I got the job done. I don't think I was playing particularly badly, I simply think Boris played well.".
So there you have it. Anand is at least starting to admit the problems everyone knows while clinging to the defense that it's not as bad as it looks because Gelfand was well prepared. Anand's defense that Gelfand's preparation is a big factor in his play looking badly is just feeble. Even after his good results Gelfand is still 100 points behind Carlsen. If Anand thinks Gelfand's defense makes him look worse then he'll be shocked how a stronger player like Carlsen who fights to win will be able to make his play look even worse. I expect a difficult road ahead for Anand in trying to even get his rating above the 2800 mark.
Since Chessvibes has provided some excellent reading I've added it to the list of links on the sidebar.