India's Great Chess Hope
As anyone who has ever driven in this country knows, Indians are a competitive
bunch. So why, then, with a billion-plus people, does the country lag so far
behind on the sports field? Sure, India remains a major cricket power, and
you wouldn't count it out of any men's field hockey tournament. But Indians
have won just three medals at the last three summer Olympics, two bronze and
one silver. Compare that to the medal haul over the same period of their neighbor
and fierce rival, China: 172 medals, including 76 gold. "It's one of
the things that nags Indians – why we're so bad at sports," says
Viswanathan Anand, the number one-ranked chess player in the world and the
winner last month of the World Chess Championship in Mexico City. "Kind
of a mystery."
The Times story describes the beginnings of a player who is treated as India's
greatest current sportsman. Anand's mother taught him the game when he was just
six. A couple of years later his family moved to the Philippines for a year,
right after the country had been the venue for the Karpov-Korchnoi match. Anand
"just got sucked inot the whole scene." Back home in Madras he won
his first big tournament, at 16 he won the national championship, and by 18
he had become India's first grandmaster. Anand:
"It was a world which is even difficult to imagine these days. Magazines
took months to arrive by mail, and Chennai [Madras] felt like a distant outpost.
Nowadays geography doesn't matter as much. If I want to play someone on the
other side of the world I can just start a game online. Back then we used
to photocopy games and send them around."
From learning chess to learning from chess, World champion Viswanathan Anand
has come a long way. All along this fascinating journey, Anand has overcome
challenges, stayed away from controversies, and charted his course to success
by staying focussed on the job on hand.
Having regained the World title and reinforced his position at the top of the
world rankings, Anand is on a “vacation” in India. Now, the game’s
finest ambassador has some time to acknowledge what chess has given him and
also see how it can be promoted as a spectator sport in the country.
Anand during his triumphal homecoming in his native city of Chennai
Anand also shared his views with Sportstar on next year’s World Championship
match against challenger Vladimir Kramik of Russia; the complex rules, his preferred
championship format, the possible return of the team of “seconds”
and more. This “pretty practical” practitioner of the cerebral sport
has lots to say. Excerpts:
‘Always do something that you like’
Anand interview with in Rakesh Rao for Sporstar Weekly
On the influence of chess on his life: Chess has had a huge
influence on how I’ve turned out as someone, who has travelled to a lot
of countries. I like visiting countries and I think, at least, I retain little
pieces of the many countries that I’ve been to. That experience wouldn’t
have come to me without chess.
Whether chess can be a spectator sport: It definitely can
be a spectator sport. If you have seen chess online, then you see that it has
all the ingredients to be a spectator sport. The question is how we can translate
that to say, television or something. The first thing is, we have to organise
a classy, nice event. You need commentary. Commentary is the main thing that
you have got to do.
On the 2008 World Championship match against challenger Kramnik:
Okay, at some point, I’ll have to defend my title. And now I’ll
take a look at what my obligations are and see what my options are. I don’t
want to comment more on that till we’ve actually done the negotiations.
This clause (of dethroned champion Kramnik getting a one-time right to challenge
Anand) is ridiculous and I hope that it never comes back in the future. But
we’ll deal with that. You’ve been in chess long enough to know that
anything can happen any time. So hold your breath.
The preferred World Championship format: I think what we had
in Mexico (2007) and San Luis (2005) are the best. (In these championships,
eight qualified players played on a double round-robin format). First of all,
it’s attractive to have four games (involving all eight players) a day.
If you have one game and that fizzles out, spectators have to come back two
days later. Not a dream format, in my opinion.
Note that in the original interview Anand also says, in reply to an earlier
question: "I personally like the match format. It's a much better format."
We asked him about the contradiction. Turns out it was an error by the editor
– "game", "tournament", "match" are terms
that are not clearly differentiated in non-chess circles. Anand definitely
said or meant that he prefers the tournament format.
Whether his “seconds”: I’ve grown from this
phase of carrying three or four people for a match. Clearly, you need one permanent
guy. Peter Heine Nielsen (a Danish Grandmaster) is clearly important in that
sense. I’ve worked with a lot of people in the past few years. In May,
I worked with Sasikiran for three days, then Sandipan (Chanda) came for about
ten days. I liked the idea so much that I asked Saravanan, Konguvel, Ashwath,
Deepan and M. R. Venkatesh and so on to join me for a day. Every time someone
comes along, you work a bit and I think the main thing is to build a pool of
ideas and to work spontaneously.
On being intimidated by anything in sport or life: I don’t
have many things. In general, I am pretty practical. Like the World Championship,
the format and all this. The concessions to Kramnik and Topalov. It bugs me
but at some point, I am practical also. I realise that, okay, either I have
to play or I have to be bugged. It is difficult to do both.
Anand meets Rahul Dravid
World chess champion Viswanathan Anand met former India cricket captain Rahul
Dravid during a felicitation ceremony. Anand was felicitated by the members
of the All India Chess Federation. The former India captain praised the chess
champion in return for triggering an Anand effect especially among young people
who are trying to follow Anand's example by taking the road less travelled.
Along with those compliments, Anand was given a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh by
the president of the Asian Chess Federation.
Editorial notes: A "lakh" is an Indian term denoting 100,000,
so the ten lakh Anand receives is one million Rupees, which translates to
17,800 Euros or US $25,000. If you are interested in the Indian numbering
system, a hundred lakhs make a "crore", which is ten million. Indians
talk in lakhs and crores, and are not hot on "millions". Finally:
a "felicitation" is "an expression of good wishes or congratulation;
the act of acknowledging that someone has an occasion for celebration."
There are no naughty implications, whatever a British GM friend may think.
Hindu: Karunanidhi presents Rs 25 lakhs to Anand
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on Wednesday presented a cash award
of Rs 25 lakh to Viswanathan Anand for winning his second World Chess Chamionship
title in Mexico. Congratulating him for bringing laurels to the country and
state, the Karunanidhi presented the cheque to Anand, who was accompanied by
his wife Aruna at the Secretariat here. The state Government had presented Anand
a High Income Group (HIG) flat at SAF Games Village here when he won the world
championship title for first time in 2000.
Once again: Rs. 25 lakh = 2.5 million = 44,000 Euros = US $63,000.
A pumpkin is lit to ward off the evil eye, opposite Anand and Aruna's house
Anand's success boost for the game in Asia
Shaikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Shakhboot Al Nahyan, president of the
Asian Chess Federation (ACF), arrived in Chennai, India, to take part in the
felicitation of Grand Master Viswanathan Anand, the world chess champion. Shaikh
Sultan told Gulf News: "Anand's victory is not only a big achievement for
India, but for entire Asia and will surely help in spreading and developing
the game in the world's most populated continent." Shaikh Sultan's keen
support for the game in Asia was hailed as one of the reasons behind the success
of Asians at the international level.
Viswanathan Anand being presented a memento by Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa
Al Nahyan, President, Asian Chess Federation, in Chennai on Monday, as former
Indian cricket captain Rahul Dravid and AICF president N. Srinivasan look on.
[Photo: R. Ragu for the Hindu]
Hindu: It’s AICF’s turn to honour Anand
World chess champion Viswanathan Anand was felicitated by the All India Chess
Federation at a function here on Monday in the presence of Asian Chess Federation
(ACF) president Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan. “These receptions
mean as much as the World Championship,” said Anand. “It’s
amazing to see all the kids here. I hope I can win a few more tournaments so
I can come back for a few more.”
The Velammal School band greets Anand near his home in Besant Nagar
[Indian cricket captain] Rahul Dravid was lavish in his praise for the 38-year-old
genius. “Three things make Anand very special. Firstly, winning the World
Championship twice is an amazing statistic. It reflects his consistency, determination
and the hunger for success. Secondly, he has shown the way for the rest of the
country. He did it on his own, and has set a benchmark. It is a lot easier when
you have a set path, which makes his achievements phenomenal. Finally, the tangible
effect he has had on his sport has been huge. When I see these young kids (players
who welcomed Anand) I can see in their eyes what Anand means to them. He has
been an inspiration to all of us."
Schoolboys line up and prepare to light fire crackers on the road to greet
Times: Meeting V Anand was a thrilling experience, says Ivana Furtado
World Under-8 girls champion Ivana Maria Furtado attended World Champion
Viswanathan Anand’s felicitation in Chennai on Monday. During the function,
Ivana was asked to present a bouquet to the world champion. The crowd broke
into a spontaneous rapture as India’s youngest champion and the seniormost
champion came face to face on the stage. Ivana also described this moment as
‘absolutely thrilling’ and her father Mr Eli said that she was simply
The fire crackers drew the attention of the residents but also scared the
Pictures provided by Arvind Aaron
And: coming soon to a chess news site next to you...
What makes Anand tick? What are his biggest assets? What's with the music,
astronomy, wild-life safaris and salsa? Why is he not a cosmologist, and will
he make it to the moon or mars? Why does he tend to laugh in the most bizarre
situations? What about the famous train ride incident? And would you like to
meet his and wife Aruna's parents? Well, we advise you to reserve 19 minutes
and 55 seconds for a special treat we will bring you this weekend.