Master of the Universe, Lord of the Rings

11/7/2008 – What does the name "Viswanathan" mean? The original Sanskrit translates to "Master" (nath) "of the Universe" (vishwa). Anand himself somewhat flippantly tells us it means "Lord of the Rings". The Indian magazine Sportstar chose the former translation for the title page of its latest issue, which devotes a cover story and an indepth interview to the Indian World Champion. Long interesting read.

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Master of all formats

By vanquishing Vladimir Kramnik in matchplay, Viswanathan Anand has not only won the World title but also gained greater credibility, acceptance and more importantly, attained greatness, writes Rakesh Rao.

“Indians must be jubilant today. Of course, it is natural. But you cannot imagine how happy the chess loving people of Germany are or for that matter, even those from Spain. Viswanathan Anand belongs to all.”

Grandmaster Arthur Yusupov had aptly summed up the mood of Anand’s fans in these parts of the world. These words came within minutes of Anand ending Vladimir Kramnik’s resistance to keep the World chess title.

At the packed Art and Exhibition Hall in Bonn, Anand received a standing ovation for over two minutes after he received the winner’s trophy. An elite crowd, mostly Germans, later applauded Anand even more vociferously when he made part of his thanks-giving speech in German and acknowledged the support of the people of Bonn.

Anand is admired in several countries, especially in Europe. Like Raj Kapoor in the former Soviet Union, Prakash Padukone in Indonesia, Sachin Tendulkar in all cricket-playing nations and V. V. S. Laxman in Australia, Anand too enjoys a special place in the hearts of people from Europe. Apart from his unmatched exploits on the chessboard, what sets Anand apart is his demeanour. His middle-class upbringing, genial ways and a friendly smile combine to make a lasting impression. He is well informed because he is well read. He is articulate because he has a way with words.

Ironically, Anand’s own countrymen have neither seen nor heard him enough.

In the past decade, Anand has played only twice in India. In 2000, he defeated six opponents in the World Championship before finishing off the job against Alexei Shirov in Teheran. Two years later, Anand beat the field to win the World Cup in Hyderabad. Since then, Anand has had no opportunity to work his magic, even remotely to what he did in Bonn for just over two weeks.

Unlike in India, chess is a major spectator sport in most European countries. For instance, in Bonn, spectators happily paid 35 euros and 280 euros to witness one game of the World Championship. Chess lovers queued up an hour before the start of a game to gain entry and grab vantage points in the dimly lit auditorium. Several others returned home disappointed because tickets were all sold out!

Chess is clearly an action sport with a difference. And Anand provides the spectators plenty of on-board thrills with the way he foxes his rivals. Once known for the speed of thoughts and the ability to make mental calculations faster than any other player, Anand has now slowed down in order to maintain his consistency at the highest level. But even his ‘slow’ play is faster than most of his contemporaries.

Unlike Kramnik or Peter Leko, Anand’s inclination for attacking positions makes his games a joy to follow. The way he squeezed out a splendid victory to demoralise Kramnik in the third game will be recalled by the connoisseurs of the game for a long time. And the manner in which he lured the Russian to his doom in the fifth game is another example of doing just what is required to render a rival defenceless.

On the other hand, in spite of his penchant for dynamic positions, Anand has vastly improved his defensive skills. Kramnik realised it during the second half of the match.

In the opinion of Australia’s first Grandmaster Ian Rogers, “Anand is a pragmatist, even a philistine, who would play bad moves if he thought they would confuse his opponent and lead to a win. Thanks to his incredible feel for the game, Anand has played just as many masterpieces as Kramnik.”

After delighting the chess fans for the better part of the last 25 years with his breath-taking speed, Anand has moved on in his bid to become a more complete player. “Now he is truly a universal champion,” declared Hans Walter Schmitt, the organiser of the annual Chess Classic at Mainz and one of Anand’s close friends since 1994. “But more important is, he is a fine boy. Success has not changed him in all these years.

"You won’t find people like him here. He is a gentleman who has handled success well,” said the German.

Anand’s prowess in every time-format is already a part of the chess folklore. In classical chess, he is a two-time winner of the World Cup. He holds the record for winning the title five times at the annual chess destination of Wijk aan Zee, near Amsterdam. He has also won major titles at Linares and Dortmund.

Anand holds what appears to be an unbreakable record at Mainz where he has won the Chess Classic in rapid format every year since it moved from the nearby Frankfurt in 2001. His domination at Leon and Corsica, where the shorter version of the game is more popular, is unmatched.

Winner of the World blitz title in 2000 and the annual blindfold and rapid competition on a few occasions, there is no doubt about his range of skills. No wonder then that Anand has been honoured with the prestigious Chess Oscar five times!

Before his triumph in Bonn, the sceptics had always questioned Anand’s place among the all-time greats since he had not won the World title in the traditional match format. In the 122-year history of World Championship, title matches have held a special place. By taming none other than Kramnik in matchplay, Anand has won more than just the World title worth 7.5 lakh euros. He has gained greater credibility, acceptance and more importantly, attained greatness.

It is time for Anand to set fresh goals and chase them, an activity that has kept him going. He has made it clear that he still holds a fascination for chess and is definitely not contemplating retirement. Anand, who will turn 39 in less than two months, still has the enthusiasm of a child, the energy of a youth and the experience of an expert.

This cerebral sport truly deserves an undisputed champion like Anand, whose chess acumen, universal appeal and pleasing personality have helped him overcome all barriers. Further, the good news is that he is not through yet.


‘I am very proud that I could win by such a margin’

Interview by Rakesh Rao

The morning after conquering the world title in the time-honoured match-play format and retaining the crown won in 2007, Viswanathan Anand looked relaxed as he settled down for a chat with Sportstar in his Suite 344 at Hotel Hilton in the former German Capital of Bonn. The result is a long, indepth interview of which we bring you a few highlights:

  • If you want to make a case that matches are just one format but you believe that are not superior to others, you have to win a match. Then you are more credible when you say that. Mexico is in no way a lesser achievement. But if I had not won there, I could not have made it here. In that sense it is very nice. For me, Mexico was beautiful because you win the title for the first time, the unified title, and here you hold it. Both are very nice.

  • I am very proud that I could win by such a margin here. It (the margin) could have been even three points. That would have been incredible against someone who doesn’t lose three games in a year! Here, Kramnik lost three times in four games. But in the second half, he clearly showed what he could do. He pulled himself together.

  • It [to play 1.d4] has been on my “To Do” list for a while. I thought the match was a good excuse to start. That paid off as well. At the same time I understand the risk involved. I made this decision last November. But once you decide, in a way, you are kicking away the ladder because if you invest a month in preparing a new opening, and then decide to switch your choice to king-pawn opening, you have lost a month and it has a slightly negative effect. I would say, by April, we had kicked the ladder away. There is no way that you can climb back and start again. Because there is so much work to be done, the volume of work is huge. So once you are halfway in queen-pawn opening, you cannot say actually I am going to play king-pawn opening in the match. In fact, we did not look at the king-pawn opening till day before yesterday (the eve of the 11th game)! So, we did not look at the king-pawn opening.

  • Matches are generally dominated by tension. These are not contests about who is the best player. It’s just an ambush. You try and guess what the other person will do. You try to ambush them. You prepare unpleasant surprises here and there. You take into account weaknesses. It is not a pure chess contest or a contest for the truth.

  • I could have done without this rest day [before game 11]. I mean, every rest day eats you alive. In that sense that problem came only towards the end. Every player is aware of the problem. Every player knows it can come. But when you are there, you are almost powerless. When you know you need that half a point, it affects you badly. Everyone can tell you this is typical, happens every time and don’t let this affect you. But it still affects you.

  • The taunt from Kramnik about “lending” me the title, was ridiculous. When I won the title in Mexico, one guy in the press room first asked me, “Are you ready for your match with Kramnik? I said, “I’ve just won the world title, can you give me five minutes?” I found it very irritating. It is almost like they are saying, “Yes. Now that you’ve won, let’s talk about the serious thing.” Whether he was taunting me, but didn’t believe it or whether he believed it and then he was taunting me, I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. We also hit back on certain things. I mean, he taunts me and I taunt him back, it comes with the territory. I think, you have to put it aside.

Read the full interview in Sportstar


Rakesh Rao, Special Correspondent of The Hindu and Sportstar



Here's another interesting interview conducted by Manisha Mahote for Sify


New DVDs: Anand – My Career in Chess

In March 2007 Vishwanathan Anand reached the number one spot on the world ranking lists by winning the prestigious Linares tournament. In September 2007 Anand won the World Championship for the second time in his career, when in Mexico he became the undisputed World Chess Champion, ending a schism in the chess world which had lasted for many years.

If his talent as a rapid chess player is legendary, his records in classical chess have been superlative. In January 2006 he became the only player in the tournament's 70-year history to win the Corus Chess event five times (1989, 1998, 2003, 2004 and 2006). He has won the Linares Super Tournament twice (1998 and 2007), the Dortmund GM three times (1996, 2000 and 2004), and countless other important events like, Madrid Masters, Biel, etc.

Anand: My Career Vol. 1

The first DVD with videos from Anand's chess career reflects the very beginning of that career and goes as far as 1999. It starts with his memories of how he first learned chess and shows his first great games (including those from the 1984 World Championship for juniors). The high point of his early developmental phase was the winning of the 1987 WCh for juniors. After that, things continue in quick succession: the first victories over Kasparov, World Championship candidate in both the FIDE and PCA cycles, and the high point of the World Championship match against Kasparov in 1995.

3:48 hours playing time.

Anand: My Career Vol. 2

The second DVD begins in 2000, when Anand became FIDE World Champion, and it ends with his victory in the 2007 World Championship in Mexico. Anand not only analyses his best games, but casts a look back at the World Championshp in Delhi/Teheran in 2000 and the years before, he discusses the situation in the Bundesliga and Kasparov's retirement from tournament chess.

4:28 hours playing time.

System requirements: PC, Windows Vista or XP (SP2), DVD-ROM drive, sound card.

Price per volume:

32,90 incl. VAT
27,65 without VAT (for Customers outside the European Union)
42,85 US $ (without VAT)

Click to order now



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