10/4/07

Salute to a great champion - Viswanathan Anand

. 10/4/07

In an age of ephemeral celebrity-worship and incessant hype in the world of sport, Anand stands, solitary and tall, on a summit that no other Indian sportsperson is going to reach in a long while.


It was a long wait for Viswanathan Anand and his millions of fans but one that was eminently worth it. The Indian Grandmaster’s coronation as the undisputed champion of the chess world in Mexico City is significant in more ways than one. He is the first non-Russian since the American genius Bobby Fischer in 1972 to hold the No.1 rank and the world title at the same time. He is also the only man to win the world crown undefeated in the knockout format (2000) and in the round-robin event (2007). Runner-up in 1995 to Garry Kasparov and in 1998 to Anatoly Karpov, Anand has reasons to consider this world title as the finest in his magnificent career. In 2000 some in the chess world did not consider him the true world champion since his title victory came in the absence of Vladimir Kramnik, who had dethroned Kasparov. There is absolutely no such doubt now: the field, which included Kramnik, was stronger than what Anand faced seven years ago. What separates the Indian genius from his peers is the consistency with which he has kept winning. Two world titles, two World Cups, and several major titles in the classical as well as the rapid versions testify to his versatility as a performer. If world ranking is the barometer of a sportsperson’s form and consistency, Anand has the unique distinction of being in the top three of the game for more than ten years. Further, he has not once finished outside the top three in a tournament since May 2002.

From the time Anand made his mark on the world stage, his quick, instinctive style of play has shone through. It is a style that has not lost its charm notwithstanding the fact that in recent months he has been using up more time while contemplating moves. “Perhaps, I see more on the board now,” is an insight offered by the man who used to be known as the ‘lightning kid.’ Over the last few years, Anand’s victories with black pieces have been on the rise while his defeats with white remain a rarity. His success, style, and persona have combined to give Indian chess an idol unmatched in any other individual sport in the country. Since becoming the world junior champion and India’s first Grandmaster, both in 1987, Anand has scripted a silent revolution in chess in India. He is also responsible for transforming sports journalism in the country by obliging the news media to cover the most cerebral of sports competently. Today India has 15 Grandmasters and several age-group champions in world and continental meets; and every schoolchild knows who provided the inspiration. In an age of ephemeral celebrity-worship and incessant hype in the world of sport, Anand stands, solitary and tall, on a summit that no other Indian sportsperson is going to reach in a long while.



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