Anand in the news: Time, Sportstar and other stories

10/25/2007 – Having regained the World Championship title, Anand is currently on a “vacation” in India, where he is being "felicitated" and showered with gifts. Time for the game’s finest ambassador to reflect on what chess has given him, and how it can be promoted as a spectator sport. And to reveal details on the strategies that led to his dramatic success. We have links and excerpts.

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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.


NDTV: 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.

The 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

Gulfnews: 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]

The 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 their hero

Navhind 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 ‘overwhelmed’.


The fire crackers drew the attention of the residents but also scared the chariot horses

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.


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