The Tigress of Madras: Aruna Anand (part 3)

by Sagar Shah
4/11/2018 – The final part of the interview with the Tigress of Madras Aruna Anand! While in the first two parts we got to know Aruna better, in the third part we turn up the heat with rapid-fire questions! For each question, Aruna has very little to time decide on her answer and this gives us some great insights into the mind of one of the greatest managers in the world of chess. India is lucky to have an icon like Vishy Anand and Vishy Anand is lucky to have a pillar like Aruna in his life! | Photo: Mandatory selfie with Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal

My Career Vol. 1 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 WCh 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, WCh candidate in both the FIDE and PCA cycles and the high point of the WCh match against Kasparov in 1995.
Running time: 3:48 hours


Part 3: Rapid-fire

In case you have missed it, read The Tigress of Madras: Aruna Anand Part I and Part 2.

aruna interview

Through the two parts of  the interview with Aruna we got to know about her childhood, how she got married to Anand, how seamlessly she transitioned from a girl knowing nothing about chess to one of the best managers in the chess world, how she handles Anand's losses, what have been the biggest challenges in Anand's chess career and transition from a wife to a mother and wife.

In the third part, we get to know Aruna better through these rapid-fire questions.

1. Rajnikant or Kamal Hasan

Very tough one but I will go with Rajnikant.

2. Amitabh Bachchan or Aamir Khan

Aamir Khan — childhood flame. I really liked him. In 2001 when Anand had won his World Championship, there was a felicitation ceremony in Bandra, Mumbai. We reached there and the organizers said that Aamir is coming. When I got to know this, I went upto Anand and said, "Please make sure that the seat next to Aamir is empty. Don't sit on it!" Anand agreed on the condition that I won't salivate! I have to behave myself (laughs). The words didn't come freely but I did speak to him!

Aamir Khan with Anand

Aamir Khan, the Bollywood superstar, is one of Anand's biggest fans.

Kasparov and Aruna

3. Masala Dosa or Pizza


4. Classical chess or blitz

Classical. Blitz sometimes gets too tense.

5. Kasparov or Karpov

I would have to say both here. Both are great players.

[Right Aruna and Kasparov in 2010]

6. Formals or Casuals.


7. Morning or a night person?

I started out as a morning person, but have now ended up as a night person.

8. Chennai or Madrid


Aruna and Indian Coke

Anand and Aruna spent many years of their married life outside India, but Aruna always remained an Indian at heart! | Photo: Frederic Friedel's archives

9. First World Championship that Anand won or the recent World Rapid title

The first one will always be the first one. The recent one seeing the circumstances that it came under I would say it's very special.

10. Monty Python or Narcos

Narcos. I liked Spanish a lot and I was very fluent in it a few years ago. In fact nearly as fluent as my English. I used to read books like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and others and enjoyed it.

SS: So Spanish English and Tamil are the languages you speak?

AA: Hindi also, but very little.

SS: Tumhara Hindi acha hai (Is your Hindi good?)

AA: Bahut acha nahi but.. ("Not very good but...")

SS: Anand se acha hai? (Better than Anand?)

AA: Anand se 100% (100% better than Anand!) I learnt Hindi in school and have lived in Delhi so I do know some Hindi!

11. Your favourite vacation spot:

We like going to Germany a lot because Anand trains there and all of us enjoy there a lot.

12. Your favourite book

I like books written by Jhumpa Lahiri a lot. The words are so beautiful that you can visualize everything that she is writing.

Aruna with book

A good book has been Aruna's companion at many tournaments in the past | Photo: Frederic Friedel's archives 

13. Your favourite restaurant in the world

Anand jokes that any restaurant is fine for me now, because I am cooking so regularly at home these days! (laughs)

14.Your favourite pastime with Akhil

Akhil is a very creative child, so most of the times he leads and I just follow him. But very often we are just goofing off! The best time is in the night when after dinner Anand and Akhil have this pillow fight and all different sorts of fun fights! Normally it ends very badly for Anand. Akhil is in complete control (laughs). Anand has usually lost his slippers, he is asking Akhil to not touch his phone or glasses! Literally begging! And then Anand tells me, but with you, he never does all of this. And I say for him I am the plain vanilla ice-cream and you are the chocolate sauce! Akhil loves to tease Anand. Many of the times when the two are together I worry about Anand!

Anand, Akhil and Aruna

The happy trio! 

15. Favourite hangout place with Anand and Akhil

I like swimming a lot. Three of us enjoy it! Most of the times I am the mute spectator. Also there Anand is yelling at Akhil, Don't do that, don't jump in the water! And then Akhil jumps in and Anand says, "You did it!"

16. Anand's favourite dish cooked by you 

I started cooking because of Anand. Before marriage, I had never really cooked. In fact, I did not like this idea of cooking. And now I enjoy it a lot. Supposedly I am the best cook in the family! I love cooking, I love baking.

Anand will eat anything. Initially, I would give him burnt food, some of it even I couldn't eat, how was he eating it. He would say, "It's a choice between eating cereals or this, so I prefer this!" This also shows that Anand is an extremely simple person. Sometimes he comes to Mumbai and people ask him where he would like to go and for him, the simplest restaurant is often the best.

Generally, he likes all kinds of cuisines. So that's how I started improving. The joke in our family is that only when Anand is at home do I actually cook good food! When he is at tournaments and Akhil and I are at home, I am usually cooking just about anything! The maid tells me only when Anand is there is when I am actually planning about what to cook and what would be the best meal for him!

SS: This planning of food is for his health and fitness or just in general.

AA: It's just to cook things what he likes. Generally, we eat everything that is healthy. Once in while he does make an exception. For example, Anand always says that I can make an exception for chocolate cake. Since Akhil has grown up I have started baking a lot of chocolate cakes and I tell Anand this is for Akhil. And Anand always says, "I can have one piece. I will go to the gym tomorrow for sure!"

17. Your favourite dish cooked by Anand

My favourite dish cooked by Anand is him opening a box of cereals! (laughs)

This video is worth watching for the liveliness and the enthusiasm with which Aruna answers the questions!


Aruna and AnandI have always tried to wonder what makes the World Champions different from other grandmasters. Apart from their natural talent for the game of chess, I think it is extremely important to have a good team of people around you. An elite chess player works day in and out sharpening his opening repertoire, or polishing his tactical skills, or fine-tuning his endgame knowledge. In such a scenario the last thing he wants to do after a heavy practice session is to correspond with people, or read contracts, or book tickets, or apply for a visa! All of this work is quintessential for a player's success and many of them have to do it on their own. Even those who have a manager cannot 100% bank on the intentions of the person working for them.

In Anand's case, he had absolutely no worries about all of this. Aruna took care of literally everything that didn't concern the 64 squares. This saved a lot of energy for Vishy and it always showed in crucial encounters. Today Anand is a five-time World Champion and Indian chess has reached a level where it can challenge superpowers like Russia and other Eastern European countries. A huge credit for this goes to Anand. And a huge credit for Anand's success goes to Aruna. The woman who has always been working in the shadows to ensure that nothing goes wrong for Vishy. ChessBase India would like to thank Aruna for her consistent and selfless contribution to the game of chess. As a reader rightly said, "Aruna ma'am, we thank you for taking care of the God of Indian chess!"



Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He and is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India website, the biggest news outlet in the country related to chess.
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This poem was penned when Vishy won the Candidates at Khanty Mansyisk in Mar’14 and qualified for the World Championship rematch with Carlsen. Although he lost the match, I still feel his best shall manifest soon and he is destined to regain HIS TOP SPOT in the World Chess again.


As from its ashes rises the Phoenix,
Ah, so we saw at Khanty-Mansiysk!
The Know-alls said the Indian Whiz,
Is a Has-been who has lost his fizz.
Oh, he is past his prime they all said.
Anand- they had given up for dead!
A massacre, they all said lay in store,
Rivals will make merry ‘n’ then more.
At his age, Ha! there ain’t any Hope-
So said the Wise- “No, Nay, Nope”.
But we his fans, we stayed adamant-
Form is temporary, Class permanent.
Our Vishy- calm, stoic, smile in place,
Never lost his cool, never his grace.
And sure he came in from the Cold,
With measured gait, in manner bold.
He led from the start ‘n’ how he did!
When rest around him slipped ‘n’ slid.
He stayed ahead and screamed away,
The ‘Law of Averages’ he kept at bay.
He aced the Test with practised ease,
And put the rest to torment ’n’ tease.
In the end, he had left them, how?
Thunder-struck, in Shock and Awe!
Was he out to prove the point clear?
That he’s still quite formidable, Dear.
Was he out to settle some old score-
When Fate fell foul in faraway shore?
He turned rankings on their heads,
And left many reputations in shreds.
He sent all the high ELOs for a toss,
Left them brooding over each loss.
Flaws all ironed, Game so tweaked,
Not once his fortress was breached.
He let his chess-men do the talking,
Left everyone stumped and gawking.
On the outside, so nice and genteel,
Within- fire, brimstone, grit ‘n’ steel.
Oh, can he cut, bite, maim ‘n’ sting!
With such finesse, craft and cunning.
With minimum fuss, maximum effect,
Rivals he sent into submission abject.
The Gloom is gone, the Mood upbeat,
Foes vanquished and some in retreat.
Can’t resist a Quote- one could say-
“Who came to scoff, stayed to pray!”
Victor- he led his army into the Dawn,
With Grit ‘n’ Gusto, Brain ‘n’ Brawn.
Finally when it was curtains at FIDE,
His Critics had just nowhere to hide.
Age is just a number- ye all behold!
Worth its weight sometimes in Gold.
And when the dust settled ‘n’ stayed,
He was the master of all he surveyed.
A Chess legend, is our Vishy, for sure,
A timeless icon- one that shall endure.
Lo! the Anand we knew is at last back,
To reign yet again o’er White ‘n’ Black.
In this heavenly play of Dark and Light,
A Sun in Daytime, Moon in the Night.
See how he shines- all so resplendent,
With the Best in the Chess firmament.
See how he makes his fans Ga-Ga go,
And at times they have to Ooh-Ah-O!
Call him if one may- Chennai Express!
He is our own Cindrella Man of Chess!
And, so be the moral of this grand tale,
That you never step on this Tiger’s Tail.

dt 30-03-2014

P.S: Again shall the Tiger roar, the day’s not far,
The Battle is only lost, surely not the War.
Kudos and Love to Anand.
And... to Aruna.
SeniorPatzer SeniorPatzer 4/11/2018 09:55
Thank you IM Sagar for such a wonderful series of interviews! She truly is the Tigress of Madras.