of the game
At 17, he became
the youngest Grandmaster in the world. Now at 37, he is the king
of the game. He planned his brilliant moves with patience and a
steely determination to recently emerge as the world’s No 1
chess player. M.S. Unnikrishnan traces
the phenomenal career of the genial and low-profile Viswanathan
early in life, Viswanathan Anand proved that he would not be
just another pawn in the hands of his opponents on the
chequerboard as he firmly believed in the dictum that "your
rags are equal to the robes of any monarch". With his self
belief in place, Anand just had to rely on his amazing intuition
and inherent talent to make a mark, enabling him to be way ahead
of his times and peers. He climbed the ladder of success in a
quiet, unhurried manner which, even he thought, would take a
very, very long time to come.
erroneously rated him as a player without fire but Anand has
proved them all wrong with his sustained focus and steely
determination to keep on shifting the goal posts at regular
Anand has created
a virtual chess renaissance in the country through his exploits
as his successes have inspired legions of young and not-so-young
fans to take to the game with amazing passion and determination.
At 37 years, Anand has reached the pinnacle of glory, after
having just been declared the World No I by the FIDE (the World
Chess Federation) with over 2800 Elo rating points, to become
only the sixth player — and first Asian — to occupy the
exalted position. He was also the first non-Russian to win the
Chess Oscar four times— 1997, 98, 2003 and 04 — to be
bracketed among the all-time best in the game.
Though Anand has
the unique distinction of becoming the youngest Grandmaster in
the world, and the first from India, at the age of 17 and
emerging the world champion in 2000, he had to wait till the end
of March, 2007, to be declared the numero uno. (India now boasts
of 15 Grandmasters and 47 International Masters). A country
shorn of sporting excellence, Anand’s feat has come as a whiff
of fresh air, and is a great inspiration for youngsters.
The genial Anand
remained in the shadow of the Russian genius, Gary Kasparov,
till his retirement in 2005. So long as Kasparov was around, no
one else could stake claim to the No I slot. Though Anand’s
chances of taking a shot at the top spot brightened after
Kasparov called it quits, following his defeat at the hands of
Kramnik, the Indian Grand Master faced quite an unexpected
challenge from Bulgarian Grandmaster Vaselin Topalov.
It took Anand an
emphatic title win at the Morelia-Linares Super Grandmasters’
Tournament in mid-March to pip Topalov from the perch with a
lead of 14 points, which he hopes to widen in the coming months
and stay on top as long as he can with a consistent display.
Anand knew that he was closer to the target when he was ranked
fourth in the world by jumping to 2800 Elo rating points last
year, and the Linares victory finally put him on a pedestal.
With the year’s
major tournaments over, Anand’s rivals will have much catching
up to do in events such as the Dortmund Championship in August
and the World Championship in Mexico City in May. (The major
chess events in the world are held from January to March and
Anand has done well to reach the top of the heap in ranking).
The one plume
missing from Anand’s crown after he became the world champion
in 2000 was the No I position. Anand beat Alexei Shirov of
Russia in Tehran (Iran) to become the World Champion. He then
went on to annex the World Cup, the World Rapid and World Blitz
titles as well, but the top ranking eluded him as Kasparov was
firmly entrenched in that position.
Though Anand had
beaten Kasparov in the race for the top rank, the Russian had
always maintained his edge till his pride was dented by Kramnik,
and this hastened his retirement in 2005.
But after Kasparov
quit the scene, the mantle of the No I player fell on Vasile
Topalov, and Anand’s quest to become the World No I remained
unfulfilled until the Linares tournament where Topalov finished
seventh out of the eight participants. (Hungarian-born American
physics professor Arpad Elo had devised the ranking system for
chess players and hence it is known as Elo rating). Anand was
expected to hit the 2800-point Elo rating in 2001 but he
suffered a setback and could not realise his dream, though he
had kept on improving his position after he was bracketed among
the 10 best chess players in the world in July 1991.
Anand is not the
typically dour and serious chess player who keeps a brooding
countenance. He’s pleasant and cheerful, and his immaculate
dress code puts him among the best dressed, though he does not
flaunt his celebrity status and carries himself with quiet
dignity. Anand and his vivacious wife Aruna make a handsome pair
and complement each other brilliantly. Aruna takes care of every
aspect of his life, giving Anand all the time in the world to
focus on chess.
matchless achievements are adrenalin-boosting examples for
others to emulate. With Anand at the helm, and a brilliant role
model at that, there need be no better advertisement for the
game to be popular with one and all.
WINSOME PAIR: Anand with wife Aruna
considered the richest Indian sportsperson with a reported worth
of over Rs 100 crore, sans commercial endorsements. He commands
an "appearance fee" of Rs 46 lakh per tournament,
which is over and above the prize money he wins. For example,
his Linares victory earned him around Rs 1.8 crore in prize
money alone. Yet, he shows no tantrums of a superstar. His
jovial behaviour and rooted-to-the-ground attitude has earned
him countless fans across the globe.
universality could make Viswanathan Anand the best known Indian
sportsperson ever, though tennis legend Vijay Amritraj and now
Sania Mirza have hewn out special places for themselves among
the pantheon of sports icons, too.
Chess has a
smaller, but more rabid, following in around 150 countries,
though in India cricket may surpass chess in popularity. But
Anand has a unique place among sports stars as not since Bobby
Fischer has the chess world seen an icon like him. Fischer,
however, was temperamental, and a recluse.
Anand is the kind
of player who can put even a computer to shame, and no wonder he’s
called the "lightning kid" of chess, who, as the
legend goes, remembers each and every move of every game he has
He is fond of
playing different varieties of chess and particularly enjoys the
advanced kind, wherein computers are at hand for calculations
and database searches. He has won three editions of the Leon
Advanced Chess Tournament in Spain (1999-2001) to prove his
Anand, who has a
fine sense of humour, once said that he was like any other young
player who talked about "birds and bees" whenever he
hung around with like-minded players at leisure time and even
during breaks. A keen follower of other sports and world events,
and subjects such as astronomy and economics, Anand is also a
fitness freak who keeps himself in shape with biking, long walks
and yoga. He is also a polyglot who is fluent in Spanish,
French, German and, of course, English and Tamil. He enjoys the
challenge of learning new languages, and unwinds himself by
listening to music. Though he holds a degree in commerce, he’s
best known as the one with a "Doctorate in Chess".
"Chess is not
just about winning and losing and making the right moves. It’s
about building concentration, analytical abilities and the
competitive spirit among GenNext. It’s a sport whose learnings
extend beyond the chequerboard — spilling over right into
life," Anand had once said. His book My Best Games of
Chess, which has been released in English and German,
postulates his chess credo. The charming and articulate genius
has managed to remain humble and simple, to truly live up to the
boy-next-door image, despite all the adulation. This Chennai lad
mostly lives in Collado Mediano, 48 km from Madrid, and was
named among the 40 most important people in Spain. Being fluent
in Spanish, Anand has been adopted as Hijo Predelicto
(famous son of Spain) and was awarded the Jameo de Oro, one of
Spain’s highest civilian awards.
Indian chess is
indeed poised for a giant leap with Koneru Humpy taking the No 2
position among women in the world and Krishnan Sasikiran all set
to emulate Anand after becoming the No 25-ranked player among
men, being the only other Indian Super GM.
cupboard is full of prestigious awards. He was the youngest recipient of both the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri, the first recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award (the highest honour conferred on a sportsperson by the Government of India), Padma Bhushan and the K.K Birla Foundation’s “Living Legends Award”. Anand is also the only Asian and non-Russian apart from Bobby Fischer to win the Chess Oscar, that too four times. The Chess Oscar award winner is voted by chess journalists from across 75 countries, and the award is held in very high esteem.
was born on December 11, 1969, learnt his early lessons in
chess at the age of six from his mother Susila Viswanathan.
By 14, he was truly the wizkid of Indian chess. He became
an International Master at 15, youngest national champion
ever at 16, Grandmaster at 17, the first Asian to win the
World Junior Championship at Baguio City in the
Philippines in 1987, the FIDE World Cup (Shenyang, China)
and the FIDE World Championship title (Tehran) in 2000 and
the World Cup (Hyderabad) in 2002.
One of his
finest years was 2003 when he bagged six titles in nine
major events. This included his fifth world title — of
World Rapid Chess Champion — when he beat world
classical champion Cap D’Agde of France. Earlier in the
year, he won the title ahead of Kramnik at the Corus GM
Classical Chess Tournament (40 moves in two hours) held in
Wijk Aan Zee (The Netherlands), to establish himself as a
premier player in all forms of the game — rapid, blind
and the classical.
In 1991, he
won one of the strongest tournaments — the Reggio Emilia
title in Italy — ahead of Russian legends Gary Kasparov
and Anatoly Karpov. He became the first Indian — and 15th
overall — world champion in Tehran on December 24, 2000.
Anand remained unbeaten to win the world chess title to
end the Russian domination of a game that traces its roots
to India. He represented India at the Chess Olympiad in
2004 after a 12-year gap. Though India finished sixth
overall, Anand said "I enjoyed the experience and the
boys came up on tops, though we deserved to finish